It's the Renaissance, stupid.
The economy is not what ails us today. No, what ails Americans is what Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and their artistic spawn have wrought in the culture, starting 500 years ago. The Renaissance has dragged us all down.
Tea party queen and Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann is convinced that America is sinking into tyranny. Why? In a remarkable profile of the candidate appearing in the Aug. 15 issue of the New Yorker magazine, the artistic flowering of the Italian Renaissance takes a beating for having done away with the god-fearing Dark Ages.
Bachmann "belongs to a generation of Christian conservatives whose views have been shaped by institutions, tracts, and leaders not commonly known to secular Americans, or even to most Christians," writes Ryan Lizza, who spent four days on the campaign trail talking with the candidate and her husband. He chronicles Bachmann's enthusiasm for the extreme evangelical teachings of the late Presbyterian Pastor Francis Schaeffer, commonly regarded as having sparked the 1970s rise of the Christian Right. Schaeffer loved visiting Florence, Italy, where his idea of Renaissance ruin is on full display.
Bachmann also adores Schaeffer follower Nancy Pearcey, a prominent creationist whose recent book is "Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, and Meaning." That's Leonardo as in "da Vinci," whose famous drawing of "Vitruvian Man" shows a human being inscribed within a perfect circle and a perfect square. The artist made the ungodly error of putting humanity at the center of time and space.
Not that Pearcey wants you to be mad at Leo, though -- a political error in the culture wars that she has said conservative Christians have repeatedly made over the last 30-plus years. Like Schaeffer, Pearcey instead counsels hearty admiration for creative skill, coupled with deep compassion for misguided artistic conceptions.
Hate the art, in other words, not the artist.