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. Kathleen

    I have to admit, no matter how much I disdain the woman or her policies, she'll impress most Christians with that answer.

    August 14, 2011 at 11:16 am |
    • Howard

      Abraham Lincoln was right ... Obama can't fool all of the people all of the time ... and, even with the mainstream media constantly promoting him, and making excuses for him, the people are finally beginning to see what an abject failure Obama really is.

      August 14, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
    • jms

      Its her quick thinking that makes her seem more appealing than she is: A bad choice for America? http://www.ufeud.com/debate.aspx?ID=189

      August 14, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
    • KC

      Perhaps her quick thinking is a result of her knowing...really knowing...who she is. Good, bad or indifferent, she knows who she is. No schmooze with her. That's why so many people think she's an "idiot"...because she won't speak words she knows the "idiots" want to hear.

      August 14, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
    • Free

      But will she impress the very traditional who still believe a bride should vow to obey her husband? Will those folks not see her as taking too liberal an interpretation of this scripture?

      August 14, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Howard – Obama has commited no impeachable offenses. Bush/Cheney on the other hand... They should be locked up for what they did to this country and others. (And you folks though ANYBODY could fix it in four years, hahahahahaha.)

      August 14, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
  2. EKM

    Evangelical idiocy! Why can't these people keep their mythology to themselves?!

    August 14, 2011 at 11:11 am |
  3. SiriusVH

    Bachmann is irrelevant. Her days are numbered. Instead, the focus should be on Perry.

    Texas is the second largest economy in the U.S., with a GDP in excess of $1 tril. Texas also represents 8.3% of the U.S. economy in 2011. The two big, and related questions, raised by Perry's candidacy are

    1. Is there a ‘Texas miracle’?
    2. If there is one, can it be spread to the rest of America, as Perry would like you to believe?

    The Texas miracle: It is undeniable that Texas has been hit less than the rest of the economy by the Great Recession and has come out of it faster than the rest of the country. There are some relatively simple and, equally undeniable reasons for that:

    a. Texas is an energy-rich country and, like other energy-rich states (and countries) has benefitted from rises in oil prices. Statistics show that a great deal of the growth in employment in Texas is either directly or indirectly related to the expansion of the oil/natural gas sector.

    b. Texas faces an almost infinitely-elastic supply of cheap, unskilled labor from neighboring states and Mexico. That explains why, the vast majority of the jobs created by Texas and minimum-wage jobs. This also explains why Texas is having problems reducing its rate of unemployment (currently at 8.2%). There are 25 states with unemployment rates below Texas.

    c. Texas has a low-regulation, cheap labor philosophy designed to keep profits high.

    d. Texas was less hit by the housing crisis than the rest of the country, to their credit, most definitely. It would seem that the demand for and supply of loans that could not be paid was lower than elsewhere.

    In a nutshell, you can think of Texas as a combination of China’s coastal areas (flooded with cheap labor coming from the hinterland and no regulation to speak of) and Saudi Arabia (for obvious reasons). It is those facts that explain, mostly, Texas’ success. The fact that Texas is subsidizing companies to come and operate in Texas is, strictly, speaking, a waste of resources, as anyone who has taken Economics 101 will tell you. In fact, of all people, the conservatives should be the ones against industry subsidies.

    That brings us to the second question: How many states in America are blessed with such resources? Not many, unfortunately. So Perry’s claims that he can apply his ‘conservative philosophy’ to the entire nation and obtain the same degree of success, needs to be taken with a HUGE grain of salt. If America were a collection of Texas’, we would not be in the situation where we are and the recession might have resolved itself by now.

    Finally, we should not forget that, part of Texas’ ability to keep people employed stems from it having received around $18 bil. in Federal assistance through Obama’s stimulus package (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009). For fiscal year 2010-2011 alone, Texas has received $12,058,787,615 (Source: Susan Combs Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, Window on State Government, ARRA Funds appropriated). This money is drying up now and Texas is having to cut public spending to balance its budget. This will have an impact on employment that should play itself out in 2012. Until now, they have been under the radar screen because Texas reviews its budget only every two years. It is expected that Texas will lose about 100,000 jobs as result of such cuts.

    August 14, 2011 at 10:45 am |
    • Casey

      So... What you're saying is that you're a total partisan hack. She's not a "threat" ... because you have already painted her a "crazy" .. "Insane" .. (which seems to be the standard way Libs treat conservative women candidates... "Let's say she's a nut!") so... lets' start tearing down the next person. Oh.. God forbid we should actually listen to what they say... consider their positions.. and make a rational decesion based on what the needs of the country are now... and what the capabilities of the candidates are. Right... let's just keep up the partisan rhetoric. That will help. Way to go!

      August 14, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • Peace2All


      Actually, I appreciated your in-depth posting regarding Perry and Texas. Yes, anyone that has studied some economics, and has done some research (which I have been in the process of doing..."research") would find some of those same conclusions.

      Since, Perry is running on his "Look what 'i' did in Texas" platform, it is wise to understand the minutia of the underlying facts.



      August 14, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
  4. brad

    Dear Lord,
    Please protect me from your followers. Anytime anyone in power has a strong belief in something they will stop at nothing to make everyone else believe in the same thing. If she is elected then it will only be a matter of time before the only difference between Iran and America is the headgear.

    August 14, 2011 at 10:29 am |
    • Casey

      Re-writing history again huh? HUmmmm.... most of our presidents were spiritual people and believed in God (Just like most people in the Country do). Just because you have an agenda to tear down, or discredit people of Faith, or spiritualism overall, doesn't give you liscense to change the historical facts.

      August 14, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
  5. Doug

    The bible was written by men according to what they believed. Submitting is something that Paul believed in. I also agree with the fact there may have been interpretational and contextual errors when the text was translated from Greek. The Bible was meant to be a guide for Christians. Not the infalliable word of God.

    August 14, 2011 at 10:03 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Doug, the reason you non-believers can’t/won’t see the truth about Jesus’ word is due to your ego and being focused on the ways of the world, aka materialism. Your greed is blinding you.

      P.S. The Bible is Jesus’ truth about life and the hereafter. If you weren’t so lazy you’d study His letter to all of us instead of listening to other clueless folks that are just as greedy about the ways of the world as you.


      August 14, 2011 at 10:46 am |
    • EKM

      Obviously someone has done his research! Pity more of the fanatics haven't! Thank you for an intelligent, well-researched post.

      August 14, 2011 at 11:06 am |
  6. GIJoe

    Sooooo – if Marcus disagrees with her on U.S. policy, she would have to be submissive to his opinion? Does that mean HE would be the president instead of her? Is HE being vetted and dug into? Who would vote for HIM?

    August 14, 2011 at 9:41 am |
  7. B. L. Zebub

    Keep your phoney religious hocus pocus to yourselves. History has shown us that the " my God can kick your God's butt " doesn't work out to well.

    August 14, 2011 at 9:11 am |
  8. Katheryn

    THE VERSE BEFORE THAT SAYS, "SUBMIT TO ONE ANOTHER" so husbands are to submit to their wives also (Ephesians 5:21)

    August 14, 2011 at 8:41 am |
  9. myklds

    God Lives...Forever.

    August 14, 2011 at 6:02 am |
  10. ras in fla

    What a waste of ink. If you truly understand what us Christians have to say about marriage and submission this would be a non issue. On more thing for the left to jump on and create some sort of fear or demagoguery. Congrats to the Bachmans for a successful marriage and putting their actions where their mouth is. Not to mention to the kids they raised.
    Sad that our society respects people living in sin, a president who seems to despise many things sacred to this country for 200 years and hordes looking for a handout more than people who work hard for their fellow man.

    August 14, 2011 at 4:33 am |
  11. JWH

    There goes Satan using the Word of God. Thus saith the Lord and it is so. A wife submits in ALL things to the husband.
    The man is the head of the woman as Christ is the head of the man.

    This conflicts with rebelllioness women today, but what the Lord designed is holy and perfect. It does not mean a man bosses a woman around, it means he has the final say.

    August 14, 2011 at 1:25 am |
    • RWC


      August 14, 2011 at 5:56 am |
    • Reality

      To be fair, however, most contemporary NT scholars have concluded that the Epistle to the Ephesians was written by a pseudo-Paul. Obviously, M. Buchannen should have noted this in her response indicating she is not well versed in modern Christianity. Ditto for Mr. Marrapodi.

      From Father Raymond Brown's ep-ic NT reference book.

      Excerpts: The First Letter to Ti-mothy

      p. 654, 80-90% of the critical sch-olars believe the letter was written by a pseudo Paul toward the end of the first century, early second century.

      "Authenticity – Probably written by a disciple of Paul or a sympathetic commentator on the Pauline heritage several decades after the apostle's death.

      p. 639 ditto for T-itus

      See also Professor JD Crossan's conclusions in his book (with Professor Jonathan Reed), In Search of Paul, about Ephesians, Timothy and T-itus. (Same conclusions as Father Brown).

      See also Professor Bruce Chilton's book, Rabbi Paul.

      And http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Epistle_to_Timothy#The_challenge_to_Pauline_authorship

      August 14, 2011 at 8:43 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Reality, some marriage you have going on in your home! You are on this blog 24/7 posting your nonsense. When do you find quality time with your wife?


      August 14, 2011 at 11:02 am |
  12. Elle

    If submission means "respect" then why doesn't her husband, who she says respects her, submit to her. If its only one way, its not the same thing. This was a fair question and shows that she is an unreasonable person.

    August 14, 2011 at 1:09 am |
  13. Jack

    The greek word for submit is NOT that complicated or slippery. She, along with other evangelicals, wants to have it both ways. Context is enough to determine the meaning of the word. It is clear from the context that a woman is to look to her husband as a Christ-like figure and that the husband should show her love as Christ would. That is CLEARLY not an egalitarian relationship. It would never be a matter of debate except that culture influences Christianity instead of the other way around. It was NOT an unfair question and people are only offended because the incongruence is very clear. I find it hard to believe that she is actually taken seriously at all.

    August 14, 2011 at 12:58 am |
    • Elle

      I agree, they are trying to have it both ways. If its only the woman submitting, it has nothing to do with mutual respect. and this woman is a poor representative of women to be president.

      August 14, 2011 at 1:10 am |
  14. Reality

    Obviously, Mr. Marrapodi was a bit tired when he wrote his commentary i.e. it is Ephesians chapter 5 verses 22-24 not Chapter 2. Maybe a secret word filter is needed to check on the comments of said moderator. Strange that Marrapodi and his buddy can use words like "s-ex" and "h-o-mo-s-exuality" without using separators but we cannot because of the inane word filter forced upon us.

    Professor Chilton pulls no punches in criticizing one of the founders of Christianity. Basically Paul was a "prude". An excerpt for Chilton's book,

    "He (Paul) feared the turn-on of women's voices as much as the sight of their hair and skin..... At one point he even suggests that the sight of female hair might distract any angels in church attendance (1 Cor. 11:10). Simply add Paul's thinking about women to the list of flaws in the foundations of Christianity.

    Professor Chilton btw is a Professor of Religion at Bard College and a priest at the Free Church of St. John in Barrytown, NY.

    Hmmm, do you think maybe that Mo's scribes simply enhanced Paul's thinking about women when they wrote the koran??? Absolutely!!!!

    To be fair, however, most contemporary NT scholars have concluded that the Epistle to the Ephesians was written by a pseudo-Paul. Obviously, M. Buchannen should have noted this in her response indicating she is not well versed in modern Christianity. Ditto for Mr. Marrapodi.

    August 14, 2011 at 12:38 am |


    August 14, 2011 at 12:27 am |
    • Epicurus

      Personally, I don't trust anyone who types in all caps.

      August 14, 2011 at 12:28 am |
  16. chad

    What else do you expect her to say!

    August 14, 2011 at 12:04 am |
  17. frenchie

    So, wives must submit, but husbands only love? makes little sense to me. Proud to be an atheist.

    August 13, 2011 at 11:43 pm |
    • CheeseSteak

      Me too

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

      If you look at traditional Christian wedding vows wives had to promise to obey their husbands. That's what the term 'submission' meant. She's just twisting scripture.

      August 14, 2011 at 12:06 am |
    • MK

      So if the husband submits to his wife, what does that make him? A weakling...? It's too bad that men are often looked down if that's the case.

      August 14, 2011 at 12:27 am |
  18. CheeseSteak

    Top 10 things overheard at a Bachmann rally

    1. Hey, you a member of The 4-H Club?
    2. She sort of looks like your Grandson don't she?
    3. Mom, why is the man next to me groaning?
    4. This isn't that Palin woman is it?
    5. Ok lady, I'm here, where's my farm subsidy check?
    6. I paid 30 bucks and all I got was a lousy Bachmann T-Shirt?
    7. Lets leave in the seventh inning so we can beat the traffic
    8. And no, we're not hitting Rita's Water Ice on the way home
    9. That lady looks better upside down
    10. That's it, I'm voting for Obama

    August 13, 2011 at 11:40 pm |
    • Jeff H

      Glad to see at least one idiot out there that's stupid enough to vote for the Shell of A Man in the White House today. Obama=One Big Ass Mistake America!

      August 14, 2011 at 8:46 am |
  19. amax66

    The media had to come up with a way to bring christianity into the Bachmann candidacy, how sleazy can one be !!!

    August 13, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
    • Epicurus

      She brings it in herself. Constantly. All of these Tea Partiers do.

      August 14, 2011 at 12:23 am |
    • Elle

      She brought it in herself. She has no business running for president if she needs to submit.

      August 14, 2011 at 1:12 am |
    • Peace2All


      " The media had to come up with a way to bring christianity into the Bachmann candidacy "

      Are ya' kidding me...? Bachmann is an evangelical loon ! Unless you haven't been paying attention, Bachmann continually brings 'god' 'jeeeeeeezus' and 'christianity' 'morality' etc... into her candidacy.

      She is running on her flavor of christianity. How would the media get away from it...?


      August 14, 2011 at 2:52 am |
  20. LadyeCatte

    What a load of CRAP! Why does Palin/Bachmann resort to pretending words mean something they DON'T? If "submissive" means "respect" now, then it follows that HUSBANDS must be submissive to their wives as well, right? Suuuure.... let's hear the pulpits fall behind that idea....

    August 13, 2011 at 9:21 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.