Bachmann’s religious politics

Speaking this weekend in Florida, GOP presidential candidate Michele Andy Dunaway AP In this June 29, 2011 file photo, Republican … Continued

Speaking this weekend in Florida, GOP presidential candidate Michele

Andy Dunaway

AP

In this June 29, 2011 file photo, Republican presidential candidate, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., speaks in Charleston, S.C.

Bachmann had this to say about Hurricane Irene and the recent earthquake which shook the East Coast:

I don’t know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians. We’ve had an earthquake; we’ve had a hurricane. He said, ‘Are you going to start listening to me here?’ Listen to the American people because the American people are roaring right now. They know government is on a morbid obesity diet and we’ve got to rein in the spending.”

As a New Yorker whose block was featured on the cover of today’s New York Times as the preeminent example of the damage Irene caused, as a religious person, and as an American, those words cut close to home. Bachmann’s press secretary told reporters Monday that Bachmann made her comments ‘in jest.’ That’s not entirely clear from the video. And either way, her comments showed a callousness to the loss of human life and property that was profoundly unbecoming of an aspiring president.

Having gotten through the day safely, despite burning electrical wire near my front door, 50 foot trees fallen across our street and a house fire across the way, many neighbors repeatedly commented, “thank God nobody was hurt.” If there is a God to thank for sparing us, then that same God is to be blamed/credited with the devastation caused as well. I have no quibble with people who accept both sides of that equation, even if I wrestle with it. It’s actually the approach of most classical faiths and is entirely coherent, if not acceptable to all of us.

Whether it’s my well-intentioned neighbors, or Ms. Bachmann, people want a clear source for the otherwise unreasonable chaos which invades all of our lives. I appreciate that, and even admit to expressing gratitude to God for having gotten through the storm with little more than a loss of power, limited water, and the need to relocate for a day or two – I hope not more. But that is where the similarity between what my neighbors expressed to each other, and what Michele Bachmann said about the storm, ends.

It’s one thing to invoke a source for otherwise unexplainable occurrences. We humans seek meaning and purpose in all things, and especially so during times when the otherwise reliable patterns in our lives are interrupted. One could argue that religion is always doing one of two things: comforting us by providing meaning and purpose to those interruptions, or purposely interrupting patterns in order to help us lead more meaningful and ethical lives.

Ms. Bachmann however takes it one very dangerous step further – she imagines not only that there is meaning and purpose to such events and that they are controlled directly by God, she imagines that she knows the mind of God and can tell America what such events mean. That is called prophecy, especially when done in such an immediate and direct way, and as far as I know Michele Bachmann doesn’t claim to be a prophet. Or does she?

While not making that claim overtly, Ms. Bachmann consistently approaches both politics and religion from a position of absolutes – the kind of absolutes which, if not absolutely 100 percent correct, can be pretty dangerous. From defaulting on our national debt to abortion to this weekend’s hurricane, there is, according to Michelle Bachmann, only one right answer – hers. And unless someone speaks with the absolute knowledge that most believers ascribe to God or prophets, that’s a pretty dangerous way to speak.

Ms. Bachmann’s God and her politics are one. They are clearly understood by her, they are 100 percent correct and all those who disagree are worthy of punishment. I get it. That’s not my God and those are not my politics, and in many ways, the coming presidential election is about the place of absolute answers in this country and how much space is made for those who disagree with whoever wins.

Michele Bachmann let it be known this weekend that she believes the price for disagreeing with her is death and destruction. I can’t help but hope that she would speak differently at the funerals of those who died because of the storm, or even standing amidst the destruction in front of my family’s home. That’s my hope. Of course, the real question is not simply what candidate Bachmann says, but what her supporters will say, now that she has spoken.

Brad Hirschfield
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  • ibrahimsapien1

    When I found out a hurricane was coming, just after we’d already had a minor earthquake, I thought to myself that for sure the teaba..teaparty people will start shouting that this is God being angry at Obama, that Obama’s to blame for these events. This response was predictable. We like to think of these people of being primitive in the sense that they want to take America back to the late 1700s, what with their love of reinactments and dressing in tights and ruffles. But when you take into account the real sophistication of the people of that age, including our Founding Fathers, the truth is that they’re a heck of a lot more primitive than that. These people are pre-Enlightenment dumb.

  • myimzadinetscapecom

    …wow, maybe Pat Robertson can serve as Vice President in the new Bachmann administration– with that much prophetic ‘firepower’ surely the US will be a much better and more magical place– you know just like Disney World.

  • nooddlez

    The real message from Ms. Bachmann is “God creates jobs in wake of cleansing” This will be the new republican spin on job creation, picking up debris for $2.25/hr.

  • UTGrad1970

    Obama is a racist – just kidding!
    Obama is a socialist – just kidding!
    Obama is a communist – just kidding!
    Obama is a Keynan – just kidding!
    Starting to get the picture here. This “just kidding” is going to be the end of the USA.

  • cma61

    Bachmann’s language was obviously a political metaphor, which all her listeners and readers understood. But Team Obama media jackals think they can pervert the obvious meaning of her language that the Federal Gvt. is grossly overspending money it doesn’t have. From Abraham Lincoln through FDR, top political leaders have used God language in political metaphor.

  • sin1357901

    Personally, I also think the years long drought in Texas is a divine sign to Bachmann that she should go forth to lead ‘the people’ out of that desert and into washington, dc. Yea, verily… “And thee shall go forth and lead my children into the land that I promised unto you.. To smite the Tribes of Labor, and all its organized minions…To hurl the money changers out of the Fed…To return the fruits of the vineyard to those who hath righteously earned it by the sweat of their brow .. With a mighty outstretched arm and a hidden semi-automatic.. ye may part the Potomac, as I commeandeth, and cross upon dry land as your enemies become swallowed and drowned pollution and filth.
    So it was said..so shall it be done..Amen.”

    It’s not for nothing Cheney released a book right now either..which of course will NEVER address how he shot somebody (Cheney has heart problems and taking a LOT of meds. He really should never drink then, or carry a weapon, for that matter. .maybe he thought the guy was a jihadist on a fatwa..or at least an illegal..luckily, he wasn’t water boarded).

  • SRinNYC

    There’s an ominous undercurrent in Bachmann’s utterly inappropriate comments – it’s the message that (supposedly) godless “east coast” elites are getting not only what they deserve for their profligate ways, but a taste of what is to come if they cannot control their appetite for spending. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if her website featured gigantic cross hairs over the Washington-Philadelphia-New York-Boston corridor with a call for a prayer rally to smite the heathen gay-friendly socialist elites.

    It’s hard to determine what is more frightening and appalling – Bachmann herself or those in her audience who laugh at the idea of any god murdering dozens of people and inflicting billions in damages to remind Americans that their government spends too much.

  • justmehla

    The real problem here is she did not tell us it was the Real God.

  • Carstonio

    “We humans seek meaning and purpose in all things, and especially so during times when the otherwise reliable patterns in our lives are interrupted. ” – And that’s exactly the temptation that we need to resist, especially during those interruptions. While it’s possible that such inherent meaning and purpose may exist, we have no evidence for their existence. One can believe whatever one wants about inherent meaning and purpose for one’s own life. But when one believes that for others, especially those who have lost loved ones due to Irene, that’s rude and inappropriate, and that’s exactly what Bachmann is doing.

    That’s my only quibble with Hirschfield. He is exactly right about the danger posted by absolutism, whether it’s preached by Bachmann or by anyone else.

  • Renshaw

    Either in jest or seriousness, does she really believe that God kills people and destroys things simply to get a point to politicians? If so, I want nothing to do with that God nor her! How dare she make jokes during this time of seriousness, when people have lost life, limb and property.

    She disgusts me. The “Christian” fundamentalists and evangelicals will scream that she is leading us out of atheism, etc., etc.

    Beware of these religious fanatics. They are Christian Taliban and will quickly gas Jews, murder gays, and be rid of Catholics. They have no tolerance for anyone save their own. I think we treat them as they treat us!

  • YEAL9

    As per the rabbi “Michele Bachmann let it be known this weekend that she believes the price for disagreeing with her is death and destruction.”

    As per the rabbi’s torah:

    •Exodus 32: 3,000 Israelites killed by Moses for worshipping the golden calf.

    •Numbers 31: After killing all men, boys and married women among the Midianites, 32,000 virgins remain as booty for the Israelites. (If unmarried girls are a quarter of the population, then 96,000 people were killed.)

    •Joshua: ◦Joshua 8: 12,000 men and women, all the people of Ai, killed.
    ◦Joshua 10: Joshua completely destroys Gibeon (“larger than Ai”), Makeddah, Libnah, Lachish, Eglon, Hebron, Debir. “He left no survivors.”
    ◦Joshua 11: Hazor destroyed. [Paul Johnson, A History of the Jews (1987), estimates the population of Hazor at ?> 50,000]
    ◦TOTAL: if Ai is average, 12,000 x 9 = 108,000 killed.

    •Judges 1: 10,000 Canaanites k. at Battle of Bezek. Jerusalem and Zephath destroyed.
    •Judges 3: ca. 10,000 Moabites k. at Jordan River.
    •Judges 8: 120,000 Midianite soldiers k. by Gideon
    •Judges 20: Benjamin attacked by other tribes. 25,000 killed.

    •1 Samuel 4: 4,000 Isrealites killed at 1st Battle of Ebenezer/Aphek. 30,000 Isr. k. at 2nd battle.
    •David: ◦2 Samuel 8: 22,000 Arameans of Damascus and 18,000 Edomites killed in 2 battles.

    ◦2 Samuel 10: 40,000 Aramean footsoldiers and 7,000 charioteers killed at Helam.
    ◦2 Samuel 18: 20,000 Israelites under Absalom killed at Ephraim.

    •1 Kings 20: 100,000 Arameans killed by Israelites at Battle of Aphek. Another 27,000 killed by collapsing wall.
    •2 Chron 13: Judah beat Israel and inflicted 500,000 casualties.
    •2 Chron 25: Amaziah, king of Judah, k. 10,000 from Seir in battle and executed 10,000 POWs. Discharged Judean soldiers pillaged and killed 3,000.
    •2 Chron 28: Pekah, king of Israel, slew 120,000 Judeans

    •TOTAL: That comes to about 1,283,000 mass killings specifically enumerated in the Old Testament/Torah.

  • david6

    Do you really believe Rep. Bachmann’s implicit claim to be a prophet of God?

  • david6

    Right-wing Christians make God into a nasty raging fool.

  • david6

    People have hidden their bigotry behind “just kidding” for centuries.

  • SODDI

    Anyone seen “The Mist”? The mist rolls in and they can’t see, they’re trapped in a supermarket with all the consumer goods they need, and there are horrible MONSTERS outside that eat people. Marcia Gay Harden goes bible batsh*t, declares herself a prophet and demands a human sacrifice.

    Marcia Gay Harden as played by Michelle Bachmann. Wait for Bachmann to start demanding human scrifices.

  • SODDI

    “Stood in firelight, sweltering. Bloodstain on chest like map of violent new continent. Felt cleansed. Felt dark planet turn under my feet and knew what cats know that makes them scream like babies in night. Looked at sky through smoke heavy with human fat and God was not there. The cold, suffocating dark goes on forever and we are alone. Live our lives, lacking anything better to do. Devise reason later. Born from oblivion; bear children, hell-bound as ourselves, go into oblivion. There is nothing else. Existence is random. Has no pattern save what we imagine after staring at it for too long. No meaning save what we choose to impose. This rudderless world is not shaped by vague metaphysical forces. It is not God who kills the children. Not fate that butchers them or destiny that feeds them to the dogs. It’s us. Only us. Streets stank of fire. The void breathed hard on my heart, turning its illusions to ice, shattering them. Was reborn then, free to scrawl own design on this morally blank world.”. Alan Moore, “Watchmen”

  • SODDI

    Nah, the old Hebrews did that a long time ago.