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. Mark from Canada

    If she believed in the flying spaghetti monster as I do – then she would only have to submit to his noodly appendage once in a while.

    When will we be free of religion?? We would be better spending our time asking questions about her efforts to find pink unicorns to solve problems related to climate change. We can keep saying that religion and politics don't mix – but the problem is that is already has. The current political system is incapable of dealing with these issues – because it is too top heavy. I believe firmly in community based governance. The government has become too large, but please do not align me with the tea party crazies for agreeing with them on this point – because that's where the similarity ends.

    August 13, 2011 at 12:32 am |
    • Colonic Cleanser

      Oh, I ate the Flying Spaghetti Monster last week for breakie. Was that a mistake? It still burns a little.

      August 13, 2011 at 12:56 am |
    • Spiffy

      Well spaghetti for breakfast is never a good idea. But you shouldn't be worried. The Flying Spaghetti Monster will forgive your sins even if you killed a billion people. As long as you believe in His noodly goodness you can be forgiven.

      August 13, 2011 at 1:06 am |
    • Colonic Cleanser

      Oh, thank GOD. I mean, ummmm....

      August 13, 2011 at 1:37 am |
    • graciegal

      Hail to his noodley appendages~

      August 13, 2011 at 1:39 am |
    • pfeffernusse


      August 13, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
  2. Peter C

    Stick to the real issues, jobs and the economy. I can't believe I wasted my time reading this. The fact that this question was even asked just goes to show you how low we've sunk as a society. I voted Obama, and think this question was poor taste.

    August 13, 2011 at 12:30 am |
  3. Daniel

    Bachman is pro-life and attends pro-life events. Please CNN report using the words that the candidate uses. Bachman only refers to herself as pro-life. I know that CNN is anti-life.

    August 13, 2011 at 12:22 am |
    • popeye1128

      Pro-choice is not pro-abortion. I don't lobby for abortions but do lobby for a woman's right to decide for herself.
      I know of no one who is pro-abortion in the strict sense of the term. Get real.

      August 13, 2011 at 12:34 am |
    • Ana

      Bachman is pro submissive, not pro life. If her husband orders her to have an abortion, then she would do it. Isn't what submissive women do? Who is going to govern? She or her husband?

      August 13, 2011 at 12:35 am |
    • jon

      ana – you're really sounding quite ridiculous

      August 13, 2011 at 12:52 am |
  4. John


    August 13, 2011 at 12:20 am |
  5. gargoke

    This guy is a Republican Christian for sure...

    August 13, 2011 at 12:17 am |
  6. Ladarrious

    For anyone here ripping on the GOP: great work your POS Democrats have done, across the board, under Obama.
    Our country has gone downhill big time and fast.
    Oh, since you read this first sentence, I think they added $2.4 billion to our national debt.

    Great lessons for our kids: charge is all into deep debt, and let China dominate us.

    August 13, 2011 at 12:16 am |
    • Shemp Howard

      You have just shown that you belong in a cage to be displayed for other idiots to gawk at.

      August 13, 2011 at 12:17 am |
    • Keiichi81

      You mean the debt from those 2 wars that Bush and the GOP got us into and that Obama is desperately trying to find a way to extricate us from?

      August 13, 2011 at 12:22 am |
    • KC

      I think the "desperate Obama" is a fairly accurate description!

      August 13, 2011 at 12:25 am |
    • Ana

      Yeah..thanks to those idiots teavangelicals who have thrown our country on the ditch!

      August 13, 2011 at 12:26 am |
    • Ron Nader

      Yeh, your POS president Bush did so much better right you freaking dumb a$$???

      August 13, 2011 at 12:26 am |
    • jon

      ana – what are "teavangelicals" and how have they single handedly thrown the U.S in the ditch. They must be an extremely powerful and influential group to do that in such a short period of time, especially with a Democrat in the WH and a democrat controlled Senate. Wow – they must be an amazing force.

      August 13, 2011 at 12:47 am |
  7. jon

    I'm always amazed at the amount of vitriol in so many comments every time there is a story that has something to do with Christianity, regardless of how bland the story may be. It's one thing to disagree with Christian principles and choose a different way to live. It's another to bash and unfairly treat those who have chosen to adhere to it.

    August 13, 2011 at 12:16 am |
    • dantheman

      If this is going to be a (supposedly) Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we've got to acknowledge that he commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit we just don't want to.

      August 13, 2011 at 12:18 am |
    • Ladarrious

      You're right Jon, I agree with you.
      The Anti-Christians are the most insecure, unhappy, wicked people on the boards.

      I don't have time for them, especially Atheists who think everything was created by a spec of dust.
      We're all just accidents.

      August 13, 2011 at 12:18 am |
    • dantheman

      And the Christians are the most insecure, HYPOCRITICAL people on the boards.

      August 13, 2011 at 12:20 am |
    • azdoc

      I choose to adhere to a belief system in which gays may marry and we may plan pregnancies. Don't denigrate my belief system.

      August 13, 2011 at 12:25 am |
    • jon

      azdoc – who's denigrating your belief system? My comment had to do with spiteful comments toward Christianity.

      August 13, 2011 at 12:32 am |
    • really?!

      Dan.... I help the poor by giving them a job...not by giving them cash. It;s up to the person to acheive or not.

      August 13, 2011 at 12:34 am |
    • jon

      dan – this isn't a Christian nation; it does, however, have a strong Christian presence in its history. Further, ask the poor or any victim of natural disasters how much the church has helped them. Quite a bit. The fact is that Christians do make a big difference in helping others. If the US government does not do enough for the poor in your opinion, it has nothing to do with Christianity. The US government is not a theocracy; it is a secular democracy. You can't blame its shortcomings on Christianity

      August 13, 2011 at 12:37 am |
    • Ana

      I don't have a problem with Christians as long as don't insist to convert me! I am fine without you. And by the way, have they ever heard " treat others the way you want to be treated?". Most of Christians just treat non-Christians like dirt. No wonder everybody else hates them

      August 13, 2011 at 12:41 am |
    • KaylaTX

      It's not that I am antin-Christian, but thanks to the radical and extreme "Christians" that have chosen to spread hate and judgement to anyone who does not believ exactly what they do, the word Christian almost carries a negative stigma. When interpreting the Bible, one must also consider the context in which it was written, the times in which it was written and also all the things that were lost in the loose translation from it's original language to the many different English language versions we have now. The Bible has things throughout that are crazy and bizarre to us because things change and people evolve. The Bible is not a cafeteria where one should pick and choose which scriptures and verses to adhere to word for word. And for all those who love to call themselves Christians, think about this.... Jesus Christ is the basis of the entire religion, and when choosing words to live by why not consider his above all others, he spoke of love, compassion and acceptance. I think alot of these right wing extreme "Christians" should stop picking verses from the Bible that relate to their political propaganda and follow the advice of Jesus, love all regardless and do not judge them and try to change them.

      August 13, 2011 at 12:42 am |
    • Hal Jordan

      LOL. How about this.....as soon as American Christians stop doing that to people who aren't Christian or right wing, then it will stop happening to Christians? Fair enough? And it isn't a sentiment of Anti-Christianity, it is a sentiment against American hypocritical psuedo-christians who instead of having Christianity dictate their opinions, they have an opinion and then find some lame way to support it using the bible.

      August 13, 2011 at 12:43 am |
    • jon

      Ana – I' wonder how many genuine Christians have treated you like dirt? What did they do to you?

      August 13, 2011 at 12:44 am |
    • KC

      Dan, I'm confused. Your entire statement above validates Jesus. Yet, in a previous response you elaborately describe Him in a way that makes Christians "nut jobs", by your definition. Regardless, the good news is that you know seem to know the Good News. But...there's is that submit part...
      I believe you believe...and am glad you do.

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

      Jan..how many non christians have treated you like dirt?

      August 13, 2011 at 12:53 am |
    • jon

      some. thankfully not most. what's your point?

      August 13, 2011 at 12:56 am |
    • really?!

      Jon..sorry man..I meant that for Ana.

      August 13, 2011 at 1:16 am |
  8. popeye1128

    Of course the bible talks about being submissive. It was written by men for men. The old cronies back then just made the wife sleep with the mules if she acted up.

    August 13, 2011 at 12:15 am |
    • Ana

      Exactly. Just like the Taliban does.....

      August 13, 2011 at 12:29 am |
    • John

      You are incorrect. The last conversation Christ had on earth with humans was concerning Mary, and the first three people he appeared to when he was resurrected were three women: Matthew 28:9. The Bible is also replete with references of the honor of women. Try reading it.

      August 13, 2011 at 12:40 am |
    • popeye1128

      John, I know all about that story. So that neutralizes the verses about women being submissive? Your logic escapes me.
      Just because he appeared to women means they aren't supposed to be submissive like in the rest of the bible? I don't get the leap of logic there.

      August 13, 2011 at 12:50 am |
    • pfeffernusse

      And who dismissed Mary and the other women when they told their story? The men. Why? Because women were not seen as full human beings.

      August 13, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
  9. Keiichi81

    No, Bachmann, I'm sorry but "submit" and "respect" are not interchangeable words. However, I can't really say that I'm surprised that her ignorance extends into the realm of the dictionary as well.

    If the Iowans were actually booing the question and not Bachmann's assertion that a woman should always be submissive to a man, then shame on Iowa. The same question could easily be rephrased "If elected President, would you defer to your husband's judgement in matters of office as you've seemingly indicated in the past?" And that is actually a very important question to ask of a Presidential candidate. If she's basically just her husband's proxy, then a vote for Bachmann is actually a vote for her husband. And I think people have a right to know who they're voting for.

    August 13, 2011 at 12:14 am |
    • John

      You are incorrect, the word was taken from the Greek word: hupotasso which does NOT mean obey. The closest English translation is indeed "respect".

      The Greek word for obey is hupakouo which was also used in the bible regarding children who should obey their parents. Two completely different words. Most English speaking peoples however did not and do not have the education or the critical thinking necessary to understand the difference and there lied the quagmire during the translation from Greek to Latin to English. But I'm sure that will be lost on you anyway.

      August 13, 2011 at 12:47 am |
    • Keiichi81

      Ah. You see, I was confused. I thought that Bachmann lived in America where modern English distinguishes between the words "submit" and "respect" and that – being from modern America – Bachmann would know the difference. I wasn't aware that she actually lived in ancient Greece.

      Also, you appear to be incorrect as the English translation given for "hupakouo" (http://www.searchgodsword.org/lex/grk/view.cgi?number=5219) is "to listen, harken, obey, submit". Respect isn't listed even once.

      August 13, 2011 at 1:06 am |
  10. Mujahidden

    In Islam, Wives must inside home. You can have more than 1 wive. You can married 2 yr old girl. You can do threeor maybe onehundred some. You can swing all over with your friends.

    August 13, 2011 at 12:14 am |
    • Muneef

      Get lost infidel!!

      August 13, 2011 at 12:15 am |
    • dantheman

      Ever heard of the Inquisition? The crusades?

      August 13, 2011 at 12:15 am |
    • jon

      dan – is your only response to hearken back to the middle ages? come on man.

      August 13, 2011 at 12:39 am |
    • pfeffernusse

      Okay, jon, how about the Church’s complicity with Nazi’s? How about the Magdelene Laundries? Francisco Franco? François Duvalier? Rwanda? Serbs in Bosnia? The violence in Ireland? The KKK?

      August 13, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
  11. Henry

    Paul did not write Ephesians. Submitting to the authority of Ephesians means that you have no clue about who wrote the Bible or how it came to be.

    August 13, 2011 at 12:12 am |
    • donnyk

      you need to read Ephesians because chapter 1 verse 1 says that Paul himself is writing to the ephesians.

      August 13, 2011 at 12:27 am |
    • SayHay

      I can not take CNN seriously. Where do they find these sick looking feminine Black men?

      August 13, 2011 at 12:57 am |
  12. Frank Blourtango

    That's what we need, a submissive president.

    August 13, 2011 at 12:11 am |
  13. frootyme

    Stop talking about Bible in politics. Why not talk about Tohra, Quran or Geeta then?. Stick to separation of Church and state, don't turn the country into Christian fundamentalism. Freeedom for all!.

    August 13, 2011 at 12:11 am |
  14. popeye1128

    What she obviously fails to understand is that if she really believes women should be submissive she has no business being president.

    August 13, 2011 at 12:10 am |
  15. Dude

    Great that's exactly what we need, a president who submits to her unknown, unelected husband. I can't believe anyone would vote for her. She is so grossly unqualified.

    August 13, 2011 at 12:00 am |
  16. wilburf

    The Bible is best for emergency toilet paper or fire starter. It can be hollowed out to stash marijuana just to be funny. If you want to learn religion, watch South Park (bringing down the vatican)

    August 12, 2011 at 11:59 pm |
  17. KC

    Once again, mainstream media has redirected the attention of the public. The real story is: what was the point of the question? If the point was to remind us she's a woman...thx for wasting our time pointing it out. If the point was that she's a Christian...thx for informing those who wondered. But, if the point was..."could your husband potentially do the decision making if you were president", well the question could certainly be reversed to past & potential presidents, "does your wife submit to you" - I think we can recall a former first lady or two that could be questionable in the implied "submissive" definition of the question – yet, it's never been postured in such a way.

    Utterly ridiculous...but kudos to a dignified, composed response.

    August 12, 2011 at 11:56 pm |
    • dantheman

      The point was to see how big of a nut job she really is; and it is not without basis. She has said in the past that her husband is the one who told her to get into politics, and that good wives should be submissive to their husbands.

      August 13, 2011 at 12:05 am |
    • KC

      I fail to see the "nut job" in her response.

      August 13, 2011 at 12:07 am |
    • dantheman

      Believing that a cosmic Jewish zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree... yea, makes perfect sense.

      August 13, 2011 at 12:12 am |
    • KC

      Ok. Now you've just called every Christian president and candidate a "nut job".

      To my point...then, what was the purpose of the question?

      August 13, 2011 at 12:16 am |
    • really?!

      Dan..I guess my mythical maker is just about as troubling as the belief the humans, as we know us, evolved from a parasite. lol

      August 13, 2011 at 12:30 am |
  18. ndlily

    Jesus the Christ might have been a positive influence. The monster his good works created (otherwise known as the modern church) not so much.

    August 12, 2011 at 11:46 pm |
    • Free

      Could it be that Jesus, the man, was the real treasure, and the Christ character which is so very unlike him is part of that monstrous Church?

      August 12, 2011 at 11:58 pm |
    • AaronT3

      Ndlily, correction, Jesus Christ did not create this monster we did (man). Our ever ending ability to be correct in our own minds has made rationalization our nature. Example: Some "Pro Life" people or more apt to opt for the "Death" penalty or out right shoot the doctor. Their rational shows Pro "some" Life.

      August 12, 2011 at 11:59 pm |
  19. Really?!


    Think about this for just a second...

    The intent for the sep of church and state was that America would have religious freedom. To break it down in simpler terms, so that America wouldn't have an equivalent of the church of England. Its funny to me that the people that speak most about the sep of church and state, have NO religion. (atheists).

    August 12, 2011 at 11:43 pm |
    • *frank*

      Why is that funny?

      August 12, 2011 at 11:45 pm |
    • Really?!

      I guess you don't see the irony in someone complaining about the freedom of religion by those who have none.

      August 12, 2011 at 11:53 pm |
    • Free

      That's about as funny as the fact that the people who complain most about animal cruelty and slaughterhouses are the vegetarians.

      August 13, 2011 at 12:01 am |
    • dantheman

      I'm an atheist Mr. Taxpayer, and you mixed your words up. I want freedom FROM religion, not just freedom of religion. Leave your myths to yourself and let the adults handle the real world.

      August 13, 2011 at 12:02 am |
    • Really?!

      Do you not already have freedom from religion? You choose not to believe, are you imprisoned because you don't believe???

      August 13, 2011 at 12:22 am |
    • pfeffernusse

      The First Amendment works both ways. It prevents the government from enforcing a faith on the citizens or interfering with how houses of worship function. It prevents religion from having a say in public policy.

      There are people, today, using their interpretation of a fairy story to pass laws that directly impact me and people I care about. There is no logical reason for their dislike. They base their opinion strictly on their magic book. That is unacceptable.

      August 13, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
  20. AaronT3

    It sounded like she said her husband was "submissive", interchanging the word "respect".. Hmm.. –Submissive: "inclined or ready to submit; unresistingly or humbly obedient: submissive servants." - Respect: "esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability: I have great respect for her judgment. ". This demonstrates the problem with Republican Tea Bags, they will make ANY word mean whatever they want, rather Webster agrees or not.

    August 12, 2011 at 11:40 pm |
    • Know What

      "...they will make ANY word mean whatever they want, rather Webster agrees or not."

      Republican Tea Bags do not own that habit exclusively - most, if not all, politicians do it. Remember, Bill Clinton's "that depends on what the definition of "is" is"????

      August 12, 2011 at 11:47 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.