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August 12, 2011

Bachmann Asked if She Would be 'Submissive to her Husband'

Was the question at Iowa’s debate last night out-of-bounds?


In the first Republican presidential debate in Iowa, all of the candidates were asked about their positions on issues and their qualifications, and the topic of marriage came up more than once. Only one candidate, however, was asked about her own marital relationship. The Washington Examiner's Byron York asked Michele Bachmann if she would “be submissive to [her] husband.” York's inquiry has now become its own debate topic: was the question out of bounds?

York framed his question by asking about Bachmann's own statements on submitting to her husband. Bachmann spoke at the Living Word Church in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, in 2006. Bachmann recounted how she felt God to lead her into law and, eventually, a career in politics.

York asked:

In 2006, when you were running for Congress, you described a moment in your life when your husband said you should study for a degree in tax law. You said you hated the idea, and then you explained: 'But the Lord said, be submissive. Wives, you are to be submissive to your husband.' As president, would you be submissive to your husband?

Bachmann paused (while many in the audience booed) and then answered:

Thank you for that question, Byron. [laughter in audience] Marcus and I will be married for 33 years this September 10th. I'm in love with him. I'm so proud of him. And both he and I...what submission means to us, if that's what your question is, is respect. I respect my husband. He's a wonderful godly many and a great father. And he respects me as his wife. That's how we operate our marriage. We respect each other. We love each other. And I've been so grateful that we've been able to build a home together. We have five wonderful children and 23 foster children. We've built a business together and a life together, and I'm very proud of him.

York has received criticism for asking the question. On Twitter, York said, “Thanks to all for comments on 'submissive' question. It's the kind of question a candidate will have to face, if they go far enough in race...” He later tweeted, “Haven't talked to Bachmann campaign, but I think they're happy with her answer. It was a good one, and most human moment of the night.”

This was not the first time Bachmann has been asked about her statements on submission. In a recent Newsweek interview, Bachmann said that as president, “I would be the decision maker.”

Gary Marx, executive director of Faith and Freedom Coalition told CNN's Belief Blog, "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. That's why there was such a strong and visceral booing over the very premise of the question."

Other conservatives saw the question as appropriate. The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin said Bachmann supporters are “feigning outrage.”

“That indignation is unwarranted. She said it and should be asked about it,” Rubin said. “Moreover, her answer was a home run, not only in substance but in delivery. First was the dramatic pause. Then the smile — no offense taken — and then the conservative feminist grand slam. Whether her answer is scripturally accurate, I have no idea; what matters is this is how she thinks and how she expresses her religious views.”

What do you think? Was the question legitimate or inappropriate? 

Image via Wikimedia Commons.


This is a blatant Catch-22 question. No matter which way she would answer, the questioner would have ammunition to go on the attack. Even if she provided a qualified answer, the qualification would likely be dropped. Furthermore, the question makes use of the fact that "submission" is a loaded concept with the explicit and emotional definition attached to it in our culture not allowing for consideration of the contextual meaning from which it is drawn.

I think it was an appropriate question, but not for the context of the debate, but perhaps for a lengthy interview. It was a loaded question that deserved an answer that took into account the theological framework and implications the question assumed. In that the question demanded so much, I actually don't think she answered it, but it did take me back to the conversations on women's roles when Sarah Palin was running with McCain. It causes me to ask, what is the role of submission in the public square? Can a complementarian construct even function in the political realm? I'm not entirely sure the answer to that question, and during Palin's run, I don't think it was adequately answered, but am curious enough to investigate it myself.

It's a fair question, and she avoided answering it. If she became president, and she wanted to sign a bill passed by Congress, but her husband didn't support the bill, would she sign it?

If you are the president of the United States, ultimately your spouse is submissive to you.

If you simply go with their decisions all the time then they might as well be president and there's no point in you running.

I believe it is a fair question for Bachmann given her previous statement (which, to me, contradicts the explanation she gave at the debate). Interestingly, this particular section of scripture is controversial for more than its anti-feminist sentiment. One Bible scholar explains that the passage in the book of Ephesians is often used as a license by those pre-disposed to domestic violence (http://www.ethicsdaily.com/abusers-distort-bible-to-justify-domestic-violence-cms-14959) and in my own experience as a social services volunteer and public employee for more than a dozen years, I have learned that crisis hotline workers are taught to instruct callers who inform them that their partner has mentioned Ephesians 5 that violence may be forthcoming and to begin efforts to get out of the situation immediately.

Using ANY scripture as a catchphrase - including "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son", for example - is a poor practice. It treats scripture as if it were simply an 'owner's manual' that one need only memorize to "do Christianity" correctly. I disagree. Jesus was certainly fond of quoting scriptures in his ministry, but consider to whom he widely directed those scriptures: not toward his apostles to keep them in line, but as a challenge to the 'elites' of his day.

Bachmann, meanwhile, used the scripture in 2006 to explain why she made a decision that she didn't personally think was wise. The end result of making that decision was a positive one for her - she discovered a new career in law and politics (God help us ALL) - but the PROCESS itself as she explicates is, I believe, flawed when it comes to making national level decisions. I think that this is more evidence that we need a separation of church and state in this country.

Bauchman's answer was brilliant and the question was fair. Some may be concerned about whether they are electing her or her husband. This answer dealt with the relevant issue and made her look great. She respects him (don't we all want a president who respects their spouse after the Clinton years?) and it is completely possible for her to be boss in the oval office and be a great decision maker and at the same time submit to him in regards to family issues. Ultimately they will both have to submit to the demands of the presidential office. This is true whether it is the man running or the woman.

It was an attack on the teachings in the New Testament, and it implied that a person who is submissive should not be president. It was framed to deceive the audience, and to make Congresswoman Bachmann's obedience to God's Word appear to disqualify her for office. Boo. Double Boo. There were men on the stage who could also have been asked if they love their wives as Christ loves the church. I didn't hear that one get asked. I boo'd the TV. i also did not like the fact that reference was made to Ms.Bachmann not being on the stage after the break. I didn't care for Fox's questions to many of the candidates.

I believe question was acceptable as she publically made the statement and it would come out at some point. I believe it was asked without malice. I believe she answered it well.
ANYONE who does not think the First Lady or First Gentleman have influence should have their head examined.
What is out in the press is fair game - we may wish to play nice but the other side will not and to have it out in the air this early is a good thing.
I personally like her translation of submissive as respect, but I am sure that the scholars would not agree.

Wow. She dodged that trap. Yet, this is the struggle with trying to live in this world, as this world and follow Christ as well. Isaiah said it was a judgment of God for women to rule over the people. That He would remove the mighty man, the man of valor, and the wise and children would be the peoples oppressors and women would rule over them. Sounds like America today. Christians twist the word to fit their personal agenda's. They preach Jesus while living in disobedience to God's revealed will for His people. She answered well, but answered false. Don't worry though, she wont be president..the globalist have their person picked already. With each attempt at Christians running for President, the world just shows us how hypocritical and power hungry we truly are. We are not in the world but not of it. We do not act like sojourners and pilgrims. May God raise up a true light, a true Church to shine over the darkness evangelicals have cast.

Hey, I'll have you know that my wife is submissive to me - and she gave me permission to say so!

She brought the subject matter first in 2006, as lip service for church goers consumption.

Therefore the question was and is Legit.

Next subjet!!

It would have been a "fair and balanced question",definitely needed to ask mormon Mitt Romney if he condemns the founder of mormonism Joseph Smith and the prophets of Mormonism who promoted polygamy with little girls? Also, they could have asked other professing Christian men on stage, a similar question, like: As a Christian, will you force your wife to be submissive to your command even if she does not agree with you?"

and if Byron wanted to show his bias in mockery of The Loving God of The Scriptures, he could have also taken out of context, and asked all Christian men how they feel about Michele Bachmann not being silent and submissive in public :-)!

The question was obviously wrong, out of context and an attack to try to marginalize Michele Bachmann by pitting her against evangelical voters if she did not answer well, and putting her against ultra radical leftist women if she did not openly condemn The Scriptural loving balance of a Christ honoring home.

We all should know that the husband's call to lay down his life for his wife and to put her interest above his own, is the foundation of us loving our wife as Christ loves the Church as revealed in Ephesians 5 & Phil 2. To be "fair and balanced", I would have preferred Byron ask her if as President she would encourage men to love like Jesus did!

Of all that has been said about Representative Bachman’s campaign, what has given me profound concern about her campaign as a Christian believer is the extended article about her in the August 15 & 22 issue of “The New Yorker” magazine. If you have not read it, I will encourage you to do that. One of the major issues that I believe is an important lesson with regard to the way minority people, especially persons of black heritage experience life in Christian communities that are dominated by certain theologies or historical analyses put forward by some white scholars or theologians is in the area of how slavery is analyzed historically. DEFINITELY, not all white Christian are engaged in this kind of project but the New Yorker article raised a fundamental question about Representative Bachman’s view of American history. I will argue that, many people in the U.S. make genuine healing from the wounds of the historical past difficult because their statements on the past today can create suspicion, righteous anger, and distrust between whites and blacks, thereby making this more difficult. And this is happening, while many other white people are sincerely working hard to build bridges. This can make reconciliation impossible if genuine repentance and forgiveness are an integral part of the biblical view of reconciliation.

According to the New Yorker article, on her campaign website, Representative Bachman listed some books that she recommends for people to read. What makes this interesting is that there is a difference between a professor assigning a book and a politician doing so. The professor is engaged in training minds to develop the critical capacity to think deeply and independently, which is not necessarily, the case with politicians. A professor can assign a bad book or controversial book as an example of something important in scholarship e.g., misuse of historical sources or lack of commitment to the canon of objectivity in scholarship. Most of the books that politicians want us to read are aimed at making us share their worldview and consequently see them as effective leaders prepared to govern. One of the books recommended by Representative Bachman on her website according to the article was the “1997 biography of Robert E. Lee by J. Steven Wilkins.” Here are some quotes from that book as cited in the article:

a) He (Wilkins) “condemns radical abolitionist of New England.” He argues that “most Southerners strove to treat their slaves with respect and provide them with a sufficiency of goods for a comfortable, though – by modern standards – spare existence.” It is still slavery though.

b) “Africa, like any other pagan country, was permeated by the cruelty and barbarism typical of unbelieving cultures.”

c) “Abolition could not come until ‘the sanctifying effects of Christianity ... work in the black race and fit its people for freedom.’”

On race relations in the “antebellum South” Wilkins assert as follows:

“Slavery, as it operated in the pervasively Christian society which was the Old South was not an adversarial relationship founded upon racial animosity. In fact, it bred on the whole, not contempt, but, over time, mutual respect. This produced a mutual esteem of the sort that always results when men give themselves to a common cause. The credit for this startling reality must go to the Christian faith…. The unity and companionship that existed between the races in the South prior to the war was the fruit of a common faith.”

This quote is in Wilkins’s book and it was listed under the title: “Michele’s Must Read List.”

Slaves were properties and just as we purchase insurance on our cars today, slave masters purchased insurance for their slaves as economic investment. Slaves’ humanity was denied because they were considered less than human. In lay person’s language, Wilkins analysis which Representative Bachman wants people to read in order to appreciate those who have influenced her thinking is a kind of revisionist Christianity that is built on a “bait and switch” strategy by failing to provide full disclosure of the “fine prints” in the Christian faith for minorities, especially black people. The fine print of Christianity based on Wilkins’ analysis of history / theology would be something like this: initially, we are made to believe that God created all people in his image (including blacks and Africans), and he loves all of them as he loves all humanity when they were still sinners according to the Apostle Paul; he sent his son to die for all of them. But his image presumably later abandoned blacks (and other native people) even though they were originally a part of him because they had his image. As history advanced, his image was only deposited in whites who had to use that image to civilize the blacks and raise them from the level of mere existence to that of a human being and then educate them to join the human society of whites. Oppression in this respect is through some theological alchemy transformed into a dutiful civilizing mission that is commanded by God and honored by him. The timing of the beginning and end of the civilizing mission is presumably determined by white slave masters based on a calendar God gave them. This same calendar was not given to blacks by God. The interesting thing is that in 1997, at the twilight of the 20th century we have Christians trying to make an apology for slavery based on Christian teaching.

On a very serious and honest note, for God’s sake, how can we expect an informed black person to read this passage above and be satisfied with the authenticity of such Christianity to truly recognize the humanity of the black person even in the 21st century? With this kind of simmering attitude of the triumphalism of slavery, forget about biblical reconciliation or the idea that God created people in his image. It becomes just a gimmick, or a bait and switch project of creating an inclusive Christian community, when there are undisclosed fine prints. At least this conclusion is legitimate if we were to take the position in the quote seriously. No wonder some Christian churches lag behind secular organizations in the degree of social integration.
Representative Bachman is very passionate about what she does and indeed, the article highlights what is an excellent demonstration of her desire rooted in faith to help disadvantaged children. She adopted many children that would otherwise have suffered, but she raised them. I truly commend her for that. But on the other hand, I am deeply concerned as a black person who takes the message of Christianity seriously, to read excerpts from one of the books she highly suggests for her readers to read. It is hard to not say that this kind of Christianity is a contaminated with in the words of St. Augustine, “libido dominandi.” Once you take Wilkins’ position as your starting point, it will be difficult to see how black people in this kind of “Christendom” can be treated as persons created in the image of God or whether they can ever rise to the level of white people in dignity because the criteria for their progress is in the hands of white people starting with slave masters.

Many people were martyred because of the Christian faith. We are part of it today because God inspired other people and they saw a new kingdom coming to this world and maturing in the future based on Christ’s work of redemption. To now turn around and use such message for the pursuit of worldly power is an embarrassing diminution of the gospel. In any case, anyone who has studied the history of the way evangelicals have been cajoled by politicians to vote for them based on certain promises would have been satisfied by now that evangelicals have paid a huge price for that. Once in the White House, politicians realize they have to govern this complex American democracy and often that does not allow for the creation of a theocratic society or a Christian dominion as some expect.
Faith will always be part of public discourse and affairs, and it should be, but make no mistake, accepting this does not mean that Christians have no responsibility to reflect deeply on what is the most effective way they can use their faith to influence and shape the public square. Unless they do that, they may suffer great disappointments and embarrassments because they are just used and then later discarded. They may get a feeling of some kind of satisfaction but in terms of what they want, it is another thing altogether. Any Christian who believes followers of Christ are one, as Christ prays for his followers in John 17 should question this kind of scholarly work that Representative Bachman endorsed on her website. I can be honest as a black person that I cannot be a part of a Christianity that is trying to sugar-coat slavery in the 21st century.

The question was inappropriate, and shows a certain lack of comprehension.

1. A female surgeon is not Biblical compelled to "submit" her medical decisions to her husband simply by virtue of him being her husband.

2. A female attorney is not Biblically compelled to "submit" her corporate commercial law opinions addressed to her clients to her husband - unless he is a boss.

I could go on. The (female) president of the USA does not need to submit her decisions on matters of state to her husband.

The question should have been "Who do you say that Christ is?"
We need to know whether or not the candidate is a follower (disciple) of Christ.
How many candidates have made statements when running that they reversed upon gaining office?
The question of submission in the context of Christianity has no meaning if the person is not a follower of Christ.
Many profess to believe in Christ but do not think He and the Father are One.
Who do you say that He is?

The whole “submission” question, as generally asked, is so out of context as to be meaningless. There are far more interesting questions about church/state relationships arising out her education and history that deserve to be asked, and would be more relevant to the position she seeks.

How many male candidates will be asked if they will love their wives (Ephesians 5:22-33)?