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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. Samantha P.

    Although she doesn't mention it either in this article or on her website, Harris is a writer for the religious right magazine World. (Her last article for them was yesterday: http://www.worldmag.com/articles/18430)

    Reading her article I thought she might be a liberal. So which is it? Is she a conservative, a liberal, or just an opportunist?

    August 14, 2011 at 5:56 am |
    • BG

      She can be anything you want her to be... Just put your money on the table.

      August 14, 2011 at 6:01 am |
    • 40acres

      Perhaps she is a Christian writing about her Christian beliefs. I find it refreshing that she did not use the opportunity to take a political stand for either camp.

      August 14, 2011 at 7:28 am |
  2. myklds

    God lives..forever.

    August 14, 2011 at 5:54 am |
    • Member of the Smart Team

      So? FYI God is not on the side of your sect!

      August 14, 2011 at 6:26 am |
  3. shortmemories

    Terrific article. You are very brave to shine the light on this. I had no idea these kind of things went on and who these people were but now that I do, I will study them and share with others this very scary ideology. I remember Bachman said something about slaves not having it so bad and now I know where that came from. Knowledge is power!

    August 14, 2011 at 5:54 am |
    • jimjoe

      awh. good sheep!

      August 14, 2011 at 7:03 am |
    • shortmemories

      jimjoe, Interesting that you consider investigating the Summit Ministries and the writings of Noebel and Wilkins as being a "good Sheep" Are you advocating the squelching of educating one's self on ideologies of these men that are not in the mainstream and that fact that a possible presidential candidate may be influenced by such ideologies. Sorry sir, but I will educate myself and you do not run the country as of yet to stop this. I have studied the Christian religion, love reading the bible but do not recognize the above described interpretation in them, and if what Alisa states is true, there is much to be concerned of here.

      August 14, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • jimjoe

      That’s not called educating yourself. That is called lacking any and all objectivity. After you read every hit piece there is on the internet, do you blindly nod your head and call yourself intelligent? Because doing so with such a fundamentally flawed article makes you the most thought lacking anti-intellectual of us all. But if you read and used your brain in the slightest you would see how fallacious, and poorly supported the generalizing assertions are about entire groups of people that are simply on the other side of the ail as this poorly thought out piece of fallacy. If you cannot recognize such remedial things then there is little purpose in trying to educate yourself at all. Its literally a lost cause and a waste of your own time. Please, don't even manage a supermarket. People like you have little place in the world, and are better just staying home thinking they are smart while reading complete idiocy thinking they are well read.

      August 14, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
    • shortmemories

      jimjoe – in what strange place in this world do you exist where reading the actual writings of these men is lacking in objectivity. This article merely gave me the names of obviously published authors of a point of view and I will now go and read their works. Your reading comprehension isn't all that deft as you missed the qualifier "if" in my earlier post. You also are extraordinarily judgmental to state I "have little place in this world". You do not have the power to control whether I am in this world or not – that is God's job. And anyone that takes ANYTHING on the internet as anything more than one sided opinion to be looked at closer is a fool. The only thing it is good for is to have a starting place to research further if particular people or books, etc are not in the mainstream. Everyone knows the name Graham and if one is curious to read him, it is easy, but like I said, I had never heard of these people, now I have and now I will go do more research. I am not going to take your word for it that these men are "simply on the other side". Sorry, going to check out exactly what they have said. * Whoops, posted this response on last page instead of replying here, sorry, please ignore duplicate on page 19 🙂 *

      August 14, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
  4. Doris

    Could the hate be more palpable from CNN. They had to spend their news space spewing this hate filled diatribe aimed at Bachmann in particula,r and Christians in general, on the day she won the straw poll instead of discussing her political views and plans if she were to become president. The left truly is terrified of strong Christian women.

    August 14, 2011 at 5:53 am |
    • Member of the Smart Team

      Ignorant so call Christians like you and Bachmann make our country look stupid before the eyes of the World! It's hard to meet a Republican nowadays who is not an ignorant dumb- like you, a bigot, or rich insensitive a–hole protecting his financial interests. Why don't you all shut up and self segregate into some some s-hole in Alabama, claim it your own "Christian" kingdom, and live your pitiful existence with your ridiculous rules and worldviews to yourself. Freaks!

      August 14, 2011 at 6:20 am |
    • Doris

      Your laughable post proves you only know(like the author of this article) how to use ad hominem attacks and reveals beyond a shadow of a doubt you are not a member of the "smart team".

      August 14, 2011 at 6:32 am |
    • Maggie

      you are a horrible person. right winged people like you will do anything to make your ignorant, ghastly opinions heard. god save your soul. all of you people should be shipped to a deserted island so the rest of our country can live in peace and go on with our lives, without hatred and ignorance.

      August 14, 2011 at 9:29 am |
    • tallulah13

      Anybody who values freedom and the const-itution should be very afraid of Bachmann and her ilk. It has nothing to do with her gender and everything to do with the anti-American nature of her beliefs. However, your anger at someone shining a light on the rather frightening indoctrination some christian children receive is duly noted.

      August 14, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  5. jamesindc

    What an incredibly stupid and biased article by CNN. Not surprising though.

    August 14, 2011 at 5:47 am |
    • mushmouth

      Doesn't Fox have a website? Get lost.

      August 14, 2011 at 5:49 am |
    • Doris

      Yes Fox has a website. All the leftist trolls are over there hating on Perry right now.

      August 14, 2011 at 5:54 am |
  6. maximusvad

    The hypocrisy of Christian hatred astounds me about Alisa. They must view her as a traitor to their cult.

    August 14, 2011 at 5:45 am |
    • mushmouth

      Absolutely. She's clearly jumped the rails.

      August 14, 2011 at 5:48 am |
    • mb2010a

      So much for the "home schooling" concept...aka: brainwashing our young.

      August 14, 2011 at 5:56 am |
  7. Rich GAz

    Still way too religious for me. Very strange how these god and christ believers at all tempuratures spew such hate and have no acceptance that one's life and beliefs are their own and none of your or mine business

    August 14, 2011 at 5:43 am |
    • mb2010a

      They are important when the person you're talking to or about is running for President of the US...

      August 14, 2011 at 6:05 am |
  8. neo

    CNN at its finest hour.
    Now hiring opinions and setting the crosshairs on a conservative front runners.
    They call themselves open-minded.

    August 14, 2011 at 5:42 am |
    • Alyeska

      So, you like Bachmann so CNN isn't "open minded" for posting the opinion of somebody who doesn't. Gee, exactly what kind of opinion piece meets with your approval? An editorial in alignment with your opinion only, right? Right? (Pun: intended.)

      August 14, 2011 at 5:56 am |
  9. Mrs Orrell

    If I were born a much stupider woman I could have been Alisa Harris.

    August 14, 2011 at 5:39 am |
    • Pharris

      You're in luck! You were!

      August 14, 2011 at 5:48 am |
    • zoundsman

      Whoa hohoho.. I stopped reading after this post. I already know I couldn't find a funnier response.

      August 14, 2011 at 5:50 am |
    • jimjoe

      zoundsman
      The funny thing is that you actually believe there is anything intelligent about this blog. If you agree do you through objective thought out the door?

      August 14, 2011 at 5:53 am |
    • zoundsman

      Whoa hohoho.. I stopped reading after this post. I already know I couldn't find a funnier response.
      That's in reply to Mrs Orrell not below

      August 14, 2011 at 5:54 am |
    • tallulah13

      Of course you think she's stupid. Following Christ's path of giving to the poor is far too stupid for good christians. It might cost them money.

      August 14, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
  10. maximusvad

    She has eaten from the tree of knowledge and has seen it is good. Not so many are as lucky as you to break such brainwashing techniques of the Christian cult.

    August 14, 2011 at 5:38 am |
    • Blaise Pascal

      Great, now that you know everything, can you teach us how to run 1.7 trillion deficits and get gay guys to prance around on an altar?

      August 14, 2011 at 5:40 am |
    • David Myers

      Agreed and more power to her for having done so. Secular humanism is so Jesus-style Christian – not those other kinds of christians – which ain't.

      August 14, 2011 at 5:56 am |
    • Asatruar in NC

      The comments on this post from so-called "good Christians" only reinforce to me that I was right to run screaming from that abusive relationship known as Christianity.

      Don't get me wrong, I do believe that the Christian god exists–but he is an abusive and petty bully, much like many of his followers.

      August 14, 2011 at 5:59 am |
    • Joseph

      After you tell us how you leave the country with a 10.7 trillion deficit, 2 bogus wars, 8 years behind in sustainable energy and medical research, almost out of space, struggling in Math and Science, and on the verge of alienating some of out closest world allies. America pushes boundaries we are not confined by them. We make the rules here. We are the greatest not the most conservative. We have traditionally been forward thinking not backward leaning.

      August 14, 2011 at 6:02 am |
  11. Blaise Pascal

    Michele Bachman isn't even the republican nominee, but I can definitively say that you are no Michele Bachman, and you are arrogant to believe you have it in you. You are a bimbo who has gleaned her philosophy from PBS children's shows.

    August 14, 2011 at 5:37 am |
    • maximusvad

      Christians make the best haters. Is that what Jesus taught ?

      August 14, 2011 at 5:42 am |
    • mushmouth

      Maybe, but you are clearly a pinhead.

      August 14, 2011 at 5:45 am |
    • justiceforjanelle

      People resort to name calling when they are unable to maintain a meaningful dialog.

      August 14, 2011 at 5:50 am |
    • Joseph

      Sounds like she read the same Bible I did. Sounds like some of the same reasons I fled the south once my brain kicked in. Sounds like some of the reasons me and my family dont see eye to eye. I dont spend enough time looking at the bad side of things, I dont spend enough time hating on certain religious or racial groups. Seriously, WWJD? He told me I was spot on.

      August 14, 2011 at 5:53 am |
  12. Doug

    No beach.. you need those crazy eyes.. CrAzY EyEs !

    August 14, 2011 at 5:37 am |
  13. CW

    So when you where young you believe in Jesus, was from the South and imbraced Racism. Are you really comparing your upbringing to Bachmann. Wow, journalism at its finest. I love liberals, always playing the race card and bashing Christians.

    August 14, 2011 at 5:34 am |
    • pfeffernusse

      Where did she state she was liberal? Where did she bash Christianity? She maintains her belief in Jesus.

      Or is it just anything that doesn’t say, “Evangelicals are GREAT!” is somehow “hate”.

      August 17, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
  14. John

    Why is this hater garbage on CNN?

    August 14, 2011 at 5:29 am |
    • KV

      She's not hatin'. Just the truth.

      August 14, 2011 at 5:36 am |
    • Doug

      I know.. She's a monster !!!!

      August 14, 2011 at 5:38 am |
    • tallulah13

      What a horrible person. Kind of like that Christ guy who ministered to the poor and loved the common man.

      August 14, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  15. D. Wilson

    GOP elections are completely NOT NEEDED... there isn't a REPUBLICAN alive that can win the whitehouse with all the GOP has destroyed for Americans in the last 10 years now.. as they lay in the road blocking any kind of progress... we shall see... GOP IS DONE!

    August 14, 2011 at 5:28 am |
    • mb2010a

      Obama 2012.

      August 14, 2011 at 5:52 am |
  16. mark

    LOL, a headline? You have got to be kidding me, just another NYC liberal bigot.

    August 14, 2011 at 5:27 am |
    • John

      you understand that what you just said makes you a bigot right?

      August 14, 2011 at 5:32 am |
  17. Geo

    Thanks for the writing Alisa. Many of us didn't grow up with this culture and are bewildered by its open hypocrisy. The Bible teachs love of other people, empathy, helping the poor and misfortunate, yet their religion is so filled with hatred and anger. The paradox of a pro-life concern for the unborn is combined in the same people with a push to cut off all government medical care for the poor and elderly. Medical care is life, the lack of it suffering and death. Their idealogy in action is a sort of Social Darwinism, where those born fortunate survive and the rest perish.

    August 14, 2011 at 5:24 am |
    • Asatruar in NC

      It's a neurosis-inducing belief system.

      August 14, 2011 at 6:01 am |
  18. BevoTexas

    Yeah yeah yeah. I could've been Obama if I were born half black. Whatever.

    August 14, 2011 at 5:24 am |
    • Doug

      What... That's so off the mark.. What does the color of his skin have to do with his job... Are you really that ignorant ? Apparently you are... But, did you know the year is 2011... just checking ?

      August 14, 2011 at 5:41 am |
    • Doug

      Ohh wow.... I'm sorry ... your from the sick ignorant closed minded hater state that wants to become it's own country.. You know, I want that too !!!

      August 14, 2011 at 5:43 am |
  19. Michael

    Ms Harris, You have started down the path of understanding. Thoughtfull reflection is the way to solve our problems.

    August 14, 2011 at 5:23 am |
  20. Objective Search

    CNN lacks the ability to seperate liberal bias from objective news reporting. Shame on them and those that support this kind of subpar creative writing

    August 14, 2011 at 5:19 am |
    • BG

      Liberal bias, thy name is CNN.

      It seems that some of you just fell off the turnip truck.

      Reaaaally? CNN is biased? Noooo.

      August 14, 2011 at 5:55 am |
    • tallulah13

      Christians seem to hate it when one of their own tries to be more like Christ.

      August 14, 2011 at 4:13 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.