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. Darren

    Alisa writes: 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 – would be great if you could sit down with Jim Wallis and win him over to this view!

    August 14, 2011 at 7:00 am |
    • JT

      Oh, please. Explain how this is news. Explain why such "opinion" piece in the lead position of CNN's website the day after Bachman wins a straw poll should not be interpreted as openly biased. All you have to do is flip it around – the Foxnews website has an opinion piece undermining, say, President Obama as its lead the day after he does something good – to see things plainly.

      August 14, 2011 at 7:16 am |
    • JT

      Sorry, Darren. I meant this as a reply to El Kababa.

      August 14, 2011 at 7:17 am |
    • El Kababa

      JT, Fox News has an article ridiculing Obama every day. If Obama orders French fries, Fox News reminds us that "After all, France IS a socialist country. Makes you wonder, doesn't it? Hmmmmm...."

      August 14, 2011 at 7:20 am |
  2. jason

    This is the same media that refused to cover Obama's long-held tight associations with radicals like Alinksy and "Rev" Wright, and went out of their way to dissociate Obama from them. Now they find some random person with unverifiable nutjob views, and tries to cast that as Bachmann's views because all once 20 years ago in passing she mentioned some author who CNN hates as too conservative. It's quite amazing the double standard. It's actually downright repulsive.

    August 14, 2011 at 6:59 am |
    • El Kababa

      There have been HUNDREDS of articles about Obama, Wright, and Alinsky. You just don't read.

      August 14, 2011 at 7:14 am |
  3. JWH

    What a sore loser, to say one is a Christian, and go another way. How pathetic.
    This article is a character assasination. Typical letist attack.

    Notice that the left always has tolerance for everything BUT Christianity? This is personal for them.
    alisa, fall on yor knees and repent. Get right.

    August 14, 2011 at 6:58 am |
    • gs081

      Thanks for your post, Michele... now get back on that whacky campaign trail!

      August 14, 2011 at 7:06 am |
    • chris

      The type of "christian" Mrs Bachman is representing are the doomsday sects. We cant ever let someone like that be in charge of a military. The rich and the religious conservatives(pharasees) are the only ones that Jesus said "woe unto you". Please read the Sermon on the Mount again. Its a part of the Bible you must have missed. The Mother Theresa Christians, the yogis and the Buddhists are the only ones who aparantly understand lord Jesus. What a shame.

      August 14, 2011 at 7:12 am |
  4. fiskenmann

    How pathetic!

    August 14, 2011 at 6:57 am |
  5. seekingtruth

    Well said, ILL501

    August 14, 2011 at 6:57 am |
  6. jason

    Of course this perpetuates CNN's biggest them of racial "injustice." These supposed civil rights protesters were rabble-rousing rioters who were taking advantage of the discord and overwhelmed police forces to go out and loot and cause trouble; then when police hose them down, it is considered discrimination and racism. They were being hosed down because it was a means used in that time...kind of like tear gas today. So many lies about slavery and jim crow. CNN loves to keep people divided the whole time they are "condeming" it.

    August 14, 2011 at 6:55 am |
    • ab74

      Yeah, Dr. King was just a thug...another brain dead liberal, right?

      August 14, 2011 at 7:00 am |
    • seekingtruth

      Jason, I was in Memphis in 65 and experience Jim Crow first hand. Even as an 18 kid, I could see that it was nothing but evil and ignorance.

      August 14, 2011 at 7:01 am |
    • 40acres

      You don't really know anything about the civil rights movement do you Jason?

      August 14, 2011 at 7:35 am |
  7. Sathyavrath

    Wow. Brave Girl.

    August 14, 2011 at 6:54 am |
  8. MAngeline

    There are also alot of us who wish we had candidates with Ms. Harris' world views.

    August 14, 2011 at 6:54 am |
  9. jason

    Wow. This one really takes the cake CNN. What an absolutely unfair, ridiculous and inuendo-laden article written for the sole purpose of trying to destroy Michelle Bachmann as a crazy woman. You do not know what she thinks or what her hearts feel. You are trying to make her beliefs out to be totally whacko (just like the intent of that magazine cover was) by finding some random person who supposedly once "felt the way she felt," thereby taking the other person's contrived perspective, exaggerating it, and then ascribing it to Michelle Bachmann. Outrageous.

    August 14, 2011 at 6:51 am |
    • El Kababa

      Michelle Bachman is not very smart, not well educated, not well read, and clinically insane.

      August 14, 2011 at 6:53 am |
    • Stymie99

      El Kababa you're obviously making this claim because you are a liberal. I have a hunch that all your views are formed for you by the liberal media. Do this: provide a link of one or more video segments that reveals Bachmann's stupidity. I'm not talking about gaffes. All politicians commit gaffes. I'm talking about video (more than a single sound bite) or an interview or speech or debate to prove your point. If you provide anything other than video evidence, it's probably been filtered or distorted by the liberal media.

      August 14, 2011 at 7:00 am |
    • gs081

      Thanks for your post, Michele... now get back on that whacky campaign trail!!

      August 14, 2011 at 7:08 am |
    • James

      This is spot on – it is exactly what influences and brainwahes those with weak enough minds – a true follower of Christ does not hate, they help. They build not tear down they pull people up not knoick them down – pseudo Christians like the Moral Majority or the "tea party" like to say they have the moral high ground but for the most part are just mouthing words -it is not my place to judge but I can have an opinion –

      August 14, 2011 at 7:10 am |
    • morgan

      Bachman wants to take us back to 1930's. Before we had human rights, human dignity, and the fight for equality. She is dangerous. She might as well send out the lynch mobs, or start salem witch trials all over again.

      August 14, 2011 at 7:11 am |
    • James

      This is spot on – it is exactly what influences and brainwashes those with weak enough minds – a true follower of Christ does not hate, they help. They build not tear down they pull people up not knoick them down – pseudo Christians like the Moral Majority or the "tea party" like to say they have the moral high ground but for the most part are just mouthing words -it is not my place to judge but I can have an opinion –

      August 14, 2011 at 7:13 am |
    • Iceman

      Jason, which counter-attacking organization are you posting for?

      August 14, 2011 at 7:23 am |
    • pfeffernusse

      “What an absolutely unfair, ridiculous and inuendo-laden article written for the sole purpose of trying to destroy Michelle Bachmann as a crazy woman.”

      That’s right, jason! Where does CNN get off trying to portray Michele Bachmann as a crazy person? Don’t they understand that’s what her own words are for?

      *psst* This essay didn’t bash Ms. Bachmann. It was written by a person who recognizes the indoctrination that Ms. Bachmann hews to. Reading comprehension…get you some.

      August 17, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
  10. Iceman

    "...I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church & State." -Thomas Jefferson
    Many of the original colonists came to the USA to escape religious persecution. Thus, the early establishment of many different religions and the concept of separation of church and state, which works both ways. Separation being one of the founding principles, it is hardly a stretch to conclude that the disturbing agenda described by Harris is patently unpatriotic in spirit.

    August 14, 2011 at 6:49 am |
  11. tom

    oops....pprty and didier: i stand corrected. Thanks for your comments.

    August 14, 2011 at 6:48 am |
  12. El Kababa

    So here's my round-up of last night's debate.
    Bachman held her place as Queen of the Crazies, but landed no real punches.
    Romney and Huntsman are still Mormons so they don't count.
    The Pizza Guy is still a Black man, so he doesn't count.
    Pawlenty positioned himself again as the Man Who Is Intimidated by Michelle Bachman.
    Ron Paul came across as The Man Whose Philosophy We Really Don't Want To Hear Again.
    Newt Gingrich is the befuddled old Professor of Evil who, as President, we can imagine invading Iran and maybe Columbia while tripling the National Debt.
    While the debate was ongoing, two non-candidates played the role of Lurking Monsters.
    Sarah Palin is playing the role of The Scorpion Queen whose powerful stinger can punch a six-inch hole in anyone's chest. She can really dish is out, but when you turn to confront her she shrinks to the size of a mouse and scuttles back behind the baseboards.
    Rick Perry is Godzilla, and not the re-make. I'm talking about Raymond Burr's friend Godzilla. You can hear him coming. He's not here yet, but those footsteps are getting louder and louder and louder, Oh My GOD, he's HHHHHHHHEEEEEEEERRRRRRRRRRREEEEEEE! Look at the SIZE of him. OH MY GOD!

    And the clammy corpses of Bush and Cheney stalked the auditorium like lurching Zombies, whispering to the whole audience, "Remember, YOU created me. YOU let me add $5.5 trillion to the National Debt. YOU cheered as I sent thousands of soldiers to meaningless deaths in pointless wars. YOU said nothing as jobs were outsourced and the middle class gutted. It was YOU, not me, who did these things. Remember, YOU created me. None of it was MY fault. Remember that."

    August 14, 2011 at 6:48 am |
    • Stymie99

      Yours is the minority view. Don't get me wrong... most of the lemmings in this blog will agree with you. This blog is, though, clearly dominated by liberals. America on the whole is not. The average American is somewhat just to the right of center. This is why democrats got killed in the recent mid-term elections, and why it looks like they will again. People like you without values or conviction always taunt people with values and conviction.

      August 14, 2011 at 6:53 am |
    • Dante

      Man you said it well!

      August 14, 2011 at 7:25 am |
    • 40acres

      Hey Stymie, the fact that someone has values and convictions that do not agree with yours does not mean they have "no values or convictions".

      August 14, 2011 at 7:43 am |
  13. Stymie99

    I wonder how may similar "let's compare and contrast" stories CNN will run about Obama or other liberals? Compared to Bachmann, Obama's list of dubious connections, questionable associations, his "color" Chicago past, and past voting record is at least as ripe for these kinds of "investigative" pieces. CNN, you are less and less neutral.

    August 14, 2011 at 6:47 am |
    • El Kababa

      I'm a Liberal and here's my background. I was raised in the Southern Baptist Church in Ft. Worth Texas. I was taught that only 144,000 people would go to Heaven (Revelation) so I knew that almost everyone was going to Hell, including almost everyone I knew. I had nightmares about Jesus condemning my family to Hell. Whenever I had a nightmare, it was usually about Jesus. Members of my church would occasionally get together and beat up Black men who were in our part of Ft. Worth after sunset. Christianity taught only slavery to God, where we spent our days crouching and groveling on our knees, praising God as if He were a shallow human king whose ego needed constant inflation by means of our meaningless praising of His holy name. When, as a young teenager, I prayed for Jesus to come into my heart so I could join the church – nothing happened. Jesus never came into my heart though He came into the heart of every other kid in the church. Jesus rejected me and me only. I had always thought of myself as a good kid. Everyone said I was a good kid. I was apparently evil in some way that I did not understand. If Jesus hated me, then I was apparently unworthy in some mysterious way. I started to hate myself. I was a political Conservative, like my parents. I was a Goldwater supporter in the eighth grade.
      After years of psythotherapy, I came to realize that it was all nonsense, that Jesus and God existed nowhere but between my ears. I began to read philosophy and history, including the archeaology and history of the Middle East from where the three nutty philosophies of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam sprang.
      I began to understand the liberating thoughts of humanist and secular authors which freed me from the tyranny of religion. I read biographies of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, T. Roosevelt, F. Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, and Carter. I read about the history of Liberalism. I realized that human freedom was an idea that was invented by Liberals. I began to think that the "greatest good for the greatest number" was the worthy goal of government. I began to think that while Christians prayed for the poor, the hungry, the sick, the lame, the young, the old, and the pregnant, Liberalism acually helped those people.
      My journey from Christian Conservatism to enlightened Liberalism has been long and difficult.

      August 14, 2011 at 6:50 am |
    • Stymie99

      El Kababa you are way too long-winded. To be honest, as soon as I saw that you posted a 10,000 word essay I never even considered reading your post. Less is more.

      August 14, 2011 at 6:55 am |
    • El Kababa

      It was 409 words. It would take an average reader about 75 seconds to read. Here's the short version.

      Evangelical Christiainity is evil.

      August 14, 2011 at 7:09 am |
    • Iceman

      Stymie99, you've obviously got less. It took all of 1 minute to read El Kababa's post, which was about 100X more thoughtful than the cheap shots you have been dispersing – all in the name of your particular Lord. More El Kababas and fewer Stymie99s – That's what we need.

      August 14, 2011 at 7:16 am |
    • 40acres

      You must be mighty young......don't remember the 2008 elections? There may have been a few articles "like this" about Presidential candidate Obama. If you can't think that far back you can always go back a year or so and read all the birther or muslim articles abot President Obama. As for the length of El Kababa's post....I gues what you're saying is "if it don't fit on a bumper sticker, it don't fit in my head". Kinda sad, don't you think?

      August 14, 2011 at 7:48 am |
  14. tom

    A very thought-provoking piece.
    Did it evoke thought-provoking dialogue?

    August 14, 2011 at 6:46 am |
  15. literary lew

    A hearty "amen"!

    August 14, 2011 at 6:46 am |
  16. Brian

    If bachmann becomes president I will be moving to canada right after.

    August 14, 2011 at 6:44 am |
    • Stymie99

      Hey Brian, even if Bachmann doesn't win you should still move to Canada.

      August 14, 2011 at 6:48 am |
    • notyourname

      Just like you said you'd do with Bush 1, Bush 2, etc...

      August 14, 2011 at 6:53 am |
    • jason

      Please do move. We have too many brain-dead liberals in this country as it is.

      August 14, 2011 at 6:57 am |
    • Seattle Sue

      Brian, you won't have to move to Canada, as Bachmann will not win .

      August 14, 2011 at 7:10 am |
  17. pprty

    I had no idea Summit Ministries preached these kind of things.A young girl asked me for donations & I refused and am glad I did. This is a multi billion dollar money maker and should be scrutinized by everyone!

    August 14, 2011 at 6:44 am |
  18. Didier

    Whether one agrees or disagrees with the article, it is beautifully written and thought-provoking. I'll go to my Presbyterian Church this morning and, as always, pray for wisdom for all of our political leaders, no matter of what party. Many of you will go to different churches, with different messages, but all of us worship the same God speaking to us in different ways to touch our different hearts.

    August 14, 2011 at 6:43 am |
    • El Kababa

      There are many Christian Gods, Christs, Satans, etc. Christianity is many different religions. The only thing they have in common is that their gods all have the same names. It's like knowing a hundred men named John Smith or Carlos Garcia. They are different personalities, but people call them by the same name.

      August 14, 2011 at 6:52 am |
    • Linda T

      I agree- an excellent article! Alisa Harris showed great bravery by thinking for herself and choosing a more open-minded path than the one her parents and others laid out for her. It doesn't find Michele Bauchmann to be an independent thinker at all. Scary!

      August 14, 2011 at 7:14 am |
  19. Arnie

    I have to laugh, this is the liberal trash journalism that CNN can come up with to trash a conservtive candidate. Poor pathetic CNN. so far from the truth, so far frm reality. It's only a matter of time before no one will even watch CNN full of lies, and tabloid journalism, trying each day to bend the minds of Americans towards social injustice. Talk about Orwell's 1984, CNN is it! Better yet: PUKE IS JOURNALISM.

    August 14, 2011 at 6:40 am |
    • ab74

      So do explain how it's "so far from the truth"...because I'm dying to hear it.

      August 14, 2011 at 6:57 am |
  20. Armadillo

    A good, sensible article that clearly shows what the obligation of a good Christian really is. The Christianity in this country has long since strayed from the true message of Jesus, that of kindness and giving to the poor and disenfranchised, sacrificing your wealth and possessions in order to better the positions of the less fortunate. Yes, some may not care at all that you're doing this, but that's irrelevant; It is the following of Christ's message that's important, not the appreciation for it.

    August 14, 2011 at 6:39 am |
    • Jon

      Thank you, couldn't of said it any more perfect than that.

      August 14, 2011 at 7:07 am |
    • 40acres


      August 14, 2011 at 7:52 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.