The debate-night audience lashed out at the reporter who dared to ask Rep. Michele Bachmann whether she would be submissive to her husband as president, but the chorus of "boos" Thursday in Ames, Iowa, overlooked a much more nuanced and complex partnership that's grounded in Scripture, evangelical Christian scholars say.
The concept of a submissive wife needs to be "seen in the context that there is a good many more things a husband is required to do than the wife is required to do," Richard Land, head of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said.
The husband "is to love his wife the way Christ loved the church and gave himself for it," Land continued. "He's going to be seeking what's best for his wife and the wife, in turn, is to put herself under the authority of her own husband as unto the Lord."
The relationship is only between two married people and not between a woman and other men, including men with whom she might work, he said. "The husband is to be the head of the home and he is to give himself to sacrificial service to his wife," Land said. "And the wife is to put herself under the authority of her own husband as unto the Lord and that means she is going to trust his authority and he's going to put herself under his headship in the marriage."
One of the most talked about moments at Thursday night's GOP debate on the Fox News Channel came when Bachmann of Minnesota was asked a question that raised some eyebrows. The question stemmed from a speech she gave in 2006 when she was running for Congress.
Bachmann told a church in Brooklyn Park, Minn., that she hated taxes, but went on to study tax law in order to be "submissive" to her husband.
"My husband said, now you need to go and get a post-doctorate degree in tax law. Tax law, I hate taxes. Why should I go and do something like that? But the Lord says, 'Be submissive.' Wives, you are to be submissive to your husbands," Bachmann told the crowd at the Living Word Christian Center. "Never had a tax course in my background, never had a desire for it, but by faith, I was going to be faithful to what I thought God was calling me to do through my husband, and I finished that course of that study."
Her response Thursday night to the Washington Examiner's Byron York was broader but no less faithful. Bachmann said she loved her husband and was "so proud of him."
"What submission means to us, if that's what your question is, it means respect. I respect my husband. He's a wonderful, Godly man and a great father, and he respects me as his wife," she told York and the millions watching. "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."
The teaching is rooted in the fifth chapter of Ephesians in the New Testament: "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 verse goes on to say," Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church."