Presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) was recently asked in the Iowa presidential debate and on NBC’s Meet The Press, if she would be submissive to her husband if she were elected president. Was her answer reflective of biblical teaching? The Christian Post asked two pastors to weigh in on the question.
The Bible verse in question is Ephesians 5:22, “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.”
“What submission means to us,” Bachmann said, “it means respect. I respect my husband. He's a wonderful, godly man, and a great father. He respects me as his wife. That's how we operate our marriage. We respect each other. We love each other.”
Curt Bradford is Lead Pastor of Riverbluff Church, a Southern Baptist congregation in North Charleston, South Carolina, and has a Master's Degree in Religious Education from Southeastern University. When asked what he thought of Bachmann's answer, Bradford replied, “I would suggest that the Biblical model of Christian community would certainly include her God and husband as counselors when leading the country. It is somewhat of an insult to suggest that Christians, or any person of faith, must abandon their faith to lead. Ultimately the leader has to make the decisions, but who may counsel them is up to them, not critical onlookers.”
Bradford also pointed out that the Bible “teaches the innate worth and equality of men and women.” In a Christian marriage, according to Bradford, both husband and wife have assigned roles. So, a focus on what the Bible says about wives, without mentioning the role of the husband, gives an incomplete view of a properly understood Christian marriage.
“The truly Christ-like husband-leader is one who considers the submission issue to be about his submitting to God and leading or influencing his wife and family to submit to God as well. Her submission to his leadership is a matter of trust in her husband’s walk with God. The husband who simply considers submission to be an authority issue has neglected the Ephesians 5:21 charge to Christians that they submit to one another or be subject to one another as normal for Christians. This is about a functional aspect of biblical community,” Bradford said.
Bradford also said that Ephesians 5:22 needs to be understood in the context of the rest of the chapter, which indicates “that the issue of roles in marriage is more about the Christ-like character of Jesus followers than who is in charge. Jesus was submissive to the Father and sacrificed Himself for others. The husband and the wife are to be submissive and sacrificial as Christ was. The submission of the husband to Jesus is not an indication of weakness but understanding of who runs the universe. The wife’s submission to God and then to her husband’s leadership is not an indication of her worth, or weakness. Rather, it is an indication of her acceptance of the way the Creator of the universe constructed sociological systems for Christ followers.”
Carmen Fowler LaBerge is President of The Presbyterian Lay Committee within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). She has a Master's of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary.
LaBerge said that she would have liked to hear Bachmann answer the question more like this: "In order to understand the biblical concept of submission in marriage, a person would necessarily have to receive the Bible as God's authoritative word in their life. That's simply not the reality for most people.”
“Having said that, the answer to the question is 'yes'. Any Christian who would serve as president would do so in submission to Christ. As a Christian wife, I submit to the headship of my husband in as far as he follows Christ. And just as Jesus does not 'lord' his headship over his disciples, neither does my husband 'lord' his headship over me. There is a joyful freedom in knowing that there is a person who has your back, covers you no matter what, and who would sacrifice himself for your honor and welfare."
LaBerge added, however, that she does not think Bachmann would be elected president if she had given that answer, but, “I think it is the right and righteous answer to the question for a woman speaking out of an authentically biblical worldview.”