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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. Dean

    A beautifully written article that conveys a message expressing one woman's perspective and experience of living a fuller spiritual life. She does so without criticizing Michelle Bachmann. Thanks for the clear and heartfelt writings.

    August 14, 2011 at 9:14 am |
  2. unretired05

    I read this article and saw it to be the story of a woman who, though she had similar life experiences to Michelle Bachman, chose a different path. I saw nothing in this article promoting hatred for conservatives or Republicans. She stated that she still has her christian beliefs and expresses her compassion for those less fortunate. It would seem that many responders, both conservative and liberal, show an amazing amount of paranoia. Sad.

    August 14, 2011 at 9:13 am |
    • Greg Gilbert

      But we really don't know what path the Bachman has took for Religion. You certainly can't make that decision by campaign speeches or what church she attends. The left has prejudged her and molded her into a fanatic.

      August 14, 2011 at 9:17 am |
  3. kay

    Why is it that the media can bash a liberal or a Democrat into oblivion and everyone soaks it up and believes it as fact? I have gone further than mechanically reading the New Testament. I have studied it over and over and NOWHERE did Jesus seem to be concerned with the government of the USA. Love, compassion and forgiveness was all I read about him over and over.

    August 14, 2011 at 9:12 am |
    • Fred1

      What makes you think that politics or christianiy has anything to do with what jesus said?

      August 14, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • J.W

      The US did not exist back then

      August 14, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
  4. David

    What a dumb article. Who is this woman, and why are her ramblings worthy of this article? I know that this is the Belief Blog, but this should've really been under i-report or something. This is just a sly way for CNN to rehash the Newsweek commentary. CNN gets to trash Bachmann through this pc Christian. The trash that she was fed and her weak mind doesn't give us any insight as to whether Bachmann is being fed the same bologna nor whether she is eating it up. It tries to correlate one girl's experience who wishes she could actually have been afforded the same opportunity to run for president to Michele Bachmann who is actually running. The fact is that most likely you wouldve never been Michele Bachmann. Your story is just imagination to deliver this dumb article.

    August 14, 2011 at 9:09 am |
    • Fred1

      Idiot! Just listen to Bachmann and it becomes obvious that she has taken the dark, evil form of conservative Christianity into her soul. Hook, line and sinker

      August 14, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
  5. Greg Gilbert

    As an atheist I recognize the left uses a scare tactic on religion that is really not ethical. They harp on republicans religion and point out the absurdities of it when repub and dems both believe in big spaghetti monster in the sky. All politicians talk of God when trying to get elected but when a republicans do it, it gets shown that this will be where they will get most of their ideas from. History doesn't show this and nearly all politicians that get elected have shown themselves to be fairly secular in the decision making process. CNN is just doing to Republicans what it criticizes everyone else for doing to Muslims.

    August 14, 2011 at 9:09 am |
    • Fred1

      You can listen to the hateful Christian things that Bachmann says and still hint that she might be “fairly secular in the decision making process”?

      August 14, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  6. Colin

    Which of the following groups wants gvernment to base their 21st Century social policies on a collection of Bronze Age myths from the Middle East, that were cobbled together into a book during the Dark Ages:

    (a) The Ayatollahs of Iran
    (b) The Afghan Taliban
    (c) American Evangelical Christians; or
    (d) All of the above?

    August 14, 2011 at 9:08 am |
    • herbert juarez

      misrepresentation of the literature involved render your question unanswerable.

      August 14, 2011 at 9:13 am |
    • Colin

      The gods and other supernatural characters in the Bible date back to the late Bronze Age in the Middle East. The Bible was consolidated and compiled during the Dark Ages. What did I misrepresent?

      August 14, 2011 at 9:16 am |
    • johnnymr51

      Mr. Juarez has a built in knee-jerk defense against anyone, anything that might shake his house of cards faith....NOt to worry, your question was right on and yes, Bachman represents just that – the return of the Middle Ages...

      August 14, 2011 at 9:35 am |
    • herbert juarez

      2/3 of the Bible was written BCE and the rest before A.D.100, well before the Dark Ages,To me that would be a misrepresentation.
      @Johnnymr51: I do not support or intend to support Michelle Bachmann,read a bit before you comment ,you'll look ever so much brighter than your post appears.Does the 51represent your i.q.?

      August 14, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
  7. JaaJaaJaa

    I do not agree with the viewss of Bachman (nor with the author by the way) but I certainly enjoyed the quick peek into growing up inside a world much different than mine. To the nay sayers, rather than criticizing CNN and the author for a story that might have hit too close to home, why not simply ask for a similar story of what might have shaped Obamas or Pelosis views?

    August 14, 2011 at 9:08 am |
  8. Go bust or failure.

    Many religious around the world believe December 21, 2012 would be end of future. There will be great chaos and earthquakes. Because they see present time economic collapse and fall of the world's future. What's causing economy to fall?

    Society believed in Greed, lie, cheat, steal, etc. Look at Gay Marriage. It's mess. Your dollar say "in God we trust". You got norway attacks killing white people and joined freemason party. Scary and huge mess.

    It's HUGE MESS!! Wasteful tax dollar.

    August 14, 2011 at 9:07 am |
    • Americashero

      I can't respond to incoherence.

      August 14, 2011 at 9:10 am |
    • pop

      Bible going outdated....Did you know NAZI burned banned copies of ancient holy bible?

      The banned copies of ancient bible not only talks about Jesus. But they talk about New planet arrival and holy wars attacking earth. I was reading torah and than the bible. All the chapter is missing in bible code. The only thing that missing in the bible is. The sun will be darken. That wasn't even Jesus words.

      You can't find banned copies of ancient bible. Unless if you know about dead sea scroll.

      August 14, 2011 at 9:27 am |
  9. Americashero

    Why did she throw her Lutheran Church under the bus a couple of months
    ago? What was that about?

    August 14, 2011 at 9:06 am |
    • Dee

      People change churches. It's no big deal.

      August 14, 2011 at 9:07 am |
  10. Chad

    CNN Belief Blog= Christian bashing

    Either outright bashing or it promotes a left wing, liberal version of "Christianity" like this post does.

    This makes the AOL Huffington Post look almost unbiased. Well, not really...but both are useless liberal ramblings of no value disguised as legitimate news.

    August 14, 2011 at 9:04 am |
  11. John from FL

    Excellent blog Alissa! Some of the best writing that aptly describes the destructive world view of these "Christian" idealogues. I too was brought up in the strict Christian faith, in fact went to the same school as Bill O'Reilly. It was too long before I too saw the hypocrisy of their self-righteous beliefs. (At one point in time I believed in them too!) All it took was an open mind to see the truth like you did. People like Michelle Bachman may be one the most destructive forces that if allowed, will tear this country to pieces. What most do not realize is that they have an extreme view of the world- and a very dangerous and hateful one at that. What strikes me about Bachmann is the rigidity of her thought brought about by her brainwashed youth. I find it very difficult how anyone would consider voting for her. God save America!

    August 14, 2011 at 9:04 am |
  12. ninehvite

    WOW i don't see at all how this woman could have been Michelle Bachman? this article had nothing to do with politics. CNN must be desperate. i'm a republican and even I don't think anyone stands a chance running against obama. if even Bush got a 2nd term (yes, i know – we were at war.) then Obama likely will, too. save the monney, Bachman. do a lot of really good stuff the next few years, run again and change the world if you think you can.

    August 14, 2011 at 9:03 am |
    • Dee

      I like Hermann Cain. I didn't even know who Bachmann was until the liberal media started bashing her. It's depressing how they work so hard to destroy woman candidates (even Hillary – remember?).

      August 14, 2011 at 9:07 am |
    • Fred1

      Having been raised in that same black but-t hole of Christianity that the article describes. I can see exactly how Alissa could have become a little Bachmann clone. But your right the article has much less to do about politics that the mind and soul of the candidate

      August 14, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Dee, it's not about gender. It's about the poison ideology that Bachmann represents.

      August 14, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
  13. JJ

    Newsflash: This isn't an "article" by CNN it's an opinion piece. Yes, CNN chose to run it, but it shows the ideological battle that some conservative Christians are faced with when politics and their religion become intertwined as they're indoctrinated at a very young age.

    What I find most interesting about this opinion piece is that the author is explaining what each of those Christian influential authors' ideologies really are, which I think is perfectly in line with helping to educate the public about where a candidate's worldview comes from. People wrote similar pieces about President Obama's influences when he was campaigning and I find the choice to run this opinion piece completely in line with the media's job to share information that might otherwise not be readily evident to the general public.

    I had personally not even been aware of these writers and the message they have been conveying. It certainly does explain a lot about Michele Bachmann. She's incredibly paranoid, myopic, unreasonable, unwilling to negotiate with people with whom she disagrees, and generally unwilling to educate herself about an issue before speaking about it. All are traits of someone who is not only unfit to lead, but perhaps unfit in "other ways" as well.

    August 14, 2011 at 9:03 am |
    • Marry

      JJ, thank you! Very well said!

      August 15, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
  14. Jordan Kerr

    I'm a Christian with a "lean" to the right (as in just to the right of center and not a Tea Party extremist). Before I came a Christian I was much more of a "Republican" than I am now. I think the reason for this is because I became a Christian later in life and learned about Jesus through reading about Him in The Bible rather than being "educated" on how being a good Christian equates to being a good Republican. Being a Christian does not equate to being on the fringe of the political right regardless of what Christian right wing organizations and the media would have us all believe. Keep in mind the most religious president we've had since I've been alive is Jimmy Carter (and I'd hardly call him a right wing extremist).

    August 14, 2011 at 9:02 am |
  15. Rick

    Mr. Obama went to a "Christian" church that rarely, if ever, even mentioned "Christ" in passing. No critical stories about it on CNN though. Michelle Bachman wins a straw poll and "presto," here's a story to knock her and her faith down a bit. This is exhibit A as to why no one really pays attention to CNN anymore.

    August 14, 2011 at 9:01 am |
    • Dee

      The church O went to for years is totally scary and very politically motivated!

      August 14, 2011 at 9:09 am |
    • tallulah13

      Yet here you are, Rick. Paying attention to CNN.

      August 14, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • Marry

      @ Rick, why don’t you respond to the article? I can see it – whatever happens – it is the Presidents fault.
      A real Christian keeps his believes between himself and God and does not judge people that might believe differently as one self.

      August 15, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
  16. william

    Excellent article – carefully paints the details behind what many of us are content to lazily (and perhaps unfairly) express as "crazy lady".

    August 14, 2011 at 9:00 am |
  17. HIH

    Come on CNN you should have more respect for your place in journalism.

    August 14, 2011 at 9:00 am |
    • Dee

      CNN is no better than a tabloid with all their Hollywood agenda's! lol

      August 14, 2011 at 9:10 am |
  18. Chad

    What a biased, left wing article...but then again, that's usually what you get from the CNN "Belief Blog." Hey honey, you would have been much better off if you HAD become Michele Bachmann instead of the useless, liberal "Christian" you claim to be. And the pic of Bachmann on the main page link to this article is one of the worst pics I've seen of her. Yet throw up an article about Obama and he's in a Superman pose or in "deep, reflective thought"...such blatant bias is laughable.

    August 14, 2011 at 8:59 am |
  19. Confused

    I really hate CNN's "belief" articles. I don't know why I continue to read them. They are usually nothing more than Christianity bashing in some form or another.

    August 14, 2011 at 8:59 am |
    • Colin

      Well, if you still believe in Bronze Age sky-gods in the 21st Century, do you REALLY think any thinking person can respect your opinions?

      August 14, 2011 at 9:01 am |
    • Dee

      And then you get people like Colin, who much like youth in 1930's Germany, have no tolerance for people who they don't agree with. Disturbing how so many people embrace hate against faith. As a person of faith, I have to think that it is definitely a spiritual battle, especially since there is no legitimate reason behind the hostility. If I didn't have faith, I wouldn't pick on those that do, unless I was driven to by some insane desire.

      August 14, 2011 at 9:14 am |
  20. Colin

    Can you even imagine a religious nut like Bachmann or some other evangelical in the White House! I would be unable to sleep at night, worrying whether one of her invisible spirit-friends started whispering to her that it is time to trigger the rapture by bombing Jerusalem.

    Simple, haunted minds and power should be mutually exclusive.

    August 14, 2011 at 8:58 am |
    • kay

      I agree completely with you.

      August 14, 2011 at 9:06 am |
    • herbert juarez

      your extreme prejudice is showing.
      President of the United States should be determined by qualifications, independent of belief or non belief.
      Michelle Bachmann is at best UNqualified to be POTUS,that has nothing to do with "her" belief system.

      August 14, 2011 at 9:08 am |
    • Colin

      Herbert, her crazy religious views permeate every aspect of her policy. She is welcome to believe all the Bronze Age mythology from the Middle East that she wants, she just should not be put into a position where her silly superst.itions can impact others.

      Once again, simple, haunted minds and power should not mix.

      August 14, 2011 at 9:12 am |
    • Dee

      Study your history, Colin. You sound nuttier than Bachmann.

      August 14, 2011 at 9:16 am |
    • herbert juarez

      I choose to vote based on qualification or lack thereof ,not prejudice.

      August 14, 2011 at 9:16 am |
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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.