Monday, August 15, 2011

Bachmann, submission, and credibility

I like Michelle Bachmann. I haven't seen her titanium spine but she has a penetrating gaze, a smooth and unflappable demeanor, and expresses her convictions well.

But I am intrigued by her foray into wifely submission. Here's the exchange from the GOP debate of the other evening:

Journalist Byron York: 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 husbands.’”
As president, would you be submissive to your husband?

Bachmann’s response: 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, it means respect. I respect my husband. He’s a wonderful, godly man, and a great father. And he respects me as his wife.

I don't think this is a credible answer, not because it fails to properly teach what many believe the relevant Biblical passages mean by submission of a wife to her husband but because, seems to me, it fails as an explanation of the incident in question.

Husband wants wife to study for a degree in tax law.

Wife hates the idea.

Wife subordinates her desire to her husband's wish.

Bachmann may have offered an expanded explanation of this incident on some previous occasion but this doesn't look like 'respect' to me. The short version that was presented at the debate looks like submission of her will to his, her desire to his, her ambitions to his.

There's no question that it is relevant to her seeking the presidency.

While I'm not all that familiar with her faith story, conservative Southern Baptists do quite a dance around the idea of a wife's submission to her husband. In the SBC we joke about it ("...I make all the major decisions in our marriage and my wife makes the minor ones...we've never had a major decision..."), try to moderate it by the " Christ loved the church..." passage, or fall back on mutual submission to the exclusion of wifely submission.

I'm guessing someone will press Bachmann on this one. I don't think her answer is fully credible.

It's only August, 2011. Anyone already have a surfeit of presidential politics?


Jonathan said...

Given how conservative SBCers either dance around this issue or make bombastic proclamations promote rapturous applause by eager to please seminary students and eye rolling by the rest of us, I'm not surprised that Rep. Bachmann's answer is unsatisfying.

Her primary mistake was to bring up the issue not knowing that anything she says will be parsed, ridiculed, and dismissed as pedestrian by the self proclaimed elites in an out of the conservative Southland. But I appreciate both her first answer and her less than stellar followup.

What I read in her responses is that she and her husband present a desire to have a biblical marriage and are willing to defend it even if unable, on the spot, to communicate an answer with the proper context.

My expectation is that conservative SBCers (especially my friends who take our shared complementarian view and take it where Scripture refuses to go) will be overjoyed to support Gov. Perry if for no other reason than it spares them from having to make a public comment about possibly the most authentically conservative (and definitely the most accomplished) woman candidate ever.

If Perry adds Rubio as his running mate, we can trumpet our relatively new found post-racial mindset as well.

Win-win. :)

Anonymous said...

she didn't answer the question directly, did she?

With all respect, her attempt to 'skirt the issue' (pardon the pun) was noted ..

Stephen Fox said...

Bachmann was in Upstate S.C. yesterday. I was praying to be there mainly to see first black Pulitzer for Nonfiction Isabel Wilkerson speak at Furman.
But my prayers were not answered.
The story on Michelle Bachmann is in Ryan Lizza article at New Yorker and in the Sarah Posner and Julie Ingersoll pieces at
How Al Mohler and Frank Page tack on all this especially the pieces will be interesting to monitor.
Francis Schaeffer has been seminal influence on Bachmann; just as he was for Mohler and Richard Land.
In meantime you can see great pics of Michelle at Greenville event yesterday at greenvilleonline.
As the song Werewolves of London says: "Her hair was perfect."

Bennett Willis said...

This response seems about as reasonable (to me) as most of her responses. The things she says convince me that she is not electable and certainly should not be elected.

Matt said...

I'm not sure that most women who really believe in the "most literal view" of submission within the family, would be very comfortable running for public office.