Michele Bachman, Christian Reconstructionism and the Law

By Mike Appleton (Guest Blogger)

When Byron York asked Michelle Bachmann last week whether, if elected President, she would be “submissive” to her husband, the audience reacted with a collective gasp, followed by scattered boos.  After a brief pause, Rep. Bachmann calmly replied that her relationship with her husband is one of mutual love and respect.

The criticism of the question was immediate and fierce.  Was it not sexist, paternalistic and condescending?  Did it not violate the spirit of religious pluralism? Did it not offend the principle underlying the constitutional ban on religious tests for public office?  Besides, had not the issue of a President’s private religious views been permanently placed off limits in 1960 when a Roman Catholic named John F. Kennedy assured the Greater Houston Ministerial Association of his commitment to “an America where the separation of church and state is absolute-where no Catholic prelate would tell the President, should he be a Catholic, how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote-where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference…”?

Appearing on Fox News the following day, Mr. York meekly defended his question as an effort to prepare Rep. Bachmann for what she can expect during the coming campaign, and stated that she had handled it quite well.  Mr. York’s timid explanation means that he did not understand the profound significance of his own inquiry.  Rep. Bachmann’s disingenuous answer means that she did.

In my view Rep. Bachmann’s religious beliefs are a mandatory topic for thorough examination and public debate.  Why?  Because she espouses a brand of Christianity that seeks not merely to transform the institutions of government, but to absorb them into a reconstructed society build upon a foundation of Old Testament law, a goal which implicates the Constitution and which strikes at the heart of the idea of secular government.

Michele Bachmann’s religion is grounded in the Christian reconstruction theology of A.J. Rushdoony, the late pastor and neo-Calvinist theologian.  At the center of Mr. Rushdoony’s teaching is the idea that the source of all human knowledge is God, and that the acquisition of knowledge must come through  the truth revealed by God in the sacred scriptures.  This belief required that he reject the rationalism of the Enlightenment as a sort of idolatry, the worship of autonomous human reason independent of God.     It follows from this thesis that the legitimacy of government requires its submission to the sovereignty of God through compliance with God’s law as outlined in the Bible, particularly the Mosaic law of the Old Testament.  His three-volume work “The Institutes of Biblical Law” is widely taught in Christian schools and colleges.  Reconstructionist theology demands of Christians that they exercise dominion over all creation, including social, legal and political institutions, and restructure them to properly reflect the sovereignty of God through biblical law.  Rushdoony thus shared with the Pilgrims the view of America as the shining city on the hill, the Kingdom of God on earth.  As a pure theocrat, Rushdoony regarded all law as religious in nature and firmly denounced democracy.

One of Rushdoony’s early disciples was Herb Titus, the Harvard trained lawyer who recently defended Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore in his unsuccessful effort to avoid removal from the bench after defying a federal court order to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the state courthouse.  Mr. Titus was instrumental in the creation of the O.W. Coburn School of Law at Oral Roberts University and helped secure accreditation from the ABA despite the requirement that all students sign a pledge professing their Christianity.  The school’s goal was the training of lawyers committed to the principle that biblical law is the only acceptable foundation for civil law.  Rep. Bachmann was in the first graduating class.  The law school has since been closed and transferred to the law shool at Regent University, whose alumni include Monica Goodling, the former DOJ lawyer forced to resign after it was revealed that she was requiring prospective DOJ lawyers to satisfy ideological purity tests.  A prominent member of the faculty is John Ashcroft, the former U.S. attorney general under Pres. Bush who felt compelled to cover the bare breasts of the “Spirit of Justice” sculpture in the Justice Department.

Christian reconstructionists reject both religious pluralism and the concept of separation of church and state as a false notion championed by secular humanists.  They support the abolition of unions, elimination of minimum wage laws, the criminal prosecution of homosexuals and the dismantling of social welfare programs.  They regard the public school system as an un-Christian vehicle for collectivist indoctrinatiion of children.  It may be recalled that Rep. Bachmann first came to prominence in Minnesota through her activist promotion of home schooling. And yes, they embrace the biblical model of the patriarchal family with the husband at its head, guiding, protecting, instructing and correcting his wife and children.

So the question posed to Rep. Bachmann by Byron York was neither impertinent nor irrelevant.  If he and other journalists can be criticized for anything, it is for not asking the hard questions, for not asking Rep. Bachmann to explain the potential impact of her religious beliefs on the future structure of American legal, political and religious institutions.

Sources: Sharlet, J., “The Family” (2008); Phillips, K., “American Theocracy” (2006); Jacoby, S., “Freethinkers” (2004); McVicar, M.J., “The Liberation Theocrats,” 22 The Public Eye, No. 3 (Fall, 2007); Schutt, M.P., “Law and the Biblical Tradition: Select Bibliography for Christian Law Students” (found at lawcf.org).

51 thoughts on “Michele Bachman, Christian Reconstructionism and the Law”

  1. Michele Bachmann: Crazy Like a Fox
    She won the Ames straw poll on Saturday and is the clear favorite to win the Iowa caucuses in January. There’s a method to Michele Bachmann’s madness.
    —By Tim Murphy
    Mother Jones, 8/15/2011

    THERE’S A STORY Michele Bachmann likes to tell when she speaks to religious audiences. It arrives about three-quarters through her stump speech, after the warning to opponents that she is “one tough cookie” and the crowd-pleasing pledge to make Barack Obama a—say it together—”One. Term. President.”

    As Bachmann tells it, America’s national sovereignty is slipping away, and the sanctity of the family is being overrun by an encroaching nanny state. But we can find hope in the story of the Israelites, who, after drifting from their faith and coming under siege in their own land, shunned their false idolatry and pushed back the invaders with God’s help: “The men of Issachar understood the times that they lived in, and they knew what to do,” she says, referring to one of the 12 tribes of Israel. “They had the courage to carry it out.” Although Bachmann doesn’t note this, it’s the only episode in the Bible in which men are led into battle by a woman, Deborah.

    This is Michele Bachmann’s message, in its biblical essence: America will be restored to its founding glory by a righteous few, and it’s going to take a fight. “It is my opinion that God has not given up on the United States of America,” she says, the crowd beginning to feel it, “and we shouldn’t either.”

    Since her election to Congress in 2006, Bachmann has earned a reputation as one of the lower chamber’s biggest bomb throwers. She has accused the president of harboring “anti-American” views, warned that census data could be used to round up dissenters into internment camps, and declared that the Treasury Department is quietly planning on replacing the dollar with a global currency. To her critics, Bachmann is flat-out crazy, a purveyor of, as Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) put it, “psycho talk.”

    But beneath language that seems cribbed straight from Glenn Beck’s magical chalkboard, there is a method to the congresswoman’s madness. Her rise was not a fluke, and she is not, as Fox News’ Chris Wallace clumsily implied in June, a “flake.” Bachmann’s candidacy represents the crest of a movement, four decades in the making, to restore faith as the foundation of public life in America—from public schools on up to the White House.

    From her days as an abortion protester and conservative foot soldier, she has climbed the ranks, at every step of the way reshaping the political dynamic around her to reflect her own frenzied style. In some respects, her career arc mirrors the president’s—a restless youth, a life-changing trip abroad, a stint as a community organizer, and then a rapid rise from the state legislature to the US Capitol. Now she wants Obama’s job.

  2. John Kennedy, while pursuing the Presidency, would have been cautiously aware of the defeat of Al Smith in the 1928 Presidential Election. As Smith was both a Catholic and an anti-prohibitionist, he was an easy target for narrow-minded discrimination of the voters. I doubt that Hoover’s advisors had to resort to dirty campaign advertising.
    In parts of our country anti-Catholicism could still be found during the 50’s and 60’s. As well as other prejudices.

  3. If the governor and the congress-woman make religion the cornerstone of their campaigns, thereby attempting to out-Jesus each other, they deserve to be grilled to the point of adopting atheism.

    I think it’s safe to say that the majority of Americans do not want to live in a theocracy, and if you think Fascism is bad, wait until you see the joys these people have in mind for us.

  4. http://www.democracynow.org/2011/8/15/bachmanns_iowa_straw_poll_win_signals

    SARAH POSNER: Well, Bachmann went to the law school at Oral Roberts University, which, later, after she graduated, got absorbed into Regent University, the university founded by Pat Robertson in Virginia Beach. But I did a story last month about Oral Roberts and the type of legal education that she got there, and it was very much along the lines of what I just described before with this view of constitutional law, that God grants certain authority to government, the Church and the family, and that your rights are granted by God, and if the government infringes on those rights by exceeding the authority that it was granted by God, then that’s tyranny. The whole aim of Oral—founding Oral Roberts University was to, in the mind of the founders, reinstitute biblical law over man’s law in jurisprudence and in politics, and to train lawyers and future leaders, just like Michele Bachmann, to rise to the level of leadership that she has risen to.

  5. @Curt Sjostrand:
    They do not abide by any ministry, they simply wish to use big money as the reagent in their desire to spread their false Christendom like cancer, and worship both Him and Mammon both. Every society warns us of those like them, from ancient tribes to Enlightenment secularists.

    I’m an atheist and even I’m offended at what they’ve done to religion.

  6. Elaine,
    Do we also have the right to question her sanity since she makes her lack of intelligence evident every time she speaks? 🙂

  7. When I hear statements like ” I hate taxes” from Michelle Bachmann and
    Rick Perry’s desire to make Washington, DC as inconseqential as possible
    in our daily lives , I become concerned. Are they really touting their faith
    or are they just using talking points? Their eagerness to please the rich
    and the powerful would seem to go against what the Bible teaches about
    caring for this world and caring for each other. When they pray to God are
    they really listening or are they trying to conform the ministry of Jesus to
    their own belief system?

  8. eniobob,

    Sometimes pictures leave the imagination wide open…I could turn it into a Flynt style moment….but I leave the production credits to Larry…

  9. AY:

    Can’t really say what I think,but” a picture is worth a thousand words”.

  10. Mike S.,

    “In Bachman’s case and in Rick Perry’s case their religion is central to both their campaigns, thus fair game for questioning.”

    I agree. If you wear your religion on your sleeve, people will take notice. Bachmann has made her religious beliefs part of her politics. We, therefore, have the right to question the religious beliefs of a presidential candidate like her.

  11. I agree with Swarthmore Mom and Mike S. on this one. Bachmann never hesitates to remind the listener of her religion and her desire to melt religion and government together.

  12. eniobob,

    Is she being submissive to the corned dog though? Any thoughts?

  13. As SwM so well reminded us the Rev. Wright issue dogged Obama and was considered fair game. In Obama’s case it wasn’t him who brought his religion up. In Bachman’s case and in Rick Perry’s case their religion is central to both their campaigns, thus fair game for questioning.

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