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. Mr. Ected

    Fine, Mrs. Bachmann. Equate respect with submission. Just a clumsy parsing of words to mask your theologically-induced shortcoming.

    Spend a career barking about the inadequacies of others; look yourself in the mirror, Michelle, you would be submissive to the men of the international community. That attribute alone should disqualify you. If you had an ounce of courage, you would disqualify yourself.

    August 12, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
  2. Feo

    Why are politicians talking about anything to do with religion? We are a country founded on the separation of church and state.

    August 12, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
    • Krista

      Because some people seem to think with Freedom of Religion, if their religion claims everyone else should be forced to live a certain way (or they think it does) then they have the right to force their beliefs on all the rest of us. The 'right' way, as far as they're concerned is the only way that is allowed freedom.

      Basically it's un-American, I know.

      August 12, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
  3. James Ruston

    Matt dear, the world is not collapsing.

    August 12, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
  4. Tricia

    mortified that Bachman and Romney are the best the Republican party has to offer........

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

      They'll never get the independent vote. I think the Republicans are just putting on a show this year... trying to push their party as far right as possible. It's a losing tactic for the coming election and it will be 4 years later too. The majority of people in this country are Not right wing religions fanatics.

      August 12, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
  5. Gnni Tritt

    Hmmm...So she "respects" him...and he "respects" her. Now where is the part that says HE SUBMITS to HER??? "Love your wife as Christ loves the church..." So does that make CHRIST and the CHURCH equal? And that is only "respect" not reverence & worship for one and ummm.....being "god on earth" for the other? Does CHrist worship the church?
    Lots of double talk. Read it as it lays. It is what it is. And which Bauchman would be in charge? Would we have any idea?

    August 12, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
    • lilyq

      How did you manage to mess that up so badly...

      August 12, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
    • Krista

      lilyq do you actually Have a point here? or do you just think that everyone elses' interpretation is wrong? Of course, you're going to make your book say what you Want it to say...

      August 12, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
    • lilyq

      Bless your heart

      August 12, 2011 at 8:59 pm |
  6. ThinkAgain

    Don't for a minute believe her folks; "submission" in her world means just that: She'd call the sky green if her husband insisted on it.

    Besides which, the United States IS NOT and NEVER WILL BE a theocracy.


    August 12, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
    • Asklepios417

      It would be very interesting then if she becomes President, and it turns out that her husband was a secret ultra-liberal all these years.

      August 12, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
    • David Kelly

      I wouldn't say never but if anyone tried it'd mean civil war.

      August 12, 2011 at 9:00 pm |
  7. Krista

    Anyone who claims multiple times that they submit to their husband in all things should be questioned, seriously, as to what they would do if their husband made it clear his opinion on a particular decision or political ideal. Whatever the 'interpretation', the bible puts the man over the woman, as God is over the church. I don't know anyone who believes in God would think it would be okay to do the opposite of what God straight out told them to do. Anyone who votes for a religious fanatic deserves what they get, but the rest of us don't deserve to live in an American Taliban controlled state as well.

    August 12, 2011 at 8:48 pm |
  8. nancy

    Great. If she runs for pope she will be highly qualified. However, in this country we separate church and state, and she knows nothing about serving in public office.

    August 12, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
  9. Jerry

    I understand the reason for the question given Bachman appears to be of a religious persuasion. And if she is, this also means her decisions as a US representative will be affected by religious persuasions. This should NOT happen in a free country like America. And thus, she should NOT be in office, period. Christianity is the most divisive religion on the planet. And it is also one which victimizes people because of difference. Given the facts, Bachman is not a candidate as far as I'm concerned.

    August 12, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
    • ?

      Jerry, you are an idiot. Just because she has religious views does NOT mean she should lose all credibility for being a presidential candidate. You're acting as if being religious and being a politician are mutually exclusive. Also, by no means is Christianity the MOST DIVISIVE religion on Earth. Islam is by far the most divisive religion: it's the reason why where involved in two wars right now, it's the reason why we have to take off our shoes and submit to searches every time we get on a plane. Please keep your disgusting PC views to yourself.

      August 12, 2011 at 9:00 pm |
    • ?

      "Given the facts"? What facts? It's all fallacious and anecdotal logic you put forth, like that of a middle school kid. It's contemptibly pathetic.

      August 12, 2011 at 9:01 pm |
    • Dalynn Cross

      What exactly would you prefer for president-an atheist who allows for no belief, a Christian who has faith in our nation, or a politician who will do and say whatever the money-bags tell him or her to say... Curious. I'd rather have someone who lives their faith than a hypocrite. We watched Huckabee attempt to destroy Romney because of his faith, which was different from Huckabee-that kind of person we don't need in office. I'm not saying we need an evangelical Christian in office. I won't be voting for Bachman, but I applaud her for her faith and her answer. I will vote for Romney in part because he is a man of faith and willing to stand up for what his beliefs are, unlike so many politicians. He isn't about hating others, he's about living his Christianity. This is a Christian nation, whether everyone is a Christian or not. Founded on principles found in the Bible, and sustained by the keeping of those principles (such as 'thou shalt not kill'), we are a great nation. We can be inclusive, and diverse, but we must never presume to remove God from who we are as a nation.

      August 12, 2011 at 9:04 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I would rather have someone who keeps their beliefs to themselves and has a proven track record of working for what is best for the country, not just a belief or a political party. I don't care what religion a person is as long as it doesn't come into play when making public policy decisions.

      August 12, 2011 at 9:07 pm |
  10. Nookster

    She's just "another" wacked out religious zeolot. Like 1/2 the country, afriad of death, refusing to accept their mortality. Thinking that in this universe, which is larger than human comprehension, that they are something special and god like. When its over its over. Accept your fate.

    August 12, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
    • Tricia

      agreed, im not a religious affiliate. I believe man created god....not the other way around......I have to question the educational background of those that continue to believe.......I lost all faith while in college.......and i came to the realization that there is no God, just a bunch of people that are afraid to belive that life is over when it is over. There is no other side.

      August 12, 2011 at 8:47 pm |
    • Corbijn

      At Tricia: There is no such thing as "losing faith". When one chooses not to believe anymore, they just believe it's BS. Religion may be lost but think of everything else that's gained in this.

      August 12, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
  11. adrifter

    You can debate the word 'submit' all you like, or even retranslate it. But 'submit' means 'submit'. Among the Iron Age people who wrote the Bible, it was not really a radical concept for a woman to submit to her husband. It was the natural order and God's will. The problem only arises when modern people try to adjust the Bible for the modern world. That can't be easy.

    August 12, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
    • Krista

      I doubt it was ever "God's will", but I'll believe it was Paul's will, and the will of every man living in that time (and a lot of men living in this time).

      August 12, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
    • ?

      submit means submit... thank you for that

      August 12, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
  12. Tricia

    I must say, the recent George Bush's one major contribution to government?!......is that now......ANYONE can be president....he did nothing more than downgrad the requirement of intelligence for future campaigners.......(i.e. M. Bachman and Palin(....Im embarrassed

    August 12, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
  13. Mikhail

    On the Newsweek cover this b!tch looks like an irate osprey with AIDS.

    August 12, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
  14. Ashrakay

    Oh my, what a nutter! The Bible also promotes slavery, offering up your daughters to be taken by strangers, human sacrifice and incest. Can we come together as a species and agree to call crazy, crazy?

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

      You are incorrect.

      August 12, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      If I'm in correct, don't just lay down a blanket statement. Tell me how I'm incorrect. If I am in fact incorrect, it will need to be based on fact, not faith.

      August 12, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
    • Krista

      Actually he is quite correct.
      Exodus 21-22
      "If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished, but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property."

      So, it's okay to _beat_ your slave nearly to death, because that slave is property.
      If we took everything in the bible literally, and practiced it, we'd be as bad as the Taliban if not worse. People pick and choose what they will believe at the same time they claim the Bible is the "Word of God"

      August 12, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
    • lilyq

      You base an incorrect interpretation on a book in which you don't have any faith in or reverence for, yet you expect an answer absent of the subject thereof?

      August 12, 2011 at 9:04 pm |
    • tallulah13

      lilyq, if you have a meaningful reply, now would be the time to make it. Otherwise, you just look like another christian who can't defend their bible, but will behave in an aloof manner to disguise that fact.

      August 12, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
  15. Lets get rational now

    Remember less than 4 years ago when there was a question who exactly was going to be president if Hilary Clinton got elected? Bachmann has repeated this "submissive to her husband" statement scores of times in the past to illustrate her religious beliefs. This comment is fair game in her race for president and should come up again until her and her husband (after all, she stated she is subversent to him) answer this question together truthfully.

    August 12, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
  16. John

    Great question.

    August 12, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
  17. Tricia

    Did this bimbo really graduate law school?? Between Palin and Bachman it is hard to believe that either of them ever graduated elementary school. What a couple dim wits

    August 12, 2011 at 8:36 pm |
    • regis990

      She graduated from Oral Roberts University...you know, a college founded by a man, Oral Roberts, who claimed to have seen a 900 foot tall Jesus. There law school is a joke...much like this woman and anyone who would vote for her.

      August 12, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
    • Krista

      LOL Oral Roberts University? Seriously?

      August 12, 2011 at 8:59 pm |
    • Asklepios417

      "Oral Roberts' law school is a joke"

      Great basketball team, though.

      And Oral Roberts also produced the great Kathy Lee Gifford, so they must be doing something right.

      August 12, 2011 at 9:10 pm |
    • Publius Novus

      Actually, the Oral Roberts law school closed a few years after she graduated.

      August 14, 2011 at 10:13 pm |
    • Publius Novus

      After graduating from Oral Roberts, Bachmann took the Minnesota bar. She passed and was issued Minn. Bar No. 0179863. She voluntarily gave up the right to practice law in Minnesota and is no longer licensed.

      August 14, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
  18. Matt


    August 12, 2011 at 8:33 pm |
    • clwyd

      And stupid is forever right winger!

      August 12, 2011 at 8:35 pm |
    • clwyd

      And stupid lasts forever right wing nut!

      August 12, 2011 at 8:35 pm |
    • TAK

      And social conservatives are the best argument ever for abortion.

      August 12, 2011 at 8:44 pm |
    • lilyq

      So true.

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

      Then I'm very happy to have a mental disorder, if caring about the society I live in and justice for all is considered that. But, I would have thought that the conservative, self-interested and selfish beliefs touted by so many Fox viewers are just as much a sign of a mental disorder, if not more.

      August 12, 2011 at 9:45 pm |
  19. Tricia

    The ignornance displayed by Bachman and her cohort Palin are the reasons why the Republican party is losing the white house bid.......they live in the 18th Century not current times.......they do nothing more than repress women.....what a couple of idiots........

    August 12, 2011 at 8:31 pm |
    • Tom

      Tricia – They do nothing but repress women? One was a governor with an 80% approval and was a vice president nominee. The other was successful tax lawyer and a member of the House of Representatives. You may not like their politics but it is absurd to say these women are or want to repress women.

      August 12, 2011 at 8:48 pm |
    • Tricia

      Their ignorance and failure to fight for women's rights is absurd. You are as backwards as they are. Submission??? Lechturing single parents on their need to get married???? Really??? Read up....these bimbos need the boot before women lose the right to abortion and the right to vote

      August 12, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
  20. Matt

    You people really are sad. You live your lives on forums and are always unhappy. You HATE a woman because she is religious?? Do t you idiots realize the world is collapsing because of LIBERALISM. you people need to stop reading these GOD AWFUL writers and biased pundits on CNN. You people really do need help. Liberalism is truly a mental disorder

    August 12, 2011 at 8:31 pm |
    • Xasthur

      There is no such thing as real conservatives anymore based on enlightenment values. You guys want a powerful state but welfare for the rich.

      August 12, 2011 at 8:34 pm |
    • NVreader

      Matt, you need to leave. Your ignorance is showing.

      August 12, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
    • pfeffernusse

      I don't hate Michele Bachmann because she's a woman. I don't even hate her because she's an arch conservative. I hate her because she's a moron.

      August 13, 2011 at 3:38 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.