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. Pharmb960

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    August 26, 2011 at 4:15 am |
  2. LK

    So Mr. Bachman will be the first female president if MB wins! Priceless

    August 22, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
  3. Andrew

    What messed up is that Dems are usually christian but can dispose of parts of their religion when it pleases them. I'm agnostic, but I respect someone who believes in their religion over someone who uses it for political purposes but doesn't believe it, like well, democratic candidates.

    August 22, 2011 at 9:22 am |
  4. Andrew

    Obama says he is a christian, will these questions dog him too, or can he just say he doesn't believe that part of his religion. Seems dems are more hypocritical about this question.

    August 22, 2011 at 9:19 am |
  5. Andrew

    Democratic candidates are almost always christian as well, but they never have to answer these questions. If your conservative and christian you can be prepared to have your religion under microscope. Its the new discrimination, liberals say they hate discrimination, unless it can be used on their opponents. They learn it from CNN.

    August 22, 2011 at 9:11 am |
  6. John


    August 19, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
  7. Derek Wain

    Don't let Eric Marrapodi's anti-Bachmann screed fool you. Marrapodi perverts Bachmann's response ("submission" in marriage means "respect) to Byron York's question. For the anti-religious Left like Marrapodi, the language of relgious Americans is as foreign as Martian.
    The ad hominem attacks against Bachmann by media jackals have boomeranged against the Left and hugely helped Bachmann.
    Whenever the press attacks Bachmann, she gets a flood of support and money. She becomes ‘Every Woman,’ a misunderstood Tea Party mother of five facing down an elitist, arrogant, Obama-leaning press corps" The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on.
    8/14/11 Bachmann wins Iowa Straw Poll

    August 19, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
  8. Zimm

    Why are her Christian beliefs and her freedom of religion so easily targeted when other candidates (recent past and present) aren't grilled over theirs? It seems it has now become okay to attack people for their Christian beliefs but the backlash is quick for questioning Muslims, Jewish, or Morman or other religions. If religion is out of play for some, it's out of play for all.

    August 16, 2011 at 11:42 am |
    • BrewtownPsych

      because she puts her faith front in center of her campaign. so what do you believe? only some of the bible? was the earth created in 6 days? these are all fair questions. if you don't want them asked, keep your religious views to yourself for a change. at least be honest enough to give a truthful response. she didn't even ansewr the question. ridiculous. we can't have people who deny the fact of evolution leading the united states into the new world of scientific and technological advance. it's that simple.

      August 16, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
  9. Sabrina

    The way a woman and man may act as husband and wife is not necessarily reflective of what they will do in the public arena. Queen Victoria was known as a very strong willed ruling monarch, but in private life she didn't believe in women's liberation or sufferage and was a submissive wife to her husband Prince Albert. I have no problem with Michelle Bachman's answer. Respect is important if a marriage is to work.

    August 16, 2011 at 11:13 am |
    • Sabrina

      Also I find it interesting that when it comes to women candidates, people make certain assumptions they don't make of male candidates. Wonder why no one ever asks the men do they LOVE their wives as Christ loves the church and gave himself up for her...(Ephesians 5:25) and in light of all the cheater politicians out there, maybe the question is appropos...

      August 16, 2011 at 11:17 am |
    • Civiloutside

      Perhaps because whether a candidate loves his wife as the Bible tells him to is not germaine to the decisions he will make in his official role, whereas whether a woman believes that her will must be subordinate to her husband's most certainly is.

      The reasons she is subject to "se-xist" questions is because she has publicly claimed allegience to an ideology that makes specific se-xist claims that, if followed literally, potentially impede her ability to make independent decisions. I think the public has the right to know how she views those claims.

      August 16, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
  10. KC

    The question...and this entire thread...is the devil's work.

    August 15, 2011 at 11:55 pm |
    • KC

      This post was actually a reply to David at the Chicago Tribe from his previous post.

      August 16, 2011 at 12:31 am |
  11. KC

    Her answer should have been, "I would ask you to 'submit' another question...or ask each candidate the same & reverse to 'does your wife submit to you'"

    The crux of the question is an implication that her hubby would somehow run the WH by influence if she won. As though that hasn't happened with each president to date. The ques really is, "who or what do you submit to?". With a laundry list of options, ie., money, polls, party, donors, mistresses, fear, terrorists... it sure would seem submitting to God and her husband creates an appealing candidate.

    The other angle is that the entire context of the ques was wrong because it assumes she's perfect in her submission. There isn't one of us that are perfect in anything. Yes. She probably does submit to her husband. So, too, you submit to your spouse (if you're married). It doesn't mean you do it all the time every time.

    He might have well have asked each of them, "you are a proclaimed Christian, do you tell the truth?"
    It's a trap question. As Christians, we're supposed to. Most likely work hard to do so regularly. None do it perfectly. So...if you say you don't, you're a "liar". If you say you do, you're a liar.

    The question was a complete waste of time & distraction to issues related to presidency.

    August 15, 2011 at 11:47 pm |
  12. Donald

    Another trival answer by a hypocrite Christan. Let's be real, her hubby beats her sorry ass every chance he gets – end of story.

    August 15, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
  13. Dictionary

    I like how it took her a while to formulate a response. "Hmmm... how should I spin this? I know! I'll say that the word "submit" doesn't actually mean what it means. Brilliant!"

    August 15, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
    • KC

      Ok Dictionary, you're on the spot. How exactly would you answer the question...and how long will it take. If you're not married, use a past or current relationship.

      August 15, 2011 at 11:51 pm |
    • judy

      George Bernard Shaw wrote: 'Few people really believe that the bible means what it says – They're all convinced that it says what THEY mean.'

      August 16, 2011 at 2:05 am |
  14. Les

    We need someone like Bush? Are you insane? The fas-cist government he created is the cause of the troubles we are seeing now. Muder, election theft, the lie about WMD, the New World Order, the Patriot Act, the illegal conentration camps at Guantanamo, the thrust toward destroying the air and water in the Marcellus Shale region through unnatural gas exploration, the gutting of sustainable energy programs, ad nauseum. It is the Republican right that is squarely to blame for every economic problems today.

    August 15, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
    • Les

      Sorry for the mispellings.

      August 15, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • ThomasL

      Isn't a bit of a problem when you do not understand EXACTLY what your religion mandates. I just find it a problem that the word "submission' is used when it does not mean submission (in standard English). She said it meant respect so why not use that word and re-write the passage. If it means more than that then tell us.... Perhaps the "DEEP" theological question asked should highlight that when a word like submission can transform such an easy question into the realm of "DEEP" theology there is a problem. How many words in the Bible might cause such a case and why? Perhaps the question should be refined to save the stress on the theologically challenged. How about this: You have stated religiously that you are submissive to your husband. Given that there is some debate over what the religious definition of that word vs the standard English meaning, would you tell us if in the course of your duties as President if your husband forbade you to carry out a political decision you had made, would you be obliged to follow his directive or follow your contrary political decision? Easy enough I think and not too taxing on the theology bit. This is a serious question for me. I want to know who this candidate is beholding to and why. The question is easy an honest answer would be greatly appreciated.

      August 15, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
  15. William Demuth

    It is my understanding that the Supreme Court is set to decide if it is legal to call for the assasination of a sitting president, or presidential candidate.

    Thus I am forced to await their decision until I can post my detailed position on the Bachman candidacy.

    As for the weather, I suspect next summers to be comporable to that of 1968.

    August 15, 2011 at 9:26 am |
  16. jimtanker

    What a total BS non-answer she gave. She was too afraid to answer the real question and be shown for the real christian fool that she is.

    August 15, 2011 at 7:55 am |
    • William Demuth

      Of course it was

      No rational person would ever vote for her if she revealed what she really believed.

      This woman is an indoctrinated cult member.

      August 15, 2011 at 9:22 am |
  17. 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 7:42 am |
    • The Lionly Lamb of The Gods Does Roar

      @ Reality toward Paul the apostle,,,,,,What are you attempting to suggest regarding Paul? Could your thoughts be expounded upon regarding the leveraged words you in your abovenss words do cleave upon? 🙁

      August 15, 2011 at 7:53 am |
    • Reality

      o Did Paul see the physical, risen, simple preacher man aka Jesus on the way to Da-mascus? Or was it in a drunken stu-por/dream/hal-lucination brought on by his per-se-cu-tion of the Christians? It is obvious that Paul knew all about Jesus since he was a rabbinic per-sec-utor of said Christian cu-lt. And why pray tell did Jesus not appear to Tiberius or Caligula or Nero?? Sure would have saved a lot of time.

      It was obvious that Judaism in its conflict with Rome was about to be relegated to a second class cu-lt. Paul saw the "writing on the wall" and set about getting ahead of the destruction of Jerusalem and the near an-nih-ilation of the Jewish race.

      And please note the "trips" Paul took. Definitely not affordable by a poor Roman Jew.
      Also please note the extensive monies collected from the Ge-ntiles for famine relief in Palestine. That won the day for the Ge-ntiles entry into the new Jewish cu-lt without having to undergo circ-umcision.

      Also please note, Paul's death appears to be heavily embellished. See Professor JD Crossan's book, In Search of Paul, p. 401 for a good review of the history of his ma-rtyrdom i.e. Paul (as was Peter) was rounded up along with many Christians in Ne-ro's purge of the c-ult using the great fire of Rome as the pretext for the exec-utions. No special death wishes granted. It was a group execu-tion.

      With respect to Paul's "unchristian", pru-dish comments about women, Professor Bruce Chilton, a contemporary historic Jesus and Paul exegete says it best:

      "He (Paul) feared the tu-rn-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 angel ("pretty, wingie, talking, fictional thingie" in church attendance (1 Cor. 11:10)."

      Simply add Paul's thinking about women to the list of flaws in the foundations of Catholicism/Christianity.

      And 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 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 15, 2011 at 10:58 am |
  18. sky

    Michelle Bachmann on meet the press she just lie, lie, lie as a INDEPENDENT voter, we are the people who see the truth, that the Republicans are not willing to bargin or raise taxes on Million Airs and Billion Airs to get the economy working. Getting 98% of what they wanted, and have not created any JOBS! yet, But what the Republicans-Tea Party have caused S&P to down grade our country credit for the frist time in our nations history. Independents who are self-reliance not committed to a political party will take the stand again, Since the 1st day in office the Republicans main goal was to get Obama out of office instead of giving a hand with the wrost economy our country has ever seen. The Party of no, did 1 thing right to show the American people their willing to strip us of everything we have worked for. INDEPENDENT 4 Life

    August 15, 2011 at 7:00 am |
    • The Lionly Lamb of The Gods Does Roar

      @ sky mindedness,,,,

      I do see the anguish in your words sky. As my fellowship(s) do contrite themselves toward otherly agendas, the "regularisms" of "geocentric-politicalisms" are in someways now becoming the Actors of Christendoms' "viruosticisms" parlaying toward their very own redundencies on deniability's staunchiness. The "perplexisms" of enthroned rulerships even within the "framed" workmenships of our Declaration of Independence's is today becoming but just a parchment of paper not worthy of its' ink! Soon, very soon sky, our nation will either sink or swim it its' own blood-letting discords of speached accordances.

      August 15, 2011 at 7:24 am |
  19. sky

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    August 15, 2011 at 6:03 am |
  20. David of The Chicago Tribe

    What is this woman doing running for office? How dare she! She needs to be in her home, taking care of the house, the kids, and preparing for her husbands arrival! This is the devil's work!!!!

    August 15, 2011 at 4:40 am |
    • The Lionly Lamb of The Gods Does Roar

      What a Pope-of-Dope commentary,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,! ! !

      August 15, 2011 at 6:49 am |
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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.