Could Michele Bachmann’s Beliefs Increase Nuclear Risk?

Yesterday’s reports that Michele Bachmann won the Iowa Republican straw poll raise a largely-overlooked, potential nuclear risk: What if a president welcomed nuclear Armageddon as part of God’s plan to bring about the Second Coming of Christ? Of course, I do not know all of Bachmann’s beliefs, and certainly not all Christians who believe the battle of Armageddon is a necessary precursor to the Second Coming would welcome nuclear war. But some fundamentalist beliefs have the potential to increase the risk of a nuclear disaster and deserve greater attention. Here is some of the evidence that leads me to that conclusion:

Slate has an audio recording of a 2008 Bachmann sermon that includes language strongly reminiscent of dangerous, Christian End Times beliefs: “the harvest is at hand. … and I thank you, O God, that you are literally right now by faith you are lighting a fire – a fire of the Gospel – that would sweep this city, but even more so that it would sweep Minnesota, and that Minnesota would just become a burning incense, a sweet smelling incense of praise and sacrifice into your Kingdom.” (If you don’t have time to listen to all five minutes, the most important part starts at 4:18 and takes only 40 seconds.)

Frank Schaeffer, formerly a major figure in the Evangelical movement and now a strong critic, had an article last week that states:

In a profile published earlier this week, the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza talked about Bachmann’s radical right-wing influences, which include the most extremist figures in the history of the religious right movement. One of these was my evangelical leader father, Francis Schaeffer. Bachmann says in the New Yorker article that she got into politics because she watched a film series I directed called “How Should We Then Live,” written by and featuring my dad.

What the New Yorker article doesn’t do is explain why people like Bachmann, Sarah Palin, et al. turned to the hard reactionary anti-government right. … I think it’s important to understand this. So let me add what the New Yorker left out. …  [Michele Bachmann] is a Reconstructionist, schooled – literally – by some of that obscure movement’s leading thinkers, including my father. … 

This theology [Reconstructionism] was the American version of the attempt in some Muslim countries to impose Shariah (Islamic law) on all citizens, Muslims and non-Muslims alike. … How far would the Reconstructionists go? [Reconstructionism leader Gary] North, writes, “The question eventually must be raised: Is it a criminal offence to take the name of the Lord in vain? When people curse their parents, it unquestionably is a capital crime (Exodus. 21:17). The son or daughter is under the lawful jurisdiction of the family. The integrity of the family must be maintained by the threat of death. Clearly, cursing God (blasphemy) is a comparable crime, and is therefore a capital crime (Leviticus. 24:16).”

A 2009 University of Minnesota report states:

On the issue of Obama’s proposed cap-and-trade energy tax on Saturday’s radio show, Representative Bachmann expanded on the war metaphor: “I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax because we need to fight back. Thomas Jefferson told us ‘having a revolution every now and then is a good thing,’ and the people – we the people – are going to have to fight back hard if we’re not going to lose our country. And I think this has the potential of changing the dynamic of freedom forever in the United States.”

Martin Hellman

I emphasize the importance of critical thinking in avoiding a nuclear disaster (see pages 12-27 of Handout #6 from my Stanford seminar for an explanation), and part of that approach is to question what we read in the press. I have not exhaustively researched each of the articles cited here, and would not be surprised if there were some errors. However, the large number of independent assertions, on different issues lead me to believe that there is enough evidence that society should not overlook this potential nuclear risk. For more such evidence, see Handout #4 pages 8-15 of my Stanford seminar notes.

Further Reading
God’s Law is the Only Law: The Genesis of Michele Bachmann” illuminates the intellectual underpinnings of the law school that educated Bachmann .

An article that notes, “If Bachmann’s oppostion — and that of some of her fellow Tea Partiers — to raising the debt ceiling seems fraught with a fervor best described as religious, perhaps that’s because it is.”

“The True Believer: Can Michele Bachmann’s faith and fervor carry her past Iowa?” is an article in the August 8, 2011 issue of TIME, (pages 28-31) that states:

Polls show Bachmann running first in Iowa, … a state where 60% of caucusgoers called themselves Evangelicals in 2008 … In a 2006 lecture at a Minneapolis megachurch, Bachmann explained that she wants God to look at her and say, “She’s hot,” because she is “hot for Jesus Christ.” In another 2006 sermon, Bachmann said she believes “we are in the last days” and that “the harvest is at hand” – an apparent reference to the biblical Rapture, when believers say they will be sent to heaven. That idea resonates with voters like Becky Magee [an Iowa Bachmann supporter]. “We’re in the last days of this world as we know it,” Magee said. “I think Jesus is coming to get us. I think we will be raptured soon.”

The New Yorker article referred to above.

An article on Texas Governor Rick Perry’s entry into the race raises similar questions about him. The video clip from the Rachel Maddow show is well worth watching.

What You Can Do
If you agree that society’s complacency about nuclear weapons is unwarranted, please share this blog post with friends and read the home page of our related web site. At the end, it lists four simple, but effective actions you can take.

About Martin Hellman

I am a professor at Stanford University, best known for my invention of public key cryptography -- the technology that protects the secure part of the Internet, such as electronic banking. But, since 1982, my primary interest has been how fallible human beings can survive possessing nuclear weapons, where even one mistake could be catastrophic. My latest project is a book, co-written with my wife Dorothie, with the audacious subtitle "Creating True Love at Home & Peace on the Planet." It's on Amazon and a free PDF can be downloaded from its website:
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