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. Tara

    She didn't answer the question but instead danced around it. She should have said "yes" what about it? I think her husband is a push over like Todd Palin. They let the women run their lives. Momma-boys.....

    August 14, 2011 at 11:31 pm |
  2. Tuffcookie

    This question was ludicrous and out of line! Was she a submissive wife? When the bible talks about wives being submissive to their husbands, it also says that husbands should love their wives, as Christ loved the church.
    when was the last time someone asked a male politician if he loved his wife as Christ loved the church? Ask a Kennedy (or Arnold) that! lol This passage in the bible refers to both husband & wife and tells them they are to have mutual respect for each other. It does not mean women are to be a slave to their husband.

    August 14, 2011 at 11:30 pm |
    • Kim

      Yes it does and you are twisting what the bible says to meet your own desires.

      August 14, 2011 at 11:35 pm |
  3. Peter Wolfe

    I am not going to attempt to read all of the comments. The point is that she has just lost the feminist vote over the conservative evangelical vote in other porions of the U.S. This won't stand with feminist agenda out there nor would it have if evangelicals had it the other way round. So, it clarifies her profamily stance and her adament stance against abortion, contraceptives and prolife things as well. I saw it coming is simple as that and it was attempt to goat a presidential hopeful as well.

    August 14, 2011 at 11:29 pm |
    • wish granted

      ok, your wish is granted you will be that baby in the womb that will aborted!!! enjoy your wish!!!

      August 14, 2011 at 11:32 pm |
    • Lucifer

      Peter you have well understood me, that is exactly my agenda, I don't want to teach children as young as 12/13/14 or even 18 Absitenence. I want them to enjoy s*x and be merry spread all the std's aplenty and people like you drive them to contraception and ofcourse abortion is always there...why don't these stupid human not get it.

      You are one bright Nut in the stratosphere!!!

      August 14, 2011 at 11:39 pm |
    • Spiffy

      Except that is crazy talk. First off only fetuses are aborted. Secondly at the time of their abortion most don't have the skills that anyone would consider of a person.

      August 14, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
  4. Bob

    Don't be dopes.. Bachmann is not submissive to her husband like the media would hope she would be...

    August 14, 2011 at 11:26 pm |
    • Spiffy

      Then why did she say she was?

      August 14, 2011 at 11:31 pm |
  5. joe

    Michelle Bachmann is a good woman and I respect her

    August 14, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
    • Chuck

      Joe, I wish you were right. I would love to vote for a true Christian.

      But, every news clip I've seen on TV shows her avoiding questions or saying things that are false, and she always attacks Dems, the media and government with false charges. God said heaven is holy and listed behaviors that shall not enter therein, including all liars. Given that, is she really a good woman?

      August 14, 2011 at 11:53 pm |
  6. Johnny

    Submission = Respect. I diggit. Time to go have a talk with the wife.

    August 14, 2011 at 11:17 pm |
    • They

      They probably are having some fun tonite, how about u???

      August 14, 2011 at 11:22 pm |
  7. LouAz

    I thought it was a political question thgat she answered religiously. With her and so many other "evangelicals" there is no difference. Everything they do and think is some kind of christian sharia law. What would jesus do ? What a stupid question !

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

      Time to go beddie bye, looks like your brain is fried!

      August 14, 2011 at 11:16 pm |
    • joe

      Hey &&%%$# how do you get sharia and Christianity in the same sentence. This is the common stuff you hear from the hate Jesus Atheist crowd, which for the most part are a bunch of wiccans and haters of everything.

      August 14, 2011 at 11:21 pm |
    • Frost

      Funny, o thought it was a religious question...and she answered it properly. Under any other siituation, she repulses me

      August 14, 2011 at 11:27 pm |
    • iroshi

      Joe – Wiccans?? Really?? I nearly fell off the chair laughing.

      August 14, 2011 at 11:46 pm |
  8. Chuck

    The question was not appropriate because it is personal and does not concern what she would do in office if elected.

    A fair question involving the Bible is, how does Bachman reconcile Republican policies that take from the poor and give to the rich. This includes taxes issue because, if the rich and business pay no taxes, the GOP's overriding goal, then the rest of us have to make it up or its added on to the national debt, so we all must pay fair taxes.

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

      The question did not proceed from nowhere but instead from one of her own public remarks. And when someone brandishes a faith-based political mission, he or she should expect exactly this kind of inquiry.

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


      You said "The question was not appropriate because it is personal and does not concern what she would do in office if elected."
      The question was fair in light of her statements regarding the same subject in 2006. If she submits to her husband (as she previously claimed), she probably also does that when making decisions while in office. That makes it a very relevant question as her husband is not on the ballot.

      August 14, 2011 at 11:16 pm |
    • Wait a sec

      Yes it's appropriate, because if it comes out that she feels she must defer to her husband if he insists on something – like the tax law degree he told her to get – then it suggests we're not just voting her into office. Your question is also valid. I'd like to know where Christian charity goes when the religious right puts on their elephant pins.

      August 14, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
    • Jennifer

      Republicans that claim to be christians are hypocrits. They make all kinds of claims about the bible then conveniently forget about Jesus's message about taking care of the poor and instead focus on taking care of the rich. If she subitted to her husband like she should then she probably wouldn't even be in politics. She obviously rules the roost.

      August 14, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
    • Crystal

      You're right, this was an unfair question to ask Mrs. Bachmann. They're trying to use her faith against her and make her stumble. People are completely misunderstanding what the Lord was referring to with this verse. Men love your wives as Christ loves the church ( aka – Christ died for the Church) Wives submit to your husbands, etc. You are not to submit as in being opressed, you are to RESPECT your husband as he LOVES you, like CHRIST loved the Church. If your husband isn't a good man, and is beating on you, do people really believe that a God who is LOVE in all conditions would want or expect you to stay in that marriage? People either don't read the Bible enough or are ignorant to the verses, Jesus was basically the first man in the world that was FOR equal treatment of women.

      Don't get all bent out of shape over a word in the Bible, submit means respect and love your husband. Every healthy relationship involves compromise. I am sure she is professional enough and her husband is LOVING enough to not try to take advantage of her public office, should she be the next President.

      August 14, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
    • Spiffy

      The question was completely fair. Her faith is relevant seeing as her faith is what defines her as a person. That person of course being an un-electable Evangelical.

      @Crystal If God is love as you define it then why does God support slavery or cannibalism (both taken from the bible). Would you define eating your own children as a loving punishment? Maybe you need to take a step back and see your God for the monster he is.

      August 14, 2011 at 11:38 pm |
    • really?!

      spiffy...i'm happy to see you reading the Bible.....Athiests , it seems, read more of the Bible that I do..and I'm a Christian

      August 14, 2011 at 11:48 pm |
    • Spiffy

      Atheists are more religiously literate then the religious themselves.

      August 14, 2011 at 11:55 pm |
    • really?!

      spiffy...athiests remind me of auditors....you can look into any 1000 page book and pick out errors

      August 15, 2011 at 12:00 am |
    • really?!

      but auditor's have a open mind...

      August 15, 2011 at 12:03 am |
    • pfeffernusse

      “If your husband isn't a good man, and is beating on you, do people really believe that a God who is LOVE in all conditions would want or expect you to stay in that marriage?”

      Yes, He would. Jesus was very clear on what a big no-no divorce was. As written, the Bible says that women should submit to their husbands. Like slaves submit to their masters. Like cattle submits to their owners. Paul (if Paul is actually the one that wrote this…there is some doubt) was very clear that women were property. He was a converted Roman and in Roman society, women were chattel and expected to behave as such. They had no rights. They had no say. If a man beat his wife, it was thought that she did something to deserve it. It wasn’t until very recently that these ideas started to change. And the change sure didn’t come from the church.

      August 16, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
  9. Ronald Raygun

    i would say anything to get elected

    August 14, 2011 at 11:11 pm |
    • Me too

      Strategically do you think I should hold on to the closet and come out just about the time i am running???

      August 14, 2011 at 11:18 pm |
  10. Mike

    Hi Jennifer. Are you single?

    August 14, 2011 at 11:09 pm |
    • yes i am

      mikey, yes i am.


      August 14, 2011 at 11:12 pm |
  11. Mike

    is this all the Republican party has to offer? This getting bad!! I'm thinking about running 🙂

    August 14, 2011 at 11:08 pm |
  12. Jennifer

    She doesn't look like she submits much. Kind of manly looking. Think she's hiding something under the hood?

    August 14, 2011 at 11:07 pm |
    • Bob

      I got the same impression too. These women need to stay home, preferably in the kitchen.

      August 14, 2011 at 11:08 pm |
    • hiding

      hiding under that hood is lil 'Jenny'

      August 14, 2011 at 11:10 pm |
  13. Spartacas 2012

    I prey God to please please create miracle sp that Michelle Bachman to be the Presidentail Nominee of GOP.. Please Please ... So we can all collectively kick her Butt (toush) !!!! in the general election 2012....

    August 14, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
  14. andrew

    There is no god. I just thought that needed to be said.

    August 14, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
    • really?!

      I bet you were bullied in highschool

      August 14, 2011 at 11:08 pm |
    • Chuck

      Andrew, a more precise way to state your point is to say that you do not believe there is a god.

      I am a geologist that examined this issue. No one can prove it one way or the other. The meaning of faith is belief in things unseen, and Jesus Christ is the author of faith (Hebrews), so you can have it unless it is given to you. The Bible says faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. If you seek Him, He may find you, as He found me.

      August 14, 2011 at 11:32 pm |
    • Spiffy

      So you admit that you believe in something that has no proof of existence. Tell me then why don't you believe in invisible unicorns.

      August 14, 2011 at 11:57 pm |
    • really?!

      spiffy....are you awars of the achievments in science in the last 2 years that led to discoveries that were only theories. look them up....no evidence just theories....theblack hole was just a theory until one was actually seen

      August 15, 2011 at 12:11 am |
    • pfeffernusse

      really?!, you don’t how science works, do you? A scientific theory is a whole lot different than a personal theory. A personal theory is one person’s opinion. A scientific theory explains why something happens. It’s testable and provable and NOT an opinion. All science starts with a hypothesis. A scientific law tells you what will happen. A scientific theory tells you why it happens. Gravity, for example. There is both a Law and a Theory of Gravity.

      August 16, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
  15. captain k

    The bible text tells women to submit to their husbands. I never read or heard it telling men to submit to their wives. So whoever is "head of the house" is "head of state". Wonder how Bachmann feels about "separation of church and state" on that matter.

    August 14, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
    • Scott

      You have to read the whole passage. Christ gave up his life for the chuch and that's what's asked of husbands... I don't see it asking wives to give up their lives for their husbands.

      In other words.. yes wives should 'submit' to thier husbands, but if the husband is doing what's asked of him then he will be doing everything in his power to only do things in the best interest of his wife so... the result is a mutual relationship of respect and trying to please eachother. When it works it's great..

      August 14, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
  16. Sarah

    I submit to my husband. Bachman claims to be true to her convictions, including her christianity. If she is honest, then should have answered "yes, I submit to my husband".

    August 14, 2011 at 11:03 pm |
    • fda

      well her husband is a real man, you submit to your husband because you have no job and threatening to lose your paycheck is not worth the experiment. Happy meals

      August 14, 2011 at 11:05 pm |
  17. Mike

    Sara Palin or Bachmann? What the hell!! Women just need to stay home and stop embarrassing themselves. They only good for one thing ! Folding my laundry and making a sandwich.

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

      what a bi th evolution is eh?

      August 14, 2011 at 11:03 pm |
    • Sarah

      I do the house chores naked just to please my husband.

      August 14, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
    • Capt

      ... and barefoot and pregnant.

      August 14, 2011 at 11:07 pm |
    • Coleen

      Are you kidding me? You're a pig. Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann are terrible examples of women in politics. Their views and practices do not in the least bit represent the views of intelligent, hard-working, rational, American women. And I may not agree with their polictical views, but I would never say they're only good for cleaning and making sandwiches. Michele Bachmann came in first in Iowa, and first among a group of men. She can obviously do more than cook and clean. So get your head out of your ass, pick up a broom, and make your own god damn sandwich.

      August 14, 2011 at 11:15 pm |
  18. Bubba

    Whatever. If these women were true christians, then they need to submit. Better yet, they should be at home taking care of their family, baking cookies or taking care of their husband.

    August 14, 2011 at 11:00 pm |
  19. fda

    many pass judgement on Bachman, yet Giffords can vote... And you wonder whose lost some brain cells.

    August 14, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
  20. really?!

    It's finally clear... No religion>Hate>Democratic liberal...how does it feel to be the party of hate

    August 14, 2011 at 10:57 pm |
    • Wait a sec

      After years of religious right bashing Obama for being a Kenyan, being ineffective in the face of the House majority, of bashing liberals as libtards and every other knee-jerk assault... and you only see the liberal backlash as the hate.

      And let's not get into all the wars started over the centuries in the name of religion.

      August 14, 2011 at 11:07 pm |
    • really?!

      I know that's how you libs generalize....but///The wars you speak of were created not over religious beliefs but on land, border disputes , oil, godless dictators

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

      really?!, plenty of hate has come from the Right. But that is your “side” so you don’t see it. Far more venom and lies have been directed at the Left than have hit the Right. The far Right plays dirty and plays to win. They don’t care who they hurt to win.

      “I know that’s how you libs generalize…”

      Pot, I’d like you to meet Kettle.

      August 16, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
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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.