Ryan Lizza’s reporting on Michele Bachmann’s intellectual background is invaluable. It allows for past statements that Bachmann has made which sound utterly bizarre to be placed into context. For example: were you aware that Bachmann believes there is a link between postmodern philosophy and efforts to curtail abstinence education?
In an interview from June 25, 2003, with the Christian radio show Issues, Etc. Minnesota State Senator Michele Bachmann discussed the pernicious influence of postmodernism and how it was undermining the culture:
Postmodernism goes ones step beyond humanism. And it says ‘there is no final authority.’ Man isn’t even a final authority. Reality is what I want it to be. I construct my own reality. This is kind of a bizarre idea, but this it the new philosophy that is permeating not only education, not only textbooks, but our entire culture.
Bachmann might be accurately describing the opinions of some tenured philosophy professors, but in her mind this isn’t just an argument in an ivory tower. For her, this is an argument about whether or not the country will recognize Biblical truth.
What is the practical application of this kind of thinking in Bachmann’s mind? Here is how Bachmann used postmodernism to explain why abstinence education was being curtailed in Minnesota (at the 15 minute mark in the interview):
Bachmann: Our law reads [that] we will teach abstinence until marriage in our sex-ed curriculum. And this legislator wanted to strike two words: ‘until marriage’. The reason that she wanted to strike that we will be teaching abstinence until marriage is because she said: well that’s not true for everyone, because your truth may be that people should be abstinent until marriage but not everyone does. ‘Our society has changed’ she said, so we need to strike the words, ‘until marriage.’
Interviewer: So in other words it sounds as though she was saying: because we disagree with abstinence until marriage…
Bachmann: We’ll adopt hedonism. [Laughter] In essence, that’s what she is saying. That we will not have a standard. And the Bible presents a standard to which everyone can repair, whether you are a believer or not. … This new way of thinking offers no standard.
The whole exchange makes little sense to people who do not share Bachmann’s worldview. Abstinence education can be opposed because of pragmatic concerns about its effectiveness and not because of moral relativism. It is also frustrating to hear that Bachmann thinks that a literal interpretation of the Bible should be used as an absolute standard even by non-believers.
But if you have been convinced by frightening apocalyptic documentaries that the humanist-secular-police-state is just around the corner and that your Christian faith is being targeted, then blaming postmodernism for trying to stop abstinence education seems tame by comparison.