No, you're not

T.A. Barnhart

No, you're not

"We're strong people of faith," explained Bachmann. "My husband and I gave our lives to the Lord when we were 16 years of age and so that's been a long time now. ... And I can't say enough how important that's been to us to give us that rock of assurance on which path we should go.”

I gave my life to the Lord when I was 14, so I know exactly what Michelle Bachmann is talking about. I know a lot about the conservative religionist movement that goes by the name of “evangelical Christianity” because I lived in the movement for ten years of my life. I was, in fact, even more hardcore than most evangelicals: I was also a charismatic, believing in and practicing the “gifts of the Holy Spirit” after having been “baptized in the Spirit”. I spoke in tongues, and I marveled at “the Lord” revealing His will and wisdom to us through His modern “prophets”.

And please pardon all the quotes; just like Bachmann’s so-called faith, none of it was true. Which does not mean it’s not real. It simply is not what the evangelicals and charismatics purport it to be. Their beliefs are real — beliefs in things that do not really exist — but their faith, for the most part, is as real as the love they demonstrate to those they see as sinners.

And as Jesus taught (via the fanfic we now call the New Testament), You shall know them by their works.

Fred Rogers was a devout Christian. He was, as is too often forgotten, an ordained minister. A Presbyterian. His mission from the church was to work through television, and that he did, bringing a message of peace, kindness, creativity, fun, and self-acceptance to the little ones (and their parents) who visited his neighborhood each day. At no point did Mister Rogers ever feel the slightest need to mention God or church or morality or any of the “fundamentals” with which the Christianists are determined to beat America, and the world, into submission.

“By their fruit you will recognize them” said Jesus to his followers. In the time following his death and resurrection, the identifying characteristics of Christians came to be known as the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23):

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Peace? Gentleness? Long-suffering? Does anyone look at those words and think Michelle Bachmann? Sarah Palin? Glenn Beck?

Goodness and the racist, homophobic anger against a black President or gay Americans?

Forbearance? That means, according to, “patient self-control; restraint and tolerance” and is related to the word abstinence: “the fact or practice of restraining oneslef from indulging in something”. Seriously, at what part of modern political Christianism does one see the slightest hint of forbearance — of tolerance? I suppose one could count not immediately murdering every person who works at Planned Parenthood, but I’m not sure that’s what Paul had in mind when he wrote to the believers at Galatia.

Gentleness, of course, is the word that most often comes to mind when discussing MisterRogers’ Neighborhood. If, like me, you spent many years watching the show with your young children, you would also learn to associate the words kindness, forbearance, peace, love and joy — I can think of no person who embodied joy more than Fred Rogers. He loved showing his young viewers (and their skeptical parents) musicians, artists, dancers, and creatives of all sorts. He had so much fun visiting his “neighbors” and discovering their amazing lives. And every Friday, when they ran the long credits at the end of the show, the jazz trio that provided musical accompaniment to the show would rock out. Watch that part of the show one day and listen to the trio let go and just have fun.

When’s the last time anyone saw that from those like Bachmann who are attempting to set themselves up as our religious overlords? Bachmann spreads fear, untruths, dissension, and, yes, hate. Those who are drawn to her words and acts are not those seeking spiriting guidance and awakening; she attracts those who already share her non-Christian beliefs and are looking for a political leader to bring their warped version of Christianity to power. And acting in non-spiritual ways, depending on the things of men — political power — rather than the will of God, which is far more sublime and less satisfying in this world, is the epitome of faithlessness.

Michelle Bachmann has no faith in God. She has faith in political power, and she worships the god she (and Fox News) have created: herself. Those who have a true faith in God, like Fred Rogers, are content to live out the fruits of the Spirit and leave the big outcomes to the Big Guy. After all, Jesus instructed his followers to give to the state what belonged to the state (you know: render unto Caesar…) and to give God what belongs to God.

And in all my time studying the Bible, which I did with fervor for many years, I found nothing to guide me to take over any human government.

Michelle Bachmann, Glenn Beck and the rest love to claim a holy purpose to their work, debunkings of which exist in plenty. I’ll simply add one more, in light of my brief exposition to you, the sinful, of the Fruits of the Spirit; and that is:

You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! (Acts 7:51)
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:30)
How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? (Hebrews 10:29)
And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. (Matthew 12:31–32)

The final warning came from Jesus and was spoken against the greatest opponents to true religious beliefs of his days, the Pharisees, the ones who took the writings of the Prophets and used them to control the people for political and material power. If today’s Pharisees truly believe in Christ the Savior and the words of the New Testament, they would be wise to heed the words of Jesus and return to a true practice of faith, demonstrating the Fruits of the Spirit in their political lives. If they cannot, they leave us with two conclusions:

They will be unforgiven by God for their blasphemy against the Spirit.

Or they are liars abusing the religious hopes of millions.

Either way, they can go to hell.

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    I don't like her and believe that she and others often misuse the Christian faith for partisan political gain but I'm not in a position to totally dismiss her faith. I won't say she isn't a Christian. That is between her and God.

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    I stopped attending church partly because of the hypocrisy I saw. I don't think the book you worship or the church you attend says as much about you as how you live your life. I am offended they get away with calling themselves Christians and I think they have a lot of nerve using their religion to manipulate others...

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      There are churches that reflect the teaching in Mr. Rogers neighborhood. Sometimes you have to look harder than you should, but they are there.

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    Judge me by how I live my life, not where I spend my Sundays.

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    Nicely done TA. It will never be a "beautiful day" in Ms. Bachmann's neighborhood...

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    Religion is something different for every religious person...that is the nature of faith-based can't really check your answer. That is why it is insane to rely on faith-based ideology, i.e., religious fantasy to understand the world.

    Faith-based ideology is undoubtedly one of the most destructive forces on Earth and Congresswoman Michelle Bachman is a terrific example. Without faith, complete morons like herself would get nowhere. Unfortunately faith-based ideology is provided special protection from criticism. Completely unsupported ridiculous ideas about the nature of reality are treated as if they are somehow reasonable and intrinsically good. The sooner we allow all ideas to be given equal scrutiny, the sooner we will lift enormous blockades of human progress.

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    Many people that claim a religious belief appear to either not understand the basics of their claimed religion, pick and choose the parts they want to follow or ignore the teaching entirely....either way, it's a shame because they then give their fellow followers who DO try to follow rightly a bad name and reputation.

    Personally, I was raised where "being saved" was something everyone did and if you didn't do it by a certain age, everyone started looking at you oddly. So, I took the pledge and "committed myself to Christ" all the while feeling like a hypocrite because I didn't really believe and didn't understand how people could believe. But I was in my early teens and it was expected. The closest I ever got to "believing" was when I was being baptised in December of that year---as I, a non-believer, was being dunked in baptismal tank, the preacher accidentally let go of me and I whacked my head on the marble steps, sustaining a concusion. Then, being loaded soaking wet into the car to go to the hospital in 10 degree weather I caught a cold which turned into pneumonia. This incident was the only time I ever truly started wondering if there was a "god"....and I still concluded there was not.

    People who use their power---be it via religion, politics, leadership----only for personal gain or to harm others are evil and I don't need to be religious to understand evil. Bachmann falls into this category for me.

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    Very well written, and I very much concur with your sentiments. I, too, have been in evangelical circles for many years and am often putt-off by the sects within Christianity that attempt to marry their faith with politics. This happens to the point where some churches believe if you're not conservative, you must be led astray. They don't realize they are worshiping an idol, and not God Himself.

    Several of the disciples looked to Jesus to "take over" the world and the Roman government through politics and even war. Jesus disappointed them all because his purpose was beyond that, because his concern was more about changing man's heart, and not his political ideology.

    Ephesians 6:12 "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."

    As a conservative, I'm often appalled and disgusted with the way in which God's name is used to push political agendas. It's blasphemy at it's worst, in my opinion.

    Thanks again for sharing.

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    t.a., Have you come across the essay "Evangelical Teaching" (from the 1850s) by the great British novelist and essayist Mary Ann Evans, who wrote under the pen name of George Eliot?

    "Given, a man of moderate intellect, a moral standard not higher than average, some rhetorical affluence and great glibness of speech . . . let such a man become an evangelical preacher; he will then find it possible to reconcile small ability with great ambition, superficial knowledge with the prestige of erudition, a middling morale with a high reputation for sanctity."

    And so on. And if I had the energy I would add a list of Elmer Gantry style evangelical fakes who have been exposed over the last hundred years, no, over the last twenty years. But, what's the need?

    Sometime in the not-distant future, given that we avoid a breakdown in social continuity caused by, say, climate chaos or nuclear explosions, people will look back in wonder at this superstitious age we're now living in.

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    "Given, a man of moderate intellect, a moral standard not higher than average, some rhetorical affluence and great glibness of speech . . . let such a man become an evangelical preacher; he will then find it possible to reconcile small ability with great ambition, superficial knowledge with the prestige of erudition, a middling morale with a high reputation for sanctity."


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      no. Obama is a man of great ability, deep knowledge, and a proven record of dedication to his community. his is a life of service, one that no political smears can tarnish. his rhetorical abilities spring in large part from his belief in what he does - beliefs proven genuine because he has always backed them up with the path he walked.

      if you wish to demean a person, do so without an open-ended question that is easily turned about on you with a simple "no". one learns this in, of all places, retail sales.

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        Well said T.A. Both in your piece, and in reply to Rob's attempt to smear Barack Obama.

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        t.a., I happen to agree with what you say here about Obama--but does that make him a pregressive leader? You and a majority of democrats seem to believe that the raw takeover by the oligarchy that we're seeing is opposed by Obama, but how could you prove it? Of course he's no TR or FDR or Harry Truman or even Dwight Eisenhower, but will he ever stand up against this onslaught? Obama's handlers now seem to be locked exclusively on to making deals for getting him reelected in 2012 from right of center. Could it be that progressives should get busy finding a progressive candidate?

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          While reasonable people can debate how far left, center-left, center, or center-right the Obama administration is or isn't (and I disagree with your take on Obama on this) any progressive looking to challenge Obama from the left is delusional.

          The only thing a third party challenges would do is hand the keys of the White House of to the GOP candidate.

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            I meant to add not just third party challengers from the left in the general, but also primary challengers within the party.

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              Mitchell, I understand your position. Though it doesn't follow from your recognition of the real Obama!

              But--there may well be a far-right challenge in the general election to the corporate republican nominee, presumably Romney. If so, that's a 3-way. If so, a progressive party candidate would make it a 4-way and all bets would be off. Another question is, what if there's not that much difference, really, between Obama and Romney (or whoever) in relation to the wishes of the oligarchy? Finally, what happened to Obama voters at midterm? Is it really crazy to assume that the farther right he goes, the fewer youth and progressive voters he will get anyway? So in that case he goes down to defeat by a Romney anyway. I'm interested in who might emerge as a powerful progressive alternative, but the process needs to get going. Why be gamed yet again by Obama?

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                Mitchell, I see that I misread your first sentence above and so I can't claim that you recognize the "real Obama" that I describe. Sorry--

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    I'm not sure that it's hypocrisy, as much as it is an inability to reconcile Christianity (as taught by Christ) with capitalism. Christ never taught about the accumulation of weath as being a good thing (actually, he taught exactly the opposite). And since the beatitudes cannot be reconciled with our country's economic foundations, particularly those espoused by the Right, I'd never expect any politician to have political views that matched Christ's teachings.

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