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. popseal

    Bright and sunny on one side, dark and scary on the other. I did news photography as a hobby until I found a real job. The juxtaposition above is quickly spotted as anti Bachmann, print news 'artistry'. I visit CNN at least once oa week so as to keep up with what the leftist enemy is doing, and how it's doing it.

    August 14, 2011 at 8:20 am |
    • slupdawg

      It can't be helped that Michele Bachman looks like she cooks and eats her young.

      August 14, 2011 at 8:22 am |
    • Mogan

      I'm sorry but that is the way Bachmann looks most of the time.

      August 14, 2011 at 8:37 am |
    • Severinus

      That's right. The Lefty enemy is everywhere and has many minions. Watch out or they'll fill your mind with impure thoughts. Better make sure that tin foil cap on your head is nice and tight.

      August 14, 2011 at 8:46 am |
    • tallulah13

      Oh my! A young blonde and an older brunette! One is darker than the other! Conspiracy!

      August 14, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
  2. skog

    CNN , now I know what it stands for C-ertainly N-ot N-nuetral

    August 14, 2011 at 8:19 am |
    • Elfman

      Didn't you see the note at the end?

      "The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Alisa Harris."

      August 14, 2011 at 8:32 am |
  3. Jeditigger

    The nation's idealogical divisiveness stuns me nowhere more than in the commentary section of virtually any news article or editorial.

    Can't we disagree with each other without the vitriolic name-calling? And can't we, for ONCE, put aside politics to do what's right for the most and not a select few?

    August 14, 2011 at 8:19 am |
  4. Jim

    Waiting for CNN to lead with a counterpoint about an "escapee" from Rev Jeremiah Wrights's church. I will check in later as I'm currently busy dealing on some ocean front property in Arizona.

    August 14, 2011 at 8:18 am |
  5. Reality

    Why the Christian Right no longer matters in presidential elections:

    Once again, all the conservative votes in the country "ain't" going to help a "pro-life" presidential candidate, i.e Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman, Michele Bachmann, Tim Pawlenty, Herman Cain, Ron Paul or Rick Santorum, in 2012 as the "Immoral Majority" rules the country and will be doing so for awhile. The "Immoral Majority" you ask?

    The fastest growing USA voting bloc: In 2008, the 70+ million "Roe vs. Wade mothers and fathers" of aborted womb-babies" whose ranks grow by two million per year i.e. 78+ million "IM" voters in 2012.

    2008 Presidential popular vote results:

    69,456,897 for pro-abortion/choice BO, 59,934,814 for "pro-life" JM.

    And all because many women fail to take the Pill once a day or men fail to use a condom even though in most cases these men have them in their pockets. (maybe it should be called the "Stupid Majority"?)
    (The failures of the widely used birth "control" methods i.e. the Pill and male condom have led to the large rate of abortions ( one million/yr) and S-TDs (19 million/yr) in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or condoms properly and/or use other safer birth control methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.)

    August 14, 2011 at 8:18 am |
    • rennin1

      Abortion is not a conservative vs. liberal issue. Rather it is a mathematical issue. Since Roe vs. Wade in 1973 there have been almost 50 million abortions in the US. That’s 50 million children who have had their pro-abortion genes removed from the human gene pool. The irony here is that the only way for a woman to pass her pro-abortion gene on to her offspring is by carrying the pregnancy to term. The conclusion is inescapable. Abortion is unstable and unsustainable over time and those who practice it are weeding their pro-abortion genes out of the human gene pool.

      August 14, 2011 at 8:31 am |
  6. Ranterdon

    This article like so many others here is clearly biased and seems to be aligned with the Democrats srtategy to knock down ANY Republican candidate who could win....shame on CNN,

    August 14, 2011 at 8:17 am |
    • Ryan

      It is an OPINION article, of course its biased, it specifically says, "these are expressly the views of the author." I am so sick of conservatives talking about liberal bias in the media, stop repeating the same thing all other conservatives say (especially those on FOX News, whicj by the way is the most watched news broadcast in the country...sad but true). Get over your self for Christ's sake.

      August 14, 2011 at 8:29 am |
    • KCT

      It's an opinion piece. It's supposed to be biased.

      August 14, 2011 at 8:31 am |
  7. Erik

    "When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative."
    Martin Luther King Jr.

    August 14, 2011 at 8:17 am |
  8. clwyd

    Jeff, I sure hope that was meant to be satire? The reason being that any intelligent and educated person couldn't make that statement about the slanted,one sided conservative views put forth daily on FOX> Stupid id forever Jeff!

    August 14, 2011 at 8:16 am |
  9. hwarner

    CNN, this is garbage, not journalism, and as an "opinion piece" certainly is undeserving of a front page posting. Your attempts at character assassination are pathetic but soooo predictable. The mainstream media's misogyny for any conservative woman is blatant and vile. Oh, and by the way, you are not fooling anyone – just looking foolish and hateful.

    August 14, 2011 at 8:16 am |
  10. Mike

    This lady is in great need of some really serious psychiatric therapy and medication.

    August 14, 2011 at 8:16 am |
    • clwyd

      Oh, you've talked with her too? She is a fruit cake!

      August 14, 2011 at 8:17 am |
    • Erik


      August 14, 2011 at 8:31 am |
  11. Jeff

    Clearly CNN has it's political side of issues. I've watched enough to see that FOX is really the only fair and balanced view.

    August 14, 2011 at 8:12 am |
    • Kirsten

      There is nothing fair and balanced about FOX either. You are kidding yourself.

      August 14, 2011 at 8:21 am |
    • Iowan

      Bullpucky! FOX News is very conservatively slanted, not even close to fair and balanced. You want balanced? Get the facts, listen to the differing viewpoints, then make up your own mind!

      August 14, 2011 at 8:40 am |
    • pfeffernusse

      "...FOX is really the only fair and balanced view."

      *explosive laughter*

      Oh my goodness, that was FUNNY! What a card you are!

      Oh...you weren't kidding?

      August 17, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
  12. jv

    Is CNN accepting donations on behalf of Obama's re-election campaign? What a joke.

    August 14, 2011 at 8:12 am |
  13. IM Observer

    So this is what CNN thinks is front page News? An opinion piece blasting religion should not be headline news. With this article, CNN puts itself squarely in the category of lapdog for the Obama campaign. The Emperor has no clothes and CNN has no Journalistic integrity.

    August 14, 2011 at 8:11 am |
    • Robert

      CNN is in all out campaign mode for Obama and the democrat party. They are out to politically assassinate Republicans. But they will fail and Obama will be defeated.

      August 14, 2011 at 8:13 am |
  14. Mark

    Author Alisa Harris is simply another victim of liberalism. Pray for her salvation most of all, because if she gets saved she will then reject her liberalism.

    August 14, 2011 at 8:11 am |
    • Iowan

      Rejection of ultra-conservatism is not liberalism.

      August 14, 2011 at 8:42 am |
  15. You Pickone

    The last place on earth one would go to for advice or news on faith issues is CNN. PBS would be a close second. What a farce.

    August 14, 2011 at 8:10 am |
    • Howie76

      Go back to worshiping Glenn Beck.

      August 14, 2011 at 8:12 am |
  16. Jeff

    Hey Dennis: Just think about this, The national debt is doubled, then doubled again. Enough said...

    August 14, 2011 at 8:09 am |
    • Mike in VA

      Now, tell me how the Tea Party proposes shoring up our infrastructure and education system, two things that without question have a heavy hand in how well the nation can compete in the future. It is no different than if you put off repairs on your house. It leads to more problems and a bigger bill down the road, and is not fiscally responsible. I will give the Tea Party some credit when they can sell a vision beyond no and show how they will resolve the very serious problems mentioned above.

      August 14, 2011 at 8:13 am |
  17. Daisy

    It looks like Obama will be easily reelected if this is all the Republicans have for a candidate. Another election lost if she becomes the GOP candidate.

    August 14, 2011 at 8:08 am |
    • Mike in VA

      On the positive side, it means we can continue to move toward freedom and justice for all.

      August 14, 2011 at 8:09 am |
  18. You Pickone

    Another attempt to make Michele look bad with picture selection. CNN has a double standard for /democrats and republicans. not a credible news organization by any standard.

    August 14, 2011 at 8:08 am |
    • Ranterdon

      One of the reasons CNN has become irrelevant...sad I used to watch and read them a lot...not so much these days because of the bias.

      August 14, 2011 at 8:16 am |
    • Independent thinker

      First off, it's a decent picture of Bachmann. Secondly, you missed the point. The article is about the foundation of Bachmann's beliefs – NOT NEWS – can't you righties tell the difference?

      August 14, 2011 at 8:18 am |
  19. dahtcom

    Whatever distorted perception Ms. Harris has of people of a faith she professess to believe as a result of her own personal experiences, is just that; her own personal experience. It is not the experience or view of Ms. Bachmann nor is it the experience or view of millions of evangelical Christians who are out there, like Michelle Bachmann bringing our beliefs, comfort, care and support to "our wounded world, the suffering of the poor and the exploitative practices of the rich and powerful" as well as those who are simply evil for the sake of being evil. Unwittingly or willing Ms. Harris has lent herself to the biggest propoganda machine in the history of mankind, the leftist American media. I would suggest that Ms. Harris go back and read the Old Testament again and attempt to open her eyes to how she is been manipulated by the very worldview she claims to have been obsessively schooled against. In conclusion this is the most pointless relational piece CNN could have possibly ran in contrast to Ms. Bachmanns victory. Nothing but anti-concservative propoganda not a lick of substance. How vey sad for Ms Harris and for CNN.

    August 14, 2011 at 8:08 am |
    • Iowan

      You could not be more wrong in your comments. Ms. Harris writes from her personal experiences from her own life. She shares her experiences with organizations and people Mrs. Bachmann has been involved with and supportive of. I find the piece to be full of substance and in many ways indicative of true christian beliefs. Perhaps you should reread the New Testament, particularly the teachings of Christ.

      August 14, 2011 at 8:31 am |
    • dahtcom

      I see Iowan... so two people who are 25 or more years apart share the same experience in life. Then you tell me I couldn't be more wrong but confirm what I just said. The article is totally void of substance when it comes to Christian beliefs and if you had ever read the New Testament yourself you wouldn't need me to explain that to you. The article has no relevance to the experiences and beliefs of Ms. Bachmann only to the experiences and tragically distorted beliefs of Ms. Harris. To suggest otherwise is complete foolishness. I will assume that you went to high school. Did you have the same experience and graduate with the same education as I or anyone else whoever went to high school? At least try to be logical in your defense of propoganda and not nakedly obedient. God Bless.

      August 14, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
  20. Michael

    Good thing she did not become her. She would be just as unelectable.....

    August 14, 2011 at 8:07 am |
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About this blog

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.