Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Tea-Partying of American Religion

by Steven P. Miller

Thomas Frank made easy sport today of a recent piece by Glenn Harlan Reynolds (the ur-blogger of popular conservatism) in which Reynolds touted the Tea Party movement as “America’s Third Great Awakening.” Upon reading the article in question, I realized that Reynolds did indeed have Whitefield, Finney, et al, in mind when referring to those earlier awakenings, which he does concede “were religious in nature.” Now, he writes, “it’s different. It’s not America’s churches and seminaries that are in trouble: It’s America’s politicians and parties.”

Without giving Reynolds the dignity of too much attention, he does point to the creative means by which Americans will “whig” just about anything—in this case, rolling the conventional narrative of American Protestantism into a tale of continuous liberty tree watering. Moreover, he pulled off an interesting historigraphical reversal. Normally, it’s the proverbial liberal academy that secularizes religious history. From camp meetings to town hall screaming, the Lord works in mysterious ways . . .


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