August 15th, 2011
04:31 PM ET

Your Take: Bachmann on wifely submission

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN)– On Friday we posted a story about U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann responding to a question about a biblical admonition for wives to be submissive to their husbands during Thursday's Republican presidential debate. The question drew boos from the audience. Bachmann replied by saying that she loved and respected her husband.

The very fact she got the question has drawn lots of attention from the media. It also has a lot of people talking about the meaning of the biblical passage about submission that appears in the fifth chatper of Ephesians.

Byron York, the Washington Examiner columnist who posed the question, has taken a lot of heat.

In a Monday column, Bork explained why he asked it.  Bachmann had talked about submitting to her husband in a 2006 stump speech at a church while she was running for Congress.  The clip went viral in 2006 when it was picked up by anti-Bachmann opponents.

York prefaced his question at the debate by citing the 2006 speech, in which she talked about continuing her education at her husband's urging and paraphrased Ephesians 5.  In his column he wrote about the role of the 2006 speech in provoking his question:

But Bachmann's statement - in public, on stage, microphone in hand, in the context of a political campaign - raised a legitimate question.  What role does her husband play in her performance in public office?  With that in mind, I asked Bachmann this question...

York noted in his column that his question opened the flood gates for others to query Bachmann about biblical submission. On Sunday, following her win in the Ames, Iowa straw poll, Bachmann was asked about submission to her husband on "Meet the Press."

Over at RealClearReligion Jeffery Weiss wrote that Bachmann "should submit a different answer," suggesting her answer at the debate was evasive.

It's wonderful that she's got a happy marriage filled with mutual respect. That kind of deep and mutual respect is surely part of the Ephesians equation. But when push comes to shove, when does she hear the call of God when her husband speaks? And what happens if the call comes in at 3 a.m.?

On Salon.com, Sarah Posner, wrote that the submission question had as much to do with who would be calling the shots in the White House were Bachmann to be elected as it had to do with the Congresswoman's faith.

It’s common for Christian politicians questioned about their adherence to submission theology to dodge a scriptural explanation, as Bachmann did. After all, while dominionist-minded evangelicals like Bachmann intentionally set out to bring their "biblical worldview" into politics, they recognize that it’s bad 21st century politics - especially for a female candidate - to admit to a theology that could cause the same gasps and boos from voters who would recoil at the image of an obedient wife as president of the United States.

Our Friday piece generated over 1,600 comments that contained a lot of strong opinions on the matter. Lots of commenters wrang their hands at what they saw as violation of the separation of church and state:

Bachmann has spoken of the importance of her faith to a degree where it must be examined. Also, this BS about "submission" meaning something different today is not accurate. My mother is a 60 yr old christian. She is submissive to my father, due to both religion and culture. If she were elected, my father would really make the final call. That is the issue at hand. Is Bachmann submissive to her husband, to the effect that electing her would by proxy be electing her husband. Current translations of the Bible mean nothing. What does Michelle Bachmann believe or how does she intend to act on a policy?

I really would like to see a clearer line drawn between church and state. The question is: As a candidate, and if she holds a higher office, can she separate church and state, or are her religious values so predominant in her life that she cannot make decisions for citizens without having her faith take priority. Every President, and any leader for free citizens, for that matter, need to make decisions that are not faith-based. Can she do that? I am not so sure, but the question applies to all candidates.

And there was plenty of debate about the meaning of the word "submissive."

SUBMISSIVE – characterized by tendencies to yield to the will or authority of others
RESPECT – The condition of being esteemed or honored
Yes, yes I see how the definition of these two words are the same and interchangeable.
Typical politician BS say something without actually saying anything at all.
She did not answer a damn thing.

w w
Ms. Bachmann answered in the correct way. It is society and culture that has changed the perception of 'Submission' into something negative. Submission is Respect, whether to your spouse, an employer, the law, an educator, a superior officer, etc.
It is unfortunate that candidates who have declared themselves to be of Evangelical faith are being targeted by these types of questions. It would be informative and more encompassing, if moderators in future debates would ask questions pertaining to Judaism, Mormonism, Islam or other belief systems. If they ask of one, they should ask of all.

Martin T
What Michele is saying is "the bible is the inerrant word of God, except when I say it isn't" And, isn't that so typical of the Christian response to these types of questions. Believe what the bible says, but only to the point that I interpret it. Use the words when they can be used to strike fear or make a point against someone, then interpret them when they don't agree with your current situation.

The fact question was brought up all also generated some spirited debate.

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.

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.

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.

What are your thoughts about the submission question, Bachmann's answer, and the coverage that followed?

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Bible • Christianity • Church and state • Michele Bachmann • Politics

soundoff (205 Responses)
  1. Sue

    I certainly would never vote for a submissive wife. Submission is a form of slavery-after all it means to yield to the will of another. So, in effect, we would be voting for a voluntary slave. We need secular people in government-not a woman who wants to be a slave of a man. Chrisianity is not kind to women, so it must be kept out of our government. I don't care how she lives her personal life, but if she advocates women's inferiority (a submissive is never an equal-no matter what people say) then I would never, ever vote for her. Of course, her politics are not of my liking either.

    July 26, 2012 at 9:48 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.