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. a person of the Name

    No disrepect taken. I'm on a cell phone and this web sight doesn't give me that option. And no I have no degree in any of those but I have studied paleontology as something I was profoundly interested in before I found God.

    August 13, 2011 at 4:17 am |
    • Q

      Per the "Reply" button, gotcha. I bow to your patience posting with a mobile...

      August 13, 2011 at 4:22 am |
  2. a person of the Name

    Well the problum with God coming down to claim dominon over earth would pretty much do away with the whole free will thing beside the bible says this will happen as well but it won't be God. He will conquere the world not by war but peace. He will call for only one religion whom he will declair himself god. This is the antichrist.
    Back to evolution now, you might be able to see it on a minor scall but not to the degree your putting it on.

    August 13, 2011 at 4:06 am |
    • Q

      Please use the reply button. It's much easier to engage in a dialogue if we don't have to scan around. If one considers God to be omniscient, then free will is already gone, i.e. we can't make a choice which wasn't required to conform with God's infallible foreknowledge.

      Evolution has been observed up to the speciation level in a variety of species. From lizards, to birds, to insects, etc. What we have are these observations, validated mechanisms that produce these variations and novel species and then a fossil record which records a progression of changing forms throughout earth's history. To claim one accepts microevolution but not macroevolution is akin to saying one accepts inches but not miles.

      August 13, 2011 at 4:12 am |
  3. a person of the Name

    Yes I've seen these fossil records and they still seam lacking. They're more ape then human where there is none that suport the cross over between ape to human. Then one would have to explain why then would so called common link change into two types of human.

    August 13, 2011 at 3:56 am |
    • Q

      First, it's much easier if you click the "Reply" button. With all due respect, I doubt you're a trained anthropologist/paleontologist/comparative anatomist. The forms exist and the anatomical features do represent bridges between the defined species. As to why, evolution answers this as well. We can observe in real time how organisms change and adapt to their environments which can lead to a speciation event, i.e. one species becomes two. In a nutshell, adaptation to exploit new environments or make better use of a current environment can drive further adaptation and divergence.

      August 13, 2011 at 4:03 am |
  4. tom

    separation of church and state people.

    August 13, 2011 at 3:49 am |
    • Jace

      It scares me that election of people like this may lead to extremely blurred lines of seperation of church and state. I do not believe in religion at all but I do respect other's ability to believe differently than I do. I fear that this will soon change and my own personal freedoms will be stripped away.

      August 13, 2011 at 11:54 pm |
  5. a person of the Name

    You cannot observe evolution. It takes place over thounds of years.

    August 13, 2011 at 3:45 am |
    • Q

      Not true. We can observe evolution in a variety of species in real time.

      August 13, 2011 at 3:56 am |
    • Q

      For example, Lenski's Long Term Experimental Evolution project with E. coli...

      August 13, 2011 at 3:57 am |
    • pfeffernusse

      Of course we can. How do you think new flu vaccines are developed each year?

      August 13, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
  6. SmackTime

    Yo I can give a F***K!!!

    August 13, 2011 at 3:43 am |
  7. a person of the Name

    @ Q. The problum is that man hasn't found a common link between man and ape. Its still guess work.
    So the only way you would believe there is a God in heaven in for him to come down preform some miricles and say he's god?

    August 13, 2011 at 3:39 am |
    • Q

      What we have are fossils bearing the appropriate features located at the appropriate geographical and geological places expected. We also have the hominid lineages extending from the common ape/human ancestor also preserved in the fossil record. None of this has anything to do with "God" unless one is a literal creationist for which human evolution is only one example of a body of validated evidence contradicting the biblical narrative. Some believe evolution is the "creation" mechanism of the first cause creator. I don't believe this, but my belief is irrelevant to the fact that the physical evidence supports the evolution of humans and all other current life on this planet. Of course, some would argue that evidence must be "interpreted" but what they really mean is contorted from concordance with known natural mechanisms to conform to the magical requirements of ID/creationism.

      August 13, 2011 at 3:49 am |
    • Q

      "So the only way you would believe there is a God in heaven in for him to come down preform some miricles and say he's god?"

      I don't know what evidence would convince me, but that certainly would be a great start. Why wouldn't one expect an extraordinary level of evidence to support an extraordinary claim? What evidence would you require if I said a Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe?

      August 13, 2011 at 3:54 am |
    • David Mann

      Yes! But of course you first have locate heaven. It would take a beam of light [which travels at 186,000 miles per SECOND] 100,000 years to travel from one end of the Milky Way galaxy to the other. And that's just ONE galaxy. So where is heaven exactly?

      August 13, 2011 at 4:11 am |
    • Bucky Ball

      There is no "place" called heaven. If, (and I mean IF) it exists, it's a state of being, OUTSIDE of space-time. In your world, if there is a god, it exists OUTSIDE space-time, (it's creature), which it created at the big bang. There IS no "up" or "down". "Up" is an illusion we experience because of gravity and rotation, and changes all the time. If god "created" anything, it would have had to "begin" the act of creation BEFORE it created time. It's all bullshit, talked about by people who don't think about what they are really saying, or know anything about science or philosophy or linguistics.

      August 13, 2011 at 8:10 am |
    • Peace2All

      @ Q

      Very well said.


      August 13, 2011 at 10:57 am |
    • Peace2All

      @Bucky Ball

      Hello my good friend, Sir Bucky !

      When I get some time, you are someone that I wouldn't mind finally discussing my NDE with. Many have asked here on the blogs, however, I never felt that I could talk about it with any degree of someone trying to arm twist me into proving the christian narrative, or something. So, never felt that I had an open person to really discuss what happened here on the blogs.

      With our mutual background in quantum physics, linguistics, neurology, philosophy, theology, etc... I think we might be able to have a pretty interesting discussion around this.

      Ya' interested...? Let me know.



      August 13, 2011 at 11:17 am |
    • Bucky Ball

      Hey Peace,
      How are you ? Re your question...any time. 😈

      August 13, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
    • Q

      Thanks Peace!

      August 13, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
  8. GoldenGate

    Just another meaningless "gotcha" question. Wasn't there a more important question to ask? One that might actually get an answer? No need to bother making her look bad to non-religious people, she already does. She will be out of the running VERY soon.

    August 13, 2011 at 3:11 am |
    • humberto

      meaningless Gotcha you state ? You wish –
      Your bonehead manners and malicious interferance into FAMILY RIGHTS ARE CRIMINAL UNDER EXISTING LAWS-

      August 13, 2011 at 3:30 am |
  9. commonsense*

    Why they always ask questions about religion, this is not a contest for pastor of your community church, the president is a public servant, and all public servant he/she must be secular while they are in the office, it is unbeliable that the most advanced country in the world is electing it's public servants based on their religious views, what is our difference to Iran then?

    August 13, 2011 at 3:09 am |
  10. Corksoaker

    Just because she's a woman doesn't mean she can't be misogynist.
    Just let a man get up there and say that wives should be submissive to their husbands. I dare you.

    August 13, 2011 at 2:35 am |
    • humberto

      I don't like her anyway for lying about public corruption, that such questions are put forward in public concerning a public election – while coveringup kidnapping of a minor and public corruption criminal complaints Congress officials are still criminally involved in to obstruct justice for their peers.

      August 13, 2011 at 2:55 am |
    • humberto

      Florida gov Graham, Nj Gov Kean and Vice President Bush were served to answer in Federal Court, why a NJ arrest order was maliciously denied, the full faith and credit due, in Florida, While the FBI OFFICIALS AND OTHER PUBLIC OFFICIALS falsify files to further obstruct justice for them and their corrupt cabal.
      that concerned the kidnapping of a child of tender years and other criminal ventures they willfully and maliciously entertained to obstruct justice and protect their coreupt careers and wealth.

      August 13, 2011 at 3:25 am |
  11. Marichuy

    I'm glad you have nice serious candidates for president, not just excentrics...

    August 13, 2011 at 2:17 am |
  12. Nonayo

    Sounds like they're redefining words as straightforward as "submit," and reinterpreting what seems like a pretty clear passage of the Bible, to fit their own ambitions. I'm not buying it.

    August 13, 2011 at 2:10 am |
  13. Ludwigk

    Typo – The passage is from Ephesians 5:22-25, not 2:22 (there are no verses in Ephesians 2 past 22). You know, we can do a bit of arm-chair textual analysis to see that Bachmann's answer doesn't hold up given nearly any of the many different versions of the Bible, or in the context of the original greek:


    August 13, 2011 at 2:08 am |
  14. Q

    @really?! – "...people that cant scientifically prove HUMAN evolution use the argument that religion is false because there's no scientific proof." Again, incorrect. "Proof" is a word with no real meaning in the physical sciences and is truly only applicable in formal logic and mathematics. Science uses evidence and probability, but again, it's strength is in its ability to make accurate predictions about the natural world. Generally, people who argue against religion are arguing against the absence of supporting evidence for religious claims about the natural world (e.g. special creation, resurrection, etc) or are arguing against the logic or reasonableness of the moral, philosophical, etc components.

    Even still, nearly all atheists will concede they cannot know if a deity exists or not. Their position is generally a probability assessment based on the absence of supporting evidence for the proposition, i.e. no supporting evidence means a deity most likely does not exist (particularly when said deity is constrained by a particular theology).

    August 13, 2011 at 2:03 am |
    • Q

      apologies for the misplaced reply...

      August 13, 2011 at 2:03 am |
    • GodPot

      Even still, nearly all theists will never concede they cannot know if a deity exists or not. Their position is generally a probability assessment based on the absence of supporting evidence for the proposition, i.e. with faith, no supporting evidence means a deity most likely does exist (particular deity is usually constrained by a particular theology)...

      August 13, 2011 at 2:25 am |
    • uisqebaugh

      Human evolution has been proven as well as a heliocentric solar system
      Regarding your explanations for origins of . Do you have pre-Galilean doubts about the sky?

      Regarding your arguments of atheists using a probability assessment: that's a very general categorization, but ignores other arguments such as Occam's Razor, wherein a supernatural layer is a more complex explanation. Also, many theists argue their beliefs on probability based upon assumption that complex objects require creators. By your argument against evolution, I would be willing to bet that you are of the later camp.

      August 13, 2011 at 2:50 am |
    • Q

      @uisqebaugh – No argument here. I would only add that the probability arguments offered by ID proponents are generally arguments of incredulity based on flawed assumptions about the mechanisms employed by evolution and its ability to generate novel functionality. But the big difference here is evolution has actual observable, testable and validated mechanisms to generate biodiversity whereas the ID camp offers only magic with no supporting evidence.

      August 13, 2011 at 3:36 am |
  15. RC

    I'd love to post a very well thought out response, but WordPress keeps eating it.

    August 13, 2011 at 1:54 am |
    • Helpful Henry

      bad letter combinations / words to avoid if you want to get past the CNN filter:
      Many, if not most, are buried within other words, so use your imagination.
      You can use dashes, spaces, or other characters to modify the "offending" letter combinations.
      ar-se.....as in ar-senic.
      co-ck.....as in co-ckatiel, co-ckatrice, co-ckleshell, co-ckles, lubco-ck, etc.
      co-on.....as in rac-oon, coc-oon, etc.
      cu-m......as in doc-ument, accu-mulate, circu-mnavigate, circu-mstances, cu-mbersome, cuc-umber, etc.
      cu-nt.....as in Scu-ntthorpe, a city in the UK famous for having problems with filters...!
      ef-fing...as in ef-fing filter
      ft-w......as in soft-ware, delft-ware, swift-water, etc.
      ho-mo.....as in ho-mo sapiens or ho-mose-xual, ho-mogenous, etc.
      ho-rny....as in tho-rny, etc.
      jacka-ss...yet "ass" is allowed by itself.....
      ja-p......as in j-apanese, ja-pan, j-ape, etc.
      koo-ch....as in koo-chie koo..!
      pi-s......as in pi-stol, lapi-s, pi-ssed, therapi-st, etc.
      pr-ick....as in pri-ckling, pri-ckles, etc.
      ra-pe.....as in scra-pe, tra-peze, gr-ape, thera-peutic, sara-pe, etc.
      se-x......as in Ess-ex, s-exual, etc.
      sh-@t.....but shat is okay – don't use the @ symbol there.
      sp-ic.....as in disp-icable, hosp-ice, consp-icuous, susp-icious, sp-icule, sp-ice, etc.
      ti-t......as in const-itution, att-itude, ent-ities, alt-itude, beat-itude, etc.
      tw-at.....as in wristw-atch, nightw-atchman, etc.
      va-g......as in extrava-gant, va-gina, va-grant, va-gue, sava-ge, etc.
      who-re....as in who're you kidding / don't forget to put in that apostrophe!

      There are more, some of them considered "racist", so do not assume that this list is complete.

      August 13, 2011 at 2:06 am |
  16. baatman74

    lord, I hope the GOP is NOT dumb enough to put her up to run against Obama..., I damned shure don't want to see him for another 4 years....

    August 13, 2011 at 1:46 am |
  17. Steve

    Jesus never said submit. Paul did. Paul belonged to a Roman society that believed the Father was the absolute head of the family, even over such matters as life and death. When Paul says submit, He means submit.

    August 13, 2011 at 1:45 am |
  18. Dude

    i like how they lived their lives based on a misrepresentation of text.

    August 13, 2011 at 1:44 am |
  19. baatman74

    The magazine cover with her looking crazy...? She is.... Take a lesson from bclinton Michelle, he said 'is' was defined by how you define 'is...' loflmao...

    August 13, 2011 at 1:44 am |
  20. Georgia in NW

    So Bachmann's ramblings about "submission" leads to a convoluted discussion of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Impressive.

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

      Welcome to the world of religious rationalization, my friend.

      August 13, 2011 at 2:51 am |
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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.