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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. humtake

    In other words, you are another person who wants to control what people are allowed to do. I didn't realize Bachmann was that much of a control freak (I really haven't researched her at all), but after reading this article if that's who you are relating to then...wow, you need a hobby that doesn't involve trying to control what other people can do.

    August 15, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
  2. aurorasmith

    Bachman is trash. She will be thrown out soon. Just look at her face. She's rabid.

    August 15, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
  3. shawn

    Get a few things out of this....

    1. At least one or two of you got out...great!
    2. Sad you had to go through this instead of being raised by parents who didn't brainwash you. I was allowed to develop my own theories and ideas...and see the craziness of the fundie-right movement.
    3. I'm vary scared that the two people in the top running think the way they do...I'm glad I'm not a GOP'r anymore...my old party is destroyed by the jesus-freak-neo-cons

    August 15, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
  4. Randy M

    Wow Alisa we are go glad you are so much more enlightened and so much smarter than Michele, that you resisted the temptation to become like Michele. We cheer your heroic stance! Also, for that matter we should all become Progressives because there is so much rich history of nations becoming successful under such philosophy, and no history of any nation becoming successful under repressive hateful Christian principles (except the “old testament principles of raging against the rich and powerful of course” – well stated!).

    August 15, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
  5. Dub1045

    Well we've seen what Muslims can do as President. Where is the wedding ring by the way? No jewelery during Ramadan?

    This IQ stuff is over rated. Your so called intellect can only help you find more ways to spend other peoples money. Poor dumb Republicans are trying to find ways to make more money so you can tax and spend it.

    August 15, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
    • Pastafarian

      you're an idiot.

      August 15, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • MomOf3

      I thought the Repubs were refusing to 'write a blank check'...not sure what news you've been watching...

      August 15, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
    • J.W

      Dub your post makes very little sense. You may need to reword it.

      August 15, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
  6. James

    This writer's attempt to tie Bachman, Christianity and racism together is sickening to me. No doubt the writer imagines herself to be very enlightened, much more enlightened than the rest of us "brutes." God save us from her and people like her who are so judgmental of others that they dare to paint the others as racists so they do not have to debate the merits of their arguments. And God help us when people like her take control of our health care system and can make decisions about who receives treatment and who does not.

    August 15, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
    • Pastafarian

      And me we all be touched by His Noodly Appendages as we pray that you can neither vote nor breed.

      August 15, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
    • MomOf3

      At least the author realized the poison that is spewed from many pulpits and thought for herself. Can you say the same?

      August 15, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
  7. The Lionly Lamb of The Gods Does Roar

    Please ignore me, I have a severe disease. I do not represent a Christian message, and most of the other Christians on this message board seem to be embarassed that I am one of them.

    August 15, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
    • The Lionly Lamb of The Gods Does Roar

      Who The F***k is imitaing and using my name in vain! I'll be damned! If its' a reprobate S O B than be like a man and come to my house,,, we'll fix your clock we will!

      August 15, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      When you steal a persons name and fake their words just means that you could not defeat the actual person's words in a debate.

      August 15, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
  8. David Johnson

    Hmm... a comparison between totally edible Alisa Harris and the Wicked Witch of the West Bachman...

    Cheers!

    August 15, 2011 at 11:58 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Let us see how edible she looks when she hits age 55, Davey.

      August 15, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
  9. Damian

    Great article! .......very interesting how you came around. Thank god! Too bad we can't say that for Bachman........hopefully most of the US will realize how extreme she is & that she isn't focused on the right things. I don't find her palible at all.

    August 15, 2011 at 11:56 am |
  10. Tennlaw

    BInding up the broken hearted ? and you call yourself a Christian ? ( Some Christians may actually think that ) No...seriously, I identify with her story. I traveled a similiar path....and maybe, ..just maybe if we followed Christ' example of helping and loving the hurting..we would finally make a difference in our country...reflecting the love of Christ...not taking over politics...seems more in line with the Gospel

    August 15, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • ralphinator

      Agreed!

      August 15, 2011 at 11:58 am |
    • The Lionly Lamb of The Gods Does Roar

      Tennlaw stated, "just maybe if we followed Christ' example of helping and loving the hurting..we would finally make a difference in our country..."

      How can those within the ranks and ranking members of Christendom go overseas and do what your so talking about when the Gospel does plainly say to get your own house in order, lest you die? I mean like, with all the U.S.A's people now mostly without a job and many whose unemployment checks have and/or are ending, how can one whose nation was cultured around the many so many churched ambiences not cling to wanting to help their own 1st and the rest of world's woes last? It is true to "preach" the gospel to the whole world, BUT to fix by proxy only tokens of fidelties such as food stuff and what nots should be done (IMHO) by the United Nations and otherly Nations who sit by the waysides doing what? Keeping their citizens from revolting and/or being critical about a country's insolvent gestations are doing what good? If, mind you, IF the "crystal cathedral" religions were to in someway help their nations' poor and socially deprived than I do suspect any nation might slowly heal the social wounds! Even thru such a venturesome angle of wealthy churches helping their own nations' poor and weak may be a way for one church at a time to relieve their nation's growing pangs!

      August 15, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @The Lionly Lamb of The Gods Does Roar

      You said: "I mean like, with all the U.S.A's people now mostly without a job and many whose unemployment checks have and/or are ending..."

      All the U.S. A.'s people are not "mostly" without a job. About 9.2% of the nation's workforce are unemployed. This is too high and unacceptable, but is not worthy of the word, "mostly". Many of the out of work people, are running out of their unemployment insurance. Unemployment has been extended multiple times. It cannot go on forever. There are other programs that the unemployed can apply for.

      We need to get work projects started. Google WPA.

      You said: "It is true to "preach" the gospel to the whole world... "

      I think the preaching of the gospel to the whole world is one of the worst reasons for feeding the starving anywhere, at home or abroad. Some missionaries help the poor, just because it is the right thing to do. Others have the ulterior motive of bringing the starving to Jesus. These are the ones that do an altar call, while the smell of cooking beans wafts through the crowd. The hungry always pay closer attention...

      Cheers!

      August 15, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
  11. KJB

    It appears that what we have here is someone who has embraced the Progressive ideology, attempted to baptize it with the Old Testament prophets (good luck with that!), and pretended to be a more faithful Christian than Michele Bachmann. Morris is a talker. Well, I don’t know, actually, but she is a writer.

    Bachmann, by contrast, is a woman who is a doer. She has fought against injustice in the tax code, labored for economic freedom and against corruption, and fostered dozens of children.

    Morris could have been Michele Bachmann? If only . . . What Harris could have been (and still could become) is someone who put her faith into practice and not merely into childish protests. Harris did that as a child. And so she yet continues. Perhaps one day Harris will learn that one does not build by nipping at the heals of the doers.

    August 15, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • CarrotCakeMan

      Oh, really–Bachmann, a "DOER"? No, the only thing she has done is shoot off her mouth. She hasn't gotten a single bill passed by Congress. When she was in the Minnesota legislature, her record was similarly non-existent. Perhaps Bachmann was too busy sneaking in the bushes spying on the pro-LGBT demonstration.

      August 15, 2011 at 11:57 am |
    • aurorasmith

      A "doo-er" is like a dog, We all "do" it. Hitler was a doo-er. Are you just a doo-er?

      August 15, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @KJB

      Bachmann is an insane fundamentalist. I hope she wins the nomination. Obama will defeat her, even if the unemployment is up to 11%.

      Cheers!

      August 15, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • Beadles

      Bachmann is a fruit cake.

      August 15, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Davey, if unemployment is at 11% or higher the GOP will be able to roll Cheney out of bed and into his wheelchair and slap a bumper sticker to the back of his chair Cheney re-election 2016 😀

      August 15, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • MomOf3

      Bachmann – is she a 'doer' or a 'dozer'? As in a bull-dozer who pushes her pile of beliefs on you in a heap, or a dozer as in she napped her way through the MN congress, with not one out-standing achievement (other than showing up and collecting her paycheck). And, collecting payments for 23 foster children doesn't make you amazing, just an amazing leech on the gov't dime.

      August 15, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
  12. Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

    The author is clearly hot

    August 15, 2011 at 11:51 am |
    • David Johnson

      Yes, I noticed that. Mmmmm!

      Cheers!

      August 15, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
  13. Pastafarian

    The road to enlightenment is a slippery slope. Once you start asking questions and thinking for yourself, the path away from religion and its irrational beliefs becomes very easy.

    If there is a god, he gave you a brain. Don't insult him by not using it!

    August 15, 2011 at 11:42 am |
    • sam

      R'amen.

      August 15, 2011 at 11:53 am |
    • The Lionly Lamb of The Gods Does Roar

      @ Pasta and all posters,, You Pastafarian said, "The road to enlightenment is a slippery slope.." Such a quote should be upon the walls of those who are indentured toward worldy ritualisms unbecoming the hindsights of intellectualisms' bastions which do grow in immensities within the framed works of the higher educated rankings of Libertarianisms all over this world, except where the hearts of banyoned tree climbers do fellowship and lay waste toward their own mindset ways.

      August 15, 2011 at 11:56 am |
    • sam

      Hey, Lionly, tell us more about the zebras and the leavening or whatever you were mumbling on the last page.

      August 15, 2011 at 11:57 am |
    • Pastafarian

      Lionly: how about quitting the flowery hyperbole and just write something that makes sense to those of us not in your sect.

      August 15, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
    • Laughing

      @Sam

      Lionly clearly just got a new thesaurus and is DYING to use it somewhere.

      August 15, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
    • fred

      Lionly,
      Are you saying the A team(atheists, agnostics, anti god folks, etc) is on slippery slope blinded by their lofty thinking and the C team (Christians and clowns) fights to stay humble? (Laughing I am doing the best I can without a thesauras )

      August 15, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
  14. Jasper Ilkway

    The CNN attack modus operandi – Get a female writer to slam a female politician. Why so misogynistic? Why does CNN hate for women to run? Oh yeah, almost for got...CNN is ran by rich old white guys. Its amazing to me that you backed Obama..wait, maybe they had no black reporter to write an anti-story.

    August 15, 2011 at 11:41 am |
    • some girl

      When a woman's being stupid it's still okay to notice she's being stupid without saying it's misogynistic. However, throwing 'misogynist' out to anyone who goes after the obvious BS from an idiot candidate who happens to be female just because you like the idiot's rhetoric is d0uchebaggery.

      August 15, 2011 at 11:58 am |
  15. felixelgato

    Is your IQ lower than 90?

    August 15, 2011 at 11:39 am |
    • I. Jacoff

      People with an IQ higher than 90 are the enemy, they think too much. We call them Democrats.

      August 15, 2011 at 11:52 am |
  16. LookingAtAllSides

    @Alisa Harris – Interesting and intelligent article. Thank you.
    @Haime52 – Well said.

    August 15, 2011 at 11:38 am |
  17. Rick Carufel

    Bachmann didn't win Ron Paul did. If you deduct the 4000 $30 tickets Bachmann gave out accompanied by a flier that said you couldn't see the Randy Travis show if you didn't vote for her first, she would have gotten far less votes than Ron Paul.
    She cheated and should not be called the winner. She is dishonest, a rabid zionist and can do nothing but hurt this country more, just as her ilk have done so far. She epitomizes what this country doesn't need in office.

    August 15, 2011 at 11:34 am |
    • Anonymous

      Whereas Ron Paul is adorably crazy! No seriously, at least he's consistent and doesn't believe in war!

      August 15, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
  18. Janet32

    So, how about this fellow Democrats: Instead of complaining that the President can't get enough done and not showing up to vote like happened in 2010, get to poll in 2012, EVERY SINGLE LAST ONE OF YOU, and elect a House and Senate that isn't trying to stop him at every turn.
    Because the alternative is an extreme right turn – it's a simple as that.

    August 15, 2011 at 11:22 am |
    • Bert in UT

      Absolutely. Democrats and centrists, not to mention liberals, have no one to blame but themselves. The tea party has out-shouted everyone else. Don't let it happen. Vote.

      August 15, 2011 at 11:36 am |
  19. Anonymous

    See what happens when you're a nutty right winger.... most of the time your kids grow up to be awful medieval hags like Michele Bachmann, but if you're really lucky they become reasonable people like Ms. Harris. Beware moms and dads! If they do become reasonable people like Ms. Harris, they will occasionally write down their opinions and have idiots like Mark from Louisiana flame them on CNN websites. Protect your kids! Don't be awful right wing nut-jobs! Thanks for the article Ms./Mrs Harris.

    August 15, 2011 at 11:21 am |
  20. Ken Bradshaw

    You seem to ascribe a rigid, cartoonish caricature to your opposition, no matter what side of the fence you are on. I remember being the only kid in school who would sit next to the student who published the radical newspaper in the late 60s. I did not believe his politics (I doubt he does today). I was not making any kind of show. I just knew he needed a friend.

    I like Martin Luther King. I do not care if he had communist leanings. I feel sorry that he was a womanizer, but I agree with his struggles. I like Ronald Reagan and I am developing an appreciation many things Franklin Roosevelt did (not all). I have mixed feelings about Truman and Nixon.

    I don’t believe gayness is an equality issue, but I would hate to hurt someone who is gay. I am deeply saddened that people want an abortion. I would not ban them all. But I would ban most. I give to the poor. I worry about starving children. I think the Red Cross is getting too political – but I would never give to a TV commercial asking for funds.

    I am not sure you are as deeply thoughtful and as solidly on the right path as you believe. One thing for sure – no matter what, I would love my parents.

    August 15, 2011 at 11:19 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.