Genuine Policy Differences
And that brings me to the bottom line. Many of us who disagree with the Tea Partyers don't do so because of ad hominem arguments. We can even say, with Tim, that some people in this movement are motivated "by sincere concern for the good of their country." But we do disagree with their political philosophy. We believe the policies of conservative Republicans benefit business and middle-class Americans more than our country's weakest and most vulnerable. We think that the New Testament and the history of the Christian tradition point in a very different direction . . . require a very different set of priorities for Christians . . . encourage us to support very different social and political policies on matters of race, immigration, health care, and the environment.
Daniel Schultz discusses the origins of the word "progressive" in an American political movement from the early 20th century:
Progressive in that sense meant a kind of pro-government populism, not quite socialism, but the belief that "that the business of government was to serve the people." The most lasting legacy of that commitment has been a higher education system at the forefront of economic development of the state, but there were other items on the agenda: primary elections, worker's compensation, state regulation of the railroads, direct election of Senators . . .
This is the direction in which we need to move. I don't have to vilify the Tea Party movement or insult everyone who goes to its rallies. But we really do disagree about "the policies that best serve the poor and the rest of society." Nothing I've seen in the statements emanating from the movement shows me policies that in fact "better serve the poor" than the policies that progressive Christians today are advocating.
Philip Clayton is Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Claremont Graduate University and Ingraham Professor at Claremont School of Theology. He is primarily known for his work in constructive theology and the religion-science debate. He is the author or editor of over 100 articles and eighteen books, most recently The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Science, Adventures in the Spirit, In Quest of Freedom, and Transforming Christian Theology. Visit his blog here.
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