TeaParty ProtestIs the Tea Party movement racist? Your answer probably depends on where you land politically. But the truth is never as clear cut as our personal ideologies and allegiances might suggest.

Question of the day: Is the Tea Party movement racist? After the NAACP passed a resolution denouncing the racist elements within the upstart political organization, this has become the hot topic du jour among the political talking heads, as well as folks at the office water cooler. The reactions are both predictable and unexpected. A number of African American Republicans have rejected the claim, with one calling the NAACP “useful idiots.” One of Sarah Palin’s former advisors says the movement should indeed condemn its racist elements, while Vice President Joe Biden chose a more generous position and refused to label the movement as racist.

So, where’s the truth on this one? Racist or not? The liberal talking class has pretty much voted yes, but the Tea Party itself recently ousted a leader for racist behavior. I also happen to know that the Tea Party is championing a little-known African American woman for state senate in my home state of Illinois. Those Illini Tea Partiers would certainly not call their movement racist. I believe, though, that truth is very often a tricky thing.

Truth is set apart from facts. As believers, we know that truth is not a composite of information so much as an unchangeable Person. Christ said, “I am the Truth …”

Too many times, Christians and non-Christians alike get bogged down in divisive arguments and confusion when we go wading through facts in search of definitive answers. Facts can be molded and interpreted to suit different agendas, but truth doesn’t change. Instead of trying to put information together to create truth, we must remind ourselves that truth is and has been from the beginning. Our efforts must be to look at the facts in the light of the person and teachings of Jesus and heed the relevant truth that process brings forth. As Christian citizens on all sides of the political spectrum try to make up our minds on what we think about the Tea Party, we should be careful to take this approach.

Here’s truth: The issues of life come from the heart (Prov. 4:23). What is at the heart of the Tea Party movement? What is the thing that makes it do what it does, become what it is? Tea Partiers need to do a better job of telling the story of the movement. Where did it come from? What were the issues and conversations that caused people to act, to organize?

More truth: Bad company corrupts good character (1 Cor. 15:33). Examine the facts. Is the Tea Party actively purging racists from among its ranks — and not simply reacting in knee-jerk fashion to its critics’ complaints? Is the movement content to let a few bad apples spoil the whole bunch? Certainly truth would suggest that a tolerance for racist language and activity will cause the degeneration of the movement into something that, perhaps, it was not intended to be — an authentic haven for racists and angry extremists.

Perhaps the most relevant truth of all: By their fruit you will know them (Matt. 7:18-20). The ultimate test of the nature of the Tea Party, or any political movement, will be what it produces. Will the result of all of those rallies and protests be a better politics that brings the nation together, or one that drives us further apart?

At the end of the day, we must examine all the fruit of the movement — from candidate selection to campaign rhetoric, from how they choose to govern the party to the policies they support, and how those policies impact all levels of society. Outcomes and fruit, these are profoundly accurate signs of what is at the heart of any person or movement.

Is the Tea Party movement racist? Get to know the truth, get to know the facts, and then decide for yourself.

Opening photo from Wikipedia: Members of the Tea Party rally in Washington, D.C., during a 2009 protest.

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