Monday, October 3, 2011

Michele Bachman’s Spiritual Education

This morning, while I sat in a well titled waiting-room, I read this remarkable account of Congresswoman Bachmann’s spiritual education.
by Charlie Leck

I read a very interesting piece about growing up as Michele Bachman this morning. It really helps me better understand Bachmann’s rather hysterical approach to matters of faith. I can’t recommend enough this piece by Karl W. Giberson that was published on FrumForum.

Michele Bachmann and I grew up in the same evangelical world. We heard similar sermons, read similar books—most importantly the Bible—and we followed the same anointed leaders.

“By the time we were in college our generation of evangelicals had been educated into a profoundly different worldview than that of the secular, anti-Christian, Satan-following Ivy League elites we had been taught to fear. We understood the world to be a spiritual battleground with forces of good pitted against forces of evil. Real angels and real demons hovered about us as we prepared to wage these wars. We sang songs like Onward Christian Soldiers in our churches. At summer camps and vacation Bible schools we stamped our feet, and waved our arms as we sang with good Christian gusto I’m in the Lord’s Army. We knew which side we were on.”

This is an essay you really ought to read if you are interested in understanding what makes the Congresswoman tick and what eats at her soul and what she celebrates as truth. It’s far from where I am and it is probably one of the reasons why I view her as a crazy rather than as a person who burns with faith and belief.

There are some alarm bells, or warnings, in this little essay and this is not a writer with his head in the sand. He’s aware that Bachmann’s super-faith approach can be dangerous.

There are, fortunately, many evangelical scholars—NIH Director Francis Collins and historian Mark Noll come to mind—who are quietly raising alarms about all this dangerous anti-intellectualism, warning us about populist gurus who are marketing a Christianized version of knowledge that, on closer examination, turns out to be neither Christian nor knowledge.”

To change the subject just a bit – and I mean just a bit – here’s another story about Bachmann and her faith. She spoke at Liberty University last week about her faith and how she got it and how she uses it. This story by Devin Henry appeared in MinnPost and it’s well written.

The speech was mandatory at the school and about 10,000 students were in attendance to hear Bachman speak. Questions were allowed at the end of the speech and many of them concentrated on those areas of scripture that seem to indicate that women are to subordinate themselves to their husbands. Bachman handled the questions well – not the way I would – but well. She seemed to indicate that these questions of subordination have to do with spiritual matters and her involvement in politics and governing is not included in that. I think I’m representing her fairly, but you can always go to the story and check me out.

“‘I am not running to be anyone’s spiritual authority.’ She said. ‘[My political background] does not put me in any way in a spiritual authority over a man. I’m not a spiritual authority over my husband and I certainly wouldn’t presume to be a spiritual authority over any man in the United States.’”

These kinds of answers seemed to satisfy the students at Liberty; however, they make me cringe at the thought that time must be wasted discussing such dots and iota of scripture when scripture is really so much more powerful when understood more broadly.

Again, while the students who heard Bachmann seemed to be extremely satisfied and even inspired by her presentation, I found her remarks to be starkly simple and lacking in any kind of intellect at all. Giberson seems to say it very clearly for me:

“Unfortunately, millions of evangelicals—and this would include much of the political base being courted by the GOP presidential candidates as well as the candidates themselves—are trapped in an alternative “parallel culture” with its own standards of truth. The intellectual authorities mentioned above—with the exception of Schaeffer who died in 1984—all have media empires that spread their particular version of the gospel. Millions of dollars every year support the production of books, DVDs, radio shows, school curricula, and other educational materials. Very few evangelicals grow up without hearing some trusted authority—perhaps even with a PhD—tell them that the age of the earth is an “open question.” Or that scientists are questioning evolution. Or that gays are getting spiritual help and becoming straight. Or that secular historians are taking religion out of US History.”

Will Bachmann run again for Congress?
Once Bachmann is knocked out of this presidential race – and I am guarantying that she will – she’ll need to decide what to do about her seat in the House. There’s plenty of speculation up here that she will not run again for Congress. To read some of that speculation you only need google (verb) the question that appears at the head of this paragraph. You’ll get back plenty of commentary about the question.


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