Michele Bachmann was born into a Lutheran family that was not particularly devout. The family regularly attended Sunday services but their religious observances did not extend much beyond going to church once a week.
Losing "Absolutely Everything"
The desire for something more, however, arose in Michele after her parents moved the family from her birthplace of Waterloo, Iowa, to Minnesota and the northern suburbs of Minneapolis. David and Jean Amble soon separated and her father abandoned the family, leaving Jean to raise four children on her own. Her parents' divorce shook Michele to the core. According to Newsmax, she described that loss in an address to the Florida Family Policy Council in August 2011:
[O]ur life completely changed....We had a four-bedroom home in the suburbs that had to be sold. We couldn't afford it. I saw my mom take everything out of the hutch in the dining room. It went onto card tables out in the garage. We had a garage sale. All her wedding gifts, all the pretty things in the dining room hutch — everything had to be sold. We couldn't afford it anymore. I saw my mother lose absolutely everything.As Michele told the audience in Florida, "Our poverty lasted for more than a few months. It lasted for years." Yet her mother refused to go on public assistance. Instead, she turned to her children and as Michele recollects:
We decided that we were going to be a team that wasn't going to be beat....We were going to stick together, and we did. We all pitched in. We all helped out....It wasn't until we really got out of high school that we saw our lives change....because of the example of my mother, because of the prayer that we had together as a family....Prayer and Renewed Purpose
It was prayer, ultimately, that bolstered Michele and gave her direction and purpose. Finding it hard to cope with what she later described as "the emotional struggles of not having a strong father in my life," two years after her father walked out, Michele joined a high school prayer group whose members brought her to a new understanding of faith. A 2011 New Yorker magazine profile by Ryan Lizza includes Bachmann's own words from a 2006 speech that describe her rebirth on November 1, 1972:
I didn't know I wasn't a believer. But they knew I wasn't a believer, and they started praying for me. And all of a sudden the holy spirit started knocking on my heart's door and I could hear the Lord tug me and call me to Himself, and I responded....I knew that I had received Jesus Christ as my lord and savior and that my life would never be the same....I knew what darkness looked like. I knew it from my home life....When Jesus Christ came in and cleaned out this dark heart, that was light. That was rest. That was peace. It was refreshment....That didn't mean that I woke and all of a sudden I had money, all of a sudden I had position, all of a sudden I had education. It didn't. But what it meant was that all of a sudden I had a father.God in Control
Her acceptance of Jesus Christ at age 16 was an event that was to shape her for years to come. As she later told Lizza, "When I gave my life over to God...it was a life-changing experience for me to recognize that I wanted him to be in control of my life rather than me being in control of my life."
Like many who commit themselves to God in the aftermath of a personal crisis, Michelle Amble Bachmann was renewed by her faith. She earned straight A's at Anoka High School, was involved in a number of activities including the drama club and student council, and devoted her time to the organization Young Life, a Christian ministry group.
Faith in Action
Her strong faith and desire to give back also introduced her to the world. When she learned of an opportunity to go to Israel after high school graduation to volunteer on a kibbutz under the auspices of Young Life, Michele found ways to earn money to cover her travel expenses. She convinced her brothers to help her make popcorn and package it in plastic bags to sell to friends and neighbors.
Looking back, Michele's brother Paul Amble observes, "Michele was much more actively involved with her faith than the rest of us."
Continetti, Matthew. "Queen of the Tea Party: The presidential campaign of Michele Bachmann." The Weekly Standard, Vol. 16, No. 40, weeklystandard.org. 4-11 July 2011.
Lizza, Ryan. "Leap of Faith: The making of a Republican front-runner." The New Yorker, newyorker.com. 15 August 2011.
Patten, David A. "Bachmann Invokes Biblical Passion for Conservative Causes." Newsmax.com. 28 August 2011.
Sivertson, Anja. "As Caucus Approaches, Michele Bachmann looks to sell Iowans on Faith, Frugality."Iowa.watch.org at IowaIndependent.com. 13 May 2011.