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. Castiel

    ugh, this b!tch.

    August 12, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
    • Ancient Alien Astronaut

      @ Castiel

      Best post in 10 pages. Congrats.

      August 12, 2011 at 7:56 pm |
  2. xnay

    The reason she and Jimmy Carter got that treatment is that the press by and large do not understand a large section of America. The press hang out with each other and come from a completely different culture.

    Like the song says"Don't surround yourself with yourself".

    August 12, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
  3. David Johnson

    It's 2:00 AM at the White House. The phone rings. Do you really want Bachman to answer?


    August 12, 2011 at 7:29 pm |
    • VegasRage

      F*** NO!

      August 12, 2011 at 7:32 pm |
    • fred

      Yes out of respect for her husband who is sound asleep next to her

      August 12, 2011 at 7:32 pm |
    • xnay

      With Obama we better hope it doesn't ring during Ramadan

      August 12, 2011 at 8:29 pm |
  4. Mary Ann

    This woman,like Sarah Palin,gets crazier each day.

    August 12, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
  5. *frank*

    Is it a form of respect when she uses a strap on dildo on her husband? What's the dynamic there?

    August 12, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
    • GodPot

      As long as she uses a head covering, so I guess a condom would do...

      August 12, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
  6. Huh?

    I cant her being submissive to her husband, more than likely he is submissive to her.

    August 12, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
    • mcore

      Well, it's complicated as it's very possible he is gay himself.

      August 12, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
  7. ck1721

    WOW! A well written article that doesn't demean or insult the inteligence of the Christian reader. Kudos CNN, I wish you would do this more often. People think it means that the husband is the boss, and what he says goes, when it is a relationship of mutual respect. If you can't understand that, then try reading the bible (The whole thing, not just one passage).

    August 12, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
    • Ancient Alien Astronaut

      Maybe it just flew over the intelligence of the christian readers.... Not exactly a Herculean task it would seem.

      August 12, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
    • Hmm...

      Maybe you should look up the definition of "submissive." It doesn't mean mutual respect.

      August 12, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
    • FIRE

      The husband IS The Boss, you idiot and a woman will never be his equal. Never, ever.
      Just like God IS The Boss, you idiot and Satan will never be His equal. Never, ever.

      Oh how I loathe modernists. I really, really, really do.

      August 12, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
    • FIRE'S MOM



      August 12, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
    • Nikki

      – Fire

      Then stay in your cave. See? All better now.

      August 12, 2011 at 7:48 pm |
    • Snoozie

      I can appreciate a relationship of mutual respect, but then why doesn't it also say that a man shall submit to his wife if it is about equality? I am asking b/c it is highly unlikely I'll read the entire bible. Not trying to be a jerk – just wondered.

      August 12, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
    • ck1721

      Hmm... -you should read the article again. The author even stated that "Submit" wasn't entirely accurate but it was the closest translation without using a long explanation.
      Snoozie- It's a respectful relationship where the man is the head of the family, and should be leading his family, but always considers his wife's input and value in the relationship. People always quote the "Submit" line and then forget the part about a husband loving his wife like Jesus loved the church.(ie. willing to lay down your life for them). It has to be a loving relationship, and that's where most who criticize it get it wrong. I hope that helps. Even if you don't read the whole bible, you should check out some online sermons about it. Pastor's tend to do a much more eloquent job than me 🙂

      August 12, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
    • ck1721

      PS. The equal part would be like comparing a pilot and a co-pilot. Both are important, but there is a chain of command that they follow. The can do as they please, and nothing says that the co-pilot HAS to do anything the pilot says, but there is a mutual respect there. The pilot will value his co-pilots input, but in the end, his decision will be the final one and he will be the leader. (Just an example because you can't really compare the loving part, but seriously, check out an online sermon on the subject, and and see if it down't change your opinion on the matter)

      August 12, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
  8. kc

    So why are religious questions being asked to anyone in politics?

    August 12, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
    • mcore

      Because she's making religion a big part of her campaign. Therefore it's fair game. She can't have it both ways. If she doesn't want to be asked goofy religious questions, she should stop quoting a goofy religious text.

      August 12, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
    • Lynne

      The question was about something religious she had said. That isn't about religion. That is about what she said.

      August 12, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
    • pfeffernusse

      What she said was about her religious belief. Her faith is a cornerstone of her campaign. She hasn't been shy about that. So, questions about her belief ARE questions about her campaign.

      August 13, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
  9. mcore

    She looks like a poor dumb deer frozen in a set of headlights.

    August 12, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
  10. blessedgeek

    It also says she should keep quiet in public and go home to discuss it over with her husband, and keep her hair covered.

    August 12, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
  11. MightyMoo

    I seem to remember people complaining about something similar with Bill Clinton being elected and not Hillary. If this issue is coming up with Bachmann then maybe she really isn't cut out for the job. It's supposed to be commander and chief, not submissive and chief.

    August 12, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
    • PJinChicago

      Commander and Chief? You're an idiot.

      August 12, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
  12. Asklepios417

    If the Founding Fathers had really been following the New Testament, which teaches that Christians should not even bring lawsuits against each other, they would never have waged a violent and bloody war against a devoutly Christian Kingdom, Great Britain, ruled by a piously Christian King.

    August 12, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
    • Asklepios417

      1 Corinthians 6:7: "The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?"

      Never would Paul have approved of bloodshed between two Christian groups over such utterly worldly and materialistic concerns as taxation.

      August 12, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
    • JustPlainJoe

      The founding fathers were men of the enlightenment. These questions would be met with anger at the attempts to generate a theocracy that they loathed.

      August 12, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
    • henry viii

      Maybe you should review your history books and then rephrase "piously Christian King."

      August 12, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
    • Asklepios417

      King George III of England was a devout member of the Anglican Church, as was the Prime Minister, Lord North.

      The king spent HOURS in prayer every day.

      There's no way Paul would want Christians making bloody war on the servants of such a man, especially for what Paul would regard as worldly concerns.

      August 12, 2011 at 7:43 pm |
    • pfeffernusse

      George was also koo-koo for cocoa puffs.

      August 13, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
  13. apathy

    the day we remove archaic mysticism as a requirement from the presidential office we might actually move into the 21st century.

    August 12, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
    • Ancient Alien Astronaut

      It's on the way.... just a bit later than planned 'cause we had to change an ion engine.

      August 12, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
  14. XYZA

    Hello? IT WAS THE GRAYS!

    August 12, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
  15. Awkward Situations

    "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."

    If that's true, then I hope her husband is nicer than her god! Because from what I have read, her god is ruthless and malevolent and has serious anger management issues.

    August 12, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
  16. FIRE

    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, women. 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 guys, 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 7:10 pm |
    • dUDE

      You sir...are an idiot...and probably a virgin but thats beside the point

      August 12, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Any chance FIRE was trying to be funny?

      August 12, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
    • Asklepios417

      I believe the post was satirical.

      That's how I took it.

      August 12, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
    • Lilly

      Well... I guess we'll just leave it at that. That's why we should keep ANY KIND of radicals out of the government at all costs.

      August 12, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
    • Asklepios417

      "Afterwards, she can wash your feet and after that sing songs in your praise, while she dries your feet with her hair"

      What if you're married to one of those punk rocker type women who shave their heads bald ?

      August 12, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
    • Ancient Alien Astronaut

      " So guys, first praise God Almighty for creating women, solely for mens enjoyment."


      August 12, 2011 at 7:29 pm |
    • FIRE

      @You All: This was not a joke.

      You see, I really don`t care about the 60`s, Feminism or Political Correctness.
      It is as simple as that.

      So you may campaign for "Womens rights" until your genital-warts fall off.
      It will NEVER have any effect on me. It is as simple as that.

      And if you have not got the minerals to rule your wife, then you are a f a g g o t, and you can take your Political Correctness and showe it were the sun does not shine.

      Have a great day to the rest of you, and enjoy your wifes in any way you see fit.
      That`s what their for.


      August 12, 2011 at 7:32 pm |
    • David Johnson


      WoW! You really cleared that up for me. I can't wait for my wife to get home, so I can set her straight.


      August 12, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
    • Castiel

      Boring troll

      August 12, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
    • papia

      Yes, certainly Mr./Ms. Fire is poking fun at them. I will add to his comment: those rules apply to those women who follow those rule, not for those who don't. Anyway, somebody should ask Bachman, so, as your husband respects you, should that mean he is submissive to you, just like your being submissive to him means to respect him? Maybe they can write their own dictionary, submissive means being respectful. Brilliant – IQ: -20.

      August 12, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
  17. Jean

    Did the number of foster children change?

    August 12, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
  18. Asklepios417

    He should have asked Bachman what she thought of this passage:

    "Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ." – Ephesians 6:5.

    August 12, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
    • Backtalker85

      I don't believe in that stuff, but I think what that line is saying. that if you become a slave.. you better just do what they say.

      August 12, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
    • Asklepios417

      "...with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ"

      That sounds like more than mere pragmatism.

      August 12, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
    • Aine57

      Maybe she'll tell us that slaves should respect their masters and vice versa. Don't think so!

      August 12, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
  19. Fed Up

    OK. They had a debate. Correct? Why, when we have a total mess in this country, are the media asking questions like this? Is there no one that has half a brain (as opposed to the quarter brain that is being used), or has any common sense? Looks like the media has dubbed Obama the Messiah again. No hard questions for him, either. This is making me sick!!!

    August 12, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
  20. DanW

    I read on another news site that Bachmann claimed years ago that she got her law degree because her husband told her to, and that the 'submissive' issue came up at that time. Assuming this is true, if her husband told her to vote for increasing taxes, would she do what he said?

    August 12, 2011 at 7:02 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.