Catholics shouldn’t fear Michele Bachmann

Michele Bachman has been taking some heat lately for the views of the conservative Christian denomination to which she used to belong, the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), which believes that the Pope is the Antichrist. People have been understandably concerned about Bachmann’s past affiliation with WELS, especially conservative Catholics who would otherwise be favorably disposed to many of her positions. The stance reminds Catholics of similar stances taken by earlier Protestant groups — the 19th-century Know-Nothings immediately come to mind — that promoted anti-Catholic bigotry and discrimination. It would be alarming if a presidential candidate had a similar antipathy for Catholics.

I’m a pretty conservative Catholic myself. I love the institution of the Papacy and I deeply admire our current Pope. I love being a Catholic, I love the Church and I would never shirk from defending it from unjust accusations, slander or bigotry. But I wouldn’t be terribly alarmed if Michele Bachmann agreed with the WELS belief that the Pope is the Antichrist. Here’s why:

First, WELS’s teaching sounds a bit more alarming than it truly is. As was described in this article in The Atlantic, the denomination takes a fairly moderate interpretation of what it means for the Pope to be the Antichrist. WELS simply holds that the Catholic Church’s teaching of Papal infallibility is opposed to the Lutheran teaching of the primacy of the Bible; WELS members argue that by putting himself in the place of God’s written word (the lone source of authority on matters of faith for traditional Lutherans), the Pope opposes himself to Christ. He is thus anti-Christ — an Antichrist. The teaching isn’t accompanied by any requirement to persecute Catholics, to treat them unkindly or deny them political rights, as earlier, more bigoted Protestant groups did.

While I obviously disagree with the idea that the Pope is the Antichrist, I can’t say I find WELS’s teaching offensive. Protestants don’t like Papal infallibility — oh wow, I had no idea! Further, I have to say that I admire WELS’s chutzpah. The tendency among both Catholic and Protestant liberals has been to promote a phony kind of ecumenical “unity” by glossing over doctrine and dogma in favor of a lowest-common-denominator religion of niceness. They promote a religion that has abandoned the supernatural in favor of the topical; they demonstrate a lot more concern for environmental protection than they do for the eternal salvation of their members. WELS, by contrast, has held firm to a large body of clearly articulated doctrines with little compromise.

I believe that if someone thinks my views are so wrong as to jeopardize my salvation, and if they are so concerned as to try to convince me of the error of my ways, it’s really an act of kindness on their part. Frank expressions of disagreement provide a more honest basis for discussion and eventual reconciliation than pretending everything is hunky-dory; it’s truly more ecumenical than any silly “ceremony of unity” that liberal ecumaniacs are so fond of. I’d prefer to have a religious discussion with someone who thinks that I’m wrong than with someone who doesn’t really believe that there’s a “wrong” in religion. In the sense that they both believe in the importance of doctrine, WELS members have something in common with orthodox Catholics.

  • Jikkiyu

    It seems there is a good deal of confusion concerning the beliefs of the Confessional Lutheran churches. As a Lutheran myself, I thought I might clarify some of their beliefs, that people might speak in a more informed manner on topics such as this.

    Firstly, Lutherans are often grouped by Catholics as just another denomination within protestantism, much similar to evangelicals and pentacostals. This, I would think, could not be more untrue. Though all the these denominations have protest against 16th century papal “abuses” in common (hence, protestant), they did not all respond in the same manner. In fact, the Lutheran reformers responded in a manner opposite to all other protestant groups. The Lutherans wished to retain everything within Catholicism that they felt did not directly contradict the Bible. For this reason, Lutherans believe in the efficacy of sacraments, baptismal regeneration, the office of keys, the sacrament of confession, the true bodily presence of Christ at the Eucharist, and the hypostatic union of the two natures of Christ. If one were to attend a Lutheran service, he would find it strikingly similar to a Catholic service, complete with vestments, incense, liturgy, religious art and icons etc. Lutherans also espouse that Mary is forever a virgin and also the Mother of God. It could even be argued that Luther himself believes in the Immaculate Conception long before it was the official Catholic belief! All these things are anathema to all other protestant denominations (for the most part). The reason for the conservation of so many “traditional catholic” ideas is because Lutherans did not view themselves as creating a new church, but merely reforming their mother church.”The church may from time to time become sullied, but she is always our mother. The church is still the church.” In fact the Lutheran reformers claimed they would gladly retain alligence to the pope if he would admit his authority was from human, and not divine origin.

    That being said, all other protestants started with the belief that the Catholic church was so corrupted that it was no longer to be thought of as being Christian. Therefore, they condemned the catholics and “recreated” a new church out of what they conceived the church to look like from the Bible.

    That being said, most if not all Lutherans would still claim Catholics are Christian (though, or course, wrong about certain things) whereas evangelicals, baptists and other children of the more radical reformation would not afford the Catholics such a privilege (oftentimes because they might claim the Catholics are idolaters, or because they have not had “personal conversion experiences). Lutherans believe that wherever there is the word of God and the sacraments, there also is Christianity. Catholicism fits these requirements (perhaps unlike many other protestants).

    So how is it then, that Lutherans can be so generous to Catholics in terms of affirming their salvation, and yet still think of the pope as the antichrist? Well, it must be said that Lutherans do not believe that any given pope is THE antichrist, but rather that the institution of the papacy is antichrist (as an adjective) for the catholic church (at the time of the drawing of the Lutheran confessions at least) taught that the pope was the head of the church by divine right, superior to church councils, and that the belief in his authority was necessary for salvation. Because the Catholics taught that belief in the pope was necessary for salvation, and not just belief in Christ, he is called “antichrist.” Yet as The Book of Concord (the Lutheran doctrinal statement) itself will note, it is the papal office that is antichrist, and the office itself may even be filled by a godly, Christian, saved person.

    It is believed by many people that in the end there will be a sinister and absolutely evil “Anti Christ” incarnated into one man that will destroy the church. Lutherans deny this very idea, but rather teach that anything is “anti christ” if it sets itself up against Christ (like atheism) or sets itself between the sinner and Christ (like, perhaps the papacy, or any other similar entity). Such an idea is commonly espoused by baptists and many calvinists (both of whom also believe the Pope to be THE VERY antichrist, according to their doctrinal statements).

    Summary: What Lutherans Think:
    1.The Papacy is “anti-christ”
    2.Anti-christ does not mean unsaved.
    3.Catholics are christians too, who are saved, though wrong about many doctrines.
    4.The only way to deal with any sin or sinner is in love and compassion, for we are all lepers. If I say a catholic believes an anti-christ idea, it is as one leper speaking to another. There is no room for hate, anger, or any sort of superiority in the Christian religion, for no one is good, save God.

    Forgive me if I have unwittingly spoken ill of anyone’s belief. I do not mean to be unkind. I do hope this might be an aid to someone in understanding Lutherans beliefs and seeing past the perhaps provocative vocabulary employed by Lutherans to identify perhaps less offensive concepts.

  • writeblock

    Any discussion of religion at all tends to grate on Midwest or Northeastern nerves. Not because people there are less religious, but because they live in more religiously diverse societies where such discussions breed tension instead of good fellowship. This is why our primary system is seriously flawed. We should be measuring how candidates do in the battleground states, in PA and OH and FL, not how well they do in IA or SC. Do you think Bachmann–or Perry, for that matter–would do as well in battleground states as they will do in some early primary states? If not, what should this tell us about the process?

  • bobwaters

    Fascinating, Larkspur. A Catholic takes the trouble to actually understand what a sensational-sounding phrase actually means, and that makes the truth anti-Catholic?

    I wonder. Since the Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent condemn everyone who believes the Pauline doctrine of justification to hell, and since the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification lacks the standing to overrule Trent, does that make a person an anti-Lutheran bigot for believing that Trent is infallible, as the Catholic church teaches? Why no such outcry when John Kerry ran for president?

    You’d be better off concerning yourself with people who don’t believe what their churches teach- like Catholics Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, and John Kerry, for example.

  • Pingback: Are Protestants disqualified from serving as President? (Bachmann Antichrist roundup) | Esgetology

  • Larkspur

    A Catholic apologist for anti-Catholic bias. How novel.

    Her wing of Evangelical Christianity – which includes most of it – doesn’t consider Catholics ‘true’ Christians.

    Because they’re baptized at birth, because they believe in transubstantiation, because they don’t ‘speak in tongues’ or have other ‘gifts of the Holy Spirit.’

    Other than those minor details and the Pope being the anti-Christ and all, they’re just fine with us. Especially our VOTES.

    So if Catholics want to vote for Bachmann, you get what you deserve.

    • Rocketman

      “So if Catholics want to vote for Bachmann, you get what you deserve”.

      Yep. There’s no probs really. She’ll never be elected. BUT …
      Sadly, my Traditional Catholic brethren have been in the Dem camp for many decades.
      It must be a self-loathing thing like Hebrews.
      In Hoc Signo


      • Larkspur

        If you want to know how Evangelicals feel about Catholics, ask one if Catholics are saved and going to go to heaven.

        • writeblock

          Is it any wonder so many evangelical candidates are perceived as bigoted in places heavily populated by Jews and Catholics? The Midwest and NE are accustomed to treading carefully with religion. They don’t wear their religion on their sleeves for good reason–there’s so much more religious diversity to contend with. But in evangelical red state country politicians thrive on religion. It’s a means of bonding with voters–since so many of these states are religiously homogeneous. Their culture runs directly counter to other regions of the country. Nobody in PA, for instance, cares if a politician is religious–just don’t flaunt it. With candidates like Bachmann–or Huckabee–or Perry–flaunting is the point. Some of their fans see this as a plus; they don’t realize this is precisely what would make them unelectable elsewhere.

          • JimConstitution

            But then some people actually believe in the truth of God and His Son. Anyone or group that thinks they are the voice and instrument of God beyond all others are self deceived.

            This is the basis and foundation of the catholic church, believing it is the universal church over all others.

            Martin Luther’s revelation that grace alone is salvation, is the will of God, and bought by the birth, death, resurrection of Jesus the anointed one of Israel, is the body of Christ known as the church. This is not a denomination or set of rules, its a personal understanding (revelation) from God which is the new birth.

            This is the reason that Bachmann and Palin have nondenominational leanings more than just politics. There are many good God loving people in groups that have their own understandings which can lead to division and strife to onlookers.

            Being nondenominational can correct this for those that are born-again or less interested in religion.

    • writeblock

      One reason candidates like Bachmann, Huckabee–probably Perry–do so well in places like IA and SC, is due to religion. But this is precisely what turns voters off in other regions and makes such candidates virtually unelectable. Even Bush, with family roots in the NE, barely scraped by in two general elections. It’s a huge problem. What gets them votes in the early primaries is what loses them votes in the general election–and vice versa. Rudy and Romney may turn off evangelicals–but they turn on voters in swing states like PA and FL without which Obama can’t win.

    • mmz

      (So if Catholics want to vote for Bachmann, you get what you deserve.}

      LOL, what’s that exactly? What’s Bachmann going to do to us because we’re Catholics? I’m more concerned what Obama’s going to do to me as an American.


    So, what was the fact that Michelle Bachmann belonged to this Church have to do with her running for President? So the WELS are anti-papacy and the believe the Pope is the AntiChrist. It’s not as if she had a racist preacher that railed against and cursed America and its Government or anything. Is It?

    • writeblock

      Probably nothing. But it still sets off alarm bells in some regions where Catholics are concentrated. The opposite is true. Rudy and Romney seem culturally alien to voters in in evangelical country. But either is a comfortable fit in other regions, particularly PA and OH and FL–and would win the general election accordingly, something Bachmann would have difficulty doing.

  • captaingrumpy

    They changed their views since then,they now believe it’s Obama.

  • rick57

    Didn’t you forget Haliburton, Bush lied, Haliburton, Haliburton, raaaaacist, islamophob, homophob, puppy hater, Granny killer from you’re little rant there buckaroo?