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

    This is not a race for religion. The people of this nation practice many religions and still others practice no religion at all. That's our privilege as free citizens of the United States of America. I detest the pompous and arrogant stance that Christians take in this country, as though this soil and all who walk on it should be under their influence.

    If this absolute moron is going to take up space on the news with the delusional belief that she wishes to be president of the United States, then she had better damn well be focusing on the issues. I could care less about her religious beliefs.

    August 14, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
    • Dub1045

      John She did not ask the question! She did not furnish the question to Byron York! Grow up and look at who is asking and ask why are they asking. The fact that we know about her faith is that we need to know what kind of person we are voting for and her faith is part of that. Apparently everyone ignored Obama declarations favoring Islam and his tutledge under Rev Wright and look at what we got. I have seen nothing in her positions to indicate that she is a moron. You should pay more attention to what is happening.

      August 14, 2011 at 11:11 pm |
    • pfeffernusse

      No, John, it’s not a race about religion. But Bachmann keeps bringing religion up. She’s a domionist, who believe that the US should be under Evangelical Christian control, not the “evil” secular control that’s got us this far.

      Dub1045, need I remind you that this debate was hosted and paid for by Fox News? Hardly a bastion of liberal thinking.

      I don’t think Bachmann is a moron. (Palin, yes. Bachmann, no.) I just think she’s a loon.

      August 16, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
  2. pkfops

    I thought her husband is gay.

    August 14, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
    • and

      he thinks you are too!!!, hey look all of a sudden there are more gays in the making!!!!

      August 14, 2011 at 11:00 pm |
  3. really?!

    So do strong women make you guys nervous, or is it just these three...Clinton, palin and bachman...if I rememebr libs got all over hillary too...

    August 14, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
    • pfeffernusse

      Actually, really?!, the very same conservatives who are howling about the “se-xist” treatment that Palin and now Bachmann are getting are the very same ones that gave Hillary Clinton such a hard time. When she got choked up talking about her love of her country, they pointed and laughed, saying how “unstable” Clinton was.

      August 16, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
  4. AJ

    Between Bachmann and Obama, if Ron Paul doesn't get elected in 2012, I will have lost all hope for America.

    August 14, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
    • please don't

      Don't lose hope in 2012, I have read your future and you have until 2090 to lose hope.
      Live in hope die in despair!!!

      August 14, 2011 at 11:02 pm |
  5. Adam

    People who don't believe in God should be a lot more respectful to the people who do. At the end of the day, we're all out with the same goal... to live our lives the right way and help humanity prosper.

    August 14, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
    • Frank

      So very true. You don't have to be religious to be a good person and charitable. The problem we have with religious nuts like Bachman is that she wants to dictate federal policy based on her religious beliefs. You just don't get it , do you??

      August 14, 2011 at 11:02 pm |
    • TheyNotHim

      Not true. Xtians strive to prosper at the expense of others. Corporate welfare for example is a conservative (and hence xtian) policy that is destroying our country. And need I mention that the xtians actively oppose giving equal rights to marriage to an entire segment of our society? Does not resemble "helping each other" even remotely...

      August 14, 2011 at 11:36 pm |
  6. Brian

    Can democrats and liberals please come up with a better tactic than constant stream of hate, name calling and put downs? Even the media looks only for a miss-spoken word, a facial expression or comment to use in a 10 second sound bite in an effort to discredit her or make her look foolish. What are you so afraid of? The people of Iowa looked past the constant stream of slander and saw a strong, morally upright, educated woman with good fiscal ideas. Have you actually listened to her speak; other than the 10 second sound bites the media presents? Liberals consider themselves the champions of human and equal rights, yet hate those with morals and values; you have to ask yourself why? Is it because you have none and are afraid some of hers will wear off on you?

    August 14, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
    • Mikey B

      Sure, as soon as Republicans stop doing the same thing.

      August 14, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
    • Frank

      But she and her husband have no respect for me. According to her husband, I am a barbarian.

      August 14, 2011 at 10:57 pm |
    • pfeffernusse

      Brian, liberals don’t hate people with morals. We hate hypocrites. Time and again, those who talk loudest about their righteousness have been the most corrupt. For example, on these boards, some of the nastiest comments from people who say they are Christian.

      I don’t dislike Michele because she’s Christian. I don’t dislike her because she has “morals”. I dislike her because she’s a rigid, dogmatic loon.

      August 16, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
  7. Keith Ward

    She's not in line with the Bible. She's giving the word submission a totally different meaning than what it means in the Bible. She's making her own reality and she thinks we're stupid enough to go along with her interpretation. This woman is something else. She can lie through her teeth with the biggest smile you ever saw. How the hell did she get this far when she couldn't even tell that the guy she was marrying was gay? Sheesh.

    August 14, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
    • Brian

      Actually she is in line with the bible. Why is it anyone with religious beliefs portrayed as a religious nut job or someone pushing their religion on the rest of the public. I guess some of you would rather have an atheist or agnostic run for office with no morals or values, ya, that would be better right?

      August 14, 2011 at 10:59 pm |
    • pfeffernusse

      Brian, Bachmann IS religious nut job and someone pushing her religion on the rest of the public.

      Out of curiosity, why do you think that only people with religious faith can be moral or ethical?

      August 16, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
  8. John

    The shocker is on its way soon. Evidence has already been obtained that Bachmann was under treatment for mental health issues and was prescribed psychotropic medications. She won't be able to explain this one away as she tried with her migraines, which are "totally under control" according to her.

    It doesn't surprise me that this is the best that the GOP can offer up to this nation. If we want religion, we'll go to a church of our own choosing and practice what we wish in this, the United States of America.

    August 14, 2011 at 10:48 pm |
    • fda

      i think its okay that anybody can be a candidate, regardless of their beliefs or medical history.

      August 14, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
  9. Carl

    If BachWOmann is the nominee, I will vote for Obummer. Yuk, what a horrible taste that left in my mouth! Puke!

    August 14, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
  10. *frank*

    Her ancient parchment skin and demonic glare frighten me.
    Is this adulterous crone in fact a reanimated mummy?
    Was she revived and summoned forth from her dank crypt by the dark arts of some unhinged desert sorcerer to bring unprecedented woe to our village, and freakish blights upon our crops?
    I think so...just look at her face for fuck sake!

    August 14, 2011 at 10:45 pm |
    • did you

      frankie...did you look at yourself in the mirror, that sounds scary.

      August 14, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
  11. jma58

    All of the Reptard candidates are religious whacks.

    August 14, 2011 at 10:38 pm |
    • Doris

      All the demorat candidates are social club fake Christians who attend churches where the pastor says G–damn America

      August 14, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
    • fda

      There is nothing wrong with being religious... why do you intend to impose your beliefs on everybody else? And not expect others to do the same?

      August 14, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
  12. johnborg

    Most biblical scholars, irreligious and religious, argue that this section from Paul's letters were added to the text much later by conservative Greek zealots. For further information see Bart Ehrman's works, as well as Marcus Borg's.

    August 14, 2011 at 10:38 pm |
    • DrDiomedes

      thats interesting

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

      I have read a number of Biblical commentaries and this view was never even mentioned. I think by "most" you mean the few you have read.

      August 14, 2011 at 10:49 pm |
  13. DrDiomedes

    Boy ... I sure don't like the bible. What a curse it has been to humanity over the ages ... awk! Any way one wants to translate the "submit" term, the message is clear. Paul is claiming women are unequal to men ... no spin can justify this.

    August 14, 2011 at 10:37 pm |
    • ofcourse

      Ofcourse you don't follow the Bible, you havn't read it, how can you follow the Bible? or if you have you lack understanding.
      The other plausible answer is ignoring the bible suits your style of living.Enjoy the broad lifestyle! be merry!
      Hey, if you are at peace with yourself so be it.

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

      Do you always have a problem with reading? Try rereading the article and don't be such a "hater"

      August 14, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
  14. Julie

    Can someone please inform Ms.Bachmann that life itself is not based on religion?

    August 14, 2011 at 10:31 pm |
    • sargeanton

      Yes, it is. Everyone has a religion. Yours, it seems, is the religion of self. Everyone who disses religion does it because they preger to worship themselves. That is their right and THEIR religion.

      August 14, 2011 at 10:37 pm |
    • DrDiomedes

      @sargeanton What an ignorant unsubstantial statement ... i sense some insecurities ...

      August 14, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
    • Bill

      Atheism is a religion in the same manner that not collecting stamps is a hobby.

      August 14, 2011 at 11:05 pm |
    • Civiloutside

      It seems that some people are so embedded in the worship milieu that they cannot conceive of a life without worship. So they have this myth that atheists worship themselves. It's not true, of course, but I suspect we'll never convince them.

      August 16, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
  15. Bayousara

    WHERE do these nuts come from who end up on the national stage? What is it with religious women who want to be in the public eye in public jobs but aren't willing to keep their religious beliefs to themselves and leave the rest of us to our beliefs. If they want to govern in some capacity, TELL US what you know that will get you that job. I am thinking of EDUCATION, past employment, successes in the business or educational world, etc. etc. I don't care how many kids you have raised or how you eat hotdogs per your husband's instructions.

    August 14, 2011 at 10:28 pm |
    • sargeanton

      What are you raving about? She was asked a question and she answered it. Get a grip!

      August 14, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
  16. really?!

    OMG I've always read about Democrats being so unhappy and by reading your comments, that keep going on and on andon, I can finally see why. This comment doesn't even have to do with politics or religion but you guys need to think about why you're sooo negative. I bet this isn;t the only part of your life that is this way.

    August 14, 2011 at 10:25 pm |
    • 21k

      uh, could you try that again in english?

      August 14, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
    • OU812IC

      And my question to you unhappy one
      Is why are you directing your comment at Democrats
      and if you think it is not about religion or politics what do you think it is about?
      or you better go take another Xanax

      August 14, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
    • Mark from Canada

      You are confusing intelligence with negativity my dear. Palin is negative. Intelligence is the capability to see that this is true. Us liberal minded people have a lot of love and kindness to share on a collective scale. We fear Palin and Bachmann precisely because they are winning off peoples fears, off religion (non-inclusive segregated – either you're with us or against us kind of religion), and they lie – not in the same sense that other politicians make honest mistakes, but they lie in the sense that you can detect it in the interviews when they squirm in their seats they are trying to find a way to twist the facts. We all knew Palin knew absolutely nothing about the founding fathers when she started on this trek, yet when she was interviewed by Glen Beck she tried to squirm her way through the question to make it look like she was really smart and knew the answer. A true liberal would look at Beck and say, you know – I don't know a great deal about every founding father, but here is what I do know. That is more helpful. What Bachmann and Palin are doing – they are distorting to gain favor. It is dishonest and it is dangerous. What you are mistaking for negativity is our fear and frustration with this clear realization of the facts.

      August 14, 2011 at 10:38 pm |
    • really?!

      alittle touchy aren't you...my test actually worked...need I say more

      August 14, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
    • DrDiomedes

      u started it 🙂

      August 14, 2011 at 10:44 pm |
    • really?!

      I'm just suprised that my point was proven this quickly....No wonder dems are always screaming about being taken care of.

      August 14, 2011 at 10:48 pm |
    • Doris

      Really –See how the dems think? They say negative hateful things and attack people's beliefs and label it "intelligent" while labeling the same behavior in others as being mean spirited. They have always had a problem with simple logic.

      August 14, 2011 at 10:59 pm |
    • Doris

      The most amusing part of all this is that Mark considers himself intelligent.

      August 14, 2011 at 11:01 pm |
    • Mark from Canada

      Me: "Us liberal minded people have a lot of love and kindness to share on a collective scale."

      Really?: "alittle touchy aren't you...my test actually worked...need I say more"

      Do you even know how to read? Your test failed – you have misinterpreted. Put the two pieces of evidence together. Liberal people rely on the evidence. If you read my post as proof of your idea, then the problem is that we have a difference of opinion on what is fact and fiction. I'm a scientist and believe in fact. Palin and Bachmann are not scientists and they believe in fiction. That is not a negative opinion, it is an objective fact.

      August 14, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
    • Mark from Canada

      Me: "Us liberal minded people have a lot of love and kindness to share on a collective scale."

      Really?: "alittle touchy aren't you...my test actually worked...need I say more"

      Do you even know how to read? Your test failed. You have misinterpreted. Put the two pieces of evidence together. Liberal people rely on the evidence. If you read my post as proof of your idea, then the problem is that we have a difference of opinion on what is fact and fiction. I'm a scientist and believe in fact. Palin and Bachmann are not scientists and they believe in fiction. That is not a negative opinion, it is an objective fact.

      August 14, 2011 at 11:09 pm |
    • really?!

      Oh I love the show the big band theory, are you one of those guys?, well I'm in the financial.Investment field....since you threw up your profession.....if you want my evidence...all you have to do is read the posts before and after mine....gave fun being a scientist

      August 14, 2011 at 11:35 pm |
  17. Todd

    Wow, how about all the anti-religious "love" being displayed in the comments section. All these comments must be from closet religious people, because everyone knows "they" are so hateful.

    August 14, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
    • speak

      strategically speaking you are right, brand everyone who speaks against gay lifestyle to be gays, that way there will be no confusion you see, you call them gays, they call you gays! Just be Gay!!! whatever happened to the old meaning???

      August 14, 2011 at 10:48 pm |
    • Doris

      Good point Todd.

      August 14, 2011 at 11:02 pm |
  18. OU812IC

    If she is a religious as she says and follows the bible as she states
    Well then Since she committed adultery
    Tomorrow she is heading down to the town square to be stoned to death

    August 14, 2011 at 10:22 pm |
  19. me

    Bachmann is a .22 caliber mind in a 357 magnum world.

    August 14, 2011 at 10:22 pm |
    • 21k

      more like a paintball gun.

      August 14, 2011 at 10:25 pm |
    • Doris

      I guess that makes the president one of those really tiny squirt guns.

      August 14, 2011 at 11:03 pm |
  20. RayJacksonMS

    She's already admitted she became a tax lawyer and ran for Congress because he told her too. One, that make the question perfectly acceptable. Two, it makes her totally unqualified to be in Congress much less president. What's she going to do put the leaders of China, Russia or North Korea on hold while she runs to ask her husband what to do?

    August 14, 2011 at 10:21 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.