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. John


    August 13, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
  2. herbert juarez

    The best chance Michelle Bachmann has of getting into the White House, is to but a ticket and go with a tour group.The only benefit to her campaign is that it wastes republican funds.That goes double for Perry!

    August 13, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
  3. quality

    I can see how this can be an important question when choosing your wife, why would this be an important question for a person running the office?

    There are far greater qualitative questions around the economy one would think to ask.

    August 13, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • Paul http://www.youtube.com/ny007ny

      Because the president of the United States needs to have their own mind and not run to their spouse to get permission for everything. That is why .

      August 14, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
  4. AGuest9

    Why the boo's??? This is what Evangelicals are taught. It was the impetus of the fears in 1960 that JFK would be "subservient to Rome." What's good for the goose is good for the gander!

    August 13, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
  5. Another Republican Caught!

    Indiana State Representative Phillip Hinkle (R) is involved in a craiglist scandal in which he offered a teenage boy money for a "very good time." He allegedly grabbed the teen's rear at a JW Marriott. When the teen did not want to have a fabulous time the State Rep. was offering him, he contacted his sister to pick him. Phillip gave the teen a Blackberry, an iPad, and $100 to keep quiet. Phillip failed to realize all of his private information was stored in the Blackberry and iPad and the teen leaked the story to the media. http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/chi-ap-in-indiana-lawmakerr,0,5456961.story

    My question to Michelle Bachmann, did the teen fail to be submissive to Phillip? Can Bachmann's husband help cure Phillip by having him get on his knees and pray to Bachmann's husband?

    Like most gay hating politicians, Phillip has proven to be a hateful hypocrite. Can we expect the same hypocrisy from the Bachmanns?

    August 13, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
  6. Tim E

    It's good that evangelicals can interpret the Bible to conform to modern culture. We should be glad they do it. Disqualifying them for not being inflexible literalists, it seems to me, is counterproductive to the desire that they not be exactly that. Besides, would Hillary Clinton be asked the same question? She and her husband claim to be Christians, and they are allowed to have a soft interpretation of the submission passage. Bachmann should be allowed her own liberalized interpretation of it, too, without an onus to hold to an obsolete fundamentalist position.

    August 13, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • Guest

      Unlike Bachman, I don't think H. Clinton has ever claimed to be submissive to B. Clinton. Nor do they claim to be evangelical on the same level as the Bachmans. This is just common sense.

      August 13, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • Know What

      I don't know if anyone ever asked Hillary that question directly, but it was talked about all over the place that we might be giving Bill Clinton another 4 or 8 years of back-seat presidency.

      August 13, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
    • Daniel Gibson

      To the editor:
      Ephesians 2 ends at verse 22, which reads: "And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit." in the NIV. I believe you may have meant Ephesians 5:22-24.

      August 13, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
    • Tim E

      Guest, fair enough, but the passage is still in Hilary Clinton's Bible, and she has to interpret it in some form or fashion in order effectively to ignore it. Both Bachmann and Clinton ignore the original significance in deference to contemporary culture. Evangelicals do claim a more strict fidelity to biblical passages than do nominal Protestants, but it boils down to a (sincere) word game by which evangelicals reinterpret inconvenient passages to accommodate their ever lagging and evolving conformity to the current zeitgeist. It's convenient that Bachmann's husband wanted her to go to law school, but were he to have forbidden her to get a college education, no doubt the lesson to be learned "from Scripture" would have been much different. "Darn it! My husband made me go to law school. See how hard and wonderful submission is?" This, as opposed to "My husband told me to stay at home and not go to college. The Bible doesn't mean I should 'submit' to that!"

      August 14, 2011 at 2:12 am |
  7. SecularTruther

    Originally the scriptures were word of mouth told from generation to generation. Now go back to elementary school and play the whispering game where at least 15 people whispers a phrase in each others ear not letting anyone hear it said out loud and see if the last person says the phrase 100% correctly.

    August 13, 2011 at 10:50 am |
    • humberto


      August 13, 2011 at 10:56 am |
    • Bathbomber

      Christian Scriptures were never just passed around as word of mouth.
      The book of Luke opens with "Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus"
      This means "Many have tried to record the amazing things done among us. The eyewitnesses are still alive, and I have carefully investigated their claims, and now am writing this book so that you can also know about the wonderful things that have happened."
      There is a fundamental difference between Christian scripture and myths and legends passed down by word of mouth.

      August 13, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
    • Tim E

      Some gospel materials came via word of mouth, but Paul's letters were dictated from Paul's mouth directly to an emanuensis. It's debated whether Ephesians was written by Paul, but even if not it's beside the point that it's canonical and consequently needs to be reckoned with in Christian interpretation.

      August 14, 2011 at 1:52 am |
  8. what kinda question

    what does submission to husband at home have anything to do with the mission at hand

    The Economic recovery
    The Budgetary balance
    The unemployment

    Of all the topics at hand, the question of submission to one's husband has become the most important topic?????

    August 13, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • Caleb

      It's important because, if electing a woman to presidency who is submissive to her husband, we're not electing Michelle but instead her husband. The answer that she gave makes it less important, but if she had answered differently, I think it would be a very important question.

      August 13, 2011 at 11:59 am |
    • AGuest9

      Just seeing that you posted that question makes me fear that you vote, drive, hunt, or do anything involving making decisions with serious consequences.

      August 13, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
    • right


      u r right.Question her on more important topics that are facing the economy today to see if she is able to address these important issues.

      August 13, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
  9. Muslimssupportersuck

    Wonder what would happen if Hillary were asked this question about wieners wife who is muslim and holds a position of trust. You dont see many christian women walking around with burkas on do you.

    August 13, 2011 at 10:32 am |
    • Epicurus

      I love how the best argument for Christianity seems to be "Well, uh... Islam is worse."

      August 14, 2011 at 12:27 am |
  10. Ms Submissive

    Order of submission:
    1) Submissive to God's law as a created being-Yes
    2) Submissive to hubby dear at home -Yes

    August 13, 2011 at 10:30 am |
    • Guest

      "Submissive to hubby dear at home -Yes"

      You made up the "at home" part.

      August 13, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
    • AGuest9

      1) Please grow a brain.
      2) Please grow a spine.

      Was that a joke, or do people like you REALLY exist?

      August 13, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • Free

      What if hubby dear really disagrees with something you had to do at work? Are you telling me that Christian women wouldn't be compelled to change some aspect of her work if her husband deemed it appropriate for their family?

      August 13, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • Ms Submissive


      Are you implying that I Ms. Submissive am not capable of knowing how to make sound decisions at work? so much so that I will have to consult my hubby dear? or are you assuming hubby dear has no other work than than to help me with my work?

      I have been endowed by my creator to think and make sound decisions.

      At home i will always be a submissive wifey and my family comes first at home. At work my nation and its welfare comes first.

      Thanks for the question, next?

      August 13, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
    • Martin T

      Good for you, I don't agree with you, but I do wish you well. Personally, I don't want a submissive woman in my home, I like my wife to have a voice and we are equals.

      August 13, 2011 at 10:12 pm |
  11. Susan Carlson

    Here again we see the fundamental christian ability to interpret the bible as they see fit and however it is advantageous to themselves. Her statement on submission at the debate is in direct opposition to the meaning of the bible she professes to follow and her own prior words. This was a highly pertinent question for a woman who would be queen...err, I mean President. You know the old saying, if you can't stand the heat........and I don't mean leave the room and hire a cook.

    August 13, 2011 at 9:49 am |
  12. Scot

    Very good question and that it needed to be asked because of Bachmann's past comments shows how someone who is a devout fundy christian isn't fit to be president.

    August 13, 2011 at 9:32 am |
    • humberto

      She as others in Washington have no idea whats going on in their office, let alone elsewhere.

      August 13, 2011 at 9:40 am |
    • humberto

      or so they would have you believe when caught.

      August 13, 2011 at 9:43 am |
    • humberto

      and that was how the Christion Coalition was spauned for Reagan's second term.

      August 13, 2011 at 9:48 am |
  13. msclair

    Paul just rambled on. Too bad the bible doesn't actually have what Jesus said. Paul and the authors of the bible never met Jesus.

    August 13, 2011 at 9:24 am |
    • humberto

      Their's alot of them dis-satisfied with their lives and reading while drunk on themselves.

      August 13, 2011 at 9:34 am |
    • herbert juarez

      Paul(Saul)met Jesus on the road to Damascus,all the other authors of the New Testament either knew Jesus personally during His earthly ministry,or were in the presence of those who did and shared the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit.Try reading 1 John 1:1-4..." 'we' have 'seen' it (the life,Jesus)... our hands have' touched'...'We' (more than one) proclaim what we have'seen and heard'..."
      Wherever you are getting your information from, it appears to be false!

      August 13, 2011 at 10:09 am |
    • SecularTruther

      @herbert juarez, how do you know all that for a fact? Where you there? Was the first person who told you that there? Before you go on a delusional rant that basically has no proof in the argument. Could it be that you were duped into believing fictional fairy tales thought up by uneducated primitive men who just took different tribal stories and put them together in a book. Do you believe everything you see on tv? Do you believe everything you read on the internet? Why believe everything that's written in a book with far fetched stories and tons of historical inaccuracies?

      August 13, 2011 at 10:37 am |
    • herbert juarez

      @secular truther
      Truth is apparently the farthest thing from your mind,the proofs were already illustrated,John said he touched Jesus.That kind of disagrees with the false theory that atheists currently present.No rant necessary, the facts and testimony of those that were there speaks for itself.There were1st century A.D.people that were as civilized as people today, maybe, in some cases more civilized.Do you have an example of the historical inaccuracies of which you speak or was that part just an added rant by you?

      August 13, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
    • I Don't Get It


      Do you believe that Mohammad and Joseph Smith were spoken to by angels (Smith even had "witnesses")? David Koresh, Jim Jones, Warren Jeffs and numerous others over the years have claimed to have been spoken to or to actually *be* "God" or Jesus - do you believe them?

      Why do you believe Paul of Tarsus? ...or whoever wrote "John", etc.?

      August 13, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • herbert juarez

      @i don't get it
      it is interesting that you mention Mohammed and Joseph Smith together.If you study you will notice more similarities between the two than differences.Smith was a known con man /fraud in his home area, also any "witnesses" to his mysterious writings were in on the scam with him.There is a lot of testimony on this on you tube and the web.Google:Joseph Smith fraud.
      Based on the facts presented I do not believe either of these men were prophets.The true test of a Biblical prophet was 100% accuracy proved in their lifetime.Both these as well as the other three you mention fail that test.
      The way to discern the false, is to diligently study the genuine.
      The Bible has an amazing track record for accuracy,with many discoveries confirming the accounts being discovered almost daily.(examples available upon request)
      What is not believe about Paul of Tarsus?Show it please.
      Who do you suppose wrote John, and bore witness to touching Jesus?

      August 13, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • I Don't Get It


      1) "The true test of a Biblical prophet was 100% accuracy proved in their lifetime."
      - what on Earth are you talking about? Some guys guesstimated a few things correctly? Muslims and Mormons and others will give their prophets 100% too.

      2) "The Bible has an amazing track record for accuracy,with many discoveries confirming the accounts being discovered almost daily."
      - These discoveries prove that there was a culture, living in the Middle East way back when, who believed certain things, held certain rituals, passed on certain myths and legends, held certain superst.itions, etc. There is not a scintilla of evidence for any of the supernatural beings or events in that book.

      August 13, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
    • AGuest9

      @herbert – read all four evangelists. "John" is NOT written by a fisherman, and I suspect was embellished quite a bit by monks during the Middle Ages. Someone earthy, like a .fisherman, would not have used such elaborate allegory and scenery. Revelation was either the result of an opium trip, if truly written "back in the day". Revelation, according to scholars, was likely written in 69 CE, and is ascribed to "John". If indeed, "John wrote between 49 and 62 years after Christ's Ascension", that puts the writer, if a contemporary of Jesus the Nazarene at 81 and 95 if born in the same year. However, he was said to have been younger than most of his disciples. A prisoner of Rome in extremely advanced age for that time period just deciding to write his book, and in flowery allegory – a simple fisherman? It sounds too fantastic to be true, and it probably is.

      August 13, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • herbert juarez

      @i don't get it
      1.Not quite,the Hebrews of antiquity were tasked with preserving the word of God.Perhaps you have heard of the chosen people?They(the Hebrews)took the responsibility with extreme seriousness.If for example a prophet was to say "thus says the Lord" a 100% track record was required in prophecies that were fulfilled in the prophets life time.If they were not the prophet was subject to severe penalty and their writings were totally destroyed.It was a capitol offense to misrepresent God in these matters.Inaccuracy was not allowed,and writings that qualified were diligently kept and preserved.
      2.If you do not believe the Law and the Prophets ,it is unlikely you will believe a man returned from the grave.There is evidence for the events described found in many instances.The places and people that existed in those days left a record of their presence.That record is still being discovered,so you have people places and artifacts exactly were the Bible said they were.But if all those people and all that evidence and all their testimonies were placed before you, you ,i think would still want to argue.It is what it is.Your pen name says it all.

      August 13, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • herbert juarez

      So a fisherman can't write?Check out some modern day authors and poets,on that and get back to me will you?Hemmingway and Sandburg come to mind.1st century Jewish tradesmen ,may not have been as uneducated as you suppose and with the added indwelling of the Holy Spirit who knows what is possible.Actually the discussion started with 1John.,but the Gospel is equally relevant.Do you have any evidence whatsoever for your "monk"theory or is that total speculation on your part?

      August 13, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • AGuest9

      @herbert – Hemingway and Sandburg were 20th Century writers. "John" was not.

      August 13, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • herbert juarez

      @ guest No duh!The point was working men can be excellent writers.Adios.

      August 13, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  14. Florence B. Matyas

    State Medical Board of Ohio required that I submit to forensic psychiatrist Dr. S. Noffsinger of University Hospitals in Cleveland, OH then progressively disabled me from the practice of medicine. They kept asking where is my husband. I told them I'm divorced. This all because I had mild treated postpartum depression after problematic spinal anesthesia. I did not treat patients in a nonfree punitive manner as I was treated. Now, Ohio has denied me disability.

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

      So what does that have to do with the proof of how Bachmann and thoes othe phoney holy rollers lead, tooting their horn in an offensive manner in a legal forum and all the rats blindly folllowing her and them ?

      August 13, 2011 at 8:27 am |
    • humberto

      Don't tell me your Dr. Price .

      August 13, 2011 at 9:28 am |
    • shawn

      This is awesome...I'm not sure if this rambling had anything todo with connecting the dots with the bachman story but it sure is indicative of what they having you checking into a psyc! Google her name...she is a doctor in the Cleveland market...although who knows if that same person posted this!

      August 13, 2011 at 10:25 am |
    • AGuest9

      Or, someone trying to discredit her. It's why I never use my real name or email address.

      August 13, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
  15. humberto

    Roland S Martin of CNN points out what a bunch of phoney holy rollers they are .

    August 13, 2011 at 8:03 am |
  16. j

    A woman should submit only to God. I can understand obeying a person who is righteous in the commandments of the Bible .But even a person who is righteous can sometimes do things which are not righteous, then she has every right to disobey .

    August 13, 2011 at 7:10 am |
    • News Flash

      How ridiculous. Any woman who says she is "submitting" to god, is only "submitting" to what she THINKS god says, and/or what he is telling her, and submitting to someone else ONLY when she thinks they are "righteous" means she is also deciding for herself what is or is not "righteous". It's all the SAME. She is STILL thinking for herself, (the way it should be). If not, name ONE thing you disagree with you think a "righteous" person tells YOU is "righteous. that you think is not. Gimme a break.

      August 13, 2011 at 7:48 am |
    • Martin T

      How does one submit to something that does not exist?

      August 13, 2011 at 10:13 pm |
  17. MeDotOrg

    In every dictionary I've seen, submission does not mean respect.A person MAY submit out of respect, but that is not the meaning of the word. If we need a different dictionary for what submission means to 'us' and what submission means to the rest of the world, how do we communicate?

    August 13, 2011 at 5:04 am |
    • Free

      'Islam' means "voluntary submission to God". Perhaps this is ironic, eh?

      August 13, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  18. a person of the Name

    @ Q evolution is minor changes over time. A way a pertiular group or groups adapt. To their enviroment.

    August 13, 2011 at 4:31 am |
    • Q

      No argument here. I'd only add that "over time" and "minor" are relative terms based on what we know of geologic time and the ability of minimal changes in gene regulatory networks to have profound effects on morphology.

      August 13, 2011 at 4:45 am |
  19. a person of the Name

    @ Q its not hard. Besides I like to see what others have to say as well.

    August 13, 2011 at 4:26 am |
  20. a person of the Name

    And no I don't believe in extream evloltion. Who said heaven is a place. Remember God is a spirit therefor heaven doesn't have to be pysical.

    August 13, 2011 at 4:24 am |
    • Free

      Perhaps heaven is the same as nirvana?

      August 13, 2011 at 4:14 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.