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My Take: I could have become Michele Bachmann
Author Alisa Harris, left, and Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann.
August 14th, 2011
01:00 AM ET

My Take: I could have become Michele Bachmann

Editor's Note: Alisa Harris lives in New York City and is the author of the forthcoming Raised Right: How I Untangled My Faith From Politics.

By Alisa Harris, Special to CNN

I could have become Michele Bachmann.

Reading a recent Bachmann profile in The New Yorker felt like attending an awkward cocktail party with former best friends whom I now stalk on the internet but haven’t spoken to in years.

The story describes Bachmann’s influences - including figures like Francis Schaeffer and David Noebel, who most Americans have never heard of but who are superstars in conservative Christian circles - and I found them all familiar faces from my childhood as a culture warrior.

Bachmann wins Iowa straw poll

These are people Bachmann admires and people I once admired, too.

Bachmann has protested at abortion clinics. I was attending abortion protests when I was still too young to hold a sign or even walk.

Bachmann began trying to combat the influence of liberals and secular humanists after encountering Francis Schaeffer’s 1970s’-era video series "How Should We Then Live," a plea to reclaim Western institutions from the corruption of secularism.

I watched the series with my parents as a child

Bachmann served on the board of directors for Summit Ministries, which sponsors conferences and institutes aimed at equipping evangelicals with a Christian worldview. I attended Summit Ministries’ Student Worldview Conference as a 15-year-old.

On the first night of the program, I sat rapt through a talk about a Christian dress code that spelled out the width of the shoulder straps I was permitted to wear, which was not a problem for me because I had brought only oversized Republican campaign t-shirts and shorts that were styled for a 35-year-old mom.

They gave us a handy worldview chart that had a vertical column for every area of life - economics, politics, pyschology, law - and a horizontal column that showed how Muslims, humanists, Marxists and New-Agers were wrong on every count.

The program’s leaders said that the Bible calls for limited government, and that God’s law and nature’s law were good foundations for a legal system. The Christian believes the free enterprise system to be more compatible with his worldview than other economic systems, I learned.

One night, the Summit Ministries instructors showed us a film whose central premise was that anal sex spreads awful diseases.

Terrified of all sex, I clenched my fists and closed my eyes and pretended to fall asleep like the boy up the aisle, who nodded off every day.

I developed a trembling crush on the boy I sat next to but squelched the attraction because the Summit speakers told me it was admirable to forgo romance and holding hands until engagement. We played card games instead.

I emerged from Summit finding that my fervor to stop abortion had grown from a disagreeable duty to an outright passion. I bought pro-life t-shirts.

When I came back filled with worldview fervor, I read a book co-authored by David Noebel, the Summit Ministries leader whose writings Bachmann recommended.

It rumbled apocalyptic warnings that humanists, from the NAACP to the Rockefeller Foundation to the National Council of Churches, were conspiring to build a one-world socialist order. I began to secretly find Noebel a little bit kooky.

Still, my family purchased his curriculum and submitted our homeschool speech and debate class to a rigorous worldview training. I took worldview quizzes that graded my ability to reflexively respond to all questions with answers about the Christian worldview of limited government and free enterprise.

I aced the quizzes. I had memorized it all and could spit it back.

Bachmann worked for John Eidsmoe, a man who argued the southern states had a “constitutional right to secede,” and she admired the writing of J. Steven Wilkins, who said that slaves led a “comfortable, though — by modern standards—spare existence.”

Throughout my high school years, I soldiered along with an organization that ran religio-political boot camps populated with ardent Southerners who still possessed Confederate money and auctioned it off - to frenzied bidding - at camp auctions.

The students and staff said the same thing Eidsmoe did. The Civil War wasn’t about racism, they argued, but state’s rights and freedom.

But by the time I heard these arguments, they enraged me. While competing in a home school speech tournament during high school, I wrote a speech that called on public school students to commit acts of civil disobedience by praying in public schools.

In my research I discovered Martin Luther King, Jr., a model of nonviolent resistance and the leader of a movement that seemed to me so just and Christian in the face of laws so clearly evil.

Seeing pictures of Southern police officers using a fire hose to flay the clothes and skin off of teenage civil rights protesters, I became livid at anyone who praised the virtue of the Confederacy or of the Jim Crow South.

Over the years I began to doubt what I’d been taught — that we could find in the Bible the final answers to our questions about the minutiae of 21st century tax policy and the path to economic growth. I saw Christians yell at gay activists, obsess over sex, and enforce ideological purity instead of reducing abortions or helping the poor.

I began to think that our Christian duty was not to make our country’s laws conform to our private morality but to heal the broken-hearted and bind up their wounds.

The political principles I now embrace - human equality, human dignity, and human rights — align less with Schaeffer and more with King, who not only marched for civil rights for African-Americans but also launched the Poor People’s Campaign and fought for the economic rights of all, black and white.

These principles come from a Christian passion for justice but are not, like Bachmann’s worldview, exclusive to Christianity. I have abandoned neither politics nor my Christian faith but the idea of a “worldview” where all spiritual questions have political answers, and all political problems have spiritual solutions.

Newsweek’s latest cover calls Bachmann the “Queen of Rage.” I can testify to the rage her beliefs inspire, a rage that is focused inward - on protecting the sanctity of an iron-clad worldview, battling all the heretics who dare to believe something different, and seeing life from the bunker of a besieged and victimized faith.

I still have some rage, but it’s no longer focused on the secular humanists and tax-collectors. The rage exists on behalf of our wounded world, at the suffering of the poor and the exploitative practices of the rich and powerful. It’s exactly what the Old Testament prophets bellow at me to do.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Alisa Harris.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Michele Bachmann • Opinion • Politics

soundoff (1,502 Responses)
  1. Roland

    I don't believe one is the other. Her parents didn't teach her religion as the bible said other people taught her religion. She was home schooled but her parents didn't open the bible and show her beliefs from the bible. They relied on someone else. Their in lies the fundamental problem with Christians. There is a reason why in the old testament it makes father's in charge of teaching their children religion. Because men with ulterior motives will tell your child to do something because of just that its your child. The same school of thought that teaches Muslims to he terrorist and extremist are taught by the Churches in America.

    August 14, 2011 at 8:07 am |
  2. Chris

    Bravo!!!!!

    August 14, 2011 at 8:07 am |
  3. DanO

    I find it curious that CNN posts an article attacking Bachman on the day after she wins the Iowa state caucus as its center piece. Why not lead with an aritcle about her campaign vistory. That is the news, not this opinion piece.

    August 14, 2011 at 8:05 am |
    • Howie76

      And this is the BELIEF section. Quit reposting you old Tea Hag

      August 14, 2011 at 8:06 am |
    • skog

      Because it appears they have thrown in the towel on any attempt to be a reputable news organization and are becoming a shill for special interest like Fox News and MSNBC

      August 14, 2011 at 8:08 am |
    • Robert

      CNN attempts political assassination of all conservatives.

      August 14, 2011 at 8:08 am |
    • pfeffernusse

      Ah, summer. When conservative paranoia is in bloom...

      August 17, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
  4. Robert

    CNN and their loony lying opinion writers are in full campaign mode for the democrat party. But Obama is going to lose anyways and CNN will continue to lose ratings because of their dishonest news coverage.

    August 14, 2011 at 8:04 am |
  5. Luke

    CNN please stop these types of commentaries. They are non objective. There are thousands of blogs for these commentators to spew their thoughts.

    August 14, 2011 at 8:04 am |
    • Howie76

      GO back to fox news

      August 14, 2011 at 8:07 am |
  6. fadeinlight

    So CNN has already started with the hit pieces, eh? The implication here is that this girl knows what Bachmann is like–that is to say, weird and unacceptable. She will make you sit through sermons that talk about acceptable dress sizes.

    Gosh, I wish Ted Turner would wake up and fire the management. CNN has drifted steadily to the left ever since the Obama campaign, and it is getting painfully obvious that this is no longer a place where you can get an objective perspective on what is going on.

    August 14, 2011 at 8:03 am |
  7. NW1000

    This author sounds like a disgruntled nut case.
    WE better realize that bashing all the other folks will not cover up the fact that:
    WE have an incompetent, worthless, useless, clueless BOOB at the top of our ticket.
    Keep up the good work CNN, keep the hit pieces coming.

    August 14, 2011 at 8:03 am |
    • Howie76

      What a great example you teach. This young lady told her story and you demonize her. Would you do that your kids or grandkids. Probably why they don't visit you.

      August 14, 2011 at 8:05 am |
    • Erik

      project much?

      August 14, 2011 at 8:11 am |
  8. SK

    The witch hunt has begun. Any woman and her childern that has a chance of becoming president will be attacked by the left media. SAD!!

    August 14, 2011 at 8:03 am |
    • Jeditigger

      Do you honestly believe any liberal's dislike of Bachmann (or Palin) stems from their gender? Liberalism, the bastion of feminism, is the last place Bachmann or Palin would be demonized because of their gender.

      They're demonized because they're ridiculous. Big difference.

      August 14, 2011 at 8:15 am |
  9. Frankie123

    The rumor has it Rick is hearing directly from the Lord, just like George W did. We sure need him for president, with Michele as his VP, to complete George's job of navigating this country towards an abyss. Let the circus continue.

    August 14, 2011 at 8:02 am |
    • Dennis

      Oh Lord, won't you make me, Pres-i-dent.
      In the white house, I won't have to pay rent
      I'll start by winning in an I-o-wa Tent.
      Oh Lord, won't you make me, Pres-i-dent.

      August 14, 2011 at 8:19 am |
  10. Tom

    Fluff article from a very sick woman who needs help...

    August 14, 2011 at 8:01 am |
    • Howie76

      Your one sick old man? Demonizing a kid for giving her story. Another person with kid who do not visit him

      August 14, 2011 at 8:08 am |
  11. Andy G

    Michelle and her self loathing gay husband are one of the most dangerous people to enter the political stage in decades. IF this woman were to attain the Presidency I will have lost all faith in the American people. Thomas Jefferson once said..." a little revolution now and then is a good thing." That is what we would need upon the election of Bachman and her type...a revolution...AKA overthrow of that government

    August 14, 2011 at 8:00 am |
    • Luke

      Andy, lets not wait. We need to start a revolution today and move the Obama's out of the Whitehouse!

      August 14, 2011 at 8:13 am |
    • slupdawg

      Andy and Luke-revolutionaries. Pppllbbtt. First you have to get up from behind your computer.

      August 14, 2011 at 8:15 am |
  12. D Brown

    Actually the civil war was over many issue's, the cotton gin made cotton profitable and the government wanted there cut. The south stood against this, the slavery issue did not come into play until after the war started and Lincoln brought it up.
    Now for mb2010a Terrorist? So if someone doesn't like your beliefs there a terrorist? I don't blow buildings up, I don't shot people, I don't use nerve gas. I do believe in a non-socialist government that doesn't just hand money to lazy people. People that have 5 kids and no job by choice should not get free $ they need to get off their butts and work. I dont want my kids to grow up and pay for my parents debt. I think taxes should be raised on everyone, but do not think the rich should pay anymore than anyone else. The poor people don't give you jobs do they? Rich folks are rich for a reason they earned it. This includes your beloved mixed race president, so all those that keep saying black president he is not black he is mixed race. If the health care bill is so amazing why did Obama opt his family out in the final cut? Along with everyone in the house,senate and their families? Oh and don't forget the higher ups in his cabinet.
    You liberal nut jobs need to step back and think about what is being done not said. I think both dems and rep are correct on several issues, but can not stand this president. No that doesnt make me racist either I don't like his white side either.

    August 14, 2011 at 8:00 am |
    • Howie76

      Your a racist southerner? right??

      August 14, 2011 at 8:03 am |
    • slupdawg

      Obama opted his family out because he gets the same sweet deal that all the congress gets and you can't have. He's not an idiot. Do you have any idea what fairness and social contract even is? I doubt it.

      August 14, 2011 at 8:04 am |
    • skog

      The left leaning politicals are using the word "terrorist" to dis credit any one who does not agree with them. What they fail to realize, or probably just don't care, is that it marginalizes the individuals who are real victums of terrorism

      August 14, 2011 at 8:05 am |
    • Dennis

      That's a mixed up view of the civil war that is just flat denial

      August 14, 2011 at 8:10 am |
    • David Myers

      Revisionist "historian" again. Go back to Fox and the Klan where you belong.

      August 14, 2011 at 8:37 am |
  13. John

    Michele Backmann Is not a true Christian. A true Christian doesn't cheat people out of there money by saying that pray will not make they gay. Her and her husband business was suppose to help people, not cheat out of there money when they Know It wouldn't work. If Michele Bachmann really believe that pray would help these people ,she would just have Pray for her headache to go away Instead of seeing a real doctor. They even cheated the Government Out of money and medicare, even now since she all ready got rich and her husband by cheating the Medicare out of Money. Now she want to took medicare away from Senior that really need It. It now that Medicare cost the Government to much money, It just people like her and her husband that cheat medicare Is the Problem with Medicare. Michele Bachmann Is nothing but a Hypocrite that LIES. Michele Bachmann and the Tea Party will Destroy America. It the American People JOB to see this doesn't happen, It up to the American people and we are the Only one that can stop It.

    August 14, 2011 at 8:00 am |
    • Dennis

      like

      August 14, 2011 at 8:02 am |
    • David Myers

      Me too!

      August 14, 2011 at 8:38 am |
  14. Kevin

    You guys DO realize that her point is that she's glad she didn't become Michelle Bachmann, right?

    August 14, 2011 at 8:00 am |
  15. Patrick

    I don't understand your article ... by your article one has to assume that you think you ended better than Bachmann and that you do what you accuse her to do. By the way, I don't agree with Bachmann but I believe making a parallel with your life is a mistake.
    Maybe you should end like Bachmann, has the courage to go and fight for your believe out there. Run for representative of your state. People may misunderstand your faith as well.

    August 14, 2011 at 7:59 am |
  16. Jeff

    Now that Perry is in, he gets my vote. FYI, I voted for Obama in 2008. If we don't get our house in order, we will crumble like so many other countries have past and current. Not every person can have or do what there neighbor does. That's why you work hard and educate your self. That's the American dream. The American dream is not to be handed everything like the Liberals want.

    August 14, 2011 at 7:58 am |
    • Dennis

      yeah...what this country needs is another Governor from Texas to drive it into the ground like the last one. My memory is just longer than some I guess.

      August 14, 2011 at 8:05 am |
    • John

      Well Rick Perry not going to do It. All the Jobs he Creates was for minimum wage or less. that what the Tea Party want to have to pay people wage back In the 1950. That what she mean that they are Taking America back. Well me I like 2012 and I believe a person should be pay for what he/she is worth. All these Tea party Gov are trying to take the Union away, and your right away. It the People right to decides If they want to work for a Union ,not the Government,city or federal. Why don't you talk to people from Texas about Rick Perry and maybe you won't feel the same way.

      August 14, 2011 at 8:13 am |
    • JustHuman51

      I don't want ANYONE from Texas ever in the White House again. This is a state that re-wrote history in their textbooks and executed a foreign national (yes he was guilty) without giving him access to his Mexican government legal resources. And, their big budget "surplus" turns out to be a big fat lie. And you want this man to be our pres? Are you totally nuts? God help us all if he becomes president...

      August 14, 2011 at 8:18 am |
    • David Myers

      And how are we to get "our house in order" if the Republicans and tea partiers oppose every attempt to solve the nation's problems that either Obama or the congressional Democrats try to take (using the threat of filibuster in the Senate and their majority in the House) whose only goal, according to McConnell, is "to make Obama a one-term president." They have proven their willingness to damage the credit rating of the nation in order to do so. That's simply out and out economic terrorism. Simple.

      August 14, 2011 at 8:42 am |
  17. DNADEB

    IF more Christians took it serioualy to follow Christ's example and look after those in need and not equate their morality with politics upon those around them, there might be sincere interest in what we believe in.

    August 14, 2011 at 7:54 am |
    • slupdawg

      Very good observation. Philanthropy and service to your fellow man-sounds like something Jesus Christ could get behind. You never heard of him running for public office.

      August 14, 2011 at 7:57 am |
  18. slupdawg

    There is a reason for separation of church and state. Governments that make decisions and policy based on religious tenets rather than common sense and democratic utilitarianism will either fail outright by splitting the country apart, or descend into religio-fascist dogma. Neither is an option I would like to entertain.

    August 14, 2011 at 7:53 am |
  19. Jack

    This lady is one sick puppy... She believes that she could be someone else... CNN hates successful women.. right candy.. right gloria...maybe she could have been my dog in another life...

    August 14, 2011 at 7:52 am |
    • Howie76

      Mean OLD TEA TROLL, bet your grandkids don;t even like you.

      August 14, 2011 at 7:56 am |
    • Buck Jackson

      You apparently did not read the article.

      August 14, 2011 at 8:06 am |
  20. joey

    I commend you Alisa for finding the good in your faith and not staying on the path of these hate filled bigots. It is amazing to me that these people with all the skeletons hanging in their closets do nothing for the world but judge others. They are sick and creepy. They do not frighten me and they will never win anything. The compassionate and considerate will always win.

    August 14, 2011 at 7:52 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.