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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. Antonio

    why are so many comments full of polemics and abuse ? it doesn't help

    August 15, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • KangaBros.

      "Polemics and abuse"

      With tones of their synonyms, I've seen there in atheist's vocabulary.

      August 17, 2011 at 4:01 am |
  2. The Lionly Lamb of The Gods Does Roar

    Maybe me thinks thou shouldest been having others do my postings fer me! I just do so luv the otherly kinds! They shouldnst abhor me fer mine eyes hathseen the LIght and I am what I am a manly god of diseased vigor and a fruitless wonder!

    August 15, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
  3. StlMelz

    "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."

    "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."

    AMEN!

    August 15, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • The Lionly Lamb of The Gods Does Roar

      @ StlMelz wrote, "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."

      OT prophets you say? What about the NT prophet, you know, the one who is a personal Son of an omnipotent being who did transfix upon a young woman a dastardly deed wherein today's world he would have been thrown in the slammer? This Son of a Supreme being had to await his 30th year before he could find cause and clause virtures to attire in religous wranglings his Historicalness for all Time after his dearly departedness. Such as it was so shall it be and forever more be the wonder.

      August 15, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
  4. saopaco

    "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." Well said, Ms. Harris. I wish others would come to this realization as well.

    August 15, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
    • KJB

      The recipe for a messianic state. Fascism is the form.

      August 15, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
    • The Lionly Lamb of The Gods Does Roar

      KJB wrote, "The recipe for a messianic state. Fascism is the form."

      Messianicism a form of recipied fascism? Let me introduce you to my friend and my comrade in ar-ms, the wooly booger of doledrums parlaying called by some, "Conscience".but others think it's the Sub of Conscience as in maritime vessels do jam the undercurrents of the sublimal passages of prestige and honor trying to outwitt the wittingly and still they persist in claivoyencies of doom and gloom prosthetics entangling the very masses of dissention.

      August 15, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
  5. a person of the Name

    @ laughing, I didn't say all, I said most. The are because of the drugs, sx, exc.. It has nothing to do with evolution. Being a lover of sience myself I enjoy reseach. As far as evolution goes I believe in minor evolution but not extream as most would like to see it as.

    August 15, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
    • Laughing

      So you're worried that the school is teaching evolution? Are you nuts? Seriously? So you believe in micro evolution, but macro evolution is downright silly, how does that even make sense? But apart from your views you're worried that your kids will receive education on evolution so instead of giving them the opportunity to be open-minded, accept whatever they deem as most truthful you would rather thrust your world-view on them and teach them that everyone else is wrong and you're only right?.......

      How very christian of you.

      August 15, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • Laughing

      Whoops, I sort of misread that. I realized you said it has nothing to do with evolution being taught in schools, good for you. I still stand by my argument though that homeschooling really hurts kids in the long run both socially and mentally.

      August 15, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
  6. steve19

    Ms. Harris,
    I'm sorry you grew up in such dysfunction with so many misappications of Christian principles. I've seen some of what you have experienced up close. Those folks do exist. I think you make some valid points and am glad that you are examining how to live your life in the best way possible. But to take what you experienced and to generalize it to Michelle Bachmann and religious conservatives in general is, I think, unfair. I personally know hundreds of people who would identify themselves as such (I am one of them) and would take great offense to some of the things you were taught. Dysfunction, anger, hatred and an unwillingness to respect others and consider their points of view are not relegated to any one segment of our population.

    August 15, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • bossmanham

      Oh this is BS and you know it, Steve. She never experienced anything like she's describing. Her article reeks of dishonesty, especially since she baldly lies about Michelle Bachmann, inferring she has beliefs that Ms. Harris has no evidence even exist within Bachmann's head. And if Bachmann does have a moral code that she lives by, and it happens to be Biblically based, thank God. That's why we are where we are, because we have immoral people in places of power.

      This article is just a ridiculous hit piece. Good grief. What a bunch of bull.

      August 15, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • CTYank

      Massa Bossman,
      My, how omniscient of you. You really have to get over yourself. You're almost as delusional as Michelle; imagine her thinking herself qualified as POTUS. She's not right in the head.

      August 15, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • heynow

      Dang, something really touched a nerve with bossman on this.

      Show us on the doll where you got touched, bossman. We're here for you.

      August 15, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • Tamra

      I couldn't have said it better myself:) My thoughts exactly:)

      August 15, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
  7. bossmanham

    Ah, the hypocricy, irrationality, and lies of the liberal progressive "Christian" (who clearly has never read the New Testament) all on display in one article. It would be funny if it weren't so pathetic.

    August 15, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • James

      Can you please elaborate on where she is wrong? I'd be interested to know because from what I can tell she seems to align more with Jesus' preachings than most of the Christians that get media attention.

      August 15, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • bossmanham

      It's going to be hard, because Ms. Harris projects her early self (which she has now valiantly risen above) on to Ms. Bachmann. What exactly is she saying about Bachmann, that she's some rabid southerner who wants to spray black people with fire hoses? Really?

      She implies that it's wrong to question people's morality (which itself would be questioning their morality would it not?). Jesus constantly questioned people's morality. Are you kidding me? We're not to be indignant about moral abominations? Oh, you can be as long as they match the progressive liberal ideal...okay.

      Give me a freaking break. You liberals clearly are incapable of thinking for yourselves.

      August 15, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • saopaco

      It seems that all you have, bossmanham, is a lot of opinion and ad hominem attacks.

      August 15, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • sam

      LOL 'I don't agree with the author, so it must all be lies and misinformation and she NEVER read the *New* Testament, sdfghjkll;@2!!11!!"

      Thanksgiving at your house must be fcking awesome; I'll bet no one debates anything with you. Best jacka$s post of the day.

      August 15, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • AndyB

      The views she "projects" onto Bachmann are the views that are found in the books Mrs. Bachmann recommends to others. It is not unreasonable to assume that Mrs. Bachmann would share views with people who she claims inspired her.

      August 15, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • heynow

      "She implies that it's wrong to question people's morality (which itself would be questioning their morality would it not?). Jesus constantly questioned people's morality. Are you kidding me? We're not to be indignant about moral abominations? Oh, you can be as long as they match the progressive liberal ideal...okay."

      Whaaaaaaat? We need direct quotes for proof, you crazy conservative! LOL

      August 15, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
  8. Mark from Middle River

    >>>"And like with all of them, they only pick the parts of the bible that fits into their view of the world. This is very, very sad indeed."

    Marry, the same thing is going on in Ms. Harris' head as well. While I applaud her expression of views it is really no different from one denomination telling another denomination that they are wrong. Atheist appear to love that but as we all know, such has been the norm since the original Martin Luther posted the note on the door.

    What many of you are celebrating is no different than a Sh'itte telling a Sunni that the "others" are wrong or the Baptist telling a Catholic.

    The rest is just picking sides.

    With that I welcome Ms Harris to the age old debate within the Faiths.

    August 15, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
  9. Michele Bachmann

    *** poot *** oops !! Excuse me everyone !! It just kinda slipped out.

    August 15, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
  10. Tom in the Middle

    Oops, I meant Kind of Hot Looking, haha. Please post some more though. Your views are like having a can of coke, fairly interesting while drinking it but when its done it was just another soda.

    August 15, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
  11. bobbles

    Will the real LIONLY LAMB please stand up? He's scared!

    August 15, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • The Lionly Lamb of The Gods Does Roar

      When a man's an empty kettle
      He should be on his mettle
      And yet I'm torn apart
      Just because I'm presumin'
      That I could be a human
      If I only had a heart

      I'd be tender, I'd be gentle
      And awful sentimental
      Regarding love and art
      I'd be friends with the sparrows
      And the boy that shoots the arrows
      If I only had a heart

      Just to register emotion, jealousy, devotion
      And really feel the part
      I could stay young and chipper
      And I'd lock it with a zipper
      If I only had a heart

      August 15, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
    • Lionly Laughs

      Hahah you're a kook! Thoust needist medication!

      August 15, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
    • The Lionly Lamb of The Gods Does Roar

      Who me? Or the otherly me? We're both incognito running from the frito bandito! 🙂

      August 15, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
  12. dude

    Dude, what's wrong with you? You've been posting stuff that doesn't make sense all day.

    August 15, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
  13. Tom in the Middle

    Well, your not going be Michele Backmann but your kick of hot looking. That counts for something

    August 15, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
  14. The Lionly Lamb of The Gods Does Roar

    Do not listen to the naysayers! they are imitating the Lionly Lion!!! I am thrownst into this rings of conjecture to suite the availableness of the literate decencies! Only the incoherent ramblings of psych wards can burden off this beauty!!

    August 15, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
    • The Lionly Lamb of The Gods Does Roar

      Actually I necessitate my medicationith for the reason that I recognizist I am a psyho who could do withith a cure!

      August 15, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
    • dude

      Dude, whats wrong with you? You've been posting stuff that doesn't make sense all day.

      August 15, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      When someone steals another "handle" and fakes words just means they could not defeat their words in an exchange.

      August 15, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      @Mark – hypocrite!

      August 15, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      LOL ... thanks for proving my point. 🙂

      August 15, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Lion, I suspect people are jealous of the fun you apparently have when putting you posts together.

      August 15, 2011 at 10:48 pm |
  15. Marry

    Dear Ms. Harris, thank you for your very thoughtful article! Sadly, on the responses one sees very clearly that the chances to talk to the people in “conservative Christian circles” and to have them think about what they do to themselves, their neighbors, the country is quite difficult and mostly without any good result! You, Ms. Harris, are a hopeful exception!
    Christian Conservatives are very much connected to the Old Testament – but relevant, if at all, is the New Testament. And like with all of them, they only pick the parts of the bible that fits into their view of the world. This is very, very sad indeed.
    But, this is the same with Religious fanatics worldwide; never mind what Religion they are part of.

    August 15, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • bossmanham

      That's right, darn it! Someone reacting harshly and indignantly to a straw man caricature of what they are clearly proves they are unreasonable and unhinged. Stupid conservatives! How defensive can you get?

      August 15, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
  16. ART

    Michele Bauchman is a bobble head

    August 15, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
  17. sonofgadfly

    I've personally had enough of social conservatives, period. They claim the world would be a better place if only we followed the Ten Commandments (etc.). Well, guess what? We tried that. For centuries. Fail. The answers aren't in ANY book, and the fools who dwell on one particularly stale book are really getting in the way.

    August 15, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • The Lionly Lamb of The Gods Does Roar

      Sonoagadfly, do you really think that religions of christendom were the real culprits for moral depravity throughout the past 2,000 years? Christendoms' leadoraliships were inhoots with the rulerships of old times and even still todays' are many of christendoms' churched affiliations of lootiveness still doing the dastardly deeds of generationed will-o-wisps all for money's sakes and these so called prophets of pastoralships are now coming round due their flockaged nudgings them toward otherliness venues to accomidate the sufferings in far away places instead of getting their own houses in order as is proffessed within the Gospels!

      August 15, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
  18. The Lionly Lamb of The Gods Does Roar

    Sorry everyone, i forgot to take my meds this morning. I, the lionly sheep of loserdem have thoust strucken a tone of angst throughout the eclectic fields of universaldom for all to hear!

    August 15, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
    • The Lionly Lamb of The Gods Does Roar

      Who the Sam's He'll are you taking mny name in Vain? Be damned if I am gonna allow you to mock my healthiness You are a F****ng Jerk of the Jacko-ff type! Come to me and I'll givce you a piece of my knuckes in your jaw!

      August 15, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • The Lionly Lamb of The Gods Does Roar

      I am a morondone stuck in my own poopiness of stupidio because I and an idiotio!

      August 15, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • The Lionly Lamb of The Gods Does Roar

      WOW I HAVE GONE OFF THE DEEP END!!!! thoust havest no ideaist what the heckest is going onist

      August 15, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
    • The Lionly Lamb of The Gods Does Roar

      That’s why I needith to takith my medicationist!

      August 15, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
  19. The Lionly Lamb of The Gods Does Roar

    Personally, I would so Love to have back within the religiously demeanored rankings, the Old time Gods of Old Greece and Romans whose Gods and Goddesses did some of the best jobs and things for their empirical floozies! Gimme Thor, the God of Thunder,,,, Gimme Zues the God of (I forgot),,, Gimme Dionises a rather voluptous Goddess,,, Gimme the Goddess whose statue is sitting upon apedestal in a harbor of New York, We know of her a but a Statue but this statue is of a Goddess, believe me you! Bring back all the old gods and lets get rid of Monotheism once and for all! TYVM for my morbidity ranting! LoL

    August 15, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
    • MomOf3

      Your mixing your pantheons...

      August 15, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • coyotewise

      Dionysus a volumtious goddess? I suspect he might take some exception to being labled such, as he has always been depicted and spoken of in the masculine.

      August 15, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
  20. bachmanntwit

    Michele Bachmann believes that the earth is only 6,000 years old and that early man rode dinosaurs to church every Sunday.

    August 15, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • The Lionly Lamb of The Gods Does Roar

      6,000 years you say? Now if there is truth in the scripture that states a day is as a thousand years then 6,000 years times 365 days in a year time a thousandone just might find the earth's religously oriented Timeline to be a consitency of the science oriented,,,,, JAT 🙂

      August 15, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
    • Laughing

      Oh Lionly,

      That's cute that you're trying to reconcile science with your faith, but lets try something shall we?

      The estimated age of the earth is 4.55 billion years old, or 4,550,000,000 years. The bible says that god created the earth in 6 days and rested on the 7th. You somehow surmised that days meant 1,000 years so as.suming you are correct (which you aren't) then that's really 6,000 x 365 days right? That's a total of 210,000 or 200 hundred thousand years old, which is still pit.ifully small compared to the real age of the earth (found by carbon dating, ice-core samples and the like). Sorry, science has completely and whole heartedly disproven the creation story in many many ways, you can not hope to even try and rationalize how genesis could even be sort of correct.

      August 15, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
    • coyotewise

      Laughing, I think your math is a little off. Try 365 * 1000 * 6000, which is 2,190,000,000. Not exactly 4.55 billion, but at 2.1 billion, almost half of what geologist estimate is the age of the Earth.

      August 15, 2011 at 7:50 pm |
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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.