I, for one, do not believe Michele Bachmann was joking when she implied that Hurricane Irene was an act of God. Someone who is as devout a Christian as Bachmann is never completely joking when the word God enters a sentence. What’s more significant is that it doesn’t matter whether she was joking. Merely mentioning the word God in that context is enough to ignite a debate that should be taking place on the Right but sadly is not. No, Bachmann’s comment doesn’t quite sink to the level of Jerry Falwell’s post-9/11 vulgarity, but the Tea Party movement is in many ways a new fusionism, and for the first time in history, it’s not just liberals who might have a problem with Bachmann’s theistic identity politics.
Don’t hate me for bringing this up. It needs to be said. Candidates like Bachmann have not yet come to terms with the fact that vast numbers of young conservatives and libertarians take more cues from Barry Goldwater than they do from Russell Kirk (and it’s not yet totally clear how Bachmann’s church would treat Catholics like Kirk). Indeed, many younger conservatives are not interested in defending Bachmann’s religiosity, much less indulging it. I certainly am not. The same goes for Rick Perry.
There needs to be room in the conservative movement for saying things like, “Please don’t invoke the name of God in every speech.” This is not the same as uttering a favorite liberal sneer like “evangelical.” Nor should it be grounds for, excuse me, ex-communication from the Right. Faith should never be a means of rallying “the base”; it should remain emancipated from the theatrics of campaigning. This is something on which both theist and atheist conservatives ought to agree, or, at the very least, discuss.