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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. philtration

    God is a lie.
    I don't care how much you want to believe in magic, your invisible friend is not going to help you.
    If you say that God talks to you then you are either a liar or you are crazy and since you already believe in talking snakes, the dead coming back to life, magic apples and people with bird wings my money is on crazy.

    August 12, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
    • Tarantula

      You're the liar, dung breath.

      August 12, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
    • CT

      what a convincing argument – thanks. Now I'm off to renounce my religion.

      August 12, 2011 at 10:03 pm |
    • TB

      Philtration, you're right on target. Religion is brainwashing, pure and simple.

      August 12, 2011 at 10:07 pm |
    • kingnpriest

      The Bible is a revelation, not a philosophy or a poem, not a science. It reveals things and persons as they are, living and acting outside the range of earthly vision or natural discovery. bible revelations are not against reason, but above reason. They require the exercise of faith, man's highest faculty. The powers of reason are not able to discover these Bible facts. You must have faith, and believe, unless you are not of God, John 8:47, if you can't hear His voice, then you are of the wicked which have been prepared for the day of judgement, and are not of God. Seek God! You will find Him, John 14:6

      August 12, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
    • Colin

      kingnpriest- the Bible is a collection of Iron Age mythology thrown together by politically motivated individuals who nobody can name during the early Dark Ages. How can it possibly be true?

      August 12, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
    • kingnpriest

      Colin, you need to check your facts, the Bible goes wayyyyy farther back than the dark ages! There are 23,000 manuscripts of the new testament, and the entire thing can be pieced together from verses quoted in ancient letters from one christian to another. You must turn from your unbelief to the living God!!!!

      August 12, 2011 at 11:10 pm |
  2. John

    But you both cheated Gay People Out of there money and your own Government out of money to. Michele Bachmann Is just a Big Hypocrite. They took money from Medicare and Medicaid and make there money on It ,so now she want to do away with It. It people Like Michele Bachmann and her husband the Cheated money out of these program Is the problem will them now.

    August 12, 2011 at 9:37 pm |
  3. Tcaros

    Crazy woman with no morals. Look at her eyes.. it tells it all when she lies.

    August 12, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
    • CT

      yeah, and I can tell that you are lying by how you type.

      August 12, 2011 at 10:05 pm |
  4. gary

    So much material for Saturday night Live. Does Bachmann grow her own 'schrooms?

    August 12, 2011 at 9:35 pm |
    • *frank*

      Shrooms would probably grow well on the cow pies that come out of her mouth when she speaks.

      August 12, 2011 at 9:48 pm |
  5. Peter

    I thought she handled well. She brought the word 'submissive' into perspective. The responses to this article just go to show how ignorant people are when it comes to Christ. The majority here speak without any real knowledge of Christianity at all, they are simply overreacting because they think it puts women down. Watch what happens when Christ is taken out of society. You'll be crawling and wishing it was back. The comments from women to this article just reinforces in my mind why American women are not for me. You have no respect for anyone, including yourselves. You are bossy, loud, lack morals and are over-opinionated, based solely on emotion and nothing that has dribbled from your mouths is backed up by research/knowledge. You need to step outside yourselves and take a look back at yourself. You all dislike Christians, but I don't see too many Atheists running for office...why is that? You go girls...you can't you respect your man, you won't get any respect back.

    August 12, 2011 at 9:35 pm |
    • *frank*

      Do you wear floods by chance?

      August 12, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
    • Peter

      Dunno Frank...I is unedoocated and Tricia will answer for me from now on... Good night all...God Bless!

      August 12, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
  6. *frank*

    Submission = good; sodomy = bad?
    What kind of sick, hateful, unhappy sons of bitches wrote this book, anyhow?

    August 12, 2011 at 9:31 pm |
    • PProf

      Men in whom dwelt the Spirit of the thrice holy God. You are a sinner in the hands of an angry God. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way.

      August 12, 2011 at 9:34 pm |
  7. TonyB

    fruitcake- although she being submissive would be fun to watch.

    August 12, 2011 at 9:29 pm |
    • Ayu

      Posted on I’m happy I came aosrcs this weblog, My spouse and i couldnt learn virtually any info on this subject theme prior to. I also manage a site and if you need to ever serious in the little bit of guest creating for me if possible feel free to let me know, i’m usually appear for people to look at out my site. Make sure you stop by and leave the comment sometime!

      March 1, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
  8. George

    In Greek (original Bible) the passage begins as "Mutual duties of Christian spouses". Then it follows with the submission stuff. Remember, this was written by humans (not Christ) a long time ago when women were supposed to "submit".

    August 12, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
    • PProf

      But, written under the direct inspiration of God, and thus infallible in all that it addresses.

      August 12, 2011 at 9:26 pm |
    • crackyhoss

      yes, totally infallible... completely. that's why i'm sure you never wear clothes with two different types of threads, right? infallible.

      August 12, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
    • YBP

      Pprof: In reality, there are no gods, let alone any leftovers from the ancient middle east. That's why theology, which if you haven't noticed, is different and unique for every so-called theologian, and therefore by no means a genuine science of any kind. The closest we might get to theology is perhaps a small part of sociology. We can study what ignorant people believe quite easily. But to assert that there is a "deep theological" anything is truly misguided. Theology is the study of the imaginary, and it changes with every sect, every geographical location, and every generation. We could just as easily study Grimms and Disney and call it theology.

      August 12, 2011 at 9:40 pm |
    • PProf

      Ybp: you may of course call anything you want theology. But the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ has spoken to mankind through his word and his Son. You ignore them at your eternal peril.

      August 12, 2011 at 9:45 pm |
    • YBP

      Apparently Pprof, you have no idea what the Son of God (or Son of Man, or Messiah) meant to Jews in the First Century. You are practicing Gentile paganism, and you don't even realize it. Most Christians have no idea where their religion came from and why it is out-dated nonsense. It was out-dated when it was first invented by Paul. It has nothing to do with the First Century Kingdom of God movement, which was misguided, based on the forgery psuedo-prophetic Book of Daniel, and came to an abrupt end in 70 CE. At that moment in time, Jesus' disciples and the movement (the Zealot movement) ceased to exist. You, and billions of people like you, are 2000 years out of touch, my friend. Look into it.

      August 12, 2011 at 9:52 pm |
    • YBP

      Oh, yeah, and that eternity that you are referring to is Israel, not Heaven (and Hell). Get thee to the library!

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

      'Theology' is no more a study of the 'imaginary' than a study of human morality in a purely scientific sense. Remember that the only 'pure' science is physics, and it is rather impossible to arrive at 'morality' from the basic equation governing elementary particles, gravity and electro dynamics. Theology is the study of the practical records that humans have made in an attempt to provide moral, rational and metaphysical framework for the universe and their relationship to life.

      August 12, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
  9. pacman357

    Great. It wasn't bad enough that I woke up one morning after my birthday to see the Trade Center towers crumbling, I have to share my birthday with her anniversary?

    August 12, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
    • Terre08

      Condolences. And her hubby is still gay no matter what they say. 🙂

      August 12, 2011 at 9:32 pm |
    • YBP

      I think it is a fact that her husband is not straight, and never will be.. And when she says that she is pround of him, I think she means his being "cured," which of course would entail changing the physiological size and shape of his straight-female-gay-male brain. She's obviously not up on the recent studies about orientation and gender identification and the physical characteristics of the gay brain, which cannot ossibly be altered. Not surprising, as she seems to be only interested in reading a whole book of out-of-date tripe.

      August 12, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
  10. crackyhoss

    I agree 100% with the article in that this question cannot be answered in a sound byte. That being said, this is a HUGE issue that she needs to address. Are we voting for Michelle Bachmann, her husband, or the voice in her head?

    August 12, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
    • crackyhoss

      Answer: none of the above.

      August 12, 2011 at 9:17 pm |
  11. Jerrold

    These outspoken religious types make me sick. They should keep their religion to themselves. First off, Christ isn't the only religion. What about Jews, Islam, all the oriental religions. Jews don't believe in Christ. I don't think Hindus believe in Christ. Now we are getting Gov. Perry who just ran an all-day prayer meeting in Texas last week. Scary. They all make it like if you are not their religion, then you are unpatriotic. Sounds like the KKK and the Hitler types. All these people who say that America is a "Christian" nation don't remember that the pilgrims came here to avoid religious persecution in England.

    August 12, 2011 at 9:10 pm |
    • John Pedant

      Actually, hindus do believe in Christ (they see him as a divine man, another Krishna–even the names are similar). Muslims also recognize him, though only as a prophet, not the Son of God.

      I thought that Bachmann handled this question well. She has gone up in my estimation. I did not expect that. It is so easy to take cheap pot shots at another person's faith. To answer them with dignity without sacrificing honesty, that is harder. She managed it. One up to her.

      August 12, 2011 at 9:16 pm |
    • Epicurus

      I don't see how re-defining a word to make a Biblical passage more palatable isn't sacrificing honesty.

      August 12, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
    • YBP

      Amen, Epicurus. (Pardon the expression.) You put it succinctly.

      August 12, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
  12. Tricia

    So, let me get this straight.....last week, all single parents needed to get married and raise children as a couple and this week, we need to submit to our men.......holy cow....by next week, men will be pulling us around by our hair and women will be barefooted and pregnant in the kitchen while the men "put the food ont he table."

    Tell you what Bachman......sorry, the majority of women in this country think that you are a pathetic clueless idiot.

    August 12, 2011 at 9:06 pm |
    • E

      Trust me, it's not just the majority of women that think she's a clueless idiot. This woman is basically a walking contradiction since she just talks without really knowing what she's talking about. In short, Bachmann's not getting my vote... doubt she gets many votes at all.

      August 12, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
    • Peter

      Quite the chip you have on your shoulder. Amazing you can speak for a majority of women! Pleased I'm not your man!

      August 12, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
    • Tricia

      A chip on my shoulder because I would never be so pathetic to allow a man to control me??? That does not equate to a chip.....it instead equates to my devine ability to actually think for MYSELF as MOST WOMEN do. I can imagine that whatever woman you are PLEASED to surround yourself with is as clueless as Bachman. Kudos......

      August 12, 2011 at 9:25 pm |
    • Peter

      Well done...you used the word "devine"? That says it all. No man will control you = chip on your shoulder! Go strap on the plastic sister!

      August 12, 2011 at 9:40 pm |
    • Tricia

      because i am educated I have to be a lesbian??? Unbelievable......little boys like you exist......

      August 12, 2011 at 9:43 pm |
    • Tricia

      must be another high school drop out to be so intimated by a woman who thinks for herself.

      August 12, 2011 at 9:45 pm |
    • Peter

      Not sure where education comes into it, but whatever makes you feel better. Keep grasping at straws if it makes you feel better...

      August 12, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
    • Peter

      definitely not intimidated by you or anyone, male or female. I think you speak crap and I'm calling you on it. You must have been treated badly by a man to be so defensive.

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

      In reading your commentary, I wasn't commenting on your education, but the lack there of. Basically, the reason for your FEAR of woman who can think for herself.

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

      Ok Tricia, I give up and have better things to do with my time. You're running in circles. What makes you think you know me or my education level, is kind of kooky. I based my reply on what you typed. A I still believe you have a chip on your shoulder...it's one of those big family packs, not your average chip.

      August 12, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
    • Tricia

      i wouldn't expect you to uphold a conversation with a female........it has to be difficult to do anything other than bark orders

      August 12, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
  13. Joe

    The person who asked the question is right. She pushes the bible at the rest of us whenever she pleases, yet I guess she only follows it as it suits her. Typical, hypocritical far right ideology.

    August 12, 2011 at 9:05 pm |
    • Muhammet

      Its very cool to share every day a fresh photo for your readers. this will bring high anearwess among your readership people.thanks for pic.

      March 2, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
  14. 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 9:05 pm |
    • Atheist

      Atheism doesn't mean having no beliefs. It simply means having no belief in a deity.

      Pat Tillman was an atheist, for starters.

      August 12, 2011 at 9:14 pm |
    • SMH

      While those principles are found in the Bible, they are also basic morality principles found in various religions throughout the world. Attributing all good to the Bible only shows your bias.

      August 12, 2011 at 9:25 pm |
    • Atheist

      Also, by no means was America founded as a Christian nation. Many of the most influential founding fathers were Deists - a list that includes (among others) Franklin, Jefferson, and Paine.

      Read Jefferson's "Wall of Separation" letter for starters.

      August 12, 2011 at 9:28 pm |
    • E

      People saying they have a faith and people actually following it are two different things. Politicians always claim religion but then ignore the most basic facets of it. They cheat, they steal they take from the poor and give to the rich, while claiming to follow the Bible. Morals and religion are two completely separate things.

      August 12, 2011 at 9:29 pm |
    • George

      Mormons are not Christians!

      August 12, 2011 at 9:37 pm |
    • Greg Esres

      "politician who will do and say whatever the money-bags tell him or her to say"

      Like all of our Christian presidents have done? Unfortunately, there isn't much connection between religiosity and character, at least in the way that most Christians imagine. In fact, one could argue that it takes much more character to stand up as an atheist than it does to conform to a social norm.

      Lordy, pretty much all the corrupt politicians lay claim to being Christians. Let's get some good honest atheists in office.

      August 12, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
  15. Rob DInsmore

    So more excuses for why xtians need to make up even more BS to explain the drivel written in the bible. When will humanity grow up and stop believing in such asinine fairytales.

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

      When God removes his restraints from mankind, who to a man are godless selfish vile sinners.

      August 12, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
  16. Mr. Ected

    If her husband figures out a way to get us out of the mess we're in, then I'm all for Michelle Bachmann submitting to her husband.

    But something tells me that Marcus is more of a marvelous interior decorator than a problem-solver.

    August 12, 2011 at 9:03 pm |
  17. CN

    wow. more proof that religion is man made, as in masculine made, to control women. even a fool can see that. oh wait.

    August 12, 2011 at 9:00 pm |
  18. mike

    Apparently she is ashamed of her beliefs

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

      wouldn't you be???

      August 12, 2011 at 9:10 pm |
    • PProf

      Tricia: ashamed of that which is taught us by God himself? I don't think so.

      August 12, 2011 at 9:28 pm |
    • Tricia

      God taught you himself??? or did MAN's interpretation of a book passed down for hundreds of years by mouth until we finally were able to write taught you THE WORD.......GOD didn't teach ANYTHING>.......man's will to instill fear into people by threatening them with hell did.

      August 12, 2011 at 9:33 pm |
    • Epicurus

      "Taught by God himself," or written by Bronze-Age goat herders?

      August 12, 2011 at 9:34 pm |
    • PProf

      All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for instruction. The word of God is living and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, and it accomplishes exactly what God intends, including sealing the impenitent under God's wrath.

      August 12, 2011 at 9:39 pm |
    • Tricia

      God....religion.......and the bible......CULTS......for the uneducated that can't think for themselves. Beliefs for those that can't make a valid argument without quoting the thoughts of another. Sad. I am sorry you are so misled.

      August 12, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
    • PProf

      Tricia: weep not for me, but for yourself and the many like you who choose to reject Jesus, the only Savior who can deliver you from God's wrath.

      August 12, 2011 at 10:03 pm |
    • Epicurus

      Why does there exist "God's wrath" that we need to be delivered from? What did I ever do to deserve that? Did he create us imperfectly just to threaten us with wrath? And how does the crucifixion save us? What about free will and accountability?

      August 12, 2011 at 10:08 pm |
  19. Debra

    Proof yet again this country is not only going down, but there is no hope. Biblical "female submission"? Really? In a Presidential candidate debate? Yep, all is lost. Yet again, another worthless election of equally worthless "candidates".

    August 12, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
  20. Jim

    For those who might be concerned that Bachmann might submit to her husband on some political issue, ask yourself this - do you SERIOUSLY believe that Bill Clinton didn't submit to his wife's wishes on some issues while president? No, seriously?

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

      No, i dont.

      August 12, 2011 at 9:25 pm |
    • R

      I imagine he simply placated her – a big difference from "submitting". She is an IDIOT anyhow!

      August 12, 2011 at 9:31 pm |
    • Epicurus

      No, but Reagan did. His wife had to consult an astrologer. Ironically, this is condemned by the Bible.

      "Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up, and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee. Behold, they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame: there shall not be a coal to warm at, nor fire to sit before it. "

      Is. 37:13-14

      August 12, 2011 at 9:32 pm |
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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.