Over at The Daily Beast, Michelle Goldberg has an excellent expose about Michelle Bachmann. It paints her as a radical fundamentalist Christian with an especially hard line antagonism toward gays and lesbians. It also reveals – and de-codes – some of the language that she uses especially to signal the fundamentalist community that she’s one of them:
On Monday, Bachmann didn’t talk a lot about her religion. She didn’t have to—she knows how to signal it in ways that go right over secular heads. In criticizing Obama’s Libya policy, for example, she said, “We are the head and not the tail.” The phrase comes from Deuteronomy 28:13: “The Lord will make you the head and not the tail.” As Rachel Tabachnick has reported, it’s often used in theocratic circles to explain why Christians have an obligation to rule.
The article uncovers a world view that very few of us outside these radical Christian circles can truly grasp. It views America not just as a Christian nation, but as a theocratic Christian country that has lost its way. Goldberg lays out Bachmann’s religious conversion and political development within these Christian circles:
A key moment in her political evolution, as for many of her generation, was the film series How Should We Then Live by the theologian Francis Schaeffer, who is widely credited for mobilizing evangelicals against abortion, an issue most had previously ignored. A Presbyterian minister, Schaeffer argued that our entire perception of reality depends on our worldview, and that only those with the right one can understand the true nature of things. Christianity, he argued, is “a whole system of truth, and this system is the only system that will stand up to all the questions that are presented to us as we face the reality of existence.” Theories or assertions from outside this system—evolution, for example—can be dismissed as the product of mistaken premises.
At Coburn [Law School at Oral Roberts University], Bachmann studied with John Eidsmoe, who she recently described as “one of the professors who had a great influence on me.” Bachmann served as his research assistant on the 1987 book Christianity and the Constitution, which argued that the United States was founded as a Christian theocracy, and that it should become one again. “The church and the state have separate spheres of authority, but both derive authority from God,” Eidsmoe wrote. “In that sense America, like [Old Testament] Israel, is a theocracy.”
Eidsmoe, who hung up the phone when asked for an interview, is a contentious figure. Last year, he withdrew from speaking at a Wisconsin Tea Party rally after the Associated Press raised questions about his history of addresses to white-supremacist groups. In 2010, speaking at a rally celebrating Alabama’s secession from the Union, he claimed that Jefferson Davis and John C. Calhoun understood the Constitution better than Abraham Lincoln.
Bachmann’s success or failure in the Republican primaries will be a significant litmus test for that party. For too long Republicans have tried to appear mainstream while wackadoodles like her put them in office. With a comparatively moderate Mormon in the game, which way will they go?