Tuesday, December 05, 2006

More Bachmann stuff...

From Dump Michelle Bachmann

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Bachmann's Political Roots

Now that it’s all over and the smoke has cleared and Michele is on her way to D.C.—let me tell you all a story about why I became so interested in the career of Michele B.

I started watching Bachmann shortly after I began doing a column in a local paper here in Stillwater. One thing I knew about Bachmann (something that had never appeared in the local papers) was the fact that she'd promoted her first political candidacy on local evangelical radio stations. The first time I heard her on the radio was on KKMS. She was being interviewed and speaking about her run for the local School Board in Stillwater.

Now that’s strange, I thought. Here’s a candidate for a local office, she's got the Republican endorsement--and she’s getting all this free airtime on a Christian radio station. The interviewer’s not asking her any “hardball” questions (as if it were a straight news interview)—instead, this sound more like an infomercial to me, with this Ms. Bachmann as the product. The radio station seems to be “promoting” her more than interviewing her.

I was driving, and I wasn’t employed by any paper then--so I didn’t take any notes. But another thing that struck at the time was what she was talking about. She was talking about something called “The Profile of Learning”, which was apparently some kind of education curriculum adopted by the state of Minnesota. I’d just moved to the state at that time and I didn’t know much about the Profile. But if you believed what Bachmann was saying—this Profile of Learning curriculum was apparently some kind of malign conspiracy by the Minnesota public schools to indoctrinate the state’s children instead of educating them.

And the person interviewing Bachmann (I can’t remember who it was) was letting this serious charge pass unchallenged. There was no “opposition candidate” or education professional on the program to challenge Bachmann’s assertions and defend this Profile of Learning thing. So a listener would be led to believe by Bachmann and the host that the Profile was basically a very bad, very dangerous thing that liberals in the Minnesota legislature and teachers in public education had foisted on the people of Minnesota.

Why did I find this interview and this candidate so interesting? Well, for one thing—I didn’t grow up around here. Back on the East Coast where I grew up, there weren’t that many evangelical broadcast outlets. (There are a lot more now. I’ve since learned that Salem Communications, which owns the radio station on which Bachmann appeared, is a growing very fast.)

In the New York/New Jersey area where I grew up, there was always regular religious broadcasting, but very little of it delved into local politics; candidates for elections and so forth. So it interested me that this station, whose announced purpose was witnessing for Christ, promoting Christian values and a Christian worldview--was also promoting a candidate in an election. Giving her free airtime to promote her candidacy, platform and agenda, in an unchallenged format. I listened to a lot of talk radio in New York, Boston and New Jersey—and I’d never run into anything like that before in religious broadcasting, even when it touched on public affairs.

And I’d been interested in local evangelical radio ever since I’d arrived in Minnesota. It fascinated me. Because it was clear that it wasn't just witnessing; spreading the Good News. It was also a business--witnessing for Christ, but with commercials in between the witnessing. On these evangelical stations they’d go seamlessly from a minister relating the story of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross into a commercial with “wacky sound effects” for an auto glass company—-and then, back to Christ bleeding on the cross.

And they’d do this with absolutely no self-consciousness about the bizarre impression they were giving of their faith to people who didn’t grow up with this kind of presentation of that faith. Just so you understand—-to me, presenting the case for Christ and Christianity along with radio commercials for auto glass and mortgage companies seemed as bizarre as if I’d wandered into a church somewhere and listened to a minister preach, only to see him pause halfway through the sermon to sell laundry detergent to the congregation “to support the ministry.”

After all—-I’d been led to understand that Protestants believed that the church wasn’t “the building” or “the institution”; it was the “body of believers, preaching the Word”—and here they were, in their Church, a sacred place-—selling diet plans, vitamin supplements, Total Drink Toilets and so forth. I’d never encountered this kind of religion before, maybe because I wasn’t familiar with the “traditions” of broadcast ministries.

As a child I’d been taught that there was the “sacred” and the “profane”, and that you didn’t combine the two, especially for the purpose of making money to make your living. It seemed to me to be a violation of a basic Christian tenet—that God’s name is sacred, and you don’t use it for secular purposes like making money, promoting businesses and incomes and careers and so forth. Religion, where I came from, was not business proposition.

I found it fascinating—-in part because the people listening obviously saw themselves as devout, and just as obviously weren’t conscious of any contradictions in this kind of ministry.

So I kept listening. And that’s how I found out that these people on the radio weren’t just selling auto glass and mortgages during their Christian witnessing—they were also selling political candidates.

Posted by Bill Prendergast

Indeed, the money involved in some religious institutions is downright disturbing...

I did get a question about the seperation of chruch and state issue in a town during the campaign. I was asked if I would support a church openly advocating for a political leader who identified with the values of the church.

I openly stated no. If the church is held to the IRS standard of a 501 C3, non-profit organization, much like 501 C3's I have worked for, than no. I would support the church creating a 501 C4 or a 527 in order to support a candidate or an issue. I do not think its right of a religious institution, but the law can afford for one through those guidelines.

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