There are aspects of the Tea Party movement that have some resemblance to the Protestant Reformation. Obviously, the reformation is a turning point in human history, whereas the Tea Party movement may turn out to be a historical blip, but I think the comparison is illuminating.
First there is the wish to return to founding principles. The founders of the reformation — Huss, Luther, Zvengli, Calvin, etc. wanted a return to the original simplicity of the Christian communities in the first centuries of the Christian era. They wanted to sweep away the complex intermediation and bureaucracy that they saw in the Roman Church. Moreover, they saw the Bible as the sole source of religious truth. The accumulated religious wisdom of the Church fathers and great theologians; the elaborate church ceremonies and sacraments; and church art were all to be put aside or destroyed by the reformed church. Only the Bible counted.
The Tea Party movement is similar. They want a return to the early republic and only the constitution counts for them. Just as Luther and Calvin were highly selective about which parts of the Bible are most important, so it is with the Tea Party and the US Constitution. The reformation wanted a Christendom in which their was no great centralising force, but instead the faithful in their own congregations before God. The Tea Party wants a modern America in which the central government is a third the size that it is today. They want an America of States and local communities, with a small central government, just as the early republic was.
There is also something essentially early Protestant about the way that the Tea Party views the role of transfer payments from the rich to the poor through taxation and social welfare. Luther, and especially Calvin, believed that only the grace of God could lead to salvation. Good works alone could not achieve salvation. The great founder of sociology, Max Weber, writing at the beginning of the 20th Century, pointed out that the advent of the reformation saw a turning point in how ‘the poor’ were perceived in Western Europe. Before the reformation to be poor was a sign of godliness — a detachment from material and temporal things. After the reformation to be rich was a sign of God’s grace and favour. The poor were poor because they were indolent and far from God’s grace.
The Tea Party and the reformation founders also share clarity in what they are opposed to — Washington and Rome respectively. Some of the Protestant desire to split from Rome came from German nationalism rather than religious conviction. This a controversial subject, and I am not trying to be controversial. But it is obvious that German nationalism played a significant role in the reformation — to this day the Protestant parts of Europe map closely to the areas in which Germanic languages are spoken. Nationalism of a kind is significant in the Tea Party movement as well. The Wikipedia page for the Tea Party Caucus in Congress shows a map of the constituencies of the members of the caucus. They are almost exclusively from the South and the West. That is, they are from parts of America that have always been hostile to Washington.
The Tea Party also shares with the reformation movements their reforming zeal, singleness of purpose, and utter conviction that they right. I suppose all revolutionary movements are like that. In a sense there is nothing surprising about a connection of contemporary American politics to the reformation. In general we should expect to hear echos of the reformation at all times in America because the reformation and the enlightenment were the great impulses that launched the American project. But it does mean that the Tea Party may be touching something deeper in the American collective psyche than many people realise.