August 12th, 2011
12:10 PM ET

Bachmann faces theological question about submissive wives at debate

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN)– Thursday night in the Fox News GOP debate in Ames, Iowa, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minnesota, was asked by columnist Byron York whether she would be "submissive to her husband" if she were elected president.

Before the congresswoman had a chance to answer, a chorus of boos rang down from the audience.

"Thank you for that question, Byron," Bachmann responded with a wry smile. "Marcus and I will be married for 33 years this September 10. I'm in love with him. I'm so proud of him. What submission means to us, it means respect. I respect my husband. He's a wonderful godly man and great father.

"He respects me as his wife; that's how we operate our marriage," she continued. "We respect each other; we love each other. I've been so grateful we've been able to build a home together. We have wonderful children and 20 foster children. We've built a business and life together, and I'm very proud of him."

"She answered it the most appropriate way in the context it was being asked. She was being asked a deeply theological question in front of millions of Americans," said Gary Marx, the executive director of the Faith and Freedom Coalition. "That's why there was such a strong and visceral booing over the very premise of the question."

Marx, who was in the balcony at the debate Thursday, said that for Iowa evangelicals, this is a nonissue.

"Most evangelicals know it's not easy to teach in a 30-minute sermon on Sunday. It's impossible to answer in a minute sound bite. Her answer about respect is the only one that can be given," he said.

The question of wives being submissive to their husbands comes from a passage in the New Testament in Paul's letter to the Ephesians. The letter was originally written in Greek, and there are various translations of the Greek word Paul uses.

"Whatever someone thinks Paul means of submission of wives to husbands ... it doesn't leave any room for exploitation," said David Matthewson, an associate professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary. "I would say her response was very consistent with the text."

In the New International Version translation of the Bible, the version most preferred by evangelical Christians and nondenominational churches, a camp Bachmann has said she belongs to, Ephesians 5:22-24 are translated as:

"Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything."

The letter goes on to say in verse 25:

"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her."

"The English word 'submit' is as good a translation as any without using a bunch of words. The problem, though, is the word 'submit' in English carries connotations for most readers that may not have been there in the Greek," Mathewson said. "In English, we think of forced submission or exploiting. ... I don't think that's in the Ephesians passage."

In the King James Version, the first mass-produced English translation of the Bible, the word is translated as "submit."

In Eugene Peterson's translation of the Bible, "The Message," which aims to use more common English, he translates submissive as "understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ."

Historically, the fifth chapter of Ephesians has been taken in context of Paul's writings to mean Christian spouses should operate as loving equals, though the word "submissive" has long been a divisive one for Christian women.

"It seems it's been, in the 20th century, to have caused a lot of issues in North American Christianity," Mathewson said.

Former Alaska Gov. Sara Palin, another prominent evangelical politician, weighed in on the issue Friday in Iowa.

Palin told CNN's Don Lemon, "That's her opinion, that, to her, submission to her husband means respecting her husband, and I respect my husband, too."

Lemon asked, "If (husband) Todd said don't run, would you not run?"

"I can't imagine my husband ever telling me what to do politically," Palin responded. "He has never told me what to do when it comes to a political step, and I appreciate that. I respect you for that, Todd; thank you."

Bachmann identifies herself as an evangelical Christian. Her congressional office said recently that she has been attending a nondenominational church as her schedule allows.

She has shown over the years that she is fluent in "Christianese," using words and phrases that ring true to evangelical listeners.

She has long been a darling of evangelical voters, serving as keynote speaker at anti-abortion events in Washington and making the rounds at prayer rallies at the Capitol. It is one of the reasons she is expected to do well in Iowa, where the GOP base is filled with evangelical voters.

Her faith has caused a few bumps in the road in the campaign. Her husband's Christian counseling program came under fire by critics for a controversial therapy. She formally pulled her membership in her former church days before she formally announced that she was seeking the White House.

But Marx points out that fielding a question like this in a debate only helps her. "In Iowa, it reiterates that evangelical identity she has."

And, he noted, the last Republican to win the Iowa caucus in 2008, former Southern Baptist preacher Mike Huckabee, got asked a lot of questions about the finer points of his faith, too.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Church and state • Michele Bachmann • Politics

soundoff (1,672 Responses)
  1. Asklepios417

    Bachman should have accused the questioner of taking the quote out of context, since the whole passage in Ephesians begins with "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ."

    Both husbands and wives are told to submit.

    August 12, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
    • James

      Actually, he goes from talking about Christians in general to talking about marriage. Your quote comes right at the change point and can't be clearly attributed to either part. It's ambiguous. However, it then goes on to specifically state that wives should submit to husbands but clearly does NOT state the opposite. However, this part is not ambiguous at all: "For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of his body, the church; he gave his life to be her Savior. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives must submit to your husbands in everything." Let me know if you have any more context you think needs to be considered.

      August 12, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
  2. Lynne

    Her answer at the debate is in line with the bible, but the original quote was not. She said she didn't want to do something that her husband thought she should, so she submitted. That is not respect, or advising or any thing other than actual, real world submission. Essentially, she said he told her to, so she did. Her answers don't match each other.

    August 12, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
  3. Ancient Alien Astronaut

    Best post in 10 pages. Congrats.

    August 12, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
    • Ancient Alien Astronaut

      intended for Castiel, below.

      August 12, 2011 at 8:05 pm |
  4. *frank*

    "Slave" in the bible meant something different than the modern sense of the term.
    It should be translated as something like "buddy", or "administrative assistant"

    August 12, 2011 at 7:54 pm |
    • Psalm 137

      8 O daughter of Babylon, who are to be destroyed,
      Happy the one who repays you as you have served us!
      9 Happy the one who takes and dashes
      Your little ones against the rock!

      Now, when the Bible talks about dashing little ones against rocks, it really means to treat the children to ice cream.

      August 12, 2011 at 8:07 pm |
    • Zor

      It's funny how many of you are trying to twist the Bible so it fit into your reality. I thought Christ submits to the Father, but it's too good for the rest of us? Maybe it's because we're in the year 2011 and God is not the same God of 2000 years ago. Well it appears a lot of people think that anyway.

      August 12, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
    • 2 Kings 13:21

      "And it came to pass, as they were burying a man, that, behold, they spied a band of men; and they cast the man into the sepulchre of Elisha: and when the man was let down, and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his feet."

      It's funny that you believe the Bible is reality.

      Watch out for those zombies.

      August 12, 2011 at 8:59 pm |
    • fred

      2 kings 13:21
      It means a godly persons actions while alive continue to live on long after he is dead. The Old testament was written for the time and place where Gods chosen people were, so we must always take that into account
      Now, God sent Jesus to us much later and we should have a much easier time understanding His simple message.

      August 12, 2011 at 9:11 pm |
  5. Casual

    I'm not going to get excited over this one, she is not even going to make it on the ticket. Too many members of her own party think she is crazy, and when a Republican thinks another Republican is crazy, us normal people know she is bat-sh!t-crazy.

    I do find it funny that she thinks she a large enough base of people with her mind set let's just say, that she would have a chance at all. About 10% of the country thinks like she does, so that isn't saying a lot.

    This poor delusional thing thinks her husband is straight, so, I'm suspect of her judgement just for that! Enough said...

    August 12, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
  6. captnavenger

    Okay, she answered that one question well. Alas, she's still nuts. Her husband's got the wrong idea about basically everything. The party they belong to is a boil on the butt of the nation, and has just demonstrated that it is willing to harrass its own female members live on Television. The question being answered depends wholly on allegiance to a book that is itself wrong on so many counts, including in most peoples' opinions, the topic at hand. So what does being right about being so wrong in so many ways prove? It shouldn't earn her any votes, that's for sure. Or for any of them, for that matter.

    August 12, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
    • Casey

      I find it interesting that liberals paint any female republican candidate as crazy. They did the same thing with Palin. You may not agree with her political position, but it is straight up attempt at political marginalization the way the Libs treat women.

      August 12, 2011 at 8:01 pm |
    • Funny...

      "Libs" don't treat hillary Clinton that way.

      Have you ever stopped to think that these Tea Partiers just really are crazy (or at least stupid)?

      "American scientific companies are cross-breeding humans and animals and coming up with mice with fully functioning human brains." - Christine O'Donnel

      "He who warned, uh, the British that they weren't gonna be takin' away our arms, uh, by ringing those bells, and um, makin' sure as he's riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be sure and we were going to be free, and we were going to be armed." –Sarah Palin

      "If we took away the minimum wage — if conceivably it was gone — we could potentially virtually wipe out unemployment completely because we would be able to offer jobs at whatever level." - Michelle Bachmann

      "Some Republicans are not going to want to hear this, but I live near Fort Campbell, and there are 50,000 soldiers there. I tell people you have to truly imagine what your feelings would be if those soldiers were Chinese soldiers and they were occupying the United States. We wouldn't have it. Republican and Democrat, we'd be blowing up the Chinese with roadside bombs as they were coming off the base. No country wants foreign soldiers on their land." - Rand Paul, on the Iraq War

      August 12, 2011 at 8:35 pm |
  7. Kyle

    Seams to me that any omnipotent and all powerful being would have been able to foresee his own word being lost in translation throughout centuries. You would think, to counter act this, that God would have created a central language that all people would use, or at the very least come back every few hundred years to correct our mistakes.

    But it doesn't happen, because none of it is real.

    August 12, 2011 at 7:52 pm |
    • Casey

      You should think about the nature of God a bit more. He is more like a parent than a dictator. He created the Universe and people, gave us all that we need for happiness and leading a good life. He doesn't control the actions of His children. I suggest that you study more about God and think it through.

      August 12, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
    • 2 Kings 2:24

      "And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them."

      God had two bears kill 42 children - just for teasing a prophet about being bald. Sounds like a great father figure to me.

      August 12, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
    • Casey

      2 Kings: You do realize that the Bible, especially the Old Testament, is fille with parable... and the meaning of many need thought and discussion. Lots of times, children are taught stories to make a point. Humankind is like a child that, as we grew up, were taught certain things we needed to know. As we get older, and gain a deeper understanding, adults see these stories with greater insight. This is one of the reasons that continual study and thought is part of any persons journey of faith. (If you can dig that)

      August 12, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
    • Oh Really?

      So anything unpleasant in the Bible is a parable? How do you pick and choose?

      And what kind of moral do these "parables" about genocide teach children? To kill your enemies, raze their cities, and smash their kids' heads on rocks?

      August 12, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
    • Casey

      Well Oh Really (Which .. by the way... is an intersting name)... I would recommend study, and speaking to Biblical Scholars or Priests if you want to gain a better understanding of which are parables, and which are Historical accounts. I certainly don't claim to be to be a Biblical scholar.... but I have consulted with folks who are. They have helped me to understand the meaning of many passages. You have to understand the author, the intended audience, the times, and the context. It's like learning calulous... I needed a teacher for that too.. I couldn't quite pick it up on my own. I appreciate your curiosity on these points, and highly recommend you talk to someone who can help you study. I think that there's lots of folks out there though, who pick out ut some particularly weird passage in the Bible, put it out there .... out of context, and use that to try anbd tear down. It's Usually because driven by their own preconceived bias. I'm sure you're not one of those, and you have a sincere interest in learning.

      August 12, 2011 at 9:32 pm |
    • Oh Really?

      I see you haven't been able to answer my questions at all.

      How is genocide ever OK? How is that a good parable for children? How do you know when something in the Bible is a parable, and when it is literal?

      And you talk about Biblical scholarship and how views are constantly changing... Why is that? Why isn't this "Holy Book" easier to understand and live by?

      August 12, 2011 at 9:43 pm |
    • herbert juarez

      @2 kings 2:24
      Not quite accurate in your interpretation of the events ,understandable as the actual account really doesn't jibe with your preconceived "father figure".they were not "children"they were youths,they came out of the town to accost Elisha,the prophet,they were of an age sufficient to allow them to do this on their own, without mom and dad.Second their message and taunts stemmed from their lack of belief and were repeated.These youth were early atheists ,and particularly annoying to a man who was merely passing by.Elisha turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord.The Bible says two bears came out of the woods and mauled(not killed)42 of the youths.The bears were already in the woods,that's were bears are.What but the protecting hand of God held back the bears when the annoying atheistic mockers first came out?The youths provoked until they brought disaster on themselves,not death but mauling.This could well be an example set before the divided nations of Israel and Judah.Both these nations were in a constant state of rebellion against God and it could be that the Prophet was warning the two nations (by illustration)because two "bears" ,Assyria and Babylon lay in wait for them.
      How did two bears maul 42 youths?As one camper said to another I don't have to outrun the bears, I just have to outrun you.

      August 12, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
  8. Phaze

    Well I see the enemy is hard at work in the 21st century. I didn't know we could add/delete from God's word as we see fit when we don't like what is being said. If you drive division between husband and wife with these "what feels good to me" interpretations other than what is purposely written, then the enemy is winning the war. From an birds-eye point of view...What better way to sabotage what God has joined together, than to say "in modern society, those words do not apply". The Devil is very smart.

    August 12, 2011 at 7:50 pm |
  9. Guest

    Bible always degrades women. Only Eve is blamed for the mistake of both Adam and Eve. No confusion with translation there. Also Bible preaches that menstruration is a punishment for women. If a woman bears a female child her lobour pain is three times greater. These are just a few example.

    August 12, 2011 at 7:50 pm |
  10. stocko

    Why in the world are we still having conversations like this. Religion, by this time, should have nothing to do wih politics.

    August 12, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
    • SurRy

      Can I get an A-MEN!

      August 12, 2011 at 7:54 pm |
    • DDM

      You got it – AMEN !

      August 12, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
    • Casey

      I think that a lot of people of Faith want their leaders to have a strong morol compass. It is natural for people to want their leaders to hold the same values they themselves hold.

      August 12, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
    • Oh Really?

      Faith has nothing to do with having a moral compass, or else prisons would be filled with atheists. (Look up the statistics; they're not.)

      August 12, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
    • Casey

      Faith has everything to do with having a morol compass. That isn't to say though... that there aren't many good and decent people who don't believe in God... there are. However, I can state that clearly, through my experience, most folks with a strong relationship with God are way ahead of the game on that score. Most of the people I know who descrbe themselves as athiests are forever teetering on the brink... with many self destructive behaviors, and tendancies of being ego centric. They create a moral code that fits in with their base desires... At least that has been my observation.

      August 12, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
    • Oh Really?

      Anecdotal evidence isn't really evidence at all, and your alleged experience doesn't mean a thing.

      Show me some statistics that indicate that the religious are better people. Better yet, show me something good in the Bible that isn't universally recognized as such anyway.

      August 12, 2011 at 9:53 pm |
    • Casey

      I think statistics are something that we have to be very careful with. I can prove statistically, a direct correlation between shoe size and intelligence. You earlier example of Christians in prison is another one to be careful with. In the case of those, for instance, did they come to God after they got to Prison? I think it's common for people to hear more clearly the word of the Holy Spirit after hardship has befalllen them. (Hence the old saying... "There are no athiests in foxholes"). On your other question... Jesus said that the most important thing we all need to do is "Love thy neighbor". I think we can all agree that is a universally agreed to "good". Unless you're mentally unbalanced... but I guess there's ots of people out there like that too... so ... given that context... I guess you're right. There is nothing in the Bible that everyone will agree too... because there are some truly bad people out there.

      August 12, 2011 at 10:06 pm |
    • herbert juarez

      @oh really
      The reason prisons aren't filled with atheists could be because there really aren't that many atheists around. i mean we got the world wide web here, 6-7 billion people and atheists muster at best a few dozen?Seems a lot when a bunch pile on a comment but really can't be much for actual numbers.
      North Dakota needed some atheists to fill out the prison quota for federal funds ,the head of the state police was given the job of doing this.Several weeks later the Governor called ,worried about lack of progress, the chief replied if we can find one we'll arrest him.

      August 12, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
    • Know What

      herbert, "The reason prisons aren't filled with atheists could be because there really aren't that many atheists around."

      That is not how the figures are computed. Perhaps you missed the Ratio/Proportion/Percentage section of 7th grade math.

      August 12, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
    • herbert juarez

      or math or no math,if the atheists aren't there they can't be put in prison can they?Atheists don't have the numbers to be a ratio,the few that exist are an annoyance to the rest of the billions on the planet,but of no real consequence by proportion,with a percentage so low it is not a factor.

      August 13, 2011 at 7:47 am |
  11. Asklepios417

    With questions like this, the candidates should be able to use a lifeline, or poll the audience.

    August 12, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
  12. Mike

    They asked JFK if he would obey the pope.

    August 12, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
  13. Jackie Treehorn

    Nothing new here. Modern American Christians read the Bible literally when it suits them, and "interpret" the "various translations" when it doesn't.

    August 12, 2011 at 7:43 pm |
    • Dude

      You make a hell of a caucasian, Jackie.

      August 12, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
  14. Skeptic

    The mental gymnastics the religious do to make their "holy" texts seem relevant and in line with modern sensibilities...

    These two need to look up the definition of the word "submissive," and they need to ask themselves why the Bible doesn't, in turn, say that husbands should be submissive to their wives (if it really means "respectful" in this context).

    August 12, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
    • Casey

      It seems that a lot of folks think that beliefe in God is a stagnant, and clear cut area of knoweldge. Nothing could be further from reality. A person's relationship with God is constantly evolving. We study in order to understand the nature of God better, and to gain a better understanding of Him, and the teachings of Jesus. It is a continual journey that brings great fullfillment the more you learn and think.

      August 12, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
    • Oh Really?

      "It seems that a lot of folks think that beliefe in God is a stagnant, and clear cut area of knoweldge. Nothing could be further from reality."

      So much for that "moral compass," huh?

      If Christianity is so open to interpretation and so wrought with contradictions, what's the point?

      Maybe, just maybe, people should use reason, logic, and out innate sense of right and wrong to determine what to do (you know, rather than Bronze-Age myths that can be twisted a hundred different ways).

      August 12, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
    • Oh Really?



      I'm real, real tired right now. Excuse the malapropism and the typo.

      August 12, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
    • Casey

      You seem to be confusing two topics. An individual's continual study and understanding is what deepens their relationship with God, and gives them deeper insight to His nature, and thus the nature of man. Like I said before, children don't always understand why their parents tell them certain things, but as they grow up, they start to see the wisdom of what they had been taught as children. Also, one may have a strong morol code, and yet still require contiual study of the Lord God. The use of reason and Logic is an absolute necessity for one to continue down the path of spirituality. (At least the way I approach the topic.) It's a matter of how you choose to apply reasoning, and what backdrop of knowledge you bring to the party. Alternatly, some folks lead very happy and full lives taking things strictly on Faith. I say... more power to them. For me though, I look into things deeper.

      August 12, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
    • Casey

      it's all Good "Oh Really". I hope you have a great night. I tend to fat finger lots of stuff. (Still wish I could type). Sleep well

      August 12, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
    • Oh Really?

      No, you really don't look into things any more deeply. You just assume that the Bible is inerrant and that anything you don't like about it is a "parable."

      You have a moral compass despite the Bible, not because of it. There isn't a single good thing about Christianity that isn't already part of our innate sense of right and wrong.

      August 12, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
    • Casey

      LOL... well, I'm sorry but you know nothing about me, and just because you disagree with my positions you say that I have come to my way of thinking without a pretty deep look into them. If you want to talk about multi-dimensional string theory, and quantum physic, and why this points to God's existance... I;ll be happy to discuss that with you. I'm not sure what your educational background is, but if you want to discuss the Higgs-Boson, particle theory and entanglement, so we can talk about how these relate to God, just let me know.

      August 12, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
  15. madcow

    Bachmann is a disgrace to America.

    August 12, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
    • Steve

      I totally agree with you and that "tea party" is just the KKK but with different name.

      August 12, 2011 at 7:56 pm |
  16. Phillip

    So stupid that people think it's not a reasonable question.

    She's already admitted that she submitted to a decision of her husband's on a career focus and was specific about bringing up God. Her husband isn't running for president. I think it's reasonable to wonder whether we are voting for her or her husband.

    August 12, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
  17. Tom, George, Ben and John

    What in the Hell are you people thinking? We went through all that bullcrap so you could try and elect someone like this?

    Oh, sorry. We understand. It's just entertainment. Guess it beats the off-key fiddlers and bad harpsichord players we had to suffer through.

    August 12, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
  18. Sandie

    This lady is crazy.....If you want a certified nut... You are also crazy. God help us if the wing nuts pontificate her!! Ugh!!

    August 12, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
  19. Les

    If "respect" "support" or "understand" were more accurate a translation from the original word, why weren't those words used? Nope, if the best translation is "submit" the question still stands and the candidate dodged it.

    August 12, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
  20. Aine57

    I don't recall any verse admonishing husbands to be submissive to their wives. If "submissive" means "respectful," as Palin and Bachmann claim, does this mean that their husbands don't have to respect them? Come on, ladies; answer the question. Neither of you really did.

    August 12, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.