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. AC

    I just heard: JESUS is coming back as a Chinaman.

    August 14, 2011 at 7:40 am |
  2. Deep North

    Welcome Back!

    August 14, 2011 at 7:40 am |
  3. AC


    August 14, 2011 at 7:40 am |
  4. Lindsey

    I will go to church this morning and pray for our country. I will pray that Alisa overcomes her confusion. While racism still exists and always will, our country has overcome this problem and is moving forward with or without Alisa. We need to overcome our class warfare also which seems to be increasing in this country and in my view is becoming the "new racism".

    August 14, 2011 at 7:38 am |
    • Paulie

      I see CNN spared no expense to try to smear Michelle Bachmann. I wonder if the Obama administration paid them directly for this front page article?

      August 14, 2011 at 7:45 am |
  5. AC

    If only GOD knew what the GOP / Right Wingers / Nut Jobs / Palin / Bachmann were doing in his name, he'd convert himself to SATAN. I would if I were GOD. Yes

    August 14, 2011 at 7:38 am |
  6. Gil

    This was a very good article. There are a lot of well-paid, purported Christians who benefit from baiting followers into a frenzy and point the big finger at everything else. The real Christian faith is not about judging others, but living a life knowing that all of us fall short of what we were created to be, clearly setting out a standard to aspire, and loving and obeying God. We are supposed to be known for our love of others, our generosity, and clean living and moral conduct. We have a lot of loud and very bad examples to contend with. We do need God and each of us to think about and investigate for our ourselves the major questions – why are we here; why am I here, and is my existence merely an accident; what is our purpose; how did our world and all we know through exploration and study, the intricate and seemingly perfect design, balance and function, come into existence.

    August 14, 2011 at 7:36 am |
    • Midwest

      Gil – Well said!

      August 14, 2011 at 10:16 am |
  7. ME

    Bachman who thinks her Christian views represent all Christians is so totally incorrect.

    She is an extremists just like so many others we know in so many countries.

    I am a Christian but am smart enough to know that her views are so one-sided...

    Good article.

    .If you are truly educated, you can see right through Bachman and her Hellfire Damnation of all who do not believe as her!


    August 14, 2011 at 7:36 am |
    • ProgramU

      ME, You're doing exactly what you accuse Bachmann of doing. The way you practice Christianity is superior to how she practices it. The way I see it, you voted for Obama who is a Marxists. He's pro-abortion. Is that something you agree with? Do you think thee murder off innocent babies is ok?

      August 14, 2011 at 8:53 am |
    • pfeffernusse

      ProgramU, seriously? The Right is FOREVER talking down to everyone else about how much more righteous they are. And if you don’t want to be dismissed as a wild-eyed loon, you need to back up your statements.

      Obama is not a Marxist. Or a communist. Or a socialist. This is all Right wing hysteria.

      No one is “pro-abortion”. If one is pro-abortion, they believe that ALL pregancies should end in abortion. Pro-CHOICE people believe women should have the choice, whether that is to carry a pregnancy to term, put the baby up for adoption, or keep the child. More Right wing inflammatory rhetoric.

      An abortion terminates the gestation of a fetus. It is not a baby. It is a fetus. Until a fetus can live outside the uterus (breath, take in food, etc.) it is part of a woman’s body and every woman has the right to decide what happens to her body.

      August 17, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
  8. K Armstrong

    Great article (inadvertently) Alisa, I am delighted to see this. The values that were instilled in you as a child are sadly lacking in society today. I am thankful and hopeful that the entry of Michele Bachman and others with similar views will provide a platform for her views to be made available to the American people. I trust then that a substantial number of these will be inspired by these views to vote for her an the USA will begin to reverse the same insanity that has resulted in the degradation of my country, England, to the extent that civilisation is actually regressing to a barbaric period in history, several hundreds of years ago.

    Ask yourself, would the England of today with the population it currently has be capable of defeating the Nazis of yesteryear? The answer is no. Instead of progressing, the consensus is that the only way to control the population is by water cannon and baton rounds/plastic bullets – this is what 50 years of Obama-like socialism has done. Unless the civilised world as you know it in America is to be destroyed as it has been in England, then people like Bachman, Perry, Paul need to be governing. I am pleased to see that they are stepping forward and hopeful that one of them will assume power. If the tide of degradation and incivility is to be reversed, then these are America's (and western civilisation's) only hope.

    August 14, 2011 at 7:33 am |
    • sam

      Did you read the article? She is saying how despite her similar background her views with Bachmann greatly differ. She doesn't believe in a spiritual answer for politics, which is exactly what Bachman does.

      August 14, 2011 at 7:44 am |
    • Aboutenough

      You ask if we could defeat the Nazi's today? First, that was 65 years ago and its time to let that go. But lets look at who the nazis were. They believed themselves to be a super race with a manifest destiny to rule the world. What does super race mean? That they were somehow preordained to be better than other people. That they were more worthy and had a 'duty' to purify the rest of the world, rid it of undesirables, to control the power and wealth of the world because they knew best how to handle it for the chosen. Oh wait; this is starting to sound familiar. Evangelicals are the 'elect' of God. They believe that some people can never be 'saved' and are here merely to refine the 'chosen'. They believe they should have control over the power and wealth because they know best how to handle it. They have Christian charity, but only for Christians that think like them. They will tell (with a sad face) that except for rare instances, Catholics, Methodists, Babtists, Nazarenes, any other religious denominations, are all going to Hell, because they aren't the 'elect'. As for the Jews, well, since Hitlers final extermination program, they pretty much have to keep their mouths shut about that, but give them a Muslim to roast any day! They believe only 10% of Christians are saved and the rest of us (Christian and non Christian alike) don't matter at all. We are here for their use and exploitation. If you don't believe this, join an evangelical church. You may not hear it the first time you go, or even the second or third, but you will hear it sooner or later. And you will hear them tell you women are under submission to their husbands, BUT you will also hear that you are all under submission to your pastor, who more than likely appointed him/herself to the job with no schooling or training, except what they learned from another pastor of the same persuasion. There are some good, loving, truly spiritual evangelicals out there, but for the most part, these are just plain scary people. Like the writer of this article I have come out of fear, bigotry and greed to embrace God and the real meaning of Christianity. God says to be in the world but not of it. How can they not be of it when they want to rule it? Jesus never said go out and force everyone else to live by my principles. He said tell them about me, if they don't listen, move on. These people are saying 'our way is right and we are going to force it down your throat, no matter what'. They say we don't want federal money to go to Planned Parenthood, removing the ability of poor women to obtain birth control. They don't want anyone to have abortions because they will be killing an innocent child, but they want to cut the social programs to feed and educate that child. How will that child grow up? How long before that child picks up a gun and comes to your house? I am personally against abortion, but we have no right to make the decision for someone else tp have a child unless we are also willing to offer support to that unwanted child from birth to death. Please do not give any of these scary 'Christians' power over our lives and economy.

      August 14, 2011 at 8:24 am |
  9. Jake Wheeler

    This is a left-wing propaganda article.The Tea Party is full of secular humanists. It was started as an economic protest group and had nothing to do with religion. Lately however, evangelicals have been calling themselves tea partiers when most of us don't want to anything to do with them. Look at the picture of the author bathed in a soft glow while Michelle Bachmann is pictured in a harsh flash-light – classic propaganda from the Communist News Network. "My principles are now human equality, human dignity, and human rights" – so how do you feel about the black flash mob attacks on white people in Philadelphia, Milwaukee and London? Thought so – you're still as brainwashed as you ever were.

    August 14, 2011 at 7:32 am |
    • TeaBaggersLoveWitchiepoo

      ...where does the Tea "Party" stop and the GOP begin?

      August 14, 2011 at 7:35 am |
    • chris

      The right wing christians are an embarassmant to Jesus. If you want to hate please leave the lord alone. Those of us who love the lord are offended.

      August 14, 2011 at 7:37 am |
    • amigay

      Funny thing is the GOP was co-opted by religious fanatics years ago and now a splinter group, the tea baggers, have been equally co-opted. Left wing propaganda from Ms Harris? More likely a human awakening.

      August 14, 2011 at 7:50 am |
    • David Myers

      Show me evidence that the tea party is now or was ever full of secular humanists. I dare you!

      August 14, 2011 at 8:15 am |
  10. Anthony Watkins

    Wow! Couklda been my story, except i was more in the jerry falwell circle a generation ago, but same thing, and i ended up about where ms. harris seems to be in the article. it is not bashing to point out where a path diverged, but then if you are a koolaid drinker, any thought that is not handed down from a pulpit, or at least from the mouth of a right wing commentator, i guess you couldnt see that.....

    August 14, 2011 at 7:31 am |
  11. Dante

    Bachmann is crazy...but I'd hit it!

    August 14, 2011 at 7:30 am |
    • David Myers

      It? Maybe you deserve each other.

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

    Michelle and her fellow Tea Party freshman trolls voted to extend the Bush tax cuts only if there were exemptions for the hallowed "job creators" from hiring American workers. How patriotic can the Tea Party be during wartime? Their only goal is to ruin the economy so they can lynch that uppity black man in 2012.

    August 14, 2011 at 7:30 am |
    • NJBob

      Absolutely!! That's been obvious from the start.

      August 14, 2011 at 7:38 am |
    • Howie76

      How right you are.

      August 14, 2011 at 7:42 am |
    • David Myers

      How crystal clear that makes it. Just like McConnell who said the republican's only goal was to make Obama a one term president. Nothing about solving Americans problems – just make that upitty n***** a one term president. How small can you possibly be?

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

    So Alisa, how are the poor white people doing in your book? Where's their equal opportunity? And you wonder why most are voting Republican?

    "...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."

    August 14, 2011 at 7:30 am |
    • Howie76

      What?? Articulate your question better.

      August 14, 2011 at 7:43 am |
  14. Anne

    Interesting that CNN had this copy ready to go right after Bachmann won the Iiowa straw poll. This article speaks volumes about CNN.

    August 14, 2011 at 7:29 am |
    • TeaBaggersLoveWitchiepoo

      Boo hoo. Fox does the same things...and more

      August 14, 2011 at 7:33 am |
    • amused123

      dofus, CNN didn't have it ready, SHE developed it.

      August 14, 2011 at 7:35 am |
    • ScottH

      Anne, I'm glad you get it. Go back to the 2008 Democratic primaries...all CNN's "opinion pieces" did was fawn over ever candidate with accolades and positivity...by comparison to attack pieces such as this.

      August 14, 2011 at 7:35 am |
    • William

      I agree. This story makes it sound as if this woman escaped a cult and now breaths the fresh air of progressive liberal politics. What is left out is that Bachmann made a Choice and so did this woman. But to a Liberal the only choice that a woman can make is to leave the home, work until shes old or have an abortion. When you understand the Progressive mindset it is easy to predict what and what form the attacks against conservatives will be. Rest assured they will be nasty. When Biden, our VP and leader of the Senate, calls Americans terrorists, but wont say that about Islamic hijackers where does that lead?

      August 14, 2011 at 7:39 am |
    • Howie76

      You guys are just upset because this young lady clearly articulated the truth based on real Biblical principles. If you have a Bible read it and stop following false gods.

      August 14, 2011 at 7:46 am |
  15. Nate

    Do you want limited or no government. Simply move to Somalia and tell me how good you will like it. There is no gun or any kind of regulations. I bet it will be a good place for tea baggers.

    August 14, 2011 at 7:29 am |
  16. John

    I find it interesting how some lady's religion blog becomes the frontpage headline story on cnn.com.

    What exactly is the message here cnn?

    August 14, 2011 at 7:29 am |
    • Howie76

      Well if you read it you would understand that Bachman has a cult view of christianity that does not follow the Bible. it is sorta a Warren Jeffs type thing.

      August 14, 2011 at 7:48 am |
  17. Tad

    Once again CNN tries to crush those who believe in a strong, conservative leader. What a farce this news organization has become. As CNN attacks every Palin, Perry and Bachmann, keep in mind how frightened this news org appears. The power is now in the conservative/Tea Party court. We are usually the quiet type. We usually sit back and hope that people will come to their senses and realize that Socialism is debilitating to the human spirit. No longer. We are the majority. We will stand up for our freedom and for the right to live the American Dream. Don't worry, all you freeloaders will still get your crumbs. But just remember, that's what the government wants you to have...crumbs. Are you satisfied with that? Please remember that each of us has great value. We each possess a talent that others cannot quite get their arms around. Find out what it is you possess and make a great life of it. That is the conservative American Dream.

    August 14, 2011 at 7:28 am |
    • mb2010a

      tea party terrorist...

      August 14, 2011 at 7:32 am |
    • Phil

      This is an editorial/opinion by an individual, not CNN bashing conservatism.

      August 14, 2011 at 7:38 am |
    • mpouxesas

      ...you sir, may continue your beauty rest, sit lying comfortably (numb) on your couch and watch Fox Views, and the world will be a better place....by the way, if you have invested in the market, good luck with that retirement of yours...

      August 14, 2011 at 7:39 am |
    • Belingo

      "We are usually the quiet type."

      LOL, that's the funniest thing I have ever heard. The Christian right is about the most loud and most vocal fringe group of all.

      August 14, 2011 at 7:40 am |
    • dragonfly

      The sit back quite type???? LMAO at that one.

      August 14, 2011 at 7:40 am |
    • Yo

      It's a shame that there's people who try to label the American dream "conservative" or "liberal", who try to politicize every single aspect of American life. Besides, you're spoken like a true right wing tea partier, calling other people "freeloaders". I suppose, like many other right wingers, you're referring to people who are out of work and have no other option other than to rely on unemployment benefits? You people make me laugh. Yes, there are people out there who abuse the system and take advantage of unemployment benefits, but most of those people are out of work through no fault of their own. And they have to hear people like you refer to them as "freeloaders" and living off of government "crumbs". And as for Socialism "debilitating the human spirit".... do you like the military, public schools, highways, your local fire and police departments? Hate to break it to you, pal, but those are all Socialistic elements of our society. Oooo, scary.

      August 14, 2011 at 7:41 am |
    • Lindsey

      Tad: It is obvious that many on this blog think you are a 'terrorist" etc. I, however, agree with you.

      August 14, 2011 at 7:42 am |
    • Josh

      I'm sorry Tad, but since when have conservatives been "the quiet type"? I mean, fillibusters aside ofcourse. This woman, while she is still probably to the right of myself, is simply advocating a belief that personal faith and public policy have no room for intersection, which is something that many people find to be an absolute truth, myself included. Your writing is well formed but I don't think your opinions are. You say that "each of us has great value" which I will never argue with, but then you espouse an ideology that actually says "each of the people that:
      -subscribe to my particular brand of faith;
      -hold a similar interpretation of socio/economic policy;
      -were born in the United States,
      has great value." I also challenge your statements that "socialism is debilitating to the human spirit." and that "We are the majority." I believe this woman represents a shift in the views of MANY Americans that some people, such as yourself, find frightening and therefore resist.

      August 14, 2011 at 7:49 am |
    • Howie76

      Did you know something like 80% of Christians have never read the whole bible. They read other book and follow them which is basically following a false god which is against the basic Christian belief. Christ talked about giving Ceaser what was Ceasers. WHo was Ceaser.??????????????????

      August 14, 2011 at 7:52 am |
    • pfeffernusse

      "We are the majority."

      No, you're not. You're just the loudest right now. And you seriously overplayed your hand in the recent debt ceilings talks. People are tiring of the Tea Party quickly, because they are tired of their country being hijacked by a bunch of screaming demagogues.

      August 17, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
  18. mb2010a

    This poor woman was subjected to some serious "Christian" child abuse. At least she was able to rise above it without any serious damage, unlike Bachman who was scarred for life...

    August 14, 2011 at 7:28 am |
    • Howie76

      I agree and she is brave enough to talk about and will probably be thrown out of her family. That is how those groups are your with us or against us.

      August 14, 2011 at 7:54 am |
  19. Chris Schulz

    It's front page "news" like this that has catapulted CNN to the bottom of news media world. Your liberal biased irrelevance continues unabated.

    August 14, 2011 at 7:26 am |
    • mb2010a

      Yada, yada, yada...FOX News. At least their one step above FOX News.

      August 14, 2011 at 7:34 am |
    • ScottH

      mb2010a, I don't disagree with you about FOX, but CNN and MSNBC do the exact same thing. News isn't supposed to be what political party your network is affiliated with. What is bad for Fox is bad for CNN and MSNBC.

      August 14, 2011 at 7:37 am |
    • Howie76

      News is to report a story and this is a story.

      August 14, 2011 at 7:55 am |
  20. The Right's Right

    Why is it that the Republicans like their women like bachmann ~ all painted up lie wh0res?

    August 14, 2011 at 7:25 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.