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. Dave Miller

    Worth the read after reading this....http://www.makeusbelieve.com/

    August 12, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
  2. SCOTO

    We are the laughing stock of the civilized world with this stuff. How have the mighty fallen.

    August 12, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
  3. Mike Hill

    If Evangelicals and Fundamentalists were to admit the the Bible is a work of fiction comprised of myths, legends and outright lies, their lives would be a lot better.

    Know Jesus? NO PEACE! NO JESUS! Know Peace!

    August 12, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
  4. Jesus

    She is nothing, we have a Bigger bible thumper named Rick Perry. Apparently this moron claims God told him to run for President. I

    August 12, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
  5. David

    Well., i'm a Christian, but I don't see what this has to do with being the President of the United States. Seems kinda weird.

    August 12, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
  6. MS

    The Bible is fiction. The Koran is fiction. The Torah is fiction.

    August 12, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
  7. mikey

    The desire for a Christian Theocracy is the only stance supported by Republicans with unblemished consistency.

    August 12, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
    • Bob


      August 12, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
  8. Jesus

    She has to submit and do whatver her husband says otherwise who will remain 33 years with a flat chested old ugly hag.

    August 12, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
    • mikey

      Otherwise he will come out of the closet and find some dude.

      August 12, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
  9. Joshua

    Yes, the word "submit" in this context in no way implies exploitation or malicious domination. It is inextricably connected with the following verse "husbands love your wives".

    August 12, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
    • Dam

      But why the Bible not ask the husband to submit to his wife.

      August 12, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
  10. MomO

    LMAO, she dodged the question. Respect # submissive.

    August 12, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
  11. Dave

    This would all be so much easier if fundamentalists accepted that the books reflect the time in which they were written, and outdated passages can and should be ignored. If they're going to bludgeon us with literal interpretations, we have no choice but to bludgeon them with literal rebuttals.

    August 12, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
    • David C

      Well this of course leads to the age old question: Which version of the Bible does she use? You read any three different versions and you will get three different slants. Also in this Biblical interpretation vein, if she is a Literalist, then she should know that women at the height of their menstraul cycle are to be banished from the community for a few days and that wearing different mixtures of fabric is punishable by death. Oh the joys of seeing the extremists running for public office is a thing to behold.

      August 12, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
  12. chris

    Do these people hate taxes and government intervention that much that they would go so low as to use the bible to govern there lives. Seperation of church and state people!!!!

    August 12, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
    • Dam

      If that can win me votes why not. I am willing to say the world is only 5000 years old and Jesus rode a dinosaur, If I can be a Senator.

      August 12, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
  13. CommonSense

    The last thing this country needs is a bible-humper in the white house.

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

      CommonSense. Exactly. You hit the naill squarely on the head.

      August 12, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
  14. Dam

    Why does Bible not tell husbands to submit to their wives. Note it does not use the word SUBMIT when it comes to husband. All it saves is to love her. So obviously SUBMIT does not mean respect in the bible, it is used in the way to show women are inferior.

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

      Glad you brought that up Dam. You see Women ARE inferior to their husbands, and the man is the Head of the woman. That is why Women should submit to their husbands.

      Simple as that.

      God does not give a f u k k about the 60`s, or Feminism or modern day political correctness.
      Really, He don`t. So He is telling you straight like it is.

      Get back into the kitchens. NOW.

      Hope that straightened things out for you.

      And for the future, just keep in mind that God is MASTER AND COMMANDER.
      He is not a gender-communist. He is not a "Modernist".
      And He is not a "respecter of persons".

      What happens to be popular politics and political correct in the year 2011 means nothing to Him. So, a wife should be towards her husband as The Church is towards Christ.

      Obediant, bordering on worshipping, but limited by not drawing worship from the Lord.

      So Dam, first praise God Almighty for creating women, solely for mens enjoyment.
      Then, send your wife into the kitchen to fix you a snack. Afterwards, she can wash your feet and after that sing songs in your praise, while she dries your feet with her hair.

      Hope this cleared up how the relationship between a man and his wife should be.
      Have a nice day, and enjoy your wife.

      And if she does all that you ask of her obediantly, and without debate, then as a present, you may tell her that I said "Hello".


      August 12, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
    • Peace2All


      Umm... Thanks for weighing in on this buddy ?


      August 12, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
  15. Paul

    She needs to shut up and do what she is told.

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

      St. Paul, that you?

      August 12, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
    • nothem

      She is doing what she's told. She was put out there to make Palin look normal. So far she's done a pretty good job of it. None of the present group of GOP /GOTP will get this independents vote.

      August 12, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
  16. Insight

    Bible doesn't mean anything. Jews treated women like dogs. When Paul stated 'submissive' his prejudice towards women was hidden in that interpretation. Bachmann, an ambitious politician and an opportunist cannot be a submissive wife.

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

      She'd make a good sub. Not too bright. Heavy on the makeup.

      August 12, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
  17. mickey1313

    She would not answer the question, lol. It says in the bible that women are 2nd class to men, and by being a strong female leader, she is in fact, un-christian. Although christians are STUPID, and so is she.

    August 12, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  18. 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 6:30 pm |
    • urouttolunch


      August 12, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
    • nothem

      Amen, finally someone that thinks along the same lines as I do, thank you, I was beginning to think I was alone in the world.

      August 12, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
  19. spikette

    she has stated wives should be submissive to husband, so it was a fair game question. she changed the definition of submissive to respect. that is not the proper definition. and if that is the case then the follow up question should have been, then is your husband submissive to you. which is not the verbage of the bible.

    August 12, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  20. Tubby the Tuba

    Not even close on the correct answer. Like most politicians, she ducked the question and tried to change the words around to mean what she wants it to mean. "Live by the sword, die by the sword"! I notice a lot of women trying to change the word meaning....just ain't so! You can't pick and choose what laws or tenets of the Bible one wants to change....that is against God's law! I'm sure she will pay for it at some point!

    August 12, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
    • mickey1313

      She will only pay in the public light, because the fables these folks put so much stock in, simply are ficticous.

      August 12, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
    • urouttolunch

      So I'm sure you keep kosher and live by all those picky pronouncements in Leviticus, right? Because it's all there, right in the Book.

      August 12, 2011 at 6:44 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.