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. Burbank

    These Evangelicals are nothing but the Taliban American Style.

    August 12, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
    • mickey1313

      all fundalmentalists and zelots are the same, christian or taliban, they need to be stoped.

      August 12, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
  2. OaklandRaider

    This is the crux of the pussification of America. Chivalry towards a career woman is castration. Also, imagine a woman trying to negotiate with middle-eastern countries -think Bush and Obama are bad presidents ?

    August 12, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
    • GODsWORD

      Hey Raider, I think you been hit in the head too many times w/o your helmet on. Who do you think is doing our negotiating with the middle east now? A women, Hilary Clinton. You libs are such tools.

      August 12, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
  3. George

    I want to see her naked.

    August 12, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
  4. eightoeight

    The question may seem stupid to some, but the fact that Bachmann has strongly identified herself as a Christian and seems to use her faith as a cornerstone of her campaign makes me wonder how much of an influence her husband would be if she were elected as President. I think her answer was as good as she could have given, but what actually goes on behind closed doors is another matter.

    August 12, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
  5. TexasCentrist

    It's all non sequitur anyway. Arguing about whether she is consistent with the Bible is pointless given that it's all interpretation anyway. If religion were based on fact, don't you think God could manage to make his intentions clear? The idea that He could be so enigmatic and we have to figure out the ambiguities is ridiculous.

    August 12, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
    • Bibletruth

      LOL...have you ever perused the ten commandments (exodus 20)

      August 12, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
    • Peace2All


      Your point being...?


      August 12, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
  6. Jasie

    I don't understand why people assume that if you vote for Bachmann then you're voting for her husband too. She's a woman in the modern day, not the sixties or ancient times.

    If that's the way some people want to think, for all you know, Michelle could be calling the shots.

    August 12, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
    • C Reason

      Dear God, help us keep this woman out of the White House. Most of us, those of us who are educated and intelligent people, understand the Bible is a book and nothing more; a collection of stories and letters and parables passed down by word of mouth for centuries, changing every time they were retold, before finally being written down, yet changed more and more as time went on, especially by the evil and malicious Church of the Catholic Cannibals. We understand it's not your literal word, for a being as powerful as yourself doesn't need words and the words of men cast in your name serve only to dishonor you.

      Don't even blame those among us who are less educated or just plain ignorant, who believe the Bible is a literal history book. Their ignorance makes them blind but not evil. Take pity on them and give those of us who respect your amazing creations; the universe, the Earth, evolution, science, physics...the tolerance and patience to live with them in the hopes they come to their senses.

      Please God, if this woman rises to power, all that is good will be destroyed and her evil and twisted interpretations of your influence will serve only to send this nation spiraling into depths of a terrible and cruel Christian reign of terror, oppression and intolerance.


      August 12, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
    • Jair

      Assuming this would be silly, of course. But *submissive wives* do still exist, they are not a relic just yet. And, absolutely yes, Michelle could be calling the shots, but we have no reason to suspect this. Bachmann is the one who brought it up, weeks ago, begging the question.

      August 12, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
  7. enricorosan

    If she ever wins the nomination for president the American people will be the laughing stock of the planet. Even Muslims in the Middle East would say; "Look they have a submissive woman for president let us kick her @ssssssssssss when she comes to visit."

    August 12, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
  8. Lawrene

    The husband is the head of the house hold. Ephesians 5:22 says that "Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord." That means that the wife must submit to the husband as reference 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." Ephesians 5:23. This does not have anything to do with Love but to obeying. Wife must obey the husband for he is the head of the household/whitehouse.

    August 12, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
    • BldrRepublican

      And,correspondingly, the husband must be willing to *die* for his wife (not necessarily vice versa).

      That make all the difference in the world.

      August 12, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
    • Jair

      BldrRepublican, see below. His willingness to die is completely irrelevant to the matter at hand. It is unlikely she is submissive to her husband to the point that *he* would dictate policy and decisions. But really, your point has nothing to do with the conversation.

      August 12, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
  9. BldrRepublican

    Submit = trust his guidance.


    Notice the followon to that passage – "Husbands, love your wife as Jesus loved the church". Now, tell me, what did Jesus do for the church????

    He *DIED* for it, in the most heinous manner.

    Now, wouldn't you trust the advice of someone willing to die for you?

    August 12, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
    • Jair

      Uhm, in the sense of their relationship that makes sense, but in the issue of her being a presidential candidate, what does his willingness to die for her have to do with her potential "submission" to him with regards to running the country.

      Barring some strong evidence to show otherwise this is most likely a non-issue with MB. But the submission issue, within itself, should be examined. My parents are early 60's, christian and my mother is very submissive to my father. It is a mix of upbringing and religion that leads to that. It is not unheard of and is still quite common in older crowds. I think those whitewashing (this is something from the ancient past) are being disengenuous. Thankfully, most females in politics are unlikely to be 'submissive',

      August 12, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
  10. Captain Kirk

    Who cares what the term 'submissive' means in regards to the question and the bible? The main focus of the article is to show how smoothly she answered a question that could make or break her. She handled it just fine, she's not stupid at all.

    August 12, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @Captain Kirk

      " she's not stupid at all. "

      Are you certain of that...?


      August 12, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
    • SCOTO

      And what if she lied?

      August 12, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
    • Captain Kirk

      I'm not certain if she's stupid or not. But alas, there's a chance she's not.

      And I don't know if she lied. But so far, every politician has lied in some way or form. So if she did lie, should it even matter?

      All I really wanted to get across is that the incorporation of religion into politics is unnecessary. She shouldn't have to be bothered by it just because she's a woman.

      August 12, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @Captain Kirk

      She seems to be doing a pretty good job on her own of wearing her evangelicalism on her sleeve.

      I think she is already incorporating religion and politics.


      August 12, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
  11. blake

    It was a tough question that did not receive an completely honest response. Submission includes respect, but it involves more. Ms. Bachmann knows that.

    Of course it would be a non-issue with a Democratic woman, who would never claim to respect or submit to their husband. They would embrace unrestrained feminism.

    August 12, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
    • christian Right is insane

      Christians are out of touch with reality and the rest of the world.

      August 12, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
    • pfeffernusse

      And you know feminism doesn't include respect for other people how, exactly..?

      August 13, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
  12. Beebo

    doesn't the Bible say its okay to redefine words for your own purposes too?

    August 12, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
    • Laura

      The King James Version is just that a Version. It is perfectly permissible to go back and look at the original hebrew and discover the meanings of words and to see the context of what the word meant back when it was used.

      There are lots of words that 50 to 100 years ago meant something totally different than they do now... so I would tell you we should review all words to see what they truly meant at the time they were used.

      August 12, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
    • Rabia Diluvio

      "Don we now our gay apparel" tends to mean something completely different at Christmas now than it did 80 years ago 😉

      August 12, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
    • Lawrene

      The bible cannot be changed or added to. Beside all English translations says "Submit to the Husbands" in different forms and it does not say love your husbands that is in a different verse.

      August 12, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
    • Bibletruth

      Actually it says just the opposite....Jesus highly commended one for being a man without guile.

      August 12, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
  13. What I say

    I liked how she danced around the question. Means she's adept at taking one thing and manipulating it so that it'll work for her. She's not a moron, she knows what she's doing. And besides, I don't think religion should have an influence on politics at all. Our founding fathers were Atheists, so why can't our current politicians be so too?

    August 12, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @What I say

      " Our founding fathers were Atheists "

      Actually, I believe that majority world-view of most of the 'founding father's' was..."Deism"


      August 12, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
    • Captain Kirk

      @ What I say

      Our founding fathers WERE Atheists. Anything stated otherwise is a lie.

      August 12, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
    • Dissideum

      Bit a both actually.

      August 12, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
    • Dissideum

      But either way, it's true. Religion shouldn't be involved with politics.

      But Politics and religion go hand-in-hand, so it's unavoidable that these two mix.

      for some reason it's important

      August 12, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @Captain Kirk

      I wish that they 'were' atheists, brother(there may have been some that were)... but history says otherwise for the majority. Again, the overall world-view by many of the founding fathers was 'deism.'

      Basically, a creator set everything in motion... and then left. No need to believe in the Christian narrative.

      The Christians would like us to believe that the ff's were all 'Christian' which would be inaccurate.


      August 12, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
  14. Laura LaVertu

    The definition of the word "submit" contradicts what Bachman says. There is no mention of being "respectful" in "submitting" to someone. She is just sugarcoating an ancient standard which is now recognized as wrong by modern standards. She didn't answer the question – would she submit to her husband? Either the text says what is says or it does not. The more you try and twist it around to fit what you want it to say, the more ridiculous it becomes.

    August 12, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
    • Sunday School Teacher

      For the record, I despise this woman. But to be absolutely honest, her treatment of the passage is accurate. Remember, this text is translated from GREEK text; it was not written in English. Therefore, the word "submit" has a completely different meaning than what you think it does. My suggestion – go to Sunday School or Bible Study where you will find people who are more than willing to explain the Word of our Lord and Savior and the Good News of salvation. Otherwise, keep your pedestrian theology to yourself. Thanks be to God.

      August 12, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
    • Lawrene

      Hey Sunday School teacher, do you read ancient Greek, I don't think so. The word for Love and the word for submit are very far apart. Submit: υποβάλουν,,,,Love: αγάπη and that is modern Greek. Gee they don't look the same to me.......

      August 12, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
  15. Robert Phillips

    Just a few points. (1) The theologically ignorant here are reading their own Marxist pagan definitions of "submit" into the text - the Bible is not authoritarian, but rather makes particular exceptions for acts of defiance when basic principles of Christian morality are at stake (e.g., the apostles before the Jewish Sanhedrin in the book of Acts). (2) The theologically ignorant here conveniently leave out the complimentary command for husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the Church (i.e., defending her [see especially the imprecatory Psalms], providing for her, enduring pain and suffering for her sake). (3) Bachmann's answers are noncommittal, period. She copped out with the "respect" definition, which is included in the Christian concept of wifely submission, but does not exhaust it.

    August 12, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
    • albert

      Speaking of pagan,

      This is so true. The Bible is not the problem. It is the interpretation of it. For example, many so-called "Christian Teachings" are actually pagan traditions and things borrowed from Greek mythology. Christmas & and Easter for example were never celebrated by Jesus early disciples. The teaching that bad people go to hell for eternity to suffer is not a biblical teaching (how does one who is an invisible non-fleshy being burn?). The Rapture was invented in the 1850's and is nowhere to be found in the Bible. Evangelicals are not Christians from the Bibles perspective. They teach and learn lies.

      August 12, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
    • SCOTO


      August 12, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
  16. HIH

    In a scriptural sense submission between a husband and wife works both ways. The question was designed to bring into the debate and government that which everyone wants to keep out of it.

    August 12, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
  17. Notoj

    The christian guy is confusing the facts. Bachman went to school because her husband told her to. She submitted to his wishes and didn't like school. It turned out to be the best thing for her, but the question is valid. Who is the leader in the household and who will America be voting for.

    August 12, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
  18. Charlie

    The question concerned her remark that she became a tax lawyer out of submissiveness to her husband. It's a fair question. Would she be similarly submissive to his wishes if she were president? I don't think her comment about respect was any kind of answer.

    August 12, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
  19. agavemike

    I hope she wins the nomination. All of these Republican candidates scare me, and this one will be the easiest to beat.

    August 12, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
  20. HIH

    That was a stupid question and she answered perfectly

    August 12, 2011 at 6:09 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.