Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Protestant Politics of Michele Bachmann

(Hat tip to Atlas Shrugs.)

As it should surprise no one, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann takes a strongly right wing stance in favor of Israel and lashes out against President Obama. One can certainly discuss whether or not Ms. Bachmann's policies would be good for Israel. What interests me here is how textbook Evangelical Protestant she is. She talks about growing up as a lover of Israel, seeing the Old Testament and biblical Israel as the necessary foundation of Christianity. She even spent time volunteering in Israel.

It is important to understand how rooted this attitude is within Protestantism, one of whose foundations is a turn to the Bible and particularly the Old Testament. In practice this emphasis on the Old Testament has consistently led to philo-Semitic views of Jews as in some sense continuing to be the chosen people of God. This holds for Protestants as long as they root themselves within the Old Testament; the moment they depart from this view, the consequences are severe. It was not a coincidence that the German Christian Church under the Nazis divested iteself from the Old Testament and even rejected "that Jewish Rabbi Paul."

Ms. Bachmann also talks about the importance of democracy. This too is rooted in her Protestant use of the Old Testament. Early modern Protestants read the Old Testament as a political document and took from it such notions covenant, which led to the contract theory of government, and individual autonomy in seeking salvation. (See The Hebrew Republic. Of course many early modern Protestants also took from the Old Testament the idea that the government should tax the wealthy to support the poor, but you cannot expect everything to pass over.)

Whether or not you support Ms. Bachmann, (and I do not) it is important to understand that her support for Israel and democracy are genuine. They just do not fit in within liberal understandings of supporting Israel and democracy. Ms. Bachmann's views, though, of the world are not rooted in liberalism, modern or classical, they are rooted in Protestantism. Any discussion of the American right today needs to start with a serious understanding of that Protestant tradition.


Arlen Williams said...

Belief is obviously not the problem. What one believes in obviously is. People who believe the Old and New Testaments are the most positive human forces for good in this world, by their overall history.

Rosten said...

I have a few problems with prtestant tradion. Though I grew up in a area that was basically going by John Calvin (Orange County California) which was wholesome and clean, I find the idea of virtual virtue to be a problem. At least to the other streams of Christianity in order to be considered righteous (or saved) you actually have to be righteous. You can't be wicked and then because you believe in Jesus you are accounted righteous. This does not sit with me at all.

Nor is it what Augustine wrote. He wrote: "one is saved by faith". Luther added the key word "alone".
I just don't see the protestants as any improvement on the Catholic church --- except that by critizing it they made it better --maybe)

Izgad said...

For Protestants, faith is supposed to lead to good works. So if a person is not doing good, he probably never had faith to begin with no matter how loud he shouts the name of Jesus. I imagine that both Luther and Calvin would have a special place in hell for televangelists.

Rosten said...

yes but a lot of things are supposed to work--but actually don't. How can you make a shita (principle)) pushes aside a main thing by saying that if you have this side thing that will bring to the main thing?
and after all i dont see that protestants every came close to the uncountable amount of hospitals and schools and universities and orphanages created by catholics even taking the shorter period of protestant history into account. And also the fundamentalist Protestants are still against Evolution! (Oh Vay!)
So while I appreciate some of the great ideas of Luther and Calvin Protantants (individualism--which was borrowed by Rebbi Nachman) and the creation of the USA which is founded on john Calvin, still see great limitations of the protestant theory.