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Guest Commentary

Sept 8, 2011
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Michele Bachmann and secularism

By Gary Thelen

The press has reported that Michele Bachmann went to Law School at Oral Roberts University where she studied law based on the Bible and not on English Common Law. Catholic priests do that too. They go to the seminary and study Canon Law. But they don't run for President saying that any laws not based on the Bible are invalid. I'm in favor of keeping the religious distinct from the secular. One can outlaw divorce religiously and condemn people to hell for it. But governments can do as they please. People can choose. It's called Free Will. That's a basic tenant of Catholic Canon Law. If you wish to end up in hell, that is your choice. Good luck.

Obtaining salvation is not a matter of differences between Catholic and fundamentalist Protestant teachings. It's a regional thing. People in the south go about earning their salvation differently. They roll around on the ground, they play with snakes, they abstain from intoxicating liquors, they spend hours being happily harangued by preachers who then pull in tons of money after scaring those poor people to death. Catholics are more systematic and logical. They are happy with an hour's service and a 10-minute homily. Leave church early to beat the traffic. Perform the correct rituals, ring the right bells and salvation is yours. Guaranteed.

When I grew up in heavily Catholic Carroll, we had a large house on Main Street. It was on the corner. One block south on the corner was a small Assembly of God Church. It could not have had more than a few dozen members. We pretty much ignored them. But once a year, they had a tent revival in back of the church. They went through the neighborhood and knocked on doors and asked everybody to come to the revival. Of course, nobody did. One neighbor decided to go see for himself. He went and peeked inside the tent during their revival service. He saw them rolling around on the ground. So they were forever branded the "holy rollers" in Carroll. I have no idea who any of these people were. We did not associate with Protestants if we could help it. There were not many of them in town, anyway. My family was suspect as we had Lutheran kin, out of town, of course. My grandmother was raised a Lutheran by her Danish immigrant father. She met my Irish Catholic grandfather at a teacher's meeting as they both taught in one-room country schools. They got married. Whoa! In 1913, Catholics and Lutherans were like oil and water. They did not mix. But love prevailed. The Catholic priest married them at home and refused them the nuptial blessing. The Lutheran minister did not appear at all. My grandmother remained Lutheran until her step-mother died in 1936. Then she converted, much to the consternation of her Protestant cousins. This anomaly did help my mother's piano teaching business. Most of the Catholics sent their kids to the nuns for piano lessons. My mother sent my brother and me to the nuns as a peace offering. But lots of Lutherans sent their kids to my mother for piano lessons, even though she was more expensive than Celia Elgroth across the street from St. Lawrence Church. Having those Lutheran relatives up in Ida County was good for business.

Oral Roberts got his start as a radio preacher who could cure people. He encouraged listeners to put their hands on the radio and receive the blessings of him and Jesus. Later he told people to put their hands on the TV. I don't know if he ever cured anybody or not. We Catholics depended on the new drug of penicillin. Whenever my brother or I got the sniffles, it was straight to Dr. Leo Kuker for a shot of penicillin.

It greatly disturbs me that candidates like Michele Bachmann think that the Bible trumps the Constitution. Many people came to America seeking freedom OF religion, many others for freedom FROM religion, especially from the established church. It would appear that Michele Bachmann wants to establish her church and its beliefs as the law of the land through bills she and her supporters will attempt to pass in Congress.

I conclude with my favorite prayer: "Oh Lord, I can handle Satan, but please, sweet Jesus, save me from your followers!" CV

Gary Thelen is a native Iowan who taught high school French and Spanish in the Des Moines Public Schools, served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War era and worked as a clerk in the Iowa House, as a cruise ship speaker and as a political activist.

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