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. Zeke

    The US needs a President not a Preacher-President. It is NOT a theocracy. If you want one, go live with the Taliban.

    August 12, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
    • Guest

      Funny you say that, you seem to be OK with a Muslim in the White House. I think I'd prefer the Christian myself.

      August 12, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
    • pfeffernusse


      Guest, when you repeat foolish nonsense and gossip, you don't make your opinions very credible.

      August 13, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
  2. Brian

    Note how she and others in the article side-step the question. Religion in this country is a mile wide and an inch deep.

    August 12, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
    • RMohrUAB

      She didn't sidestep the question. She just didn't give the answer you wanted to hear.

      August 12, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
    • kvwberg

      She didn't sidestep the question. He asked her if she would be submissive to her husband if she were elected president and she answered what that meant to her and her husband. One can easily infer from her answer that, yes, she will continue to respect him if elected president.

      August 12, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
  3. Rhonda

    Voters are drawn to politicians who they feel reflect their culture and values. Religious faith is often a primary source of that commonality. Like it or not, matters of faith are always going to affect American elections in a big way as long as people are free to vote as they choose.

    August 12, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
    • Guest

      I'd like to see the Utopian Society that most of these bashers would implement! I think I'll take the Christians over most of these commenting jerks!

      August 12, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
  4. jdog

    just kooks on every corner down there, huh?

    August 12, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
  5. Mike

    This is what happens when you mix politics with religion. She does not represent my Jesus. My Jesus is all loving, forgiving, understanding and compassionate. You cannot be a politician and be any of those things.

    August 12, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
    • Colin

      Your Jesus is dead, had no supernatural powers and probably did about 15% of the things attributed to him by his followers after he died. A Branch Davidian would write a more accurate biography of David Koresh than the authors of the gospels did of you sky-spo.ok.

      August 12, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
    • Guest

      Actually Colin, according to the Scripture, you're dead!

      August 12, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
    • Colin

      Well guest, scripture must be wrong, because last time I checked, I was doing fine.

      August 12, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
    • Know What

      As we speak, the FLDS is planning a 38 foot statue of Warren Jeffs. They think that he is the reincarnation of Jesus too. They consider his imprisonment akin to Jesus' arrest and persecution. They are multiplying like rabbits in their compounds. I'll bet in a few years, if they don't wise up, they will have miracle stories about him too.

      August 12, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
  6. Athiest

    Here in lies the problems with religon and politics. "There's no all powerfull force controling my destiny. It's just a bunch of silly tricks and nonsense."

    August 12, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • DamianKnight

      "I suggest a new a strategy R2; let the Wookie win."

      August 12, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
    • Atheist

      Different atheist than original post.
      The only powerful force controlling my destiny is nature the physics of the universe. I don't believe in free will, I think science has proven that it doesn't really exist, just people don't want to accept it yet (look into the semantic apocolypse). But if physics and nature are the only things pulling the strings and making us do the things we do then we most likely don't have souls, just reactions in the brain that lead to us being who we are. Without a soul, there can be no god.

      Science may very well be on the verge of proving there is no god.

      That being said, I REALLY hope bachmann doesn't become president.

      August 12, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • Guest

      Athiest, the day science "proves" that "god" does not exist is the day it becomes a religion unto itself. Clearly god is seen to be a supernatural being that exists apart from, and outside of, our natural universe (although the "god' may interact from time to time with it). How inquiry of our natural universe can, thus, prove that god exists is problematic–our sicience is constrained to what we can observe, andour limit of observation is our natural universe. Any claim to prove (or disprove) the existence of a supernatural being is not science, it is the province of faith and religion.

      August 12, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
  7. Billy

    Go figure that would be a question asked in a Republican debate.

    August 12, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  8. Halt Who Goes There

    Michelle Bachman??? I thought this story was about some knucklehead named "Faith" – at least that makes much better copy...

    August 12, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
  9. ibamaliar

    Just read these Obama supporterer's comments then figure out their mentality level. That is why we had a Los Angles, New Orleans, Chicago, and New York riots like what is happening in England right now. They ar braindead and would love to bash anyone who stands in the way of their moron for a president. I got news for them they may as well wake up he will be gone election day. They will awake as the self proclaimed atheist will come judgement day. It will be too late to weep then. I feel there is no use praying for your souls for you wouldn't appreciate it anyhow. Poor ignorant people.

    August 12, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • Colin

      Oh here it is again, the whole "believe or burn" theory. I don't have to kill, steal or cheat, I don't even have to litter. All I have to do is exercise healthy skepticism toward this most unlikly of beings and it will inflict a penalty on me an infinite times worse than the death penalty. And it loves me.

      Dark Ages nonsense.

      August 12, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • Halt Who Goes There

      You mean it is almost Rapture time?? Oh the world will be much nicer place when people like you are "swept away". I mean...don't look back! Fire and brimstone will be all that will be left on earth ()

      August 12, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      "Poor ignorant people."
      Pot, meet kettle.

      August 12, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics


      They will awake as the self proclaimed atheist will come judgement day. It will be too late to weep then. I feel there is no use praying for your souls for you wouldn't appreciate it anyhow. Poor ignorant people.

      Let me guess a man wrote this down somewhere and you believe him. Or perhaps god told you this?

      August 12, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
    • J.W

      Who will be president if not Obama?

      August 12, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
    • JohnQuest

      ibamaliar, I do not agree with the President Policy either but who do you think will make a better President an why? Surly not one of those slow wits from the debate?

      August 12, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • DamianKnight

      -sigh- Really?

      August 12, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • Nursehope

      Uh, speaking of "poor ignorant People": Where are The Angles? I only recognize angles in mathematics or a description of someone's bent on a subject. Is this a new city, or did you mean LOS ANGELES?

      August 12, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • kpgsing

      Spoken like a true Christian.

      August 12, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
    • David Johnson


      You asked: "Who will be president if not Obama?"

      I am terribly disappointed in Obama, but I will not vote for a Republican. So, I want Obama to have a 2nd term.


      August 12, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
    • ahetch

      These bible thumpers will take us back to the dark ages if they can. I don't suppose any of them ever read about the dark ages they only read the bible.

      August 12, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
    • voter

      oh wait, you mean you don't believe the world will end in october of this year? christian republican is an oxymoron. a christian is someone who believes in christ. do you believe in jesus? if you do then you know that jesus was a liberal. he told us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heah the sick. he was very angry with the money changers in the temple. do you think he would be angry with the taking from the old, sick and poor republicans? i do. i think he would be angry with many of these money loving hypocrites. michele bachman being one of many, r perry, t palenty,et al.

      August 12, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
  10. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Bachmann said "I hope I understand the question correctly", how stupid was that, a question she herself had previously said about herself without anyone asking.

    August 12, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      Translation: She was stalling and hoping she answered it to where we wouldn't see her as an ignorant 3rd world country wife mentality. Just by her statements how can anyone have any respect for her. She is no different than the ignorant women in the ME submitting to their husbands.

      August 12, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Actually, that was probably the most politically savvy thing she could have done. Basically, she left a door wide open for her re-state her answer, if the polls show people not liking her answer, under the guise of the question not being clear.

      August 12, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  11. JohnQuest

    We all may laugh her off, but recall Sarah got pretty close and Michelle is marginally smarter than Sarah. We may be laughing her right into the White House. Well at least there will be no surprises from her if she wins, we all know we are screwed with no lube, unlike the Chameleon we have now, whom most of us thought would be better than the one before (NOT).

    August 12, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • Me

      I believe that many of those that supported Sarah in '08 realized that they dodged the proverbial bullet and won't come close to making the mistake with Bachmann.

      August 12, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
    • Atheist

      we can only hope...

      August 12, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics


      I believe that many of those that supported Sarah in '08 realized that they dodged the proverbial bullet and won't come close to making the mistake with Bachmann.

      I hear her movie is ROCKING!!!!!!!!!!!!! lol The real Palin is a money machine. She generates a buzz enough to make some cash. Her daughter is lerning this as well. And the religo nuts are dumb enough to buy into her jig. lol

      August 12, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      Libertarian Party is looking better and better than the two cheeseball parties we have now. They have so much to offer *rolling eyes*

      August 12, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
  12. A True Centrist

    @ Merrie – "Bachmann fails the honesty test. If "submission" means just "respect," does her husband "submit" to her, too?
    In her campaign liftoff in Iowa she made it very clear that submission means do what you don't want to do, and that she lets her husband's view of God dictate to her."

    Did you watch the clip? She said it meant respect, and that it went both ways so the answer would be yes. People, stop wasting people Also, she never said her husband's view of God dictates her. That is just a complete lie. Like John Stewart said, she is crazy enough on her own, no need to make up stuff as well.

    August 12, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • Merrie

      I believe it is certainly fair to say that Bachmann's statement : “I was going to be faithful to WHAT I FELT GOD WAS CALLING ME TO DO THROUGH MY HUSBAND" sounds like God tells her husband what to do, and she does what her husband dictates. You can call that "respect" if you want to, but it doesn't satisfy the standard definition, particularly since in the same context she said wives should SUBMIT to their husbands.
      I come from a long line of evangelicals (the old-fashioned ones that never told a lie, never made up a biography that sounded good but wasn't exactly true, and would have been terrified to say they'd had a "vision" if they had not, and walked humbly before the Lord instead of acting like they never could or would make a mistake.). Not one of them took the idea of "wives, submit" seriously. They were more interested in Jesus' interpretation of marriage than the one defined by the problems early churches were having in their congregations. Bachmann & Co. pick out the scriptures they want to live by, not the overriding message of the Gospel, and those scriptures certainly make a self-aggrandizing mix.
      Here's a fuller quote from the July 10 article citing the same story she told in 2006 and again at the beginning of the Iowa campaign (and many other times as well).

      ........... "Bachmann said she never had taken a tax course, “never had a desire for it,” but “I was going to be faithful to WHAT I FELT GOD WAS CALLING ME TO DO THROUGH MY HUSBAND.” [my caps] Later, when the opportunity to run for Congress arose, “my husband said, ‘You need to do this,’ and I wasn’t so sure.” She became sure two days later, after praying and fasting with her husband.

      August 12, 2011 at 11:32 pm |
  13. The Real Tom Paine

    Maybe Faith is Rupert Murdoch's wife?

    August 12, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
  14. Reality

    More on the "dominating" "St." Paul:

    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.

    And from Father Raymond Brown's ep-ic NT reference book.

    Excerpts: The First Letter to Timothy

    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 12, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
  15. kayray

    She does know her husband is a big ole mo right?

    August 12, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
  16. darleenj

    I'm glad she was asked that question, is a very important one. I can conclude that if she becomes President we will end up submitting ourselves to her husband as well. If she thinks like that she is absolutely unfit to be US President. And by the way, we all get it, submission is not respect, don't try to outsmart us.

    August 12, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  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 Marrapodi.

    August 12, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
  18. johnborg

    She beat around that one well. I have to admit, the fact that people like Bachmann and Palin are so involved with politics shows that perhaps even fundamentalist Christian women are getting fed up with well... fundamentalism, or at least its gender roles. Good job Bachmann. As a flaming liberal, I've never been so proud of you. Still, I will never vote for you 🙂

    August 12, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
  19. Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

    First you people need to realize Adelina/Faith etc is a troll. Not a very smart or creative one. She resembles more of a mindless idiot not on her meds.
    Back to the subject....HUGE RED FLAG >>>> "Bachmann self-identifies as an evangelical Christian"........ also she danced around the question and I suspect it will come up and the person will note he previous quote regarding why she became a tax attorney. If she is a true evangelical and honest we will see that the voters will be voting her husband in because he will be the decider for our nation if she is elected. It will come out and we will see that she is a class A zealot nutball. I will be watching the debates with popcorn.

    August 12, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
  20. Atheist

    Wow, and I was worried about the presidential candidates being too religious. After reading the comments here, I think I should worry more about christians like Faith who think everyone is evil except the people they go to church with.

    I hate to break this to you but there are nice people out there who are atheists and nice people who are theists. We atheists just get mad when you theists try to take over our lives and tell us how to act and what to believe in.

    August 12, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      If Faith/Adelina/Fair Garden is for real she is truly a crazy asian woman. If not she is simply a boring troll. I pass over her psots now and when she changes names it is not hard to see it is her. She has very little value other than a chuckle here and there. She serves very little use and time to feed her to the lions.

      August 12, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      If we list all of her pseudonymns alphabetically, I bet we could pretty well fill in every letter!

      August 12, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
    • J.W

      I have known Christians like that though. They think if you do not believe like them down to the last detail that you will go to hell. Fortunately I dont think anyone I know now thinks that.

      August 12, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics


      I have known Christians like that though. They think if you do not believe like them down to the last detail that you will go to hell. Fortunately I dont think anyone I know now thinks that.
      The HeavenSent's and Faith/Adelina/FairGarden etc do more negative impact to christians than positive lol. They are to self absorbed to realize it.

      August 12, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • Anne

      Amen to that!!! and yes, I am an atheist, I just thought it was too good to pass up 🙂

      You have absolutely nailed how I feel!

      August 12, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Anti-ChristianTS, I’m glad we bug you. Jesus truth stands for eternity. If you weren’t such a small minded little boy, you’d jump on Jesus bandwagon before you get blotted out … no eternity for you. But, like realitynot, colin, tommietom and the rest of you liars that want to be big fish in a small pond of non-believers … all of you will stay clueless, clueless, clueless listening to satan's lies.


      August 12, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • The Real Tom Paine

      Did you actually read anything AXTS wrote, or did you just assume things? Your arrogance is more indicative of the "satan's lies" you seem to think people who disagree with you are saying. It's really quite sad that you can't tolerate anyone else's views but your own, and you insist on forcing belief on others when its clearly not welcome. You are the small-minded one.

      August 12, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics


      Anti-ChristianTS, I’m glad we bug you. Jesus truth stands for eternity. If you weren’t such a small minded little boy, you’d jump on Jesus bandwagon before you get blotted out … no eternity for you. But, like realitynot, colin, tommietom and the rest of you liars that want to be big fish in a small pond of non-believers … all of you will stay clueless, clueless, clueless listening to satan's lies.
      Apparently you have reading comprehension issues or you simply want to piggy back a comment so that you can show us how self absorbed you are.
      Okay, focus....repeat my post.
      "The HeavenSent's and Faith/Adelina/FairGarden etc do more negative impact to christians than positive lol. They are to self absorbed to realize it."
      and again
      and again
      Now wasn't that easy...now you can see that I never said you bug me. Quite the opposite....I view you as entertainment. ... a chuckle if you will

      August 12, 2011 at 5:32 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.