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. TomTheTaxPayer

    I detect lots of misunderstanding and hatred of Jesus the Christ out there. Too bad really. Shows a deep contempt for the most positive and amazing influence humans ever have had.

    Out of curiosity, where were all these curious people when the current President, Mr. Obama, attended a hate church, ran around with a terrorist, and refused to identify the "change" he planned. OK, maybe "planned" is a strong word for our current president. Sorry about that.

    August 12, 2011 at 11:38 pm |
    • AaronT3

      TomTheTaxPayer, 1Sa_2:3 "Talk no more so very proudly. Remove arrogance out of your mouth, for Jehovah is a God of knowledge, and by Him actions are weighed." If we look at the action the most Christian behavioral traits have been made evident by President Barack Obama. Only the Republican Tea Bags for the past 3 years have preached hate-filled, judgmental, lies and their "ACTION" bear no resemblance to Christ.

      August 12, 2011 at 11:48 pm |
  2. AD

    How did Christ loved the Church? Died for her: Wives submit (be under the mission) to the guy who is willing to die for u.

    August 12, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
  3. Kats

    Only one apostle was ever married, so what do the male writers of the bible know about relationships?! Furthermore, at its core, religious texts engender the hatred of women and "others", and therefore; violence against women and intolerance of those considered different will continue.
    The so called 5 "Great" Religions: NO THANKS!

    August 12, 2011 at 11:35 pm |
    • Lewis

      I fail to see how the command for husbands to love their wives engenders hatred.

      August 13, 2011 at 7:28 am |
  4. Tyris

    Gotta hand it to her here. I don't care for Michelle or Bible thumpers, but this guy took a cheap shot (I mean come ON, SO many more things in the Bible with which to make her look like a fool with), but she gave an answer that I can't find fault with and made him look like an a$$.

    August 12, 2011 at 11:30 pm |
    • svann

      She did NOT answer the question. The question wasnt about the bible. It was about her statement in 2006 which she did not clarify at all. She totally dodged it.

      August 12, 2011 at 11:36 pm |
  5. B.O.

    Let pretend that seperation of church and state was real. What would that look like?

    August 12, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
    • Shemp Howard

      Churches paying taxes? Crazy! It cots a lot of money to keep that pyramid scheme going.

      August 12, 2011 at 11:31 pm |
    • svann

      You might want to read the 1st amendment to see what it actually says about that.

      August 12, 2011 at 11:33 pm |
  6. Really?!

    Did any of you watch the portion of the debate that you're commenting on? LoL.

    Or did you just see the headline and read the story?

    It was an inappropriate question and she answered it perfectly.

    August 12, 2011 at 11:23 pm |
    • svann

      Was she telling the truth in 2006 when she said she submitted to her husbands will, or now when she says it just means to respect each other?

      August 12, 2011 at 11:35 pm |
    • Spiffy

      I watched the debate. Anything from your past is open to question. I thought the question was appropriate and one that should have to be answered for anyone who wants to lead our country. Her answer, I thought, left much to be desired.

      August 12, 2011 at 11:35 pm |
    • Really?!

      It appears from all the responses, everyone believes 'submission' was meant like in bdsm, is that true? If so you really think you have the right to know what goes on in their bedroom or any other room for that matter? If so, you're quite a sick person, but I'd still want to meet you. Lol.

      August 13, 2011 at 12:01 am |
    • Really?!

      Point being... Chill out!!!!

      August 13, 2011 at 12:03 am |
    • Spiffy

      I don't really care what the Bachmann's do in their bedroom. What I do care about is the fact that she said she should submit to her husband. We don't need another Cheney, Bush relationship going on in the White House.

      August 13, 2011 at 12:49 am |
    • really?!

      I'm missing something...what does bachman and her husband have to do with bush, cheney?

      August 13, 2011 at 1:21 am |
  7. markus

    First of all, it's Ephesians 5, not 2. Second of all, verse 21 sets up the discussion in 22-33. "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." So, yes, it does say that husbands submit to their wives, just as clearly as it says wives should submit to their husbands. Paul goes on to explain what it looks like for a man to submit to his wife after he has talked about how a wife should submit to her husband.

    August 12, 2011 at 11:16 pm |
    • Me You


      Thank you for the fuller context. The issue, of course, is not what the Bible says but what individuals *say* it says and what societal impact that affects.

      For instance, during slavery and the ensuing years of legal segregation in our nation many Christians supported racial segregation as both scriptural and Christian on the basis that God created "separate nations" and man's attempt to "mix" them would be displeasing to Him. Obviously we see that reading as misinterpretation (not to mention self-serving and sinful) today.

      Christian couples have the right (the religious freedom) to live their familial lives hued closely to scriptural principles. They do not have the right to insist that everyone else in a deliberative democracy live the same way. That's why I'm continually astounded when scriptural arguments break out.

      We share a democracy – not a common religious or spiritual outlook or understanding. That's what democracy means at its heart.

      August 12, 2011 at 11:29 pm |
    • svann

      The meaning of the verse doesnt matter as much as what she meant when she said she submitted to her husband when he told her to study law.

      August 12, 2011 at 11:31 pm |
  8. Ralph in Orange Park, FL

    If one checks Roget's Thesaurus, "submit" is not a synonym for "respect".

    August 12, 2011 at 11:13 pm |
  9. Insight

    Jesus Christ was a Democrat. He spent most of his time in Galilee helping the poor who did not have any health insurance. He healed everyone but the rich people did not mind because insurance was not an issue then. When people got sick, they were thrown into Galilee. Buchanan likes that kind of system in USA. She wants all the middle class to be thrown into ditch (Mathew chapter 5)

    August 12, 2011 at 11:12 pm |
    • Lewis

      It could also be argued that Jesus was a Republican. In Matthew 20 He taught that a businessman should be allowed to freely set his own wages, do what he wishes with his own property, and that unions of orgainized workers demanding higher wages than what they already agreed upon is nothing but greed. Actually, America needs a leader with unsullied moral integrity, unswerving justice, unbending truth, and unbounded compassion. I know of no one in any political party that fits that description.

      August 12, 2011 at 11:23 pm |
    • Hahahahahaha

      Did you read what you just wrote? Do you see how idiotic you sound.

      August 12, 2011 at 11:38 pm |
    • Hahahahahaha

      Stupid liberal nonsense. He says "Needs of the many out weigh the needs of the few" doesn't say "We force the needs of the few onto the needs of the many all the while stealing their childrens future".

      August 12, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
    • pfeffernusse

      "Needs of the many out weigh the needs of the few"

      Jesus never said this. While Caiaphas said something similar, this is actually a quote from Mr. Spock.

      Then again, we are discussing fiction...

      August 13, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
  10. gupsphoo

    Another proof that most Christians don't ready the Bible. If they did, they wouldn't be Christians.

    August 12, 2011 at 11:00 pm |
    • gupsphoo

      * read *

      August 12, 2011 at 11:02 pm |
    • Jewell

      Your last statement makes no sense. Clarify, please.

      August 12, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
    • Insight

      Most of the Christians are fake.

      August 12, 2011 at 11:16 pm |
    • mrkjsn

      @jewell – Let me explain...one word...hypocrisy. The Bible is full of it. How do I know? I was once a Christian and read the Bible.

      August 12, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
    • Hahahahahaha

      @Insight; So are the Liberals. Fake Americans, Marxists in disguise.

      August 12, 2011 at 11:42 pm |
  11. Joe

    How is it inappropriate to answer a question in a sound bite forum when the candidate herself spouts sound bites on similar topics when it suits her needs? Isn't that the very definition of hypocrisy?

    August 12, 2011 at 11:00 pm |
  12. ab_contador

    Another example of how the bible is absurd and christians, by following it, are scary individuals and even scarier as a large group.

    August 12, 2011 at 10:59 pm |
    • jon

      right – Christians are so violent and oppressive; too bad they had such a prominent role in building all of Western civilization. oops

      August 12, 2011 at 11:01 pm |
    • Jewell

      Your comment holds not meat. Explain what you mean. Give examples. Justify your generalization "all Christians." You have to be able to back up what you believe and I don't believe you did that. For the sake of a good debate, give a good, logical argument, if that's possible.

      August 12, 2011 at 11:07 pm |
  13. Jewell

    "Submit" means exactly that-submit. Women are to reverance their husbands and respect them. Husbands have to respect and love their wives. Husbands do not submit to the wife-they are the head of the home. Anyone who doesn't want to accept that, mostly women who are haughty and have a lack of humility to accept the truth and their role, should humble themselves and accept it, study it, read it, pray about it. Its a hard fact to accept but once someone understands the reason for the role of a husband and a wife, it is easy to view these roles and divine and not self-willed. This whole "feminists movement" contradicts the Bible. Second class citizens-no; slaves to their husbands-no; have to do EVERYTHING the husband says-not if what he requests something that makes a wife compromise her Christianity/comfort.

    August 12, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
    • Lewis

      Well said

      August 12, 2011 at 11:13 pm |
  14. Marc in Florida

    That question represents the trash that our political figures have to respond to on both sides of the aisle. Rep. Bachman should have told him exactly what to do with that question. I applaud her for the dignified way she answered. That columnist should be shamed by his peers, he is an embarrassment.

    August 12, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
    • ab_contador

      She claims to follow the bible no? valid question then my friend.

      August 12, 2011 at 11:00 pm |
    • Hahahahahaha

      Media in general is what is wrong with this country. The politics follow the media.

      August 12, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
  15. Kareem

    The lady's eyes look like she's on 17 different anti depressants or maybe just good old fashioned crack.

    August 12, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
    • Hahahahahaha

      Been there huh. After hours of staring at yourself in the mirror wondering what a waste of life you are? Or maybe after that last batch you and your bros just finished cooking up and watching the scabs get high off your supply?

      August 12, 2011 at 11:46 pm |
  16. Lewis

    In context Ephesians 5:22-33 does not teach that Respect = Submission. They are not the same Greek words, and Yes, I can read Greek. Both husband and wife should love and respect each other equally but when it comes to who has the final say, then what? The apostle Paul is using the ILLUSTRATION of marriage saying (verse 22) "Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord." in order to teach something else. (verses 24-26) Christ should have the final say in all things pertaining to life and godliness, not the Church. Paul goes on to say that this type of relationship is a mystery (verse 32) which we can not fully understand.

    August 12, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
    • Free

      A mystery that we can't fully understand, but must accept unquestioningly, right? How is that rational? If nobody understands the reason for some practice then why the hell is it a good idea? Makes no sense whatsoever.

      August 13, 2011 at 12:23 am |
    • Lewis

      Do children fully understand everything their parents tell them to do? No, yet what they are told to do like: don't run out into the road or take your vitamins, is for their well being. Jesus taught that unless people have faith "like a child" they will not enter heaven (Matthew 18). Being a Christian is difficult for many adults. We think we know better.

      August 13, 2011 at 7:50 am |
    • pfeffernusse

      See, but I prefer to deal with life as an adult, not a child. Children believe in fairy tales. They are gullible because they lack experience. Adults deal with reality. With responsibility for themselves and their actions. With making hard choices because those choices are the right thing to do. I'm happy to be a grown-up.

      August 13, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
    • Free

      Me too, pfeffernusse! 🙂

      August 13, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
    • pfeffernusse

      And now we will perform the sooper sekrit atheist handshake. 😉

      August 16, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  17. omega

    Interperate however you want. It doesnt matter Bachman will not be President none of the current republican candidates will be. Most are realy good an druming up republican support but they lack the ability to win the support of independents.

    August 12, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
    • Hahahahahaha

      Obummer does?

      August 12, 2011 at 11:47 pm |
  18. What is in the bible?

    As long as Bachmann takes the bible literally, why didn't anyone ask her about Timothy 1 2:12?

    "I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet

    August 12, 2011 at 10:48 pm |
    • jon

      keep in mind the cultural context of 1st century Palestine. I don't think that women usually didn't speak in public gatherings of any kind, not just the early church gatherings. That verse is reflective of the culture in which they lived.

      August 12, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
    • MrHanson

      That is about Eldership and Leadership in the Church not in general.

      August 12, 2011 at 11:05 pm |
    • Shemp Howard

      I agree. How dare she only follow parts of the bible she deems fit. What a charlatan!

      August 12, 2011 at 11:36 pm |
    • Free

      Funny how some Christians will dismiss what they want to based on it's being from a cultural context long gone, but refuse to apply that same principle to other issues like hon.ose.xuality. I mean, if Paul's views on women turns out to be too old-fashioned these days then why not his views on gays?

      August 13, 2011 at 12:29 am |
  19. Betty

    And they say muslims are dangerous? Not as much as a person running for President of the greatest country in the world and making choices based on her belief in a fable!

    August 12, 2011 at 10:44 pm |
    • jon

      Ancient historians that were not Christians attest to the historicity of Jesus Christ and his early followers. Jesus was a real historical figure, not a fable.

      August 12, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
    • *frank*

      Those ancient historians also called them morons. And they were right.

      August 12, 2011 at 11:23 pm |
    • Hahahahahaha

      Hey Betty don't know if you realize, but this great country you live in, the laws that protect you and the way of life you hold dear are all based on this "Fable" and the values it teaches. Do us a favor and leave the gene pool.

      August 12, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
    • Know What


      The laws of this country have their sources in many places - Greek and Roman philosophies, just to name a couple. The Bible offers *some* wisdom, but this wisdom was not particularly novel, and much was borrowed from previous/other cultures. There is quite a bit of downright bad advice in that book too, you know - slavery, genocide, rapists having to marry their victims, just to name a few.

      August 13, 2011 at 12:01 am |
  20. eggy31

    I apologize if this is redundant, but I didn't have time to read ALL the comments. So, here goes, five words people... seperation of church and state. Enough said.

    August 12, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
    • MrHanson

      Yes the apostles of Atheism should be given free reign. Oh wait they already do.

      August 12, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
    • jon

      This has nothing to do with the separation of church and state. That principle has to do with the state not mandating or supporting a certain religion or group. To ask a candidate for president about her personal faith and the implications of that belief is perfectly legitimate. People running for office do not have to set aside their religious convictions in order to run for office.

      August 12, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
    • ab_contador

      Very good point Jon, but I think what was meant is that someone running the country should not base any decisions they make on religious doctrine.

      August 12, 2011 at 11:03 pm |
    • J

      @ab_contador - But every decision that anyone makes is based on or influenced by their religious belief. How can one make decisions outside of the framework of the worldview in which they believe?

      August 12, 2011 at 11:25 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.