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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. WFO

    These people run on their theology, and they are the same ones that complain about theological nations in North Africa. They spew the identical same crap that any Ayatola (spelling?) does ... how "godly" they are, and how "humble" the are. BS. Humble as a rock star on cocaine.

    Gotta love the cute little fantasy world they live in. Amazing how the same little dream world is so infectious. "My god says I'm better than you so you get to die.". Or perhaps another way "My invisible wizard in the clouds has bigger muscles than your invisible wizard in the clouds does, so don't mess with me!" Or the best one "My invisible wizard in the clouds has decided that me and all of those just like me are to take away your land and your culture.".

    That woman has Manifest Destiny written all over her odd little face. Religion is false morality. And she has the fake down to a Tea. (I'm here all week). Heheh....

    August 14, 2011 at 10:20 pm |
    • Ryannn

      U mad?

      August 14, 2011 at 10:40 pm |
    • fribble

      kinda funny, because no one cares what you think "wfo"

      August 14, 2011 at 10:44 pm |
    • Doris

      Logically speaking it is your side who displays false morality with only the only basis for anything that man is a jumble of atoms randomly bouncing against each other.

      August 14, 2011 at 11:06 pm |
  2. norma38

    Michelle Bachman just can't even come close to our Obama. She is a so called Jesus freak!!! I can just imagine womens rights would just go away with that nut.

    August 14, 2011 at 10:20 pm |
  3. Bill

    Great, so she's a Christian. Time for her to get over herself and show how she might be able to lead a country...or is that not what this is all about?

    August 14, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
  4. Marcia

    Since the US is not a theocracy, who cares.

    August 14, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
  5. Eleanor

    Why did she quit her church just before annoucing to run? What does that tell us?

    August 14, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
    • Craig

      It doesn't tell you anything. there is a time and place for everything.
      You question is naive..

      August 14, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
  6. 21k

    that's the great thing about the religious business model: you can make up any interpretation of the bible that suits your needs at any given moment.

    August 14, 2011 at 10:10 pm |
  7. Paul http://www.youtube.com/ny007ny

    I always love to see religious folks squirm and cherry pick what parts of the bible they feel like following while making excuses for the rest. Classic 🙂

    August 14, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
  8. Greg

    Why do people get upset about this question?
    Should Muslims feel disgusted when we criticize their grown men marrying 8 year olds?
    It is the Christian religion! The bible say a wife should submit to her husband and follow is lead.
    According to the bible, the man is the head, he should guide and direct is wife.
    Now if Mr. Bachmann is head of Mrs Bachman, and she becomes president....... do i need to say more?

    August 14, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
  9. Peter E

    Tha Bible says a lot of things, most of which has been been cherry picked and re-interpreted by the very evangelicals who in turn point to literal interpretations of a few other Bible passages to control other people's lives.
    Sure, the Bible says women have to be submissive to their husbands. And that's the way it has been interpreted up until about just a few decades ago when we updated our interpretation based on modern ethics.
    The Bible also justifies slavery. But we reinterpreted that a century and a half ago as well.
    The Bible also justifies poligamy. And yet we cherry pick passages and reinterpret based on modern principles, because we know that that's wrong.
    But of course the passage about gays MUST be interpreted literally. How dare we try to re-interpret that part!
    Oh, and the part about Jesus demanding charity, and that the rich cannot get into heaven... THAT is interpretative...

    August 14, 2011 at 10:08 pm |
  10. OU812IC

    And once again
    Let's muddle everything with religion.
    Religion sucks, Religion is the destroyer of mankind
    Why is religion always brought into politics
    Seperation of chruch and state is a fallacy
    Why not ask her real questions, such as: if you are so religious and adhere to the bible as you state, why were you caught screwing around on your husband, or why do you and your husband steal tons of government money and then when caught make up bogus stories
    Why not admit the reason your husband hates gays is because he is a closet gay himself
    You want to run for POTUS do you not think as time goes on more and more of your husbands and your missdoings and closet deeds will come forward, or will you try and be like Palin and ban the media unless they are only for you

    August 14, 2011 at 10:07 pm |
    • SmartPotato

      I second that.

      August 14, 2011 at 10:11 pm |
  11. OH GREWART

    Great just what we need another christian who wants to go on a CRUSADE, God if your really there, a lighting bolt right between her eyes would save millions of people cause that crazy, is going to start WW3.

    August 14, 2011 at 10:05 pm |
    • jack johnson

      They would say it was Zuss not God

      August 14, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
  12. Change

    This question and discussion is sick! What day and age are we in? CNN should be ashamed they are even discussing this and giving it air time. Shame on the Media! Just helping her cause...

    August 14, 2011 at 10:05 pm |
    • Brian

      It is not sick. She was the one that stated this. It concerns all of us from the perspective of not voting for her husband who, if she is "submissive" will run the country from the back room. Get real. So Bachmann can be submissive with her husband, but will not budge on her central views in which compromise is critical in our government. Come on...thank a little, will ya!

      August 14, 2011 at 10:10 pm |
  13. Jmr80

    It is a violation of the second Commandment to invoke God's name in any context. These candidates who campaign on "Christian" values should be thrown into an arena and shot for sport. Are these tea-party-endorsed drones and sucker fish libertarian or what? A true libertarian finds any political discussion regarding personal inclinations, interests, and beliefs as abhorrent. Lets talk policy – anything else is simply pointless and pure marketing. The people who vote for these faith-centric mush-heads should be forced to clean the arena floor with Q-tips.

    August 14, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
  14. Limbaugh is a liberal

    So, when Hillary runs for president, evangelicals decry that she'd just be a puppet to Bill Clinton. But as soon as the SAME question is asked from one of their own, they are all offended, how dare we suggest that she would be influenced by her husband.
    Hypocrites!

    August 14, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
    • Mike Urciolo

      Excellent observation.

      August 14, 2011 at 10:10 pm |
  15. Benjamin

    If 'submit' truly meant 'respect', then why doesn't the Bible specify that husbands must also 'submit' to their wives? The Bible is hardly ambiguous about misogyny and the inferior status of women, and whatever is meant by the word translated as 'submit,' one thing is for sure: it's a one way relation, the woman to the man, and not in reverse. That's enough to see that submission to your husband is not a good thing, and certainly not a convention that should be welcomed in 21st century society.

    August 14, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
    • Todd

      "submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ" Eph 5:21 A call to general submission. Also "husbands should love their wives as their own bodies" Eph 5:28 And finally, "let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband" Eph 5:33

      August 14, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
  16. jack johnson

    If Bachman gets in we will have her and her husband running the White House. like Alaska had Palin, and Todd

    August 14, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
    • Change

      Like Michelle and Hussein aren't running things now? No difference. I think the nut cases are proving a point on this board and I believe most of them are Liberal atheists.

      August 14, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
  17. Big Johnny Super Republican

    Suk it baby. God says you must SUK IT!

    August 14, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
  18. Tex

    NEWS FLASH! Backman found screwing the pool boy while her hubby was in church! Pass this around to the nut cases who actually believe she is a viable candidate no less a voting citizen which is scary in itself.

    August 14, 2011 at 9:55 pm |
  19. Jen B

    The passage would only stand for equality in a marriage, if the reverse were then said about the husbands (i.e. them submitting to wives, and wives being their head), but it clearly does not. That's why many of the arguments against women's suffrage and increasing influence on the workforce had a Biblical slant. That being said, the question was a little ugly in the sense that Bachman is obviously not going to go bowing to her husband when it comes to making political decisions (at least I believe she wouldn't). Had this been a 100/150 yrs ago, though, she wouldn't even be allowed in politics; she'd just be at home cleaning house and making babies.

    August 14, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
    • Luis Wu

      Oh no...please tell me this woman hasn't reproduced....

      August 14, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
  20. Pat

    When you really think it, she is the most ridiculous candidate running. It's amazing that people would even listen to her, let alone vote for her. She loves attention and will try to get it at all costs knowing that she hasn't a clue on how to solve anything the world will throw at her. Her running is a disgrace to the intelligence of the country.

    August 14, 2011 at 9:50 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.