Bachmann’s “Dangerous” Summit

In his New Yorker profile of Michele Bachmann, Ryan Lizza quotes the presidential hopeful as saying that after becoming interested in the teachings of David Noebel, “I went on to serve on the board of directors with Summit Ministries.” Noebel, the Christian anti-communism crusader who until recently led Summit, teaches that the “Christian worldview” is superior to other “worldviews,” including secular humanism, Islam, and Marxism-Leninism, which are on a coliision course with Christianity. 

Bachmann, however, did not serve on the board of Summit Ministries, according to its current executive director, John Stonestreet. Rather, she served on the board of a Minnesota non-profit, the Minnesota Summit Project, which was intended to encourage students in the state to attend Summit’s conferences. One of the founders of the Minnesota Summit Project was Jack Oakes, who was also one of the founders of The King’s College in New York City, whose current president is Dinesh D’Souza, the conservative pundit who argues that President Obama is motivated by “Kenyan anti-colonialism.” Last year, Noebel spoke at King’s, where he lectured students about what he claimed are the dangers posed by secular humanism and socialism to Christianity.

Bachmann, while campaigning for Congress in 2008, told the Summit-sponsored Christian Worldview radio program that “we need more biblical worldview” and “the principles that God stands for.” 

Oakes’ son Pat Oakes, who according to the Minnesota Summit Project’s tax returns served as its president, would not comment on whether Bachmann had served on its board, even though the tax returns show that she did. Tax returns are available online for the filing years 2001-2009, and show Bachmann’s service on the board from 2001 through the middle of 2008. Oakes said that the organization is “legally still viable” but is in the process of liquidating its assets. The 2009 tax return shows it donated computer and other equipment to The King’s College.

Bachmann served in the Minnesota Senate from 2000 through 2006, when she was first elected to Congress. While a state senator, she endorsed the book, Advancing the Kingdom: Declaring War On Humanistic Culture by Donald Schanzenbach, who volunteered for the Minnesota Summit Project, according to his biography. The book, according to Schanzenbach, is “designed as a manual for the rebuilding of Christian civilization on Biblical principles.” Bachmann’s endorsement called it “a much needed look at the ideas that made America great.”

According to website archive, the Minnesota Summit Project was formed in 1994. Its 2001 mission statement declares it was intended “to follow God’s command to teach our youth a Christian worldview; to teach them how to love the Lord with all their heart and soul; to show them how their faith is validated by the world around them; and equip them with the reasoning tools required to survive in a hostile world.” In 2002, its mission statement described it as “a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to helping equip Christians to know and understand the TRUTH.”

“Caution,” the website warned in 2004, “the information contained on this web site may cause you to become dangerous!”

The internet archive shows an amateurish site dedicated largely to attacks on evolution and encouraging students to question their teachers according to their “Christian worldview.” It touted “learning tools” on secular humanism, cosmic humanism, Marxist/Leninist ideology, evolution, and atheism. The site provides a window into Bachmann’s approach to politics, and in particular how she positions herself as being on a divine mission against hostile or anti-Christian forces, her opposition to public education, and her flip dismissals of science, such as when she told Fox News this week that the Gardasil vaccine may cause mental retardation. (Noebel notoriously penned a pamphlet in the ’60s which charged that rock music was a communist plot to make teenagers retarded.) But Bachmann has been under fire even from conservatives over the Gardasil comment.

The Minnesota Summit Project also produced radio and television segments and hosted speakers at local venues, most notably events that featured anti-evolution speakers. “Taught to believe that evolution is true?” the Project asked in advertising an event with Phillip Johnson, considered the father of the intelligent design movement. “Hmmm. The deck is stacked against you when you discuss creation and evolution. How about a silver bullet. . . . from the guy that caused the foremost evolutionist in the world to admit that evolution is not science?”

As Lauri Lebo reported for RD last year, Johnson is the brains behind the Discovery Institute’s Wedge Document, the aim of which is to “defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural, and political legacies; and to replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God.” Rather than promoting the typical creationist argument that the earth is only 6,000 years old, Lebo reported, “Johnson called for creationists to focus first on overthrowing ‘scientific materialism’ to make way for supernatural explanations.”

In 2004, the Minnesota Summit Project offered this advice for confronting professors and teachers who don’t teach from a “Christian worldview:”

Have you even been in class and the prof says something that you know is stupid but you don’t know what to say?

How about this…”that’s gotta be the dumbest thing ever uttered in the English language”.

So after you transfer to a new school you may want to try it differently.

How about this?

“What do you mean by that?”  (Always pin them down first. They can be weasels…positions change frequently.)

“How do you know that that is true?” Sounds innocuous, but it’s very powerful, so use it carefully.

“Where do you get your information?” Isn’t it fun to watch them squirm?

“What if you’re wrong?” This is the verbal equivalent of atomic warfare so be sure you have a relationship with the prof before asking it.

The Bachmann campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

 

Sarah Posner, author of God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters, covers politics and religion. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Atlantic, The American ProspectThe NationSalon, and other publications. Follow her on TwitterRSS feed Email