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. faberm

    If your stalking these people on the internet maybe you need to do us all a favor and visit a psychiatrist. It sounds like you've become so "open minded" you've let most of your brains fall out.

    August 14, 2011 at 8:30 am |
  2. Terri

    I'm an independent voter – I try to glean the merits from all discussions. But what I notice here right now on this board is that people on the right are not addressing the content of the article but are attacking CNN instead. Does that mean the content is correct and you just don't want it spoken of? If there is nothing wrong with M. Backman's point of view, why attempt to hide it then?

    August 14, 2011 at 8:30 am |
    • RationalFew

      They don't want you to see the man behind the curtain. Koch brothers, Murdock, evangelical extremest and racist.

      August 14, 2011 at 8:45 am |
  3. coeja73

    This column has very little to do with Michelle Bachmann and more to do with this young ladies fundamental upbringing. I don't see the connection.

    August 14, 2011 at 8:30 am |
    • tifoso

      The article is about someone who, in her early years, followed the same steps taken by Michelle Bachmann. Then, as she grew older, saw a different light and decided that what she had been raised to believe had serious flaws. The article points out that the Bachmann path is not the only one that a true Christian can follow. History is filled with such rejections of imposed orthodoxy. Martin Luther is but one example.

      August 14, 2011 at 8:48 am |
    • RationalFew

      It explains what's going on in Bachman's head from the perspective of someone who shared the same path. I found the article very enlightening. So many times I listen to Bachman and her kind and ask myself, do they actually believe the crap that comes out of their mouths? Or are they just tapped into the lowest common denominator of the electorate?

      Well what really scares me is they do really believe the the crap that comes out of there mouths.

      August 14, 2011 at 9:14 am |
  4. Mogan

    Nice to see that the the Anti-Semites like Jake Wheeler have come out to play. When it comes to Bachmann's religious beliefs, Ms. Harris was correct in the teachings of the authors and Christian movements that Bachmann has allied herself with. They are on the fringe of Christianity and not shared by the vast majority of evangelical Christians. Now, for those who believe that this country was based on Christian principles alone and that our laws should reflect the goals and aspirations of Christianity – then please tell which form of Christianity? There are over 2,000 Protestant denominations in the United States; let alone the orthodox churches and the Roman Catholic Church. And if you want your country to be run by the principles of a single religion and not allowing the voices of other Americans, those who are nonChristian to be heard, then get rid of the First Amendment and follow Christian Shariah law.

    August 14, 2011 at 8:29 am |
  5. Vaughn

    Tax the Churches!!!!!

    August 14, 2011 at 8:29 am |
    • David Myers

      Agreed. The rich and the corporations need to pay their fair share as well.

      August 14, 2011 at 8:49 am |
  6. Sam

    this is a headline? a story about the views of someone who is *almost* like a moderately-famous christian politician? come ON. why not cover the famine in africa? is that not important? It's not like it's boring or un-newsworthy.

    August 14, 2011 at 8:28 am |
    • mike

      Religion is a personal choice not a policy making machine.... Any politician who base their platform on religious concepts in order to make religious point of view rule of law should not be aloud run for President of the so called Free and democratic US or Prime Minister of Canada let alone any society.

      August 14, 2011 at 11:11 am |
    • J.W

      There is a story about the famine in Africa. You need to look at other sections of the website. This section just covers religious stories.

      August 14, 2011 at 11:14 am |
    • tallulah13

      So news websites are only allowed to cover one story? And that one story has to pass your inspection to see if it's newsworthy? I think your self-opinion may be a little out of proportion.

      August 14, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
  7. jim

    All the opinion pieces on Republicans I see from CNN this weekend sound naive, irrational jealous and/or borderline hateful. Geez, where were all the hit pieces like this from the Main Stream Media when the Socialists, Communists and Radical Leftists were running four years ago? Maybe if the MSM had spent this kind of time four years ago figuring out what Obama really is (and isn't), we wouldn't be in the mess we find ourselves in now.

    Where was the piece on "I could have been Obama if I just would have lived with radicals, hated the US and white people, and never had any experience doing anything productive or worthwhile"?.

    August 14, 2011 at 8:28 am |
    • tifoso

      jim – You totally misunderstand our elections. They are not about picking the person among the some 300 million or so who will lead us. They are about deciding between the two pairs that the major parties present to us. Given the choice between Obama-Biden and McCain-Palin, the choice was easy. Given that choice again, the electorate would do the same thing. Palin was seen as too far from the center and McCain too out of touch with reality. If the GOP does what it looks like it will do in 2012, nominate a slate of candidates from the Far Right, it could be 1936 all over again.

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

      He hates the US? Really Jim? You are a person who should not be criticizing anyone else's writing when that's what you write.

      August 14, 2011 at 8:40 am |
    • tallulah13

      Well, jim, it appears that you have the "never had any experience doing anything productive or worthwhile" part down. Maybe you're more like President Obama than you think.

      August 14, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
  8. Jeditigger

    I find it amusing but terribly sad that so many self-proclaimed Christians who respond on forums are so willing to lash out at others in the name of their faith.

    Do you have a different Savior than I follow? Honestly, do you think the Lord would appreciate your mean-spirited, self-righteous vitriol spewed in His name at people who dare disagree with you on anything?

    August 14, 2011 at 8:28 am |
  9. JakeF

    The rage within many of these posts is not unexpected.

    August 14, 2011 at 8:28 am |
  10. mike

    I have been reading some comments and I have to admit that there is alot of hate. Jesus was not Political. His story is a message of Love just like any other Religion. So if your so stuck on scriptures why don't you start living like he did. Just be good.... I'm sorry my friends to the south but you should look at in the mirror and ask yourself if going to war every chance you get is a good way to live. I've studied Political Science outside the US and one thing is clear is that your politics are corrupt. But this comes from Power. And all of you little people with big opinions keep voting greedy fake leaders that take advantage of your lack of education on social politics. All you want to see is money. Funny that 2 years ago Canada was projected by you to be a socialist contry, but now we are seen as leaders in this crissis.... Keep listenning to your right wing vision and soon enough you will have nothing left but regrets.... Cheers

    August 14, 2011 at 8:28 am |
  11. A Quiet Observer

    This is a beautiful article. I admire you for your clear headed bravery in seeing passed man made dogma, into the spirit and real message of Christianity. I too had to work through some extreme issues of Christiantiy, and I know how hard and possibly embittering it can become.

    I'm sorry there are a few on here who don't understand that this isn't so much an article on Bachman, but a counter to extreme religious views. You've been there, you know what its like, and its important for the world to understand what its like to have these extreme religious views in one's background. Thank you for informing the public and keep loving your fellow humankind.

    August 14, 2011 at 8:27 am |
  12. J Harman

    "I could have become Michelle Bachmann".
    Maybe,, but I doubt it. Why do strong, conservative women scare the hell out of liberals? Well, we know why, don't we?
    She's got a point, though. I live in the south and once briefly belonged to a union. I guess I could have become John Edwards.

    August 14, 2011 at 8:26 am |
  13. Terri

    Its a shame our educational system is so lacking here in the U.S. If we had a better understanding of world history we would easily recognize that the tactics used by this Summit Ministries are right out of the Nazi handbook. Hopefully people at least know how that ended.

    August 14, 2011 at 8:26 am |
    • RationalFew

      One of the reason they argue so strongly for state's rights is to take over their schools and only teach their sanitized version of history. Also creationism. The federal control over education prevents them from doing that now.

      August 14, 2011 at 9:01 am |
  14. Jeff

    To clwyd: FOX will always have both sides on to discuss the issue, fair and balanced. Enough said, idiot.

    August 14, 2011 at 8:26 am |
    • andrewstl


      seriously fair and balanced

      how many years did it take you to gert through 5th grade with your ;lack of intelligence?

      August 14, 2011 at 8:27 am |
    • RationalFew

      Stop trying to be funny Jeff. Foxnews is the right arm of the republican party. Every day the same thing like thiss, " TODAY OBAMA did this and this is why it's wrong, unamerican and socialist". Obama had eggs Benedict for breakfast today and this is why it's wrong. It's a French dish, no Americam would eat French food, it shows his arogance to american farmers and secular policies. Sound familiar Jeff... Fair and Balanced????

      August 14, 2011 at 9:06 am |
    • tallulah13

      Jeff, you are only fooling yourself.

      August 14, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
  15. LCSWquilter

    A powerful article! I hope it gets more widely circulated.

    August 14, 2011 at 8:25 am |
  16. Reality

    A. Harris and M. Bachmann:

    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 8:24 am |
    • Roland

      I thought we was about Freedom and not letting the government regulate everything. If you telling me abortion bad because its killing a baby then why is the EPA bad if pollutants kill people.

      August 14, 2011 at 8:32 am |
    • Mogan

      Interesting diatribe, considering that a number of Republican members of Congress are beginning to argue aginst the use of the pill and all contraception. That would be another way that they could take us back to the 1950's when all forms of contraception were banned in some states.

      August 14, 2011 at 8:36 am |
    • Reality


      Please supply references showing that some states once banned the use of contraceptives.

      August 14, 2011 at 11:30 am |
    • Mogan

      Connecticut. Check out Griswold v. Connecticut. I think the case came to the Supreme Court in 64 or 65. In the late 19th century Connecticut had a law that banned the use of any drug or instrument for contraception. I believe the law was challenged in the 40s but the Supreme Court rejected the case. Then it came up in the 60's and the court accepted the case. The court came out that the law conflicted with the right to privacy by married couples. Then, later it was extended to a right to privacy by unmarried couples.
      Sorry, that is the only one that I can think about at the moment. I think Griswold took care of similar laws in other states.

      August 14, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
    • Reality


      Unfortunately, your memory does not consti-tute a reliable reference. Need book, journal or on-line reference.

      August 14, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Here you go Reality:


      You should try googling stuff. There is all sorts of information on the internet. You might learn something.

      August 14, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
  17. Flex

    Isn't it amazing that there are no similar reports relating to Obama.....??? But once it's a republican candidate, all rules are game......HYPOCRITES.

    August 14, 2011 at 8:24 am |
    • slupdawg

      Obama hasn't been impugned unfairly???? Get a grip! Holy cow.

      August 14, 2011 at 8:26 am |
    • Roland

      Jeremiah Wright.

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

      Really. The left threw everything including the kitchen sink at Obama. Calling him a Muslim, not american born and then attacking his church. Where were you the last 4 yrs?

      August 14, 2011 at 8:37 am |
    • tallulah13

      Wow. I seem to remember some kerfuffle about birth certificates, because apparently some tea party folk still don't accept Hawaii as a state.

      August 14, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
  18. SenorSmokey313

    Why is this the headliner on your site? Come on CNN. Although I'm a far left-leaning person this is blatant propaganda against the Right. Maintain your standards and don't just become the anti-fox news source.

    August 14, 2011 at 8:23 am |
  19. ProgramU

    This article is basically saying 'Shut Your Mouth About Your Christian Religion'. There is only room for the secular religion to control our policies. Who cares about how this country was founded and the beliefs of the 'Founding'Fathers'? Yes, the world is watching, so keep your Christian faith to yourself.

    We can't let the world think that America is still a country with strong Christian values in 2011. America needs to conform to the rest of the world. That's what great countries do, they follow. Countries that have slaughtered millions of people and happen to be atheistic are just mere coincidences.

    The world needs tolerant countries and will not tolerate intolerance. Thank you CNN for pointing out that the world is not going to accept Christianity, now or never....

    August 14, 2011 at 8:23 am |
    • SPeteDave

      secular religion? What does that even mean? Please keep your religion to yourselves, I don't share your views and you do NOT have more right than me to be an american, because of your views. Thank you, have a nice day.

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

      Yes, that's what it says to do in Matthew 6:6.

      August 14, 2011 at 8:32 am |
    • Severinus

      That's exactly the kind of paranoid thinking Harris is arguing against. There is more than one kind of Christianity, and more than one way to express one's beliefs.

      The overriding principle is to love your neighbor, help the poor, do good in the world. It is not to force your worldview on everyone else, including other Christians who believe differently than you.

      By the way, the founding fathers were deists.

      August 14, 2011 at 8:39 am |
    • RationalFew

      SPeteDave – They have a need to shove their religion up your butt. Every question to them is answered in their scriptures. Wait, doesn't that sound like muslims and sharia law???? Oh, never mind, it's OK because it's christian sharia law..

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

      "Countries that are tolerant and will not tolerate intolerance" – isn't that a catch-22? If you will not tolerate intolerance then you are, by definition, being intolerant.

      August 14, 2011 at 9:07 am |
    • ProgramU

      Rationalfew, For you to compare Christians believing in Scipture and sharia law shows your complete ignorance on all counts.

      Matt, it was to show the complete double-standard of the Left. They preach tolerance, yet are the most intolerant to dissenting views, especially Christians views.

      SPeteDave, who said your rights were not equal? Secularists want to shut up Christians. Why should we keepnreligion to ourselves when you get to spew your intolerant views towards Christians? Hypocritical to say the least...

      August 14, 2011 at 10:35 am |
    • pfeffernusse

      Did you miss the part where Ms. Harris said she is still a Christian? That she likes her faith? Reading comprehension—get you some.

      August 17, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
  20. yadda

    When you start leading your life based on faith rather than fact, you've made your first mistake, sister.

    August 14, 2011 at 8:23 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.