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. Asklepios417

    I seem to recall a presidential candidate named Barack Obama getting some questions like these when he and McCain appeared together as a guest of a progressive Christian pastor.

    Obama, with no help from any teleprompter, finessed them much better than Bachman did.

    August 12, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
  2. mm

    this does not compute to me, if her husband is gay, it does't count? she can be the boss of her husband and the whole country. Not president material! LOL

    August 12, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
  3. mike

    Her views are a step back for womans lib, but more important if she were to become president, who would have the power, her, or her husband? There is no way to know who would be in power, the one elected, or someone not elected.

    August 12, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
  4. Andre

    Ahhhh ! Such hypocrisy from CNN and their "expert"......back in the bronze age, when the bible was written by MEN, submit to your husband meant OBEY your husband...and now they hypocrits at CNN AND Backmann change the real meaning because they don't like what's in the bible. The bible = truly misogynistic book.

    August 12, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
    • Ancient Alien Astronaut

      Actually, I thought the "expert" was more entertaining than she was... Doctor 'Tartt' sounds like a cross between Prince and Michael Jackson.

      August 12, 2011 at 7:05 pm |
  5. Joe in Pittsburgh

    Religion has always been about control. Of course she should be submissive to her husband. As a former Catholic I knew that men were always superior to women. As a free-thinking individual I understand, as an adult, that men and women are equal.

    Having said that, I realize that Bachmann will fail because this country, despite it's move towards progressive thinking, will never elect a female as President - much like it will never elect a Mormon as President.

    August 12, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
  6. Asklepios417

    But in a gay or lesbian marriage, which spouse has to submit ?

    August 12, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
    • TB

      The one who is dressed less fashionably.

      August 12, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
  7. Ancient Alien Astronaut

    Boy, we f'd up in 10,000 BC, again with Jesus, then 600 years later we tried to correct it with Mohammad and we just made it worse.

    All we left behind were a bunch of landing pads and goofy pictures of us being portrayed as angels 'n shít. Now mostly everyone is praying to our existence as 'gods' and waiting for our return next year to claim the mysterious power source in the Ark of the Covenant (Ethiopia? Really? They kept it there? Go figure...)

    Goes to show you, we should have let well enough alone. Damned liberals. Always trying to force change on planets that don't want it.

    August 12, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
  8. jweller

    Who cares what some passage says in the bible by a guy who died 2000 years ago. You have a mind and free will, think for yourself, do YOU believe a wife should be submissive to her husband.

    August 12, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
  9. Ronald Raygun

    the deer in the headlights look was priceless

    August 12, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
    • jweller

      lol, I love your screen name.

      August 12, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
    • Ancient Alien Astronaut

      Yep, it's real original. They were calling him that at Woodstock. In 19 freakin' 69.

      Oh revelation! Everything old is new again.

      August 12, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
  10. JoJo

    Bachmann and Palin are blasphemous heretics! Blasphemy! BLASPHEMY! Back to kitchen!

    August 12, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
    • Ronald Raygun

      they look better in house shoes

      August 12, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
    • Ancient Alien Astronaut

      Personally, I prefer the Nickelback song.

      August 12, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
    • Eric Cartman

      Need to get their a$$es back in the kitchen and make me some pie

      August 12, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
  11. revinger

    i saw some amish going into a mattress store the other day and the women remained a good 20 feet behind the man. is that an example of submissive?

    August 12, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
  12. Bob


    August 12, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
  13. mdmooser

    SUBMIT THIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I try to enter these things unbiased but......, serious evangelicals give me the best reason yet to go third world and be with real people. So many people roll over other people with their DOCTRINES, I like people who make informed decisions and then go on with their life. Forget the manic drama or pray away this or that, let's move to center not right or left.

    August 12, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
  14. Todd

    What is with all of the morons booing in the background? First of all, doesn't it seem like that would be something that couple possibly be insulting to women, not men? Yet it sounded to me like it was only guys who were booing in the background. Perhaps all of the men in that audience don't like being reminded that she is married and most likely won't be banging them. I think that is a more than fair question. Since she had stated many times before that there have been instances where there were things that she did not want to do, yet she did them anyways because her husband wanted her to. Would she do that once she "god forbid" gets into the White House? The fact that she is even close to having a chance at the nomination tells me one thing. The crazy ass Christians are trying to bring about Armageddon by getting this wacko elected to the White House. They claim that they know it is inevitable that the world will come to an end, anti-christ blah blah, but in the end its just a bunch of gullible people trying to end the world because they are dumb enough to believe in fairy tales.

    August 12, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
    • Bob

      self fulfilling stupidity

      August 12, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
    • Jason

      It seems to me that you are the waco. What on earth is wrong with a God fearing person of faith leading the greatest country on earth? I don't know which Republican I will support in the primary, but faith will be a part of my decision. Michelle Bachman is not a liar and her positions are clear. Less government, less taxes, more freedom. What a lot of people in this country has forgotten is that those things equal a strong economy and a happier population. The problem with the president is he is a liar. You have to listen to what he says and then try to figure out what he will do. He said that he was for transperancy and laid all of these ground rules while he was running for office. As soon as he was elected he broke every rule he set. His cabinet is full of lobbiests, and he governs through closed sessions. His health care bill was shoved down our throats by a procedural move instead of the correct voting process.

      August 12, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
    • Ancient Alien Astronaut

      " His health care bill ..."

      Is going to the Supreme Court, so stifle.

      August 12, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
    • pfeffernusse

      Jason, you embody what is wrong with our electorate. Putting faith before the Consti-tution. Partisan extremes based on talking points. Not doing simple research.

      Bachmann has lied plenty of times. She's been caught doing it. She constantly rewrites American history to suit her politics. And she's only for less government if does not preclude the government getting involved in the private lives of people, telling them how to live, what to believe, and who to marry.

      August 13, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
  15. msquared70

    what century is this? lol. ok whatever analysis helps you sleep at night for supporting this bat sheet crazy woman.

    August 12, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
  16. Chach

    If the Bible fits, she MUST submit......

    August 12, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
    • maximusvad

      ha ! I like it.

      August 12, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
    • Peace2All

      Thank you -Johnnie Cochrane.


      August 12, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
    • mane

      I hear you bro. You the man.

      August 12, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      I like His promise the best ….

      A life of ROT
      He will BLOT.

      No eternity for YOU!


      August 13, 2011 at 9:38 am |
  17. S.

    Actually, the Bible does say for husbands to submit to their wives. Ephesians 5:21 says that we are to submit to one another. Then, it goes on to specify how marriage partners show this respect to each other. Note: it never says for wives to obey.

    August 12, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
    • maximusvad

      If a man dies childless, his widow is ordered by biblical law to have intercourse with each of his brothers in turn until she bears her deceased husband a male heir. (MARK 12:18-27)

      August 12, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
    • qb

      I couldn't give 2 sh!ts what the bible says..... It's 21st century for eff sake....

      August 12, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
  18. Beatrix Kiddo

    "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."

    And we see how well he did in 2008. The Iowa caucus is a special interest circus that has no bearing on the final Presidential election.

    August 12, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
  19. maximsvad

    Shakespeare said it best : “…even the devil can cite scripture for his purpose.”

    August 12, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
    • Chach

      Where's the "like" button?

      August 12, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
    • Bob

      "Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful"-Seneca

      I believe dear Seneca's quotation need only have the word ruler be transposed with politician in order to be relevant today.

      August 12, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
  20. Lizzy10

    I have no problem with this passage of the Bible. As a Catholic Christian, I interpret it to mean that in the days the Bible was written, women did submit to their husbands. Today, not so much. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I don't care what religion a candidate is, it's their political beliefs I pay attention to. As for Ms. Bachmann her political beliefs are nuts, plain and simple, so I won't be voting for her.

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

      "Thumbs Up !"


      August 12, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
    • Chach

      Ha. So the Bible only applies to things that make sense to our time? So in other words, only certain parts of the Bible, AKA the infallable Word of God, are applicable to "today"? Which means that the Bible is NOT infallable and therefore completly BUNK. Or are you saying that some of it's right, and some of it's wrong? Depending on what year, decade, century or millenium you happen to be interpretting it. What a joke. Religion is Faith as Politics are to Governing. One corrupst the other.

      August 12, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
    • Peace2All


      Actually, I must clarify:

      " As for Ms. Bachmann her political beliefs are nuts, plain and simple, so I won't be voting for her. "

      ...Thumbs up !


      August 12, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
    • Ancient Alien Astronaut

      @ Peace

      Watch where you're putting your thumbs when Marcus is around....

      August 12, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
    • Lizzy10

      @Chach, I believe the Bible was written by man, so it's falible. I wouldn't advise stoning your child if he was disobedient, no matter how tempting that would be. I also wouldn't kill a nonbeliever. God is infalible. Any religion that doesn't abide questions is a cult. It's my belief and I wouldn't impose it on anyone.

      August 12, 2011 at 8:45 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.