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Michele Bachmann, evangelical feminist?
June 27th, 2011
06:09 PM ET

Michele Bachmann, evangelical feminist?

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) - If Hillary Clinton, the woman who came closest to becoming a major party presidential nominee, is a feminist icon, could something similar be said of Michele Bachmann, who officially launched her presidential campaign on Monday?

Bachmann is seldom described in those terms; the conservative Minnesota congresswoman and Tea Party darling might cringe at the feminist label.

But some religion and politics experts say that she exemplifies an evangelical feminism that is producing more female leaders in Christian nonprofits, businesses, and education and politics, even as more traditional gender roles prevail in evangelical homes and churches.

“It’s not that evangelical feminism is entirely new,” says R. Marie Griffith, director of the John C. Danforth Center on Religion & Politics at Washington University in St. Louis. “But this lack of fear going into top positions of power is new and astonishing and exciting for this segment of the population.”

Though evangelical women have long been involved in political activism, including helping to lead the temperance movement and campaigning for and against women's right to vote, seeking the White House is a more recent and dramatic step.

“It’s a trend that was started by Sarah Palin,” Griffith said, referring to the former Alaska governor, who was the Republican vice presidential nominee in 2008.

D. Michael Lindsay, a scholar who has studied evangelical leaders, says that evangelical feminism largely followed the trend in secular feminism, even if it was delayed by a decade or so.

“Evangelicals are not traditionally the innovators in gender roles, so they’re not going to be at the vanguard,” says Lindsay, who was recently appointed president at Gordon College and who wrote the book Faith in the Halls of Power. “But they also don’t trail too far behind.”

Lindsay says that evangelical feminism took off in the 1980s, pointing to Ronald Reagan tapping Elizabeth Dole, a Christian with strong connections in the evangelical world, to be his secretary of transportation as one example.

George W. Bush, meanwhile, appointed evangelical women to top roles in his presidential administration, including Karen Hughes as a top adviser and Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state.

At the same time, there are distinctions between evangelical and secular feminism. Many female evangelical leaders, for instance, talk of being called by God to pursue professional careers.

“This idea of women being out in the world when they’re doing God’s work – that’s the key,” says Griffith, who is author of God's Daughters: Evangelical Women and the Power of Submission. “You have to be called.”

Bachmann, an evangelical Lutheran, has talked of being called to run for president.

“When I pray, I pray believing that God will speak to me and give me an answer to that prayer, and so that’s what a calling is,” she told CBS News on Sunday, explaining that she had prayed about her decision to seek the presidency. “If I pray, a calling means that I have a sense from God which direction I’m supposed to go.”

Another difference between some evangelical and secular feminists is a public emphasis on motherhood. Bachmann’s political identity is constructed largely around her role as a mother of five kids and her experience of taking in 23 foster children.

Palin, who was raised in the Pentecostal tradition, has also emphasized her role as mother, frequently discussing her children and famously using the term “mama grizzlies” to describe female political candidates for whom she campaigns.

Lindsay says that the motherhood angle could be refreshing to evangelical voters, who constitute a majority of the Republican electorate in early states like Iowa and South Carolina.

“A lot of male evangelical politicians have trumpeted family values, but we’ve seen time after time how many break their marriage vows and have tense relationships with their kids,” he says.

“When you’re the mother of four or five kids up there talking about how their commitment to politics stems from your commitment to kids, which is true for both Palin and Bachmann, that resonates with people who are skeptical of American politics.”

The emphasis that some women evangelical leaders place on motherhood appears to be connected to women taking on more prominent roles in the antiabortion movement, which is closely tied to the evangelical subculture.

“There were a lot of women who were representing the old guard abortion center feminism and there were very few pro-life women who were credentialed in state legislatures and running at the federal level,” says Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the antiabortion group Susan B. Anthony List, describing the organization’s founding 20 years ago.

Dannenfelser’s group works to elect women candidates who oppose abortion rights, raising roughly $11 million in the 2010 election cycle.

“The constant line from Jane Fonda and Barbara Boxer on abortion was ‘You can’t possibly know how a woman feels - how dare you speak on an issue you have no knowledge of,'” says Dannenfelser, referring to the pro-abortion rights actress and U.S. senator.

“Now we have women communicating the truth of the matter, which is that abortion is really destroying a lot of women,” she says.

Though Bachmann is widely considered to be a long shot for the GOP nomination, a weekend poll from The Des Moines Register had her running second only to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney among likely Republican caucus-goers, with 22% support.

Even as more evangelical women pursue top jobs in politics, there is little sign that they will be invited into similar roles in evangelical churches, which continue to be led by men, with some exceptions. Some evangelical denominations, including Southern Baptists, have recently moved to put more restrictions on women serving as pastors.

“It seems to me that most evangelical congregations make a sharp divide between the sacred and secular realms,” says Lindsay, “so that church is the last context where you’ll see women in ordained roles.”

ALSO:

Understanding Jon Huntsman's distinct brand of Mormonism

Explain it to me: What's Mormonism?

Opinion: For Huntsman, a little faith could go a long way

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Politics • Sarah Palin

soundoff (3,401 Responses)
  1. Mike

    Al

    Maybe they want to get even. How many millenniums have men had the upper hand? Religion doesn't help. The Bible says men are more worthy so that makes it okay. What a joke of a book.

    What Bible have you read? What book; chapter and verse you read that at? Another God hating Atheist trying to tell Christians and non-Christians what the Word of God says. Please don't tell me what you think about God and I won't tell you what I think about your "BIG BANG" theory.

    June 28, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
    • Colin

      Yes, please tell us what you think of one of the most sophisticated, evidence backed scientific theories ever established....then I will tell you what I think of six days and a talking snake.

      June 28, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Mike

      We non believers don't believe because we HAVE read your silly books.

      Most of us know more about your God than you do.

      June 28, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • Bible Clown

      I read the Big Fun Bible Book, with lots of pictures of Elisha and the bears playing with some heathen kids.

      June 28, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
  2. Jeff

    Great, just what we need.. another bible thumper in office. Nations should be run by rationalism and common sense and not religious beliefs and dogma.

    June 28, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • God

      Where we you 2011 years ago while Christianity was infecting the minds of the human race like a virus?

      June 28, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • R U Serious???

      It blows my mind what people are willing to say in a blog. Stuff you would never say to someone's face because you know they would smack you around. Whatever happened to respect for your fellow man?

      June 28, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
    • God

      I do say this stuff to peoples face, especially the Christians on the streets who hand me papers. They all seem to have respect to not smack me around. You're the only one resorting to violence over ideas and words, that makes you a sad human being.

      June 28, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • GodPot

      "Stuff you would never say to someone's face because you know they would smack you around."

      I will say it to your face but I'll warn you, smacking me around is illegal and I will press charges. I know Christians can be a violent lot, just look at the last few thousand years of their history, but now that public opinion does not support your violent ways you are not allowed to smack around those who do not believe in your fairy tales and call you out for the liars you are.

      Cheers!

      June 28, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • William Demuth

      R U Serious???

      I am a grizled old street fighter who very few might want to try to push around.

      I say to each his own, but keep your imaginary Gods away from my kids and grandkids, or be ready to be tested.

      June 28, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
    • R U Serious???

      Funny how you omit "Whatever happened to respect for your fellow man?" which was the actual point. I try very hard to keep my comments from being a direct insult because I was raised to show others respect, even if they do not show it to you.

      June 28, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
    • scott

      I Lets lower the deficit by spending more money (sorry investing) that all ways works. That is common sense????

      June 28, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • Bible Clown

      Somehow no one ever seems to smack me around for my beliefs. They would have to pack a lunch because it would be an all-day job.

      June 28, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
  3. Mark

    Why can't religious people just die?

    June 28, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • God

      Because that would be the Rapture, and since Christianity isn't true, neither is the Rapture.

      June 28, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • R U Serious???

      Sounds like something that Hitler, Stalin or Kim Jong il would say. Might I suggest a move to a country that wasn't built from a Christian mindset? I hear North Korea is nice 🙂

      June 28, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • Bing

      They can't die because they have not been able to pinpoint where the heaven is. If you could find out where it is, they all would go there en masse.

      June 28, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • God

      Atleast North Korea worships something real. Also Nazi's had a Christian mind set, they were set to take over the world by force, if I recall my history correctly thats what the Christians did with the Crusades, Trail of Tears, and their own extermination camps during WW2. Open your eyes a little wider next time, you might be able to see around your bible.

      June 28, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • R U Serious???

      You really think that Hitler had a Christian mindset? Not the most accurate deductive reasoning. He was interested in eugenics and social Darwinism.
      The Crusades were an example of the Catholic church in Europe and politics (neither of which I can relate to). And I'm pretty certain that WW2 was not a religious war.

      It is also interesting to me that you have determined without a shadow of a doubt that there is no God, and if you believe there is one you are stupid. The term Megalomania comes to mind. Oh, and narcissism.

      June 28, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • R U Serious???

      Just for clarification as well, are you in agreement that all people that believe in God should be killed?

      June 28, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • William Demuth

      The Romans demostrated that they do.

      The Christians are trying to prove they can't

      The Romans appear to have been correct

      June 28, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • Bible Clown

      Man, that's stupid. Just stupid. It's so stupid that I'm going to go away and let everyone else call you a moron. That's how stupid it is. It's as stupid as, as, um, as a really stupid thing.

      June 28, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • Bible Clown

      RU, that stuff about Hitler and Darwin is someone's crazy sermon/theory that's been going around the web for years. Do yourself a favor and don't look stupid by quoting it(that dying kid doesn't want postcards anymore either). Darwin didn't judge people or claim they came from monkeys; that's just made-up stuff. His book is mostly about the amazing differentiation and speciation he encountered on islands, and theories about how these varieties became distinct species due to isolation. It implies a lot of things, but connecting Darwin and Hitler is BS. Hitler was a Christian and his troops were mostly Catholic with a minority of ?Lutherans, and his army was on a mission from God.
      Philosophically, you are correct: the existence or non-existence of God is unprovable. In an infinite universe, He could be undetectable and still exist. But what good is a god who will not manifest? If I call you, and you don't answer, you might still exist – but you are not here.

      June 28, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • God

      Crusades/Witch Hunts/WW2 Extermination Camps are all things that Christianity actively participated in to exterminate people who did not share their view and would not convert. Nazi's during WW2 exterminated people who did not share their views. Seems like the same exact concept to me. Both the Nazi's and Christianity have attempted to take the world by force.

      I do also believe that there is no God for one simple reason. Why do you know for sure that the 200+ Roman Gods don't exist, Incan Gods, or Wiccan Gods, or Native American Gods, because they were created by MAN, who wrote the Bible (Man), who does the Bible state is flawed (Man). The bible is actually self defeating.

      You still have yet to actually refute anything I've stated? What a waste of an intellectual conversation, I see that you guys can't come up with anything better than to call me a moron, which only makes you look bad.

      June 28, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
    • R U Serious???

      It's been fun debating guys, but I have to break from the chain for the evening. I will just say that I think there is a ton of history that is being distorted here, but I hope that factual enlightenment will be your true goal.

      By the way, I don't recall ever calling anyone a moron.

      June 28, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
  4. Chamillion

    People are confusing the words "same" and "equal". Women can still be "equal" with men and not be the "same" as men. Women who act they are women with the equal rights of men are great leaders. Women who try to be the "same" as men will always be fighting for something that not achievable. Michelle loves being a mom– that's wonderful and increasingly rare in the country. But she also is exercising her right to run for President just like the men do. I don't see any feminist extremism there.

    June 28, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
  5. nowsgood

    Bachmann is just the new face of crazy. Unfortunately all the teabaggers have to offer is stupid and crazy.

    June 28, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • Dan

      "Fear" is a four letter word.

      June 28, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
  6. tuffgong71

    Yes, by all means lets elect someone who speaks to invisible people every night and expects an answer.

    June 28, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • Mutha

      Does it hurt when your friend probes your colon?

      June 28, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • nowsgood

      Mutha,

      You should really come out of the closet.

      June 28, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
    • Realist

      Not as much as when you try to use your brain

      June 28, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
    • God

      We live in a Christian world, we have for the past 2011 years. I agree with you though, Christianity is for the weak and simple minded, I'm tired of those people always running this country. Too bad one of the qualifications to become President is that you have to be Christian, otherwise I would run.

      June 28, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
  7. R U Serious???

    If you are Conservative, believe in God, or otherwise consider yourself a reasonable human being, please try to refrain from insults and name calling. Lets try to not stoop down to this level. It only fuels division.

    June 28, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
    • gozer

      Believing in god and being a reasonable human being are directly in conflict with each other.

      June 28, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • William Demuth

      I am non of the above, so spare me the rhetoric.

      We know you Jesus freaks, and we AIN'T buying it anymore.

      June 28, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • Malkntnt

      I DEMAND to be divided away from the CRAZY people like Bachmann. She has proved by her actions that she is a complete nutcase. Please segregate her from the rest of humanity.

      June 28, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • Dan

      William: You don't have to buy. That's the beauty if freedom. Live and let live.

      June 28, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Dan

      Many try to force the sale with me. Few try it a second time.

      Believe what you want, but stay out of my face.

      June 28, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
  8. WakeUp

    I honestly don't understand why CNN/Society/Media is associating her with Christianity. I can only imagine they are doing this out of pure ignorance. People! wake up. I highly suggest you read the Bible before associating the name of the Lord with someone who does not exactly represent God or have literally anything to do with His Will.

    June 28, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
    • Colin

      There are thousands of Christian denominations, sub-denominations, sects, cults and sub-sects and sub-cults. Nobody has a monopoly on the term. You are a Christian if you call yourself one. I would suggest you set your sights a bit higher if yo udo.

      June 28, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • tuffgong71

      Why? What does the Bible have to do with the upcoming Presidential Election?

      June 28, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • Malkntnt

      @ tuffgong71 – because Bachmann believes that GOD talks to her! Directly! She hears voices in her head! She is a disturbed sick individual and has no business running for office, let alone one where the voices can tell her what they want done. She is bat$h!t CRAZY!!! I'm *from* MN and have dealt with her ramblings for 6 years!!!

      June 28, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
  9. Stephanie Palmer

    Calling yourself a Christian doesn't make you a Christian. And from what she herself says and does, her values are far from my Chrisitan values. I'm not really sure what she thinks Christianity is, she certainly doesn't practice it.

    June 28, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
    • Mutha

      Idiot. How can you call yourself a Christian when you cannot spell it?

      June 28, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
    • Dan

      Stephanie: You do not determine who is or is not a Christian. God does.

      Mutha: SHe mispely it onece out of three times. It's obviouly a typo. Find a different tactic. Yours is childish.

      June 28, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • Bible Clown

      I dunno – how can you call yourself a mother when you can't spell it? (rimshot)

      June 28, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
  10. Mary

    This woman is a nut case just like Palin..
    The truth is, at this point we have no women in the running that have the brains to do the job..
    Sorry to say this..Because I am a woman...
    Our system works by who can pay huge amounts of $$$ for the campaign.. So we are getting a whole lot of wealthy loosers...
    Hillary in my opinion is the only woman who ran , that is mentally qualified to be president..
    Until another of her caliber runs again, I would never vote for the clowns able to buy their way in .

    June 28, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
    • Muf fLuver

      I thought you were Neil -n- Bob, or is that what you do?

      June 28, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • Mike

      Mary,
      First you say NO woman can be President. Then you say only Hilary can be President. She's a woman the last time I heard. What you meant to say only a LIBERAL woman, who supports your lifestyle and values can be President. Say what you really mean to say.

      June 28, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
  11. Armando

    If she wins and moves into the White House (which she won't) what is she going to do with 2 dozen foster kids? What would a Christain do?

    June 28, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
    • Dan

      RTA. She has been a foster parent over the years. I seriously doubt she has them with her now.

      June 28, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Put them somewhere to be buggered into submission by a preacher

      June 28, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • Bible Clown

      Patiently explain to people that she didn't adopt all those kids or have them at once. That many kids have passed though her home as foster children on their way to adoption. I keep hearing she has twenty-eight adopted children, and I'm telling you, she may be crazy but she's not THAT crazy.

      June 28, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
  12. Vonteller

    BACHMANN, THE NEW FACE OF FEMINISM!!! GO BACHMANN 2012!!!!!!!!!!

    June 28, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • gozer

      Bachmann is an insult to the term "feminist".

      June 28, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
    • William Demuth

      I really hope she does run, I was quite fond of 1968.

      June 28, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
  13. BillnTed

    Still waiting for the "crazy" to come out. She's bound to be nuttier as time goes on. Right-wing uber religious twit that she is. Doesn't anyone fact check this imbecile's speeches before she goes before the public?

    She's extreme and divisive. My prediction is she will defeat Mitt Romney and secure another term for President Obama.

    June 28, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • Jake

      Maybe in Iowa and South Carolina, but she will not fair well in more fiscally concerned or more liberitarian states

      June 28, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
  14. Vonteller

    The liberal worship of OBAMA is laughable. He says something stupid, and the sheeple MORONS can't come out to condemn it. Where's the liberal criticism of the ATM cooment, the natinonal embarrassment at Buckingham palace, the laughter at shovel ready jobs, the bump on the road comment..etc, HYPOCRITES..or should i say BRAINDEADS!! lol!!

    June 28, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • midwstrngrl

      it goes both ways. equal opportunity employer...

      June 28, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
    • Rich F

      If these are your biggest gripes with Obama, he's not doing too poorly ... especially given what we came from (Bush) and where some would like to take us (Palin or Bachman).

      June 28, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • gozer

      Vonteller, way to stay on topic. Not.

      June 28, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • GodPot

      You would notice that the "liberal media" slam's Obama far more often than FOX ever did Bush, but you likely are glued to FOX so you wouldnt notice. The Daily Show makes fun of political incompetence wherever it rear's it's oddly misshapen head, Republican or Democrat. Any person with at least half a brain that watches FOX, MCNBC & The Daily Show can see the difference. Of course, most people with more than half a brain don't watch FOX or MSNBC.

      June 28, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • BillnTed

      The usual inane twaddle from yet another limited, scared individual. Get back in your hole, it's safer there.

      June 28, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • jkress

      Maybe your just "misunderestimating" him?

      June 28, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • Bible Clown

      Von, you should really avoid words like moron and stupid. You could make more sense with a recording of yourself playing the butt-trumpet than you do posting. No one 'worships Obama,' that's some weird fantasy of the late Glenn Beck. He's the guy we hired to get rid of Cheney and Bush, and try to fix their mistakes, and it was nice to be able to hire a black guy for the job and watch you bigots shriek, but worship? Ha ha, no. He's screwing up the space program and he flinched on the spending program before we got enough money into circulation. He does lots of stuff I don't like, but he didn't sell my country's soldiers to Halliburton as oil bodyguards like Cheney did. I'll vote for him again, and he'll win again.

      June 28, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
  15. Steve

    Anyone who cites mythology as their primary decision-making technique is incapable of running a gas station, never mind the most powerful country in the world.

    Even if that sort of thing is important to you, folks who think that these references to god are anything more than cynically ploys for your vote have no business getting involved in the political process.

    June 28, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • Colin

      Steve, two good points.

      June 28, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
    • Chamillion

      wow. Way to cut out everybody else so that only the people who agree with you can vote.

      June 28, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
    • Mutha

      Please get Steve his helmet and drool bucket.

      June 28, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
    • Mutha's mother

      Mutha, get back in the trailer and stop playing with yourself.

      June 28, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • Mutha's mother's neighbor

      Medusa called and wanted to know if she and Jason could drop off the kids while they run a Marathon.

      June 28, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  16. bachmanntwit

    Hurry back to your double wide Vonteller. Nascar's on.

    June 28, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
    • Shamrock6

      NASCAR is awesome. Don't ruin it by lumping it in with a dimwit like that dude.

      June 28, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
  17. sugartaste81

    "Abortion is ruining women" Yet these are the same "feminists" that want to lower minimum wage and take away welfare. You can't have it both ways..take away abortion and you;re going to see a LOT more "welfare babies". No, they're not feminists nor Christians..

    June 28, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
  18. Paperclip411

    I completely disagree with this article and her person. She is not the face of feminism or the face of the church. Disappointed....again.

    June 28, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
  19. GodPot

    Sooooo, she leaves her husband home to do the cooking and cleaning for two dozen kids? That seem's somehow less than the head of house rules in the bible... Can you be a Chrstian feminist? The bible is more clear about headship laws than it is about gay's.

    Why did Michele Bachmann buy her husband a white suit? So he would match the stove and the sink...

    June 28, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
  20. GT66

    All western women are feminists whether they admit it openly or not. Some will deny that they are but are then the first to cheer when men or boys are done wrong under feminist legislative misandry. They can't resist the urge to gloat when announcements came out that fewer and fewer males are making it to college. They cheered when it was reported that women in IT make *more* than men for the same job. It was never about equality it was always about fighting bigotry with their own brand of bigotry. There's a reason racists and feminist sound similar. They are both movements that people use to promote themselves at the expense of others. Its nice to see women cheering and gloating at the misfortunes of their sons and husbands and fathers. Yup, a movement to be proud of.

    June 28, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • Al

      Maybe they want to get even. How many millenniums have men had the upper hand? Religion doesn't help. The Bible says men are more worthy so that makes it okay. What a joke of a book.

      June 28, 2011 at 2:07 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.