Freethought San Marcos: A column
by LAMAR W. HANKINS
In this revelatory time, it should come as no surprise that there are lots of revelations going around. Michele Bachmann has announced frequently that God has told her to do various things. When she ran for a seat in Congress in 2006, she said this:
“God then called me to run for the United States Congress. And I thought, what in the world would that be for? And my husband said ‘You need to do this.’ And I wasn’t so sure. And we took three days, and we fasted and we prayed. And we said ‘Lord, is this what you want? Is this Your will?’ And after — along about the afternoon of day two — He made that calling sure. And it’s been now 22 months that I’ve been running for United States Congress. Who in their right mind would spend two years to run for a job that lasts for two years? You’d have to be absolutely a fool to do that. You are now looking at a fool for Christ. This is a fool for Christ.”
Bachmann has now gone through another period of decision-making that has culminated in another message from God that she should run for President of the United States. She told Iowa Public Television at the end of May that she has “had that calling” to run for President. Apparently, God also has told her that part of her job as a representative is to oppose the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act approved in 2010, which she refers to as “Obamacare.” In addition, she has celestial marching orders to oppose the teaching of evolution, to let Glenn Beck solve the debt crisis, to repeal the minimum wage, to reject 99% of climate scientists who have identified the evidence that climate change is at least partly manmade, to oppose gay marriage, and to obey a whole host of other directives from God. Apparently, if Michele Bachmann is for it or against it, the sole reason is because God has told her what position to take.
Bachmann is not the only politician to receive a revelation from God to run for political office, including the Presidency. It happened to Mike Huckaby, Newt Gingrich, and Sarah Palin, among others.
I suppose that some people are comforted by politicians who tell them that what the politicians are doing is directed by God. But I’m skeptical about such claims. First, the claims can’t be verified. We have only the word of the politician that a revelation has come from God. Even when these politicians appear to have the highest level of sincerity, probity, and righteousness, it is impossible to know that they’ve actually received a revelation from God. After all, the stage, television, and movies aren’t the only places where we find good actors.
I haven’t found the particular brand of religion followed by these revelation-receiving politicians a reliable way to judge their veracity either. Revelations seem to come from evangelicals of all kinds, from Catholics, from Mormons, from Baptists, and maybe even from some Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and Methodists (although Methodists are known mainly for getting warm feelings in their hearts–an experience I had at a younger age).
Character is also an unreliable measure of the truthfulness of reports of revelations from politicians. Newt Gingrich, for instance, delivered divorce papers to a former wife while she was in the hospital recovering from cancer surgery. That doesn’t demonstrate much character. Michele Bachmann has virtually disowned her half-sister after she made public that she was lesbian. While I can’t judge Bachmann in any religious way for her rejection of her half-sister, such abnegation of another person for her love of a person of the same sex seems, at best, cruel, not in keeping with Jesus’s kindness toward prostitutes and others whose behaviors were disappointing to him.
The positions politicians take on political issues give no clue as to the authenticity of their revelations from God. Some are for capital punishment; others against it. Some are for universal health care; others oppose it. Some are for raising the debt ceiling; others see that as a lack of appropriate stewardship of our God-given resources. Some support our military ventures in the Middle East; others see them as a great moral failing, condemned by God. Some apparently believe God is OK with extramarital affairs; others view such actions as sinful. On man-made climate change, the revelatory politicians are all over the ballpark. So political positions don’t give me guidance about which politicians have really received revelations from God and which haven’t.
I’ve looked at general credibility as a guide to whether a politician has been called by God to be a political leader. With regard to Bachmann, Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone provided a litany of falsehoods she has put forward: “She launched a fierce campaign against compact fluorescent lights, claiming that the energy-saving bulbs contain mercury and pose a ‘very real threat to children, disabled people, pets, senior citizens.’ She blasted the 2010 census as a government plot and told people not to comply because the U.S. Constitution doesn’t require citizens to participate, when in fact it does. She told her constituents to be ‘armed and dangerous’ in their resistance to cap-and-trade limits on climate-warming pollution. She insisted that Obama’s trip to India cost taxpayers $200 million a day, and claimed that Nancy Pelosi had spent $100,000 on booze on state-paid flights aboard military jets.”
Recently she has denied a report by the Los Angeles Times that she has benefited from government subsidies given to her husband’s counseling clinic and a family farm, though she reports income from both businesses on federal financial disclosures.
Based on her work with the Maple River Education Coalition in Minnesota, Bachmann apparently believes that public school teachers should not encourage children to share because sharing is too socialistic. She believes that the federal government is moving us toward “one-world government” that will control us by pushing sustainable development, pantheism, evolution, socialized medicine, and other nefarious concepts. As bizarre as some of these ideas sound to many people–Taibbi has called them part of Bachmann’s “lunacy”–they are not useful as a way to judge the authenticity of her revelation that she is called by God to be president.
After considering all these matters, what I’m left with are some revelations of my own. It seems that God–the same God from whom Michele Bachmann receives her revelations–has revealed to me that I should not vote for any politician who claims to be called by God to seek political office. A further revelation of mine is that God will not take positions on political issues. What I can’t understand is why God would give people such contradictory messages. Could it be that such revelations are merely projections of the individuals who report them? Or maybe such people can’t make a persuasive argument that justifies our support without claiming divine sanction. I haven’t been able to figure it out. It’s all just a mystery, I guess.
© Lamar W. Hankins, Freethought San MarcosEmail | Print