Frank Bruni asks from what messiah Michelle Bachmann learned her Christianity in The New York Times:
What I find most fascinating about Michele Bachmann — and there are many, many more where she came from — is that she presents herself as a godly woman, humbly devoted to her Christian faith. I’d like to meet that god, and I’d like to understand that Christianity.
Bachmann’s concept of Christian love brims with hate, and she has a deep satchel of stones to throw. From what kind of messiah did she learn that?
It’s to wonder why we accept her descriptions of herself, and in turn describe her, as a deeply religious woman. That grants too much credence to her particular, peculiar and highly selective definition of piety. And it offends the many admirable people of faith whose understanding and practice of religion aren’t, like hers, confrontational and small-minded.
Bachmann is an evangelical, and has spoken rhapsodically about the experience of being born again. After that moment, she said, “I absolutely understood sin, and I wanted no part of it.” She plunged into politics nonetheless.
We routinely place her in the “religious right,” a phrase that frustrates me, tidily linking a certain set of political beliefs with profound devotion. We talk much less frequently of any “religious left,” and that disparity implies that a seriously faithful person is most likely to land on just one end of the political spectrum.
Tell that to the Nuns on the Bus, who rolled across the country last month focusing on social welfare and expressing alarm about the impact that cuts in federal spending might have on struggling Americans. Their politics line up more neatly with liberal than conservative policies, but the nuns reflect a Catholicism no less true or widespread than that of the bishops carrying on about gay marriage and birth control.
Because he’s a social liberal, Cory Booker, the Newark mayor, is seldom mentioned in terms of religion, but it turns out that he’s made a study of the Bible, as well as other sacred texts, and given considerable thought to faith. On his Facebook page a few months ago, he mused thusly:
“Before you speak to me about your religion, first show it to me in how you treat other people. Before you tell me how much you love your God, show me in how much you love all His children.”
I know many progressive, big-hearted Christians who rise to that challenge, and it’s wrong for a single Christian label — without asterisk or annotation — to be attached both to them and to the likes of Bachmann.
So maybe it’s time for annotations. Most of us distinguish, rightly, between Muslim extremists and other followers of Islam. Perhaps we should start noting the difference between Christians of real compassion and those of exclusionary spite.
Bachmann’s on to something: dangerous fundamentalists have indeed set up camp deep inside the capital. She can find one in her office. She need only look in the mirror.
Too bad the NYTimes entitled this piece “The Divine Miss M” –when the real Divine Miss M, Bette Middler, has devoted her life to inclusion and compassion.