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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Bachmann's Vow

In the latest example in the “Michele Bachmann is a flake” file, the UK Daily Mail reports that the Minnesota congresswoman and presidential candidate officially left her church.

I’d come across rumors that Bachmann had stopped attending her church but planned to refrain from commenting on hearsay until something substantial surfaced.

This matter interested me because one of the few redeeming qualities of Bachmann, despite her numerous deficiencies, was that she and I were both Lutheran. While I’m a member of the fairly conservative Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS) and Bachmann in the more conservative Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), the fact that she belonged to a church body as un-PC as WELS indicated to me that if nothing else, she might at least take her faith seriously.

Now that she has left her church, seemingly over WELS’ teaching of the pope as anti-Christ, we have probably just seen something of Bachmann’s ambition.

It’s one thing for someone to leave a church after much deliberation over its teachings but it’s another thing altogether to leave because it might be politically inconvenient to remain. It might also mark a watershed moment in our overall shallow religiosity that a Lutheran leaves their church because the church’s official confessions has unkind words about the pope. Surely John the Steadfast is rolling in his grave.

Unquestionably Bachmann is free to attend whichever church she pleases. Perhaps she never knew about the teaching regarding the papacy. As her comments on American history showed, she doesn’t seem very interested in facts in the first place so it’s entirely possible that she had never investigated the teachings of her church.

As with all politicians, I have no idea what Michele Bachmann really believes. Her statements about Israel, America as a Christian nation, and other Religious Right boilerplate indicated that she should have been a mainline evangelical and not a traditional Lutheran anyway.

There might be some temptation for her opponents to want to turn her membership with WELS into a Jeremiah Wright-type scandal but this probably won’t fly. America is not a Catholic country and as recently as 2004 a Catholic presidential candidate couldn’t even win the Catholic vote.

It would seem that both Bachmann and Obama belonged to churches that would help them politically. In Lutheran-heavy Minnesota it made sense to belong to any Lutheran church. To make way in Chicago it made sense for Obama to belong to a church like Wright’s. Since Bachmann wants to become president it follows that she would broaden her religious base beyond us stuffy, stodgy Lutherans and join a non-denominational church that is as likely to preach the planks of the Republican Party platform as it is to preach Christ and Him crucified. So even though it’s been reported that Bachmann had not been attending her WELS church for two years, it’s probably not a coincidence this happened during the exact time she has been running for president.

But perhaps "flaky" is not the most appropriate word to describe these actions. Venal might be best. What else might we call someone abandoning their traditional church the second it becomes politically hazardous?

Bachmann's talk about the Constitution and being a "constitutional conservative" all play well with primary voters and the Republican base. Indeed, her support in getting a Federal Reserve audit is good. But voting to extend the invasive Patriot Act and signing a controversial pledge that would involve banning pornography and re-federalizing marriage make her a moral busybody. What would be helpful is if someday an interviewer endowed with a backbone asked her to recite where the Constitution grants the authority to police such issues.

Bachmann's actions as a public official shows an inconsistency towards liberty and a consistency to do whatever necessary to advance herself.

It’s neither mine nor any other man’s place to issue a judgment on the validity of Bachmann’s religious faith nor to critique her beliefs as qualifications for the presidency. But if her actions mean anything it appears her first principle is the accumulation of power and her highest loyalty is to herself.

Carl Wicklander,
Regular Columnist, THL
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