Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and that Evangelical Christianity
The front-runners to take on President Obama in 2012 are beginning to emerge. His Grace looked at Mitt Romney’s Mormonism a few months ago, concluding that – historicity aside – there is no real bar on a Mormon taking the White House. The focus now turns to Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry, who both profess to be Evangelical Christians. His Grace knows nothing about either, and is (warily) drawing his information from Wikipedia, on the assumption that Wiki policy on the biographies of living persons has much improved over the years, and that candidates for the most powerful political position on the planet are moving swiftly to correct any errors and omissions in case misinformation and disinformation should damage their electoral chances.
Michele Bachmann is the US Representative for Minnesota's 6th congressional district. She says she was called by God to run for the seat, and that she and her husband fasted for three days to be sure. She is a supporter of the Tea Party movement and the founder of the House Tea Party Caucus, and received her degree (tax law) from Oral Roberts University, a ‘charismatic Christian’ establishment founded by Pentecostal televangelist Oral Roberts.
She opposes same-sex marriage and is strong on the importance of the traditional family unit. Married to Marcus Bachmann, they have raised five children (Lucas, Harrison, Elisa, Caroline, and Sophia), and have provided foster care for a further 23 others. Mr and Mrs Bachmann own a Christian counselling clinic in Stillwater, and joined the ‘Pro-Life’ movement after seeing Francis Schaeffer's 1976 Christian documentary film, ‘How Should We Then Live?’ It is reported that they ‘frequently prayed outside of clinics and served as sidewalk counsellors in an attempt to dissuade women from seeking abortions’. In 1993, Mrs Bachmann and other parents in Stillwater, Minnesota opened New Heights Charter School, which was accused of teaching Creationism and advocating that ‘something called “12 Christian principles” be taught, very much like the 10 Commandments’. She supports the teaching of intelligent design in public school science classes, saying: “There is a controversy among scientists about whether evolution is a fact or not... There are hundreds and hundreds of scientists, many of them holding Nobel Prizes, who believe in intelligent design.”
During a debate televised by WCCO on October 28, 2006, news reporter Pat Kessler quoted a story that appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune and asked Mrs Bachmann whether it was true that the church she belonged to taught that the Pope is the Anti-Christ. Bachmann stated that her church ‘does not believe that the Pope is the Anti-Christ, that's absolutely false... I'm very grateful that my pastor has come out and been very clear on this matter, and I think it's patently absurd and it's a false statement’. At the time, she was in membership of a church that is part of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, whose doctrine teaches that the Papacy is the Antichrist identified in Scripture.
Rick Perry is the 47th and current Governor of Texas and, like his predecessor George W Bush, is of Methodist extraction (indeed, the very same church in Austin). He now attends Lake Hills Church in Austin, where his former deputy director of communications and principal speechwriter was pastor of ‘creative development’ (His Grace has been unable to find that office in Scripture).
In 2006, in what was described as a ‘God and country’ sermon at the Cornerstone church in San Antonio, the Rev John Hagee stated: "If you live your life and don't confess your sins to God Almighty through the authority of Christ and His blood, I'm going to say this very plainly, you're going straight to hell with a nonstop ticket." Mr Perry was asked if he agreed with those comments, and he replied: "It is my faith, and I'm a believer of that."
While visiting Israel in August 2009, Rick Perry gave an interview to the Jerusalem Post in which he affirmed his support for Israel from his religious background: "I'm a big believer that this country was given to the people of Israel a long time ago, by God, and that's ordained." After the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre, Mr Perry joined a Baptist pastor who led a prayer in the name of Jesus Christ at a student assembly in a public middle school. He said he had no problem ignoring the Supreme Court’s 1962 ruling that barred organised prayer in public schools. In his first book, On My Honor, Mr Perry expressed his views on the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause, saying: "Let's be clear: I don't believe government, which taxes people regardless of their faith, should espouse a specific faith. I also don't think we should allow a small minority of atheists to sanitise our civil dialogue on religious references."
Rick Perry supports teaching intelligent design alongside evolution in Texas schools. A spokeswoman for Perry called intelligent design a ‘valid scientific theory’. He opposes the legal recognition of same sex marriages. Like Michele Bachmann, Mr Perry is ‘Pro-Life’ and opposes government funding for elective abortions. In 2003, he signed the Prenatal Protection Act, which explicitly included foetuses in its definition of human life. He has supported legislation prohibiting abortions in the third trimester of pregnancy, and has also signed into law a bill that required abortion providers to offer informational brochures to women considering abortion.
But it’s funny, His Grace thinks, with all the suffering, trauma and mess in the world, that the suitability of the next GOP candidate for the Presidency of the United States appears to come down to whether or not he or she has faith in Charles Darwin. There is a perception of cultic orthodoxy; a faith test quite contrary to the US Constitution which affirms that ‘no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust’ (Article VI). It must be observed that Republican candidates are invariably asked at some point during their campaigns if they believe the Bible to be the inviolable Word of God, and none has ever quoted Article VI in response. It appears that one only gains the GOP nomination to become President of the United States by the adoption of the Bible-Belt Creed and with the majority assent of the Evangelical Church. And there is an unrelenting media focus (both here and in the US) to lampoon, discredit and ridicule such beliefs.
Soteriology and eschatology aside, how do the socio-religious beliefs of Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry differ from those of Pope Benedict XVI?