By John Pierce

Recent Tea Party antics may have you thinking, “I’ve seen this show before.” If so, perhaps you recall the Fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention.

More than mere parallels can be observed. In some cases, the same persons are involved.

Last week, a Southern Baptist editor turned his editorial page into an open letter to President Obama that not only challenged policy matters. It questioned the president’s professed faith and expressed fear for his eternal security.

A friend wondered if such concern would have been expressed had the Mormon candidate in the last election made it into the Oval Office.

The editorial was the typical litany of right-wing political ideology, along with highly judgmental religiosity, masked as spiritual concern and true patriotism.

Such is the most distinctive parallel between Christian Fundamentalists and the Tea Party — while acknowledging that the two groups have great overlap and are in many ways the same group.

In both cases, these groups seek to capture certain descriptive terms exclusively for themselves. They, and they alone, are the true “conservatives” and unblemished “believers” in the Bible/Constitution.

Any challenge to these claims or refusals to align with their causes bring harsh dismissal and accusations of being less than true believers or faithful Christians/patriots. There is no room for “loyal critics” from within; you are either with them fully or on the evil side.

Anyone who questions their positions or tactics becomes the enemy who endangers “our way of life” — and therefore should be excluded.

That’s why the acronym “RINO” (Republican In Name Only) has been heard so much over the last couple of weeks. Even a former POW and long-serving Republican senator is charged by a fellow GOP legislator with aiding the enemy in the same way committed missionaries and professors were said to not trust the Bible.

So even insiders who walk out of step with the declared vision of truth or who question aggressive, unethical tactics will get enemy treatment.

Guilt by association is a favored weapon too. Cooperation is equated with capitulation. Staying “pure” (a word that literally defines a Pharisee) is required. 

Fear and a desire for more control drive the ever-tightening circle of inclusion until only self-congratulators remain. And the growing loss of relevance gets lost on them.

So excuse those of us who feel like we are watching a rerun. We know the script.

And the resulting carnage of Fundamentalism, whether political or religious or the always dangerous blending of the two, is not a pretty sight.

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