Is Michelle Bachmann the Christian Canidate?

Posted: 02/09/2011 in American Civic Religion, Christian living, politics
Tags: , ,

In wonderful little book I learned that people often make choices based on their <i>identity.</i>  This leads to the phenomenon of the “Identity Vote” in which a candidate presents themselves as member of a demographic.  The powers of social proof (what we called “peer-pressure” in high school) compel all members of that particular demographic to vote for that candidate.  It works like this: are you a Hispanic?  Vote for the” Hispanic” candidate.  Are you a family orientated?  Vote for the “family” candidate.  Are you an educator?  Vote for the “education” candidate.

And if you are a Christian, vote for the Christian candidate.

This blog seldom discuss politics.  However, I thought I’d break the silence because of election tim.  I am sure that a lot of Christians are busy thinking about who to vote for, so why not?  NPR had a segment on Michelle Bachmann.  The Christian post also covered her Christian views.   Now it is time to see if she matches your identity as a Christian and my identity as a Christian.

Francis Schaeffer seems to be the sticking point on this issue.  Since Bachmann has cited Schaeffer, we should probably look at his views.  Lets figure out what he believes.  In a way this is not a question of just Bachmann, but the entire Christian right in this country.  How then should we live?  Should we live like Schaeffer tells us to?

Schaeffer’s famous book and video series is difficult to sum up.    The series “How Shall we then Live” covers thinkers, artists, and culture from the Roman era to the present.  (feel free to look it up on youtube if you like) He has plenty of good things to say and a few not so good things.  Here are some highlights.  First, secular philosophy is really bad.  Now, this this almost sounds redundant, because the impression from Schaeffer is that philosophy is just what man does when he gets away from the Bible.  For Schaeffer, the influence of philosophy is simply reprobate.  His presents a polar opposition of “humanist” or “Christian.”  If someone begins thinking the wrong way, they’ve been infected by something that leads to humanism.  Thomas Aquinas is his example of this.  Secondly, there is a general tenor of fear in the documentary.  The idea is this, follow (Scheaffer’s) Christianity or descend into chaos and/or elitist dystopianism.  He lists off of a few things that sound like modern conspiracy theories to support this.   Without Christianity we will have non-Christian values imposed on the world or anarchy flowing from excessive freedom.

There are several ways that theologians believes that Christianity relates to the culture around it.  One way is that Christianity must change the culture around it, even if that be via political power.  Schaeffer seems to take that position very seriously.  Schaeffer believes, and presumably Bachmann with him, that Christians must vote their values, and fill as many seats as government as possible.

Schaeffer is Bachmann’s teacher.  He is her Aristotle and she is his Alexander.  So does Bachmann match your Christian identity?  Well ask yourself a few questions.  I will present two.  The first is abstract and theoretical and the second is a little bit more concrete and practical.

First, Is the world polarized into dim-thinking humanists and good clear thinking Christians?  Well have you ever once learned anything from a non-Christian?  I know I have.  So it is hard for me to understand why we should throw people into to binary groups.  In fact this kind of thinking tends to lead towards a “Christian Ghetto” mentality -if you’re not a Christian than you are wrong already.  Conversely, something said by a Christian is right, always.  This doesn’t seem to make sense because Christians have both strongly supported and vigilantly opposed slavery in the 19th century.  Schaeffer’s polarization -which I have noticed in other member’s of the Christian right- is just silly.  It turns any political discussion into ad hominem.  “You’re not a Christian.  You’re against God and the Bible.  Me and my people believe the Bible…”

Besides (and this really needs to be emphasized) Schaeffer is selective in the historical personalities he presents.  He cites Kant, Rosseau, and Hegel as the “bad guys” of the Enlightenment.  He however excludes John Locke and several other Christians who were part of that era and who influenced our modern world in a positive way.  If you not sure how, ask yourself this question: when was the last time there was religious war in the West?  When has anyone been arrested for changing their denomination?  The world is not divided into humanists and Christians.  That’s Schaeffer’s intellectual myopia.  I hope Bachmann understands the history of Christianity and philosophy better.

Here’s another question: Does God need Christian Laws and Christian legislators to work in the world?   There’s a deeper question here: can laws make people good or is God’s grace needed for that?  You probably already believe that God’s grace and the work of the Holy Spirit are actually required to make people good.  Perhaps God works though laws.  Such a thing might be true, but I have found no Bible verse or good exegesis that tells us that.  Maybe putting our morality into law books is how we honor God.  I am skeptical about this, because it takes a lot of energy to do so.  The collective energy, time, and money, of all Christians might be better spent elsewhere.

This leads us to the question of how the Christianity relates to culture.  The way of Schaeffer, Bachmann and the rest of the Christian right is not the only way.  Christians are not necessarily obligated to try to “take over” lest the barbarians at the gate do so.  Many Christians believe that we simply need to radically separate from a corrupt political culture and reprobate society, while at the same time inspiring it to conversion.  Monastic groups did this.  So did the Amish.  Others, like Luther, said that we must live in a paradox and trust God’s providence to work through worldly means in addition to Christian ones.  E.G., yes we know that we need to love our enemies, but we still have to find a way to stop the Mongols.  The “Christians take over” method is not the only method.

The point of this blog is not to say that Bachmann is insincere or not Christian.  The point is what kind of Christianity is she representing?  Bachmann’s Christian identity is quite dissimilar to my own.  There are many others out there who feel the same way.  We are all Christians, but we are not members of the Christian right.  My hope with this blog is that people will think very carefully about the two questions presented in this blog before they support Bachmann et al merely on the identity vote.  We must all make up our minds and not let preachers and politicians use fear to do it for us.

  1. James Shewey says:

    Joel, Clearly Rick Perry is the real Christian here.

  2. joelgonzaga says:

    Rick Perry is such a rock star name.

  3. I always found it pretty impossible to judge a candidate’s personal views from their campaign, since it seems that campaigning is all about being obscure and making different groups interpret your words different ways. This post, however, has made it a bit easier.

    Oh, and I wish there were a Science Candidate.

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