Tea Cross


There was an interesting piece in yesterday’s NYT about how the teabaggers’ reverence for the Constitution approaches “religious fervor,” and it reminded me of nothing so much as this brilliant Onion story, Area Man Passionate Defender Of What He Imagines Constitution To Be:

“Our very way of life is under siege,” said Mortensen, whose understanding of the Constitution derives not from a close reading of the document but from talk-show pundits, books by television personalities, and the limitless expanse of his own colorful imagination. “It’s time for true Americans to stand up and protect the values that make us who we are.”


“Right there in the preamble, the authors make their priorities clear: ‘one nation under God,’” said Mortensen, attributing to the Constitution a line from the Pledge of Allegiance, which itself did not include any reference to a deity until 1954. “Well, there’s a reason they put that right at the top.”

“Men like Madison and Jefferson were moved by the ideals of Christianity, and wanted the United States to reflect those values as a Christian nation,” continued Mortensen, referring to the “Father of the Constitution,” James Madison, considered by many historians to be an atheist, and Thomas Jefferson, an Enlightenment-era thinker who rejected the divinity of Christ and was in France at the time the document was written. “The words on the page speak for themselves.”


Mortensen said his admiration for the loose assemblage of vague half-notions he calls the Constitution has only grown over time. He believes that each detail he has pulled from thin air—from prohibitions on sodomy and flag-burning, to mandatory crackdowns on immigrants, to the right of citizens not to have their hard-earned income confiscated in the form of taxes—has contributed to making it the best framework for governance “since the Ten Commandments.”

This is uncannily close to the reality depicted in the NYT piece:

An ordained minister and a Navy veteran, Mr. Manship had also prepared a sort of concordance for the Preamble, connecting its language of justice, liberty, defense, tranquillity and so on to verses in the Bible.

“You had divine providence, intuitive intervention, or something like that,” Mr. Manship, 57, said of the Constitution in a recent phone interview from his Northern Virginia home. “God’s words, the concept of godly government, are woven into the warp and woof of the fabric of our nation and this Constitution.

Not only do the tea partiers persist in viewing the Constitution as some sort of Christian document, but the version of it that they worship is almost entirely fictional.  Their Constitution doesn’t separate church and state, protect civil liberties or equality, allow the government to take any action or create any institutions for the public good, or impose any restrictions on anyone other than the disadvantaged and disfavored.

In fact, it’s an awful lot like their religious right allies’ approach to the Bible.  They revere it as the ultimate authority on God’s will, yet they consistently interpret it as reflecting nothing more than their own rigid intolerant morality with no message of peace, compassion or forgiveness whatsoever (except perhaps towards their fellow hard-right Christians, who can be forgiven any sin).

If you’re going to center your life around the Constitution and the Bible and use them to self-righteously fulminate against your anti-Constitutional ungodly enemies, is it too much to ask that you at least make an effort to read and understand them?