Cover Story

Minnesota twins?

"Minnesota twins?" Continued...

Issue: "Face-off," Aug. 13, 2011

Wanting a unified faith experience for their marriage, Tim left the Catholic church around the time of their 1987 wedding. He joined Mary as a member of the Wooddale Church in the Minneapolis suburbs. The couple are still members of the nondenominational evangelical megachurch, whose senior pastor, Leith Anderson, is the current president of the National Association of Evangelicals.

"I can't say that I have caught her in my biblical knowledge, but I have closed the gap," Pawlenty said. Mary is featured in a recent six-minute campaign video talking about how their "faith walk" is the most important aspect of their marriage and family. In the video Pawlenty and his wife discuss why their hope is in Jesus Christ and how the United States was founded as a nation under God.

Pawlenty, who has called for the country to move toward God, says he is transparent about his beliefs because voters need to know the source of a leader's values. He told me that one of his favorite passages is Proverbs 3:5-6. "It is a daily reminder for me to make sure that we put our trust and our faith in the right place, which is God," he said. "You have got to have a sense of humility. There are so many things you can't control, and you have to know where your help comes from."

Married now for 33 years, Bachmann and her husband were inspired in college by theologian Francis Schaeffer's film series, How Should We Then Live? Bachmann, who went on an overseas mission trip to Israel sponsored by Young Life, said the videos impressed upon them the "high value we need to place on human life. That is the first right. Inalienable rights are ones that man cannot give, only a creator can."

For years Bachmann was a member of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod and attended the Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church in Stillwater, Minn. The synod came under media fire this summer for a doctrinal statement calling the pope the Antichrist.

While Bachmann has not been active in the church for the last two years, the press is raising questions about the timing of her family's decision to seek an official written release from their church membership. The synod granted that release just six days before Bachmann formally announced her candidacy.

Bachmann now attends Eagle Brook Church, a nondenominational megachurch with a Baptist heritage that boasts four Minnesota locations with worship services for more than 13,000 people each weekend.

This is not the only area of the Bachmanns' faith that has brought controversy. Marcus runs a Christian counseling center that's faced media attacks for its use of biblical counseling strategies, including prayer, with homosexual patients.

Bachmann and her husband have put their faith into action. Seeing a couple at church with foster children inspired Bachmann to open up her home to at-risk children. They cared for a total of 23 foster children, mostly abused teenagers, over a six-year period in the 1990s. "While we were by no means a perfect family, one thing that we could offer was just a little bit of a picture of maybe what the word normal looks like," Bachmann said in testimony before Congress in 2007.

These foster children led Bachmann to jump into the political arena. Bachmann's five biological children had been educated through a combination of Christian schools and homeschooling. But the law required Bachmann's foster children to attend public schools. Frustrated by the state's curriculum mandates, Bachmann ran for a school board seat in 1999. She lost. But even in defeat her public speaking gift attracted notice.

"I did not expect her to be so articulate, so dynamic, and so captivating," said Twila Brase, president of the St. Paul-based Citizens' Council on Health Care. Brase saw Bachmann inspire an audience during her grassroots push against the state's education standards and thought, "'Gracious, she's good.' I knew she'd be a little dynamo if she ever got elected."

The school board loss remains Bachmann's only campaign defeat. The next year she unseated a 28-year incumbent for a seat in the Minnesota senate. Six years later, in 2006, Bachmann won an open seat for the U.S. House. She became part of the smallest GOP freshman class in 60 years. A federal tax lawyer turned stay-at-home mom turned political activist had become a politician.

Pawlenty worked his way up the political ladder: from a seat on a city planning commission to city council to state legislator to Minnesota House Majority Leader to governor. Pawlenty won both of his governor's races with less than 50 percent of the vote, but despite being an underdog swore off negative campaigning: "My attitude in life is you can be a strong advocate without being a jerk," he said while running for governor.

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