Review: The Teavangelicals: The Inside Story of How the Evangelicals and the Tea Party are Taking Back America

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All one really has to read, if they can do so honestly and objectively, is the first line of the Author’s Note. Brody calmly and serenely states, “I didn’t want to write this book but history forced me to.” This is the sort of neurosis which psychoanalysists have discovered is common to Americans (see Horney’s work), and indeed, it is the type of arrogance which recent polls have identified as a root cause of the mass exodus from the American Church. Further, he relates that the push to write the book is no less emblematic of John’s call to heaven to witness God’s actions on earth (see Revelation 4). Indeed, I am simply saddened that the poetic license was not extended to make the event, like John’s, take place on a Sunday. If the reader isn’t yet concerned that what they are going to read something which would secure a less well-connected individual to a court-mandated psychiatric institution for weekend monitoring, then more than likely, the reader is what Brody describes, ironically, as  a product of the marriage of Church and State, aptly named the Teavangelical.

Beginning with a story which is seemingly anti-Catholic and showcasing the worst of what Deitrich Bonhoeffer would have labeled, and rightly so, cheap grace, Brody begins to identify what a Teavangelical is. What is most worrisome, thus far, is that Brody has nailed down the complete lack of theological connection which Evangelicals have with Scripture and the rest of Church Tradition. To say that he is theologically inept is to put it mildly, but then again modern leaders of modern Evangelicals are on the same level. Of course, the political side of the coin, libertarians, share a certain political ineptness which mirrors Evangelicals as well. He would rather base both his theology and economic policy on Ralph Reed than Scripture. He sites Mike Huckabee as well, although one should have checked the fiscal shape of Arkansas after the former Governor left the mansion. In trying to confuse theology and fiscal policy, suggesting that a social conservative will be a fiscal conservative, he notes only poll numbers and a story about abortion. I’m not sure how his vision of “a direct connection between money and morality” would be received by either the New Testament writers or the whole of Christian Tradition which has historically not been capitalist, American, or democratic. His stories of Christianity (especially conversion) are always bound with politics. What did the Christians do before they sought to convert people when there wasn’t capitalism and democracy? His first chapter is a poor attempt to confuse Church and State, with no moral, legal, or Scriptural authority to do so.

His second chapter, which includes a test to see if you are Christian enough, is the most telling. After all, he rails against the media, but proclaims Fox News and is, in fact, a member of the media. He acknowledges that it is the President first and foremost which the Tea Party is after, but does so almost in a joking manner, as if it is okay to be discriminatory because the President is, um, liberal. Yeah, that’s it. Because he’s liberal. When he does finally get around to Scripture, it is Proverbs, and as it often is in the hands of Evangelicals, pulled out of both the literary and social context of the original work. His test at the end is silly. He starts with the usual Evangelical notion of ‘salvation.’ Does he mean to suppose that if you love Jesus then you will be a member of the Tea Party? The complete inconsistency of the positions of the Tea Party are shown ever more clearly in this book. Santorum is hailed as an example of economic responsibility. Herman Cain as what it means to go back to the roots. Laughable because of Santorum’s record and because the original constitution of the Founders would have had Cain unable to speak with the white women he is accused of accosting, not to mention the fear many of the Founders had of Catholics and their anti-Adam Smith stance. Finally, the issue of abortion and ‘traditional’ marriage is a major concern, and so much so that they seek Government involvement to control it or prevent it; yet, a Government who mandates communal care in some form, perhaps through national healthcare, is not God-centric. Scripture speaks more of the care and concern for one’s neighbor than it does regarding abortion (the only time it does, Evangelicals wouldn’t like what it has to say) and gay marriage (something Jesus refused to speak about). Are we to trust leaders who are so little read in their source material but make grand, sweeping statements as if they know what they are talking about?

His third chapter is a laughable attempt to make his readers believe that these groups are actually solid Christian groups dedicated to Christian principles. David Barton of Wallbuilders is a well-known ‘revisionist,’ whose books usually get only the copyright correct. Tea Party Patriots, FreedomWorks, and Americans for Prosperity are hardly grassroots organized, but instead funded by the same Corporate America who led the way in causing the economic blowout with, oftentimes, diverse social policies (not that the Koch brothers support gay marriage). Indeed, the people mentioned in this short chapter have given the world more misinformation in the last four years than it has had in the last 6000. The fourth, along this same vein, likes to project stereotypes. For instance, he seems to want us to believe that only at Tea Party rallies do they pray. As one who has attended Union rallies and Democratic Party events, I can say that the stereotype of the unpraying liberal is nothing more than a Fox News creation. One thing he does get right, however, and I’m not sure it is supposed to help his case or not, but he does make out the Teavangelicals to be an idolatrous bunch, venerating next to the Ten Commandments (although not the whole of Scripture which includes parts like Matthew 25) the platform of the Republican Party. The evolution which is coming will soon give us a Republican Party who is the party of the Savior. Mein Fuhrer, indeed, as he suggests that the blatant racism of the Tea Party, evidenced in the polls, is still a Godly thing. He notes that Tea Party members, as Ron Paul has suggested himself, believe that the Government should stay out of civil rights because it interferes with economic concerns. These red flags, including Glenn Beck, is something Brody acknowledges and moves past as if they no longer exists if he says they we have nothing to be concerned about or that the media (and he is a member of the media) has misinterpreted them.

As this is a pre-publication copy several chapters are missing, including chapter 5 and the forward by Mike Huckabee. Chapter six relates several ‘power houses’ of the Tea Party Movement, including Sarah Palin, Mike Pence (someone whom I liked before 2008), Marco Rubio (who has been caught lying about his background), and Allen West (who has spoken ill of his neighbors without evidence, or as Christians say, he lied and gossiped). In the seventh chapter, he plainly advocates taking over churches, or perhaps like Beck did and only going to churches which are Tea Party connected. He includes, and I find this particularly funny since he seems to think that racism doesn’t exist, a note regarding Rick Scarborough. Scarborough advocates for a nearly all-white America, or else God will no longer support us. And yet, this man is a leader of the non-racist Tea Party? And then, there is Ayn Rand, whom he tries to sanitize by suggesting that she doesn’t play a role in the Tea Party. Yet, Rand Paul whom he cites earlier is named in her honor. Allen West also uses her in his speeches. And,  of course, as Brody notes only in passing, so does Paul Ryan. Chapters 8 and 9, which charts the future of the Tea Party, which I can only assume to be either Berlin or Hell, is lacking.

Brody’s humor is rather immature and often detracts from his point. This attempt at disarming is worrisome, for it portrays Brody as someone who is taking his ‘mission’ lightly, or as one who knows exactly what he is doing, that of telling a joke at the guillotine about losing one’s head. He places Tea Party types and Evangelicals outside the political system, something which is also said of white males in other books on the subject. It is not that either group has been placed outside, but that they have chosen not to get involved until now, after one of the largest deficit creators, a Republican conservative Christian, left the White House to a Democratic pragmatist with a darker shade of skin. He hides behind cheap grace and poor theology, never coming close to substantive discussion on how a Christian can, or should be, a member of the Tea Party or what theological principles (besides a few proof texts from Proverbs) serve to guide Christians to be members of the Tea Party. Indeed, he seems to suggest that all Evangelicals, or Christians who are really Evangelicals but just don’t know it, must be a part of the Tea Party. Further, the sum total of his theology is easily summed up as, if you love Jesus, can ignore racism and social inequality, and hate gays, then you too can be a Teavangelical. What worries me, is that Brody is not alone. What he has done is to encapsulate, perfectly, the confusion of Church and State which has taken place within the last three years. His voice is not a radical one, but one which fits well the Becks and the Bartons as the trumpeter of a new revision of American history and future and Christian theology. His voice scares me.

I’ve published this on Amazon entitled, This Generation’s Mein Kampf

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3 Replies to “Review: The Teavangelicals: The Inside Story of How the Evangelicals and the Tea Party are Taking Back America”

  1. Hi, Joel. Just wanted to note that Rand Paul was not so named after Ayn Rand. His name is actually Randall. It’s a popular assumption, but I would’ve expected you to have double-checked before asserting it as fact. Quite frankly, I don’t think Ayn Rand would’ve particularly cared for Ron or Rand Paul since she strongly condemned both theism and libertarianism (considered apart from her Objectivism).

    I had high hopes for the Tea Party initially, as a populist movement to reclaim civic virtue and a conservatively Constitutionalist classical liberalism, but unfortunately it was subsumed by the GOP under the influence of the neocons–the Hannitys, Palins, and Bachmanns–as well as the legend-crafting of Beck and Barton. As long as the emphasis is upon American culture embracing Christian values, such as chastity (Right?) or generosity (Left?), that’s fine; the problem arises when appeals are made to the State to mandate and enforce them. I do think the charges of racism and “astroturf” against the Tea Party are basically nonsense, especially when compared to its left-wing counterpart, the Occupy Wall Street movement, which is ostensibly more politically radical, violent, destructive, and financed by Big Labor. There’s plenty of stupidity and corruption, however, to go around in both movements. No question about that.

    – a libertarian lurker

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