It’s been fascinating to watch news coverage of the Presidential race over the last week. Two of the candidates in particular have turned the attention of the pundit class to religious topics. From Rick Perry’s prayer rally last weekend to Michele Bachmann’s interpretation of Ephesians 5:22 in Thursday’s GOP debate, reporters have become focused on the candidates’ theological views and how those views might inform their presidency.
Of course gender issues continue to be political flashpoints. Indeed, in David Gregory’s interview with Michele Bachmann on yesterday’s “Meet the Press,” Gregory pressed Bachmann hard on both wifely submission and homosexuality. Gregory’s line of questioning was much tougher than Byron York’s was in last week’s debate. Gregory asked, “Is [wifely submission] your view for women in America? Is that your vision for them?” Or a little bit later, he said “I want to also ask you about your interpretation of the Bible and your feelings about gays and lesbians…” I was astonished that he mentioned specifically her “interpretation of the Bible.” It did have the feel of an interrogation, but I think the questions were relevant.
I don’t think Bachmann did particularly well with her answers. Her contention that “submit” means “respect” falls short of what the Bible actually says, and David Gregory wasn’t buying it. Also, she looked a bit befuddled when he pressed her on her beliefs about homosexuality. It sounds to me like she is shying away from these topics and doesn’t want them to define her candidacy.
That being said, I’m not sure how anyone can speak biblically to gender issues in a way that won’t be controversial. The biblical worldview is so counter-cultural that there will inevitably be those who are put-off no matter how winsomely one speaks the truth (Proverbs 18:2). Nevertheless, Christian politicians ought to state their views plainly, and they should do so as winsomely as possible (Proverbs 15:2). After that, let the chips fall where they may.
MR. GREGORY: From the economy, I want to move on to another topic that’s deeply meaningful and important to you, and that’s your faith in God. This is something that not only motivates you as a person, inspires you as you try to live a virtuous life, but it’s also been very important to your political identity as well. And I want to ask you about, not only the role God plays in, in your life but to what extent he’s a motivator for decisions that you make. One example that’s gotten some attention is some remarks you made back in 2006 about your career path, which you’ve talked about here, and I want to play a brief clip of those remarks.
(Audiotape, October 14, 2006)
REP. BACHMANN: 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.”
MR. GREGORY: Is that your view for women in America? Is that your vision for them?
REP. BACHMANN: Well, I–during the debate I was asked a question about this, and my response was is that submission, that word, means respect. It means that I respect my husband and he respects me.
MR. GREGORY: Right. Congresswoman, I didn’t even have to check with my wife and I know those two things aren’t, aren’t equal.
REP. BACHMANN: What’s that?
MR. GREGORY: Submission and respect.
REP. BACHMANN: Well, in our house it is.
MR. GREGORY: OK.
REP. BACHMANN: We’ve been married almost 33 years and I have a great deal of respect for my husband. He’s a wonderful, wonderful man and a great father to our children. And he’s also filled with good advice. He…
MR. GREGORY: But so his word goes?
REP. BACHMANN: …he leads–pardon?
MR. GREGORY: His word goes?
REP. BACHMANN: Well, both of our words go. We respect each other. We have a mutual partnership in our marriage, and that’s the only way that we could accomplish what we’ve done in life is to be a good team. We’re a good team together.
MR. GREGORY: To what extent does your relationship with God mean that you take cues from God for decisions that you make and that you would make as president. You’ve talked about God inspiring you to marry your husband, you know, telling you to marry your husband, to get into politics, to take certain decisions about your career, as we just talked about.
REP. BACHMANN: Well, I have–I, I do have faith in God, and I learned it right here in Iowa. We’re in Ames, Iowa, right now. I was born in Waterloo, Iowa, I’m heading up there to say thank you to everyone who instilled my early values in me. And that began at our church. My parents took us to church every week. We went to a Lutheran church, First Lutheran in Waterloo. And we were–they prayed with us at night, and we prayed before we prayed before we had meal time. They really instilled wonderful values in us. And I recognize that I’m not perfect and that I need God in my life, and that’s really…
MR. GREGORY: Would God…
REP. BACHMANN: …set–helped me to set my course.
MR. GREGORY: Guide has–God has guided your decisions in life. Would God guide your decisions that you would make as president of the United States?
REP. BACHMANN: Well, as president of the United States, I would pray. I would pray and ask the Lord for guidance. That’s what presidents have done throughout history. George Washington did. Abraham Lincoln did.
MR. GREGORY: But you said that Gald–God called me to run for Congress. God has said certain things about, you know, going to law school, about pursuing other decisions in your life. There’s a difference between God as a sense of comfort and safe harbor and inspiration, and God telling you to take a particular action.
REP. BACHMANN: All I can tell you is what my experience has been. I’m extremely grateful to, to have a faith in God. I, I see that God has so blessed this country. His–you know, we heard that song that he’s “shed his grace” on the United States. I believe it. He’s been very good to our country. And I think that it’s important for us to seek his guidance and to pray and to listen to his voice.
MR. GREGORY: Would you appoint an openly atheist person to be a member of your administration, your Cabinet or even as a judge to a court?
REP. BACHMANN: Well, my criteria, would be first of all, “How do you view the Constitution?” If you uphold the Constitution, if you’re competent, and if you’re–if you, if you share my views, then you can get appointed. That’s my litmus test is, do you stand for the Constitution, are you competent, and do you share my views.
MR. GREGORY: Right. Those are–but an atheist would be acceptable to you as a member of your administration?
REP. BACHMANN: I–that wouldn’t be a question I would ask.
MR. GREGORY: OK. I want to also ask you about your interpretation of the Bible and your feelings about gays and lesbians. You have said in recent years that opposition to same sex marriage is defining a political debate in this country. You’re opposed to it, you’d like to see a constitutional ban against it in this country. And during a speech that you gave in 2004 at an education conference, you spoke openly and in detail about gays and lesbians. And I want to play just a portion of that speech and have you react, react to it.
(Videotape, November 6, 2004)
REP. BACHMANN: It’s a very sad life. It’s part of Satan, I think, to say that this is gay. It’s anything but gay. … It leads to the personal enslavement of individuals. Because if you’re involved in the gay and lesbian lifestyle, it’s bondage. It is personal bondage, personal despair, and personal enslavement. And that’s why this is so dangerous. … We need to have profound compassion for people who are dealing with the very real issue of sexual dysfunction in their life and sexual identity disorders.
MR. GREGORY: That is the view President Bachmann would have of gay Americans?
REP. BACHMANN: Well, I am running for the presidency of the United States. I’m not running to be anyone’s judge. I do stand very…
MR. GREGORY: But you have judged them.
REP. BACHMANN: I, I, I don’t judge them. I don’t judge them. I am running for presidency of the United States.
MR. GREGORY: Is that the view of gays–gay Americans that President Bachmann would have?
REP. BACHMANN: Well, my, my view on marriage is that I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. And that’s what I stand for. But I ascribe honor and dignity to every person no matter what their background. They have honor and they have dignity.
MR. GREGORY: Do you think that gay Americans hearing quotes like that from you would think that that’s, that’s honor and dignity coming from you about their circumstance?
REP. BACHMANN: I am not anyone’s judge…
MR. GREGORY: Right.
REP. BACHMANN: …and I’m not standing in as anyone’s judge.
MR. GREGORY: Congresswoman, you have–I mean, do you think anyone hears that and thinks you haven’t made a judgment about gays and lesbians?
REP. BACHMANN: That’s all I can tell you is that I’m not judging.
MR. GREGORY: So your words should stand for themselves?
REP. BACHMANN: I’m running for the presidency of the United States. That’s what’s important.
MR. GREGORY: Would you appoint a gay, an openly gay person, to your administration, to your Cabinet, or name them as a judge?
REP. BACHMANN: My criteria would be the same for that–for, for–which would be, where do you stand on the Constitution, are you competent, and do you share my views. That’s my criteria.
MR. GREGORY: But those views are, are, are pretty clear. So you would, you would–as far as judge, you talked about that, an openly gay person is acceptable as a matter of your administration, as a member of your administration?
REP. BACHMANN: I, I, I have, I have my criteria for what I–my appointments would be based on, and it’s whether you uphold the Constitution, if you’re competent, and if you share my views.
MR. GREGORY: So it would not be a factor?
REP. BACHMANN: I am not out asking any other questions.
MR. GREGORY: One last one on this. Can a gay couple with–who adopt children in your mind be considered a family?
REP. BACHMANN: When it comes to marriage and family, my opinion is that marriage is between a man and a woman. And I think that’s, that’s been my view, and I think that’s important.
MR. GREGORY: So a gay couple with kids would not be considered a family to you?
REP. BACHMANN: You know, all of these kind of questions really aren’t about what people are concerned about right now. This isn’t what–this isn’t…
MR. GREGORY: Congresswoman, you said it…
REP. BACHMANN: …and I’m not judging them.
MR. GREGORY: You said that any, any candidate for president should be asked about his or her views and their record. This is a record of your statement. These were defining political issues for you as your political career advanced. You’re the one who said that same-sex marriage was a defining political issue of our time. Those were your words back in 2004. So I’m just asking you about your views on something that has animated your political life.
REP. BACHMANN: Right. I think my views are clear.