Ryan Lizza’s New Yorker piece on Michele Bachmann, which focuses on the Tea Party candidate’s influences, is the current talk of the political world. The article delves deep into Bachmann’s ideological roots, showcasing a number of books and films by her favorite far-right Christian thinkers. Here are a few of the highlights from Bachmann’s reading list.
According to Lizza, Bachmann traces her conversion to evangelical Christianity to a series of films by theologian Frances Schaeffer entitled “How Should We Then Live?” condemning everything from the Italian Renaissance to modern day government conspiracies.
The iconic image from the early episodes is Schaeffer standing on a raised platform next to Michelangelo’s “David” and explaining why, for all its beauty, Renaissance art represented a dangerous turn away from a God-centered world and toward a blasphemous, human-centered world. But the film shifts in the second half. In the sixth episode, a mysterious man in a fake mustache drives around in a white van and furtively pours chemicals into a city’s water supply, while Schaeffer speculates about the possibility that the U.S. government is controlling its citizens by means of psychotropic drugs.
Bachmann also highlighted Schaeffer follower Nancy Pearce’s recent book, “Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity,” as a “wonderful” read. Per Lizza, the book urges readers to be skeptical of any non-Christian ideas, because even though they may be right some of the time “the overall systems of thought constructed by nonbelievers will be false” unless built on “Biblical truth.”
Earlier in her political career, Bachmann recommended a biography of Robert E. Lee by J. Steven Wilkins on her State Senate campaign site under “Michele’s Must Read List.”
In it Wilkins describes the Civil War as a holy conflict between the godly South and heathen North and writes that “most southerners strove to treat their slaves with respect and provide them with a sufficiency of goods for a comfortable, though—by modern standards—spare existence” and that the institution bred “mutual esteem” between races as slaves adopted Christianity. Bachmann recently came under fire for signing onto a social conservative pledge that suggested African Americans families were better off under slavery (she and the group subsequently disavowed the language.)
Bachmann personally worked as a research assistant with a fundamentalist law professor, John Eidsmoe, on his 1987 book “Christianity and the Constitution,” and she still tells audiences that Eidsmoe had a major influence on her thinking. Eidsmoe has left behind a trail of racial controversy — as recently as 2005 he spoke at the Council of Conservative Citizens, the same white supremacist group that helped cost Trent Lott his Majority Leader post, and he’s passionately talked up confederate states’ “right to secede.”
Finally, there’s David Noebel, whose ministry Bachmann participated in, and who spread some interesting theories through the John Birch Society back in the day, including pamphlets on “The Homosexual Revolution: End Time Abomination,” and “Communism, Hypnotism, and the Beatles.”
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.