With New York mayor Michael Bloomberg’s new campaign to support moderate candidates making front-page, column-one headlines in the national edition of the Sunday New York Times and Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert calling for a “Million Moderate March” on Washington, DC, for October 30, it seems right to ask of these moderates the same questions we here at RD have consistently asked of the Tea Party: does this movement have a religion?
Here’s a brief roll call from the moderate camp:
Michael Bloomberg: Reform Judaism
Jon Stewart: Reform Judaism
Stephen Colbert: Progressive Catholic
Lincoln Chaffee (Independent—Rhode Island): Episcopalianism
And now a brief roll call from the Tea Party camp:
Sharron Angle: Southern Baptist
Sarah Palin: Assemblies of God
Christine O’Donnell: nominal-Catholic-converted to evangelical Christianity-now-Catholic
Glenn Beck: nominal-Catholic-converted-to-Mormonism
Of course, conventional wisdom holds that the moderates are a secular movement, as some once said of the Tea Party.
Let me offer another hypothesis.
What the Tea Party affiliated-folks seem to share is a religious rhetoric (if not worldview) animated by crisis. As in crisis conversion. Spiritual warfare. End-times. Push the reset button. Start over.
What the moderates seem to share is a religious worldview shaped by an understanding of what it means to belong to a tradition with a long and complicated history. No fresh starts. No easy answers. A few deeply reassuring rituals. And an ongoing conversation.
As Jon Stewart says, “I disagree with you, but I’m pretty sure you’re not Hitler.”