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In a fascinating short interview with CBN News’ David Brody, Sen. Jim DeMint claims that the Tea Party movement is underpinned by a “spiritual revival.” Here are some choice excerpts:

David Brody: “Are you concerned at all that some of the social conservative issues, abortion and same sex marriage, some of these other issues because they are taking somewhat of a back seat right now at least to the fiscal issues that there are some inherent problems for social conservatives in something like that?”

Senator Jim DeMint: “No actually just the opposite because I really think a lot of the motivation behind these Tea Party crowds is a spiritual component. I think it’s very akin to the Great Awakening before the American Revolution. A lot of our founders believed the American Revolution was won before we ever got into a fight with the British. It was a spiritual renewal.”

Senator Jim DeMint: “I’m ‘praying for you” comes up more than anything else in these crowds so I know there’s a spiritual component out there.”

Senator Jim DeMint: “I think as this thing (the Tea Party movement) continues to roll you’re going to see a parallel spiritual revival that goes along with it.”

David Brody: “Just so I understand, when you say spiritual revival how are you terming that? What do you mean specifically as in “spiritual revival?”

Senator Jim DeMint: “Well, I think people are seeing this massive government growing and they’re realizing that it’s the government that’s hurting us and I think they’re turning back to God in effect is our salvation and government is not our salvation and in fact more and more people see government as the problem and so I think some have been drawn in over the years to a dependency relationship with government and as the Bible says you can’t have two masters and I think as people pull back from that they look more to God. It’s no coincidence that socialist Europe is post-Christian because the bigger the government gets the smaller God gets and vice-versa. The bigger God gets the smaller people want their government because they’re yearning for freedom.”

You can watch a clip of the interview here . With all due respect to Sen. DeMint, I think he misunderstands both the Tea Party movement and the Great Awakenings of the eighteenth century. For instance, while I agree that there have been people “drawn in over the years to a dependency relationship with government”, I suspect that very few people who attend the Tea Party rallies are former welfare state advocates who are having a change of heart. Most of them have always been from the right side of the political spectrum; they have always harbored a suspicion of government expansion.

Aside from the misunderstanding of the movement’s core demographic, I think DeMint is also in danger of spiritualizing a political movement. No doubt we can be on what Lincoln would call “God’s side” on certain clear-cut issues of justice, such as the protection of innocent human life. On economic issues, though, we should be careful against making the assumption that God shares our opposition to stimulus spending. While I have my suspicions that God is not a Keynesian, I would caution against making dogmatic claims about where the Lord stands on specific economic policies.

However, the part that I find most fascinating is the claim of a parallel spiritual revival. Initially, I considered the idea offensive, if not outright blasphemous. I jumped to the conclusion that DeMint was claiming that there was a causal relationship between the Tea Party movement and spiritual revivalism. Instead he seems to be claiming the two events are distinct, though somehow correlated. Perhaps the Senator is right. Maybe there really is a parallel spiritual awakening that is occurring in our country. I suspect he wouldn’t make such a claim unless he believed that many others felt the same way (which, by the way, is the only reason I take the remark seriously enough to write a lengthy consideration of it).

I’m skeptical, of course. I would expect a manifestation of spiritual renewal to manifest itself in acts of spiritual renewal. Protests against government bailouts aren’t exactly my idea of a fervor for repentance and redemption. Awakening to the realties of our government’s excesses of debt isn’t the same as awakening to the reality of our God’s excess of grace.

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