When Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) was asked some pointed questions about her views on homosexuality and her relationship to God on NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday, she suggested that the questions were not relevant to the job of president and seemed more interested in talking about jobs and the economy.
The questioner, David Gregory, meanwhile, seemed oblivious to the views of many Christians in America.
One-third of Bachmann's 24 minute interview with Gregory was spent answering questions about her relationship with God, her views on homosexuality and what it means to be a submissive wife. This part of the interview seemed awkward from both ends of the table. Gregory was uninformed and antagonistic towards an understanding of prayer and homosexuality that is well within the mainstream of Christian thought, and Bachmann dodged most of the questions, rather than use the opportunity to talk about her faith.
Gregory’s line of questioning also seemed to suggest concern that if elected president, Bachmann would make decisions that, to her, would be made under God's guidance.
“To what extent does your relationship to God mean that you take cue's from God for decisions that you make and that you would make as president?” Gregory asked.
Bachmann did not answer the question directly, but talked about her religious upbringing in Iowa. So, Gregory tried again, “Would God guide your decisions as president of the United States?”
“As president of the United States, I would pray. I would pray and ask the Lord for guidance. That's what presidents have done throughout history, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln,” Bachmann answered.
Unsatisfied, Gregory interrupted Bachmann in the middle of her answer to say, “But you said 'God called me to run for Congress,' God has said certain things about going to law school, about certain other decisions in your life. There's a difference between God as a sense of comfort and safe harbor and inspiration, and God telling you to take a particular action.”
Gregory's question and tone suggested that appropriate prayers to God are only for a “sense of comfort, safe harbor and inspiration,” and prayers that seek guidance for answers to important questions such as whether to attend law school or run for Congress are inappropriate.
Rather than explain why her evangelical Christian beliefs teach that seeking God's guidance in decision-making is encouraged, Bachmann simply answered, “All I can tell you is what my experience has been. I'm extremely grateful to have a faith in God. I see that God is so blessed this country … I think it's important for us to seek His guidance and to pray and to listen to His voice.”
Bachmann was also asked to defend her views on homosexuality.
Gregory played a clip from a 2004 speech in which she said, “It's a very sad life. It's part of Satan, I think, to say that this is 'gay.' It's anything but 'gay.' … It leads to the personal enslavement of individuals. Because if you're involved in the gay and lesbian lifestyle, it's bondage. It is personal bondage, personal despair, and personal enslavement. And that's why this is so dangerous. We need to have profound compassion for people who are dealing with the very real issue of sexual dysfunction in their life and other sexual identity disorders.”
Though there is much debate about homosexuality, the belief that homosexuality is a sin and that sinners should be shown compassion is, again, well within mainstream Christian theology, especially among evangelical Christians. Yet again, when asked to defend these views, Bachmann avoided the opportunity to provide a full explanation.
“That is the view President Bachmann would have of gay Americans?” Gregory asked.
Bachmann suggested that the question was irrelevant to the job of president: “I am running for the presidency of the United States, I am not running to be anyone's judge. …”
“But you have judged them,” Gregory interrupted.
“I don't judge them. I am running for president of the United States,” Bachmann replied.
When pressed again, Bachmann said, “My view on marriage is that marriage is between a man and a woman and that is what I stand for. I ascribe honor and dignity to every person. No matter what their background they have honor and they have dignity.”
After Gregory pressed a couple more times for a more thorough answer, Bachmann said, “I am running for presidency of the United States, that's what is important.”
Ironically, while Bachmann has been viewed by many as a standard-bearer for social conservatives, she shows little interest in speaking out for the concerns of social conservatives.
Social conservatives used to quip that the problem with President George H. W. Bush is that he “walks the walk but doesn't talk the talk.” Bachmann would seem to fit in this mold as well. Based upon this interview, as president Bachmann would likely sign bills supported by social conservatives but would do little to promote their concerns in her public rhetoric.
During previous presidential campaign, conservatives, and social conservatives in particular, suggested that a candidate's personal religion and theology were important considerations. This point was especially prevalent in the controversy over Barack Obama's pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, in the 2008 presidential election. Bachmann now seems unwilling, or unable, to provide much more than a cursory explanation of her own religious views.
Also, the Meet the Press interview was yet another example of how disconnected many in the mainstream press are from the religious views of many Americans.