Bachmann's vague faith appeal

I'm not a huge fan of news stories about advertisements because it seems a little lazy on the media end for not finding more original stories and it often just fuels the ad even more. Some outlets do a nice job of fact checking the ads to make sure the claims are accurate, but there's a lot of wasted energy on "X releases ad targeting opponent."

For the same reason, I'm not a huge fan of this piece in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune on Michele Bachmann's attempts to build a base among "the faithful." We saw similar coverage after Tim Pawlenty released a video about his faith, but I couldn't figure out what the fuss was about. Politicians are trying to build their base and many of them target certain niche groups, the end. In this case, we learn only that Bachmann is targeting "the faithful," which is a pretty broad umbrella term for people who have some sort of faith.

One of the most electrifying moments in Michele Bachmann's quest for the White House came last Sunday when she took to the pulpit of an evangelical mega-church in this city's suburban edge.

There were no campaign banners, no attacks on President Obama, not even any mention of next month's all-important Republican straw poll in Ames.

It's odd that the reporter would assume that there would be campaign banners. Someone help me: couldn't the church risk losing their nonprofit status if campaigning took place at a church? Maybe not, but I wouldn't expect campaign banners or opponent attacks for a church visit from someone running for president.

In an early-voting state where the majority of Republican caucusgoers are religious conservatives, Bachmann has shot to the top of the polls.

As much as anywhere else, her faith message has resonated deeply here, giving traction to a presidential campaign that has taken a skeptical party establishment by surprise.

The underlying assumption here is that if Iowans are polling heavily for Bachmann, her message must do well among people who are religious. In a recent poll, we saw that the number of evangelicals is slightly higher than the national average, so it's unclear where the reporter is basing his assumption.

In the following paragraphs, check out the description of the church between the quotes and then the description of the biblical story of Nehemiah.

"Her focus here was strictly to share her faith story," said Brittney Roorda of Des Moines' First Assembly of God church, a conservative church that teaches that those who reject Christ are damned to a lake of fire. "She did not go into any political leanings, or ask for a vote or any sort of endorsement."

According to Roorda, the church's lead pastor invited Bachmann to speak because "he realized her faith story fit with the Nehemiah series that we're in right now." The Old Testament Book of Nehemiah focuses on the importance of leadership.

Where did the reporter find the description that the church "teaches that those who reject Christ are damned to a lake of fire"? Is that the highlight of the bulletin? Also, that is one vague description for the book of Nehemiah, where if you do a quick wiki search, you could be more specific about the man who worked on purifying the Jewish community and rebuilding Israel. Perhaps the reporter could have asked Roorda what she meant when she saw parallels between Bachmann and Nehemiah.

Generally, the article does nothing to help us understand Bachmann's faith. If you read this piece with no background, you would have no context of her background, formerly attending a church belonging to the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. Even a one-sentence recap would give readers a little context.

The reporter finds a few anecdotes of people saying how they feel about Bachmann and portrayal of the media, but none of the examples are backed up by anything more substantial.

Born-again Christians like Rabe feel their beliefs are under attack as well. "We have a right to our opinions,'' she said. "We think it's radical on the other side."

For the faithful, Bachmann doesn't always have to be right on the issues. "People are looking for convictions, not positions," said Deace, explaining Bachmann's popularity despite the barrage of withering political attacks that would flatten most candidates.

The article does little to tell us whether "the faithful" are interested in her, like whether they are polling in stronger numbers for her than other Republican candidates. Otherwise, after you strip some of the "moral crusade" language, the Star-Tribune might as well be doing an advertising piece with nothing but fluff.

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

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