Before my husband and I left for church yesterday, we happened to catch part of David Gregory’s interview of Rep. Michele Bachmann on “Meet The Press.”
I started paying attention to the program when Gregory asked her about her faith. (You can click on the image above for the video. The complete transcript is here.)
The nature of my work sometimes gives me the sense that we’re headed down the slippery slope, about 150 miles an hour.
Gregory’s questioning of Bachmann made me think that maybe we’re going about 180 miles/hour. I don’t expect Gregory to agree with Bachmann or any other candidate and I expect him to ask hard hitting questions. I also expect him to show some journalistic integrity and fundamental respect for religious beliefs. He displayed neither.
His questions about her perspective of wives as submissive to their husbands [Ephesians 5] were to be expected since she’d spoken openly about it and such questions are always asked when possible. She answered well. In essence, she gave an answer that’s very close to that of Aquinas who maintains that there are two types of submission: servile and economic. In the first, the submissive person looses or gives up his or her will. In the second, which applies to marriage, the submissive or submitting person agrees to acknowledge another person as the head of a particular group, whether a family, a church, a government, or even a sports team or some other organization. No one gives up his or her will, but different roles are acknowledged and accepted.
From the transcript:
REP. BACHMANN: We’ve been married almost 33 years and I have a great deal of respect for my husband. He’s a wonderful, wonderful man and a great father to our children. And he’s also filled with good advice. He…
MR. GREGORY: But so his word goes?
REP. BACHMANN: …he leads–pardon?
MR. GREGORY: His word goes?
REP. BACHMANN: Well, both of our words go. We respect each other. We have a mutual partnership in our marriage, and that’s the only way that we could accomplish what we’ve done in life is to be a good team. We’re a good team together.
Gregory goes on to ask her about her faith and her relationship in God. He can’t even hide his incredulousness and perhaps contempt.
Again, from the transcript:
MR. GREGORY: Guide has–God has guided your decisions in life. Would God guide your decisions that you would make as president of the United States?
REP. BACHMANN: Well, as president of the United States, I would pray. I would pray and ask the Lord for guidance. That’s what presidents have done throughout history. George Washington did. Abraham Lincoln did.
MR. GREGORY: But you said that Gald–God called me to run for Congress. God has said certain things about, you know, going to law school, about pursuing other decisions in your life. There’s a difference between God as a sense of comfort and safe harbor and inspiration, and God telling you to take a particular action. [Emphasis.]
REP. BACHMANN: All I can tell you is what my experience has been. I’m extremely grateful to, to have a faith in God. I, I see that God has so blessed this country. His–you know, we heard that song that he’s “shed his grace” on the United States. I believe it. He’s been very good to our country. And I think that it’s important for us to seek his guidance and to pray and to listen to his voice.
So, for Gregory, God is “[A] sense of comfort and safe harbor and inspiration,” but we shouldn’t have the sense that God wants us to “take a particular action.” It sounds like Gregory mocks the very notion of the Judeo-Christian God as a real being as opposed to a fictional notion in people’s minds. Bachmann’s answer indicates that he’s also disrespecting the tradition of faith in public life in the United States.
Religion is a personal matter and no one should be forced to believe any religion. At the same time, there should be respect for different beliefs, particularly those held by millions of people for thousands of years. Jews and Christians alike have a tradition of praying to God for guidance in action. Other religious faiths have similar traditions. People who have serious religious beliefs tend not to describe God as a Hallmark card or a warm, fuzzy feeling. It’s Gregory’s prerogative not to share those beliefs, but he comes across as mocking them. And it’s definitely not his job as the host of a political show to call into question the foundation of billions of believers throughout history.
He started in the way in which he questioned her idea of submission and its role in her marriage. And while I’m not a fan of claiming media bias (despite my experience of it), the only people I see consistently challenged on their views of marriage are practicing Christians and Orthodox Jews. I don’t recall anyone asking Senator Clinton in any of her campaigns why she puts up with a philandering husband.
Then he moved to her relationship with God which he suggests should not have any real impact on her life. She did a great job of answering his questions, but he still asserts that she was less than forthcoming about her faith.
David Gregory ought to be called out for his manner of questioning. If he needs some help with etiquette I recommend that he hire Letitia Baldrige or another expert for personal instruction.
I know serious Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. I don’t know any of them who think that mocking a candidate’s religious beliefs, or those of millions of people, is fair game.
For the purposes of my work, I try and refrain from talking about political issues unless they directly concern fundamental ethical or moral issues as demonstrated by this attack (perhaps unintentional) on religious beliefs. I have no favorite candidate for 2012, although I must admit that I’d love to see a rogue Democrat challenge President Obama for the nomination.