Over the weekend, Rep. Michele Bachmann seemed to confirm what the congresswoman has long hinted: that she believes we are all currently living in the end of days, as fortold by the End Times scripture in the Bible. Speaking to "Understanding the Times" host Jan Markell, Bachmann connected the U.S.'s support of Syrian rebels directly to biblical prophecy that she believes outlines the signs of the end. On the show, Bachmann first falsely claims that the U.S. is funding and arming Islamic extremists in Syria, then says that based on that claim, "we are to understand where we are in God’s end times history."
Bachmann is a frequent guest on Markell's program, which is more or less devoted to discerning the signs of where we are in the End Times — her ministry functions off of the basic question of "when" and not "if" when it comes to the end of days. The content of this particular interview was first noticed by Right Wing Watch, who provide an excerpt and transcript of her End Times praise:
"[the U.S.'s funding of al Qaeda in Syria] happened and as of today the United States is willingly, knowingly, intentionally sending arms to terrorists, now what this says to me, I’m a believer in Jesus Christ, as I look at the End Times scripture, this says to me that the leaf is on the fig tree and we are to understand the signs of the times, which is your ministry, we are to understand where we are in God’s end times history. Rather than seeing this as a negative, we need to rejoice, Maranatha Come Lord Jesus, His day is at hand. When we see up is down and right is called wrong, when this is happening, we were told this; these days would be as the days of Noah.”
Bachmann's relationship to "Understanding the Times" and its parent organization the Olive Tree Ministries hasn't gone unnoticed. Back in 2011, Mother Jones did a long, quite good, story on Bachmann's mixture of prophecy and politics. Her take on the extent of the U.S.'s backing of Israel is based in it, for instance: in 2010, Bachmann cited Genesis 12:3 while explaining her political stance on the subject: "I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." That's a quote from God to Abraham, from whom in the Bible all Israelites are descended. And while she's made a bunch of appearances over the years on Markell's show, Bachmann herself has played a bit coy with that association, as Mother Jones found:
When Minneapolis' City Pages first reported on Bachmann's relationship with Markell in 2005, the then-state senator denied any knowledge of Olive Tree Ministries. However, Markell tells Mother Jones that she's known Bachmann off and on for 35 years, and says she spoke about Israel at Bachmann's church in the late 1970s. "My hunch is that they misquoted her," Markell says. "She's been at my conference. Why she would have said [otherwise], I don't know."
As evidenced by the logo of Olive Tree Ministries, the politics of Israel plays a huge role in many American flavors of End Times prophecy. The more literary set will know this from a Lawrence Wright piece in the New Yorker (later turned into a "This American Life" segment) on Clyde Lott, who tried to breed a blemish-free red heifer, which, according to prophecy, has to be sacrificed in a purity ritual before the Temple of Solomon can be rebuilt.
Talking about the End Times might not be a popular pursuit for members of Congress seeking re-election (which, remember, Bachmann is not), but it isn't that rare among conservative American Christians. In the past month, two Christian groups have attempted to quantify that belief: a recent survey by the Evangelical polling group Barna found that over 40 percent of Americans believe we're in the End Times — a number that matches up with another recent survey asking a similar question from the Public Religion Research Institute, which has a different worldview from Barna. PRRI's poll adds that 65 percent of White Evangelical Christians believe that the recent severity of natural disasters is a sign of the end. And LifeWay, associated with the Southern Baptist Convention, found that one in three Americans believe that the Syrian conflict is related to End Times prophecy. The LifeWay researchers believe the apocalyptic interest in Syria has a lot to do with its proximity to Israel.