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. TheAlaskaCurmudgeon

    I was perusing the books at Value Village today and stumbled on one by an evangelist explaining how it is the job of Christians to keep women out of the workforce and at home, tending to their children. I thought about buying it and mailing it to Michelle Bachmann, but in the end I just grabbed an old Simpsons comic book for myself.

    August 15, 2011 at 12:49 am |
  2. steve19

    No. All of the ideas that you suggest are open to debate in a free society.

    August 15, 2011 at 12:42 am |
  3. BigTexas

    What's the problem. She said she submits and that's okay by me. She also says she's tight about things. Perry is gonna take the votes though. He's alot like Bush and that's what the country really needs right now. Bachman isn't tough enough in cutting the budget. Perry sez if he is president, we won't have to worry about the existence of the government and that's okay by me as long as he don't take away my garbage collection services.

    August 15, 2011 at 12:40 am |
    • pfeffernusse

      You do realize that most of the problems we're mired in right now are because of W. The LAST thing this country needs is another Bush.

      August 17, 2011 at 8:38 am |
  4. jschau

    Religious people can be rated on a scale to 1 to 10. Dumb and dumber to Master Manipulator. B & M are a 10.

    August 15, 2011 at 12:36 am |
  5. ari

    ...either way, bachmann is an idiot, and if she gets elected president i'm moving to canada.

    August 15, 2011 at 12:32 am |
    • wilson

      The same exodus happened on Bush's reelection. Canada even made a statement that they weren't accepting anymore american citizens who were trying to escape the Bush regime. But I hear you. Imagine the trials and tribulations if this woman descends on our country. It will be like Armageddon and I'm not sure we as a country would survive.

      August 15, 2011 at 12:41 am |
  6. buckup

    Shimkus for VP, Very Pure authority. Climate change is a liberal scam to cheat tax payers and businessmen and all Americans.

    Palin for Secretary of State, she can see Russia and now the rest of the world can see here waving.

    Ron Paul for Secretary of Treasury. Every atom of gold will counted and identified and given a serial number as its duty to the new currency of our new reborn nation.

    Perry, the new and improved Rumsfeld, master of nuclear weapons and bona fide Texan. He can take over where Cheney left off, assisting Haliburton & leading us into easy safe wars and related quagmires.

    August 15, 2011 at 12:31 am |
  7. ari

    do christians believe that paul was a prophet or something? serious question... i thought he was just a preacher(?). i didn't know that christians were supposed to do everything he said to do.

    August 15, 2011 at 12:31 am |
    • cincy

      Most christians believe if it's in the Bible, it's an actual dictation of God.

      August 15, 2011 at 12:45 am |
    • Faithful

      Paul had a tendency to let his inner Pharisee slip out from time to time. Maybe it was guilt, but he seemed to have trouble accepting Grace & letting go of needing to doing everything "by the rules" in order to be perfected. I think he meant well, and tried to give good advice to people at the time, but I think there were some points about Jesus' teachings that Paul didn't quite get.

      August 15, 2011 at 12:51 am |
  8. burnthisbitcchattheOutbackSteakHouse

    those poor kids being exposed to her. There should be rules against spawn of SatanHaving children and foster children.

    August 15, 2011 at 12:26 am |
    • jschau

      Not in the 6th district. That's where kid killers go free and christian freaks make national headlines. Where is Jacob you blood loser Bachmann?

      August 15, 2011 at 12:42 am |
  9. hustlenflo

    Bend over you heifer !! A-men!!

    August 15, 2011 at 12:26 am |
    • TexasForever

      Those are the words she's gonna heararound the barn from my man Rick Perry.

      August 15, 2011 at 12:29 am |
    • TexasForever

      Those are the words she's gonna hear around the barn from my man Rick Perry.

      August 15, 2011 at 12:30 am |
  10. Vicki

    I believe in God. I believe in a just God, a kind God, a fair God and the God that made this earth where all the needs of mankind are met and of course the heavens. That does not mean that I am a religious fanatic I just know that God created all we enjoy of nature. It did not just occur. It was planned and perfect. That said I am a sinner and I know that there are no perfect Christians. There are many really sorry right wing republican preachers that preach hate against everything I do believe in. They spread hate because they are not true to the Gospel. That is why I distrust republican Christians. They are not coming from the same viewpoint I have on anything.

    August 15, 2011 at 12:25 am |
  11. jschau

    Some women like their impregnator thinking about men. So give B & M a break!

    August 15, 2011 at 12:25 am |
  12. Vancouverite

    The word submit should be irrelevant. Americans shouldn't be electing anyone who identifies as an "evangelical christian". How about someone who identifies as "being there for the good of the people" ?? If God cared about America, it wouldn't be in the s**t mess that it is in.

    August 15, 2011 at 12:24 am |
    • Julie

      This country was founded on christian principles. She better show she's got these principles if she's going to get votes. She should have said, "yes, I submit".....

      August 15, 2011 at 12:27 am |
    • Les

      Julie wrote: This country was founded on christian principles.......August 15, 2011 at 12:27 am | |

      NO it was NOT! Where do people get this stupid idea from? It was founded on "humanistic" and Deist principles designed to to preclude the influence of any particular religion in the governmental process. It's absolutely amazing how many supposedly "intelligent" people are so illiterate about simple history. Taxation without representation is why the Revolution began. Had we been able to send representatives to Parliament, we would now be British citizens.

      August 15, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
    • Free

      This country was also founded on white superiority, slave ownership, and treating indians in a fashion close to intended genocide. Thankfully, we have learned to drop backward and destructive founding principles like these.

      August 16, 2011 at 12:03 am |
  13. TexasForever

    Rick Perry is a bigger bible thumper than she is. She'll have to go head to head with Perry and prove she really does follow the bible to get any votes. She better get her mob bucket and knee pads to prove her case before the American people. I mean who is going to vote for a woman that doesn't submit to her husband? Perry is going to have a hay-day with her in quoting bible scriptures. I think he can outdo her anyday in that area. But for the crazy ideas, I think it is a match.

    August 15, 2011 at 12:20 am |
  14. Chris

    She certainly looks like a stepford wife

    August 15, 2011 at 12:18 am |
    • Harold

      MMMmm! How exciting......

      August 15, 2011 at 12:24 am |
  15. jschau

    What has B and her Closet case M done for America? Have either been in the arm forces? NO. Have any morals? NO. Do both worship MONEY? YES. Can you imagine them in bed?

    August 15, 2011 at 12:13 am |
    • Free

      Why would you want to imagine any married couple in bed? Creepy, dude!

      August 15, 2011 at 12:24 am |
  16. Daniel

    We need to quit wasting our time on this one. The GOP will surely put their complete focus on Perry very soon. Perry is the one we need to take down.

    August 15, 2011 at 12:13 am |
  17. gwats

    It makes you believe more than ever in the separation of Church and State. Jesus himself said "My Kingdom is no part of this World" He steered clear of the secular politics of the day, and encouraged his followers to do so also. Bachman is playing a game she has no chance of winning.

    August 15, 2011 at 12:12 am |
  18. 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 15, 2011 at 12:12 am |
  19. GaryGuitar

    Michelle Bachman, along with the theologically-bent psychologist in the CNN interview, are trying to explain away the negative religious meaning of submit. They conveniently forgot to mention that many Christians do follow the theological theachings that say the man does make decisons for the wife and she submits to the same. Let me say it clearly. Submit means submit and don't give me this BS that it really means respect, etc. Sibmit to your husband means give it up, even if you don't agree, don't like it or don't want to.

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

      Exactly! She needs to not only respect but also submit always to her husband.

      August 15, 2011 at 12:22 am |
    • gwats

      In my home, in my marriage of 20+ years, there is no doubt, no question, about who is in charge, who makes all final decisions, and who decides what, when, how and things get done around here. It is a big responsibility, and a privilege to wear the pants, and I listen carefully to my wife before I decide. MY last name is on the front door, so the buck stops with me. Does my wife submit to my authority? Absolutely! I respect her, and expect my policies to be followed.
      Someone's got to be the boss. So I do it with humility and authority.

      August 15, 2011 at 12:23 am |
    • Stevie7

      So, gwats, how have the 1950's been going recently?

      Here's a shocker for you. Are you sitting down? You can BOTH make decisions. You can BOTH be in charge. It really does work. But then, you'd actually have to relinquish some of that control that you seem to like so much.

      August 15, 2011 at 12:27 am |
    • Free

      "Love, honor and obey", right?

      August 15, 2011 at 12:28 am |
    • seriously?

      The 'wives submit' thing is not widely followed by Christians. The 'i will submit to my husband' has been taken out of wedding vows in most churches.

      Most Christians interpret the bible in a modern context. For example, most Christians don't believe the earth is 4000 or whatever years old, and created in 7 days, etc. They believe evolution happened, and say that the genesis story is more of an analogy written several thousand years ago back when there was extremely limited scientific thought and this book was passed down by word of mouth to uneducated masses. Most Christians believe god's role as creator was more of the spark that set the the big bang, creation of the earth and lifeforms and subsequent evolution of modern humans and animals, not that he literally created the world in 7 days and made Adam out of mud and Eve out of his rib.

      I'm sure there are people on the conservative christian fringe that do take wives submit line literally, but they are in the minority.

      August 15, 2011 at 12:35 am |
    • pepsee

      So gwats, if your wife never dares not to listen to you even if you are wrong sometimes, huh? The master and the slave relationship? The Master earns and the slave says, "yes, sir."

      August 15, 2011 at 12:37 am |
    • Free

      Taken out of most vows said in the past few years, but there is a pretty big population of Christians out there who were married under those vows and believe in them, right? Will Bachmann be conservative enough for them is she argues that their interpretation of scripture was, in fact, wrong?

      August 15, 2011 at 11:57 pm |
  20. lol @ republicans

    Im so excited for bachmann to get the nomination and I get to watch that "crazy fascist muslim degenerate" obama smack down another whack job republican whose very legitimacy as a candidate is a joke. I wonder how long before 2012 will the crack pot get stirred again and we start hearing drummed up conspiracy theories about him to try and drag him down to her level.

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

      lol You are the scary moron believing lies of the right wing. President Obama is not crazy, he is not a fascist, he is not a Muslim, and he is not a degenerate. Those could all apply to many republicans in this country including you. You obviously have a lot of hate against Muslims. Since the President is very sane, works well with others, is not a Muslim he is nothing that you called him. President Obama is a wonder family man with a wife and two daughters. Not the least bit degenerate. You could be though.

      August 15, 2011 at 12:34 am |
    • pepsee

      lol @ repub: One can tell that you have absolutely no education. That's that!

      August 15, 2011 at 12:41 am |
    • Les

      Nothing like the pot calling the kettle black.

      August 15, 2011 at 12:53 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.