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. angrysmell

    if you believe what bachmann believes, you are a backward brainwashed crazy person who is on a path of total destruction for humanity and most of the life on this planet. you are making the world a more terrible place for your children, and your children's children, and you children's children's childrens. god wants you to think for yourself.

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

      Your reAlly not very happy with your life, are you? How many bad decisions did you make and blame on others to come to this realization? Did you come out of the womb with your hand out, expecting everyone else to take care of you or did that philosophy develop over time? I have an idea, take responsibility for your own life! Work harder and stop doing stupid things! It's all your own fault that your life is miserable. Stop pointing fingers and get your paw out of my wallet!

      August 14, 2011 at 8:44 am |
    • Isaac

      LOL..... Matt I think you're the one with the anger issue

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

      Angrysmell – we were all brainwashed as children in one way or another. Dont think you are different.

      August 14, 2011 at 8:51 am |
    • Matt

      Angry? I retired 12 years ago at the age of 36. I'm so happy with my life that everyday I feel like I'm gonna bust! You see, I made good decisions with my life. I stayed in school and worked hard. My parents were not rich, I made something from out of myself and now I'm as happy as a clam! Try harder people!

      August 14, 2011 at 8:54 am |
    • dk

      Yeah Matt you worked hard, and bla bla... you sound pitiful.... you're not rich. Just pretending to be. True wealth understands that the race is not given to the strong. Neither the swift. It is a blessing – a grace which humbles. so quit braggimng and get a real life fool!

      August 14, 2011 at 9:10 am |
  2. libfreak48

    Unfortunately, Ms. Harris, you are far too rare amongst this movement. Most teens of your generation have heartily embraced this worldview without questioning it at all.

    August 14, 2011 at 8:36 am |
  3. Bernard Webb

    The article mentions the "Christian worldview of limited government and free enterprise". These seem to me to be political matters, outside the realm of religion. When did God become a right-wing extremist?

    August 14, 2011 at 8:36 am |
    • Fred1

      Ask Bachmann

      August 14, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
  4. Jim

    I'm against Americans & Crazy atheist Jewish Americans taking off "TEN COMMANDMENTS" monument due to separation church and state. I see this country socialism.

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

      You're apparently against learning the English language, too.

      August 14, 2011 at 8:37 am |
    • herbert juarez

      me think therefore me am.

      August 14, 2011 at 8:38 am |
    • popcorn

      Rich will be rich; poor get poorer. Rich woman should marry rich. Poor woman should marry poor.
      Don't ask for civil rights.

      August 14, 2011 at 8:47 am |
  5. lefty avenger

    These Evangelical right wing wackos are so scary to secular people. Michelle Bachmann reminds me of the Horror of Karen Black except for Karen Black is so much cooler!

    August 14, 2011 at 8:36 am |
  6. Robyne


    August 14, 2011 at 8:36 am |
  7. jesus's friend

    Christianity and the GOP are at odds. you can not be one and the other. if you actually read the bible you would know that.
    Jesus lived a communal life whit his group. what one had, all had. it opposes current GOP group think. Jesus. the first socialist. oh yeah, he said to blame the rich first....they have power in high places. oppose these people at all cost.

    August 14, 2011 at 8:36 am |
    • lefty avenger

      I couldn't agree with you more. Yes Jesus was one of the first communal left wing socialist jewish hippies. Jesus thought that all people should have equal rights and be treated fairly. The republicans don't know Jesus, they only know I got mine and no one else should have it. The Republicans worship Oil barons, weapon's manufacturers and wall street bankers. The worst of the lot.

      August 14, 2011 at 8:39 am |
  8. *Insert witty name here*

    Is it too much to ask for an Atheist President? One that would not base their judgements on what God would do?

    August 14, 2011 at 8:35 am |
    • jesus's friend

      as a christian, i welcome this idea, at least both of our curiosities would be satisfied. you say your way is better and we will just start a crusade when we are wrong. LOL but at least we would both have had our group think run things. but you will find as long as the congress is bought and paid for, nothing will change. the system is corrupted. lobbyist have ruined our capitalism.

      August 14, 2011 at 8:44 am |

    Sounds to me the way I read this article the girl was indoctrinated at a young age. Unable to make up her own mind, instead her parents decided for her what her beliefs would be in life. They didn't just guide her they sent her to "camps". How sad for children who are brainwashed by their own parents into believing in such nonsense that it will screw up their entire adult life. Very sad.

    August 14, 2011 at 8:35 am |
    • Fred1

      It screws up your whole life even if you manage to escape ( just not as much)

      August 14, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
  10. cookie

    And you call yourself a Christian? What you grew up in was some sort of sick home....I have never heard of Schaffer and Noebel????
    This article is so obviously Christian bashing..if you meant to lie ,manipulate,and paint the Christian religion as fanatical and unloving...BRAVO!!!

    August 14, 2011 at 8:35 am |
    • SNAPPA

      It is what it is!

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

      You need to drop the emotion, calm down, and read this article with a little thought applied.

      August 14, 2011 at 8:47 am |
    • cookie

      Jon, aare you now implying that I must be stupid because I am a Christian?? LOL....not angry..just amazed that people actually believe the crap people print.

      August 14, 2011 at 8:52 am |
    • Motley

      You don't have to believe it, just visit the Bible belt for a few days and realize it's the cold hard fact. Jesus was a socialist and you probably wouldn't be anywhere near his friend if such a character actually existed. Leave your folklore and demons out of politics. Church & state need to be separated so much that the sight of a church from the white house should be impossible.

      August 14, 2011 at 9:03 am |
    • tallulah13

      So if her experience is different than yours, she must be a liar? Are you so completely closed-minded?

      August 14, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
  11. Greg Gilbert

    Every time I hear Bachman she is talking about fiscal policies, but nearly every time I hear CNN they are talking about her religion. As an atheist I recognize the left uses religion to try to scare off voters. There really is little difference between Dem & Repub on religion.

    August 14, 2011 at 8:34 am |
    • John

      You need to get out more. Bachman talks about her religion all the time.

      August 14, 2011 at 8:39 am |
    • Greg Gilbert

      John: If you attended and watch any politician give a speech to get elected everyone of them will bring up God at some point.

      August 14, 2011 at 8:43 am |
  12. CinJax

    Excellent article! Reminds me of Anna Quindlen's "At the Left Hand of God" which was also excellent.

    August 14, 2011 at 8:33 am |
  13. Liberal Conservative

    I reallly appreciate the article. I have referred to myself as a liberal conservative for quite a while now. It is the idea that my values (not politics) are conservative by the standards of many. I am a Bible believing Christian. But because I care about the poor, the ophans, the disenfranchised, the widow, the foreigner, and the less fortunate, I am often considered liberal. I am concerned about others and I realize that it isn't just about me. I appreciate this article because it strikes a balance between personal values and what is good for others. It's not about making people behave just like me. It's not about being tolerant it is about being confident in my own world and my own beliefs that I don't feel like I have to beat people over the head with a 20lb. Bible. I find that it is about having peace in spite of the travails that we face not because we do not face them. The conservative political view does not hold absolute sway over those with Christian ideas and values. I really think this article strikes a balance that I don't often see.

    August 14, 2011 at 8:33 am |
    • Jon

      Thank you for your well thought out response. You took the words right out of my mouth.

      August 14, 2011 at 8:43 am |
  14. Tara

    Michele Bachmann scares me, and I am a Christian. I don't think she speaks honestly; she's just trying to get elected like all politicians. We need a better choice of candidates.

    This article was a young girl's opinion, and I think it was well written. It is her opinion. Any presidential candidate is going to be analyzed and raked over the coals.

    I can't even believe Bachmann is even a choice. She represents a very small, but vocal, minority in this country, and the Republicans need to cast a wider "world view."

    August 14, 2011 at 8:32 am |
  15. Gedwards

    Who's she trying to convince? Herself?

    August 14, 2011 at 8:32 am |
  16. Popcorn

    Alisa Harris is hot. I want to ask out for coffee. lol. I'm not rich. Who cares.

    Rich will be richer; poor will be poorer.

    August 14, 2011 at 8:31 am |
  17. walter schmidt

    The article and it's author state what many of us have experienced in life. The truth of the matter is that most of us are not religious extremists. The tea party and religious right scare us. We hear and see from them the same and similar qualities of fanatical Muslims and Zionist Jews. We hold in our hearts our faith and not on our sleeve. We do not want to be manipulated by politicians with their religious banter.We do not want the world made up of extremist ideologies based on their interpretation of the Bible.This country is a democracy/republic not a theocracy. We do not wish to follow a political party that takes on similarities to Jim Jones and his cult. Believe what you want to believe but keep it out of politics.We know you want the Rapture to come and take you up to the heavens and will do anything to make it happen.These extreme religious views have caused death, destruction and war throughout time and continue to do so.For me my faith is based on loving my fellow man. I believe the meek will inherit the earth, not the rich nor the religious/political extremes. The tea party and the religious right have already hurt this country, they are the saboteurs of truth, justice and political freedom.

    August 14, 2011 at 8:31 am |
    • ol cranky

      A "zionist" jew is a Jew who supports Israel's right to exist with secure borders, most Jews fall into this category regardless of the stream of Judaism that is followed. I think you're confusing some of the Orthodox streams with "zionist" when, in fact, certain segments of the ultra-Orthdox Chasids are anti-Zionists and many Orthodox don't subscribe to a worldview that gentiles should be bound by their belief in the inerrancy of the bible or Jewish religious law and tradition/custom.

      The Jews that fit the category to which you are referring are the Haredim and a few other ultra-orthodox/chasidic (but not all) groups.

      August 14, 2011 at 8:57 am |
  18. CJNY

    Okay, CNN and everyone else knows that Michelle Bachman will never get the nomination for president for a few reasons besides her extremely polarizing affect on the electorate. She is only a congresswoman and there has never been a us representative that made the jump from rep to president. If she were a governor maybe she's have a shot, sarah palin had hers and blew her credibility with moderate voters when she resigned as gov. of alaska that and the fact that both women make W look like an agnostic liberal decrease her/their chances even more.

    August 14, 2011 at 8:31 am |
  19. CN_Noobs

    CNN is the worst type of Liberal propagandists. They try to pretend they are in the middle while slamming the right constantly. The only people CNN fool is their own base – foolish liberals...

    August 14, 2011 at 8:30 am |
    • tallulah13

      Well it's obvious from your post that they don't speak to right-wing paranoiacs.

      August 14, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
  20. andrewstl

    crazy all the way around you christinas are not all crazy but when you act like someof you do its hard to dispute you followerd are led evcerywhere

    August 14, 2011 at 8:30 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.