Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin both gave their testimonies this weekend, and both to rapt audiences: one, to a movie theater, and the other, to an Assemblies of God Church.
Palin’s testimony was crafted by conservative filmmaker Steven K. Bannon in The Undefeated, which opened in 10 cities around the country. While Palinites munched on popcorn and high-fived each other on Twitter about the movie, Bachmann was working the pews at the Des Moines First Assembly of God church.
Who won the political box office weekend testimony fest? Bachmann.
Bachmann wins this weekend, and will continue to win the Christian credibility game because she is not afraid to put her evangelical street cred on the altar of public opinion. Bachmann may have her issues with her former church asking her to leave, her counselor husband who wants to “cure” gays, and her crazy talk, but she is the real deal in terms of an evangelical who can give her testimony. Bachmann’s testimony yesterday gave her narrative about being a sinner, getting saved, and watching Francis Schaeffer’s iconic film, How Then Shall We Live, with her then-boyfriend, Marcus Bachmann. She fluidly quoted scriptures and talked poignantly about her miscarriages and her heart for children. Bachmann ended with a short reflection on her favorite biblical character, Jonathan, David’s friend. She hit all the elemental notes of a “true” Christian testimony right out of the park.
Palin left her testimony to filmmaker Bannon, who is a student of Michael Moore and Leni Riefenstahl films, to craft not a religious story in the purest sense, but a testimony to her accomplishments as governor of Alaska. Replete with scenes of liberals trashing her, animals eating each other, and shots of Palin taking on big oil and big government, Palin’s testimony seems like another washed out politician on the big screen. Reviews of the movie have been scathing from most critics.
When the film screened in Pella, Iowa in June, Palin came dressed like a miniature Ronald Reagan in jeans with a big belt buckle with a red cross. Working the crowd, Palin gave a short, seemingly touching stump speech at the end of the film’s showing. Lately, though, Palin has been more interested in wearing her faith as a fashion statement, preferring to leave her Christian testimony for the “Pay to Pray” venues like Women of Joy in Oklahoma City this past April. Even then, she couldn’t muster up a clean narrative of her salvation, choosing rather to quote Max Lucado and Erma Brombeck. This is not the stuff of a Christian testimony.
Palin has a credibility problem. By dragging her feet in deciding to get into the race, she’s left the door open for Bachmann and Rick Perry to take the Super Christian narrative away from her. It will be increasingly difficult for Palin to cast her campaign, should she run, as the one that God has called. Perry’s prayer and fasting rodeo, Perry’s NAR Christian mafia, and Bachmann’s earnest testimonies have sucked all the air out of Palin’s flimsy testimony. Bachmann and Perry both are hitting the perfect pitch of Republicanity, while Palin has missed the bus by trusting her story to a right-wing filmmaker. Judging by her weird appearance on last week’s Hannity, where she repeated her trademark phase “don’t retreat, reload,” Palin is in fact in retreat, while Bachmann is reloading her testimony daily, starring in her own version of a Bachman Turner Overdrive video. “You ain’t seen nothing yet,” indeed.