Theological Interrogations and the 2012 Race

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.

“Meet the Press” Transcript from 8/14/11 [Exceprt]

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.”

(End audiotape)

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.

(End videotape)

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.

28 Responses to Theological Interrogations and the 2012 Race

  1. Paul August 15, 2011 at 1:50 am #

    Bachmann: “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.”

    Bachmann: ” I, I, I don’t judge them. I don’t judge them. I am running for presidency of the United States.”

    You can smell the smoke coming from her ears whilst reading this. At least have the courage of your convictions to come out and say, “yes, I have judged them, and in my presidency, they will feel the squeeze of my policy choices.”

  2. John Holmberg August 15, 2011 at 1:57 am #

    Ouch. That was painful!

  3. Charles Eldridge August 15, 2011 at 6:44 am #

    One thing I notice about Bachmann’s answers is that she never uses the name “Jesus”; she only refers to “God” generally. Call me overly-suspicious, but I’m concerned she’s trying to hold these conservative views that may appeal to conservative voters while at the same time trying to not come across so religiously narrow in her understanding of what it really means to know God. In the end everyone will accept Bachmann’s decision to submit (however she defines it) to her husband. That’s her truth, her choice, her home. But if she more clearly articulated the gospel of Christ, that’s when I think she’d really start getting pilloried.

    • Christianes August 15, 2011 at 11:35 am #

      too many politicians speak the Holy Name without sincerity . . . you can’t depend on the use of it by a politician these days to ‘prove’ anything

  4. yankeegospelgirl August 15, 2011 at 10:02 am #

    That was disappointing…

  5. Nate August 15, 2011 at 10:41 am #

    I think it is very interesting (not surprising) that the media wants to focus on this with Bachmann. They certianly were not interested in connecting the dots between Obama and Jeremiah Wright back in 2008. But we already knew the media’s bias.

    And, while Bachmann’s answers were political, the questions regarding submission in the home should be out of bounds. I have never seen a question to a male candidate about this coming from the opposite point of view (Do you force your wife to submit to you?) We also don’t see questions to male candidates regarding their decision making in the household and to whether the wife has more authority than they do.

    As for the questioning about LGBT issues, the media is obsessed. However, they weren’t obsessed with Obama sitting in Wright’s church listening to blatant racist remarks and then asking him how he could say he disagrees but remained in that church. They didn’t track it down and expose his remarks for what were.

    The sad fact is that when the general morality of the country has degraded to the point we are at today, any politician that claims to be Christian (esp. evangelical) will have to deal with these soundbites, lines of questioning, etc.

    In my opinion, she should have said, “I will not appoint judges that favor LGBT issues, nor will I appoint them to my cabinet.”

    As for adoption to LGBT and for that mattter singles, let’s hear from all the candidates on that issue. Statistics (concerning poverty, education and future earning expectations) are certainly not favorable for single-parent households. Let’s hear the candidates on both sides of the ailse have to deal with that and the well-being of a child being placed in a home.

    • Christianes August 15, 2011 at 11:41 am #

      if she is smarter than the average bear, she will be ‘vague’ . . . that increases her chances of getting more mainline votes

      otherwise, she is going to be more dependent on only one group

      I have no doubt should she get into office, that she will (with smoke coming out of her ears or not) take a solidly far-right conservative social stand . . . just look at her husband’s practice and what he and his associates were telling homosexual clients as ‘advice’ . . .

      think: ‘handwriting on his office wall . . ‘

      • Christianes August 15, 2011 at 8:08 pm #

        Update: CNN’s Anderson Cooper called her today on the contrast of her latest statements on homosexuality compared to some earlier statements she has made, but now denies having made.

        THAT, if it gets around, could be a problem for her.

        short memory?
        or new adviser ?

        if she had a ‘change of heart’, people would understand that

    • yankeegospelgirl August 15, 2011 at 3:53 pm #

      Completely agreed Nate. And besides, who are we kidding? Show me an OPENLY gay Supreme Court justice who will uphold the constitution and rule like Antonin Scalia, and I’ll show you an honest defense attorney. Everybody knows that a justice like that would be just another symbol of the left. Or at least everybody should know. I worry that Bachmann hasn’t caught on yet.

      • Paul August 15, 2011 at 4:17 pm #

        The Citizens United case (among others) prove that the conservative justices “legislate from the bench” just as much as those on the left. It’s just that you like their legislating better better than the other side, YGG. At least be intellectually honest about it, will you please?

        • yankeegospelgirl August 15, 2011 at 5:23 pm #

          But who says Bush had any business signing McCain-Feingold into law in the first place? Not I.

        • Alex Humphrey August 15, 2011 at 5:28 pm #

          Paul, the point she’s making isn’t that religion and political views don’t create bias. The point she is making is that ALL world views inherently have a bias.

          The way the news talks about it is that Bauchman’s views gives her a bias and that if she was non-relgious she’d be unbiased.

          Do 10 minutes of research and you’ll see that’s not true. That’s the point yankeegospelgirl is making, Paul and it’s intellectually honest.

          • yankeegospelgirl August 15, 2011 at 5:58 pm #

            In point of fact, I don’t think one should pretend that conservatives are just as bad about making biased judgments as liberals are. But you are correct that I was saying non-religious politicians have plenty of bias, and so it’s ironic for Christians to be constantly painted as the biased ones.

          • Paul August 15, 2011 at 6:40 pm #

            Alex,

            We don’t disagree. And as I’ve said elsewhere, had Bachmann taken the stand that “yes, these are my biases and I’m proud of them,” I would have been fine with that (do 10 minutes of reading and you’ll see we’re not arguing on that point).

            YGG –

            re: the second part of your post – ONCE AGAIN, NO ONE IS SUGGESTING THERE IS A LACK OF BIAS ON THE PART OF ANY POLITICIAN.

            Saying that conservative judges are somehow superior to liberal judges in the bench legislation camp however is just funny and brings me back to my point above. Let’s just admit it that both sides do it and we like our sides better. Until you do that, your argument can’t be taken seriously.

          • Chris August 16, 2011 at 3:55 pm #

            I take YGG’s point seriously as do many others!

  6. Dillon August 15, 2011 at 11:56 am #

    I ran across this today:

    http://bachmanneyezed.tumblr.com/

    It’s all about those eyes.

  7. Paul August 15, 2011 at 12:12 pm #

    Nate –

    On the submissive wife front, I disagree. Right Wing evangelicals (not all of whom are even complementarians) only make up 30% of the population. If a woman says she SUBMITS to her husband in public, that’s got a bullseye on it and rightfully so. 70% of the population (obviously that number is lower in real life) that doesn’t think of marriages in terms of submission has a right to know what she means by that. And even amongst those that do know what she means, it might be interesting to gauge the degree. I find it sad in this regard that we keep talking about zingers or gotcha questions. Because so few of the gotcha questions ever really are. Anyway, moving on…

    On the LGBT front, I might have disagreed with her stance, but had she said what Nate suggested, I would have at least respected that response much more.

    As for single parent ADOPTIONS, I’d love to see those numbers. Because there’s a huge difference between single mom who is high and dry because of a deadbeat or runaway dad and someone that has the money and time to go through the adoption process. And in a cursory glance of articles picked through on google, it seems as if children of LGBT adoptions tend to do ok. Before candidates get asked those questions, I’d love to see them brush up on the numbers and then see where they stand.

    • Nate August 15, 2011 at 2:50 pm #

      Paul,

      I did speak about general numbers regarding single-parenthood, so I dont have any readily available data to say yea or nay to your remarks on singe-parents entering the adoption process with money. My point, like yours, is that candidates and news reporters need to do their homework and not simply sling questions at the candidates.

      My point on asking the candidates equally I think still holds. Husbands who are Christians (Huckabee last time, Perry, etc.) are not asked if they expect their wives to submit. Granted Bachmann has spoken in the past on this, but they should hammer the guys if they are going to take after the girl. So, I do think this is because Bachmann is female.

      • Paul August 15, 2011 at 3:05 pm #

        And if Perry or Santorum said yes? Are you sure you want to see that debate come out in the general election when, once again, probably 60-70% of the voting public doesn’t believe in the idea of complementarian marriage?

        As someone that likely won’t be voting for the Republican nominee (unless you can get Huntsman through all of the ideological hullabaloo), I welcome such a question of Perry, Santorum, et al.

  8. Ken Temple August 16, 2011 at 7:44 pm #

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/08/15/michele-bachmann-for-president-backlash-stop-attacking-evangelicals.html

    At least one liberal commentator is fair here.

    • Paul August 16, 2011 at 11:41 pm #

      what makes her liberal?

  9. Harrison August 17, 2011 at 2:17 am #

    Paul, I love the last question “what makes her liberal?” The far right uses that sound bite to try and demonize anyone who doesn’t agree with their political agenda. I totally get what you are trying to say. It is true that if one cannot not debate objectively that they CANNOT be taken seriously. The notions that some make and then try to back track on like the notion that conservative judges are superior to liberal or moderate judges is funny at best and should not be taken serious by any objective person. Bachmann in my opionion should be questioned about her statements as she made them and is seeking the highest office in the land. Her views may not be reflective of mainstream America and thus the public has the right to now if she can Represent Mainstreet. She put herself in this debate, not the “liberal media”. She and her husband with the use of federal dollars have tried to “cure” homosexuality in thier clinic with untested and non-peer reviewed or endorsed therapies. She is the one who stated that she submitts to her husband which is a concern as the POTUS makes decisons that affects many people and no one will be voting for this man. I think we should all be confident that she does not represent all Christians or most Americans. When it comes down to a vote, I think that will be very obvious as she will never be elected to anything other that a house seat. Thank you very much for your objective points Paul!!!!!!!!!

    • Nate August 17, 2011 at 8:14 am #

      Harrison, that’s fine that you feel Bachmann should be questioned because she is running for the highest office in the land. However, in 2008 most of the media refused to go after Obama’s association with Jeremiah Wright, Ayers, and others. They allowed Obama to simply say, “I wasn’t in church when he preached that.” They didn’t track it down, investigate it, and press him on how he could have been a member in that church for years and never hear Wright’s diatribes. So, while throwing out a liberal tag is probably not the best thing to do we should at least question why what’s good for Bachmann wasn’t good for Obama.

      • Paul August 18, 2011 at 2:25 am #

        Nate,

        re: Wright – fine, the guy was/is a lunatic. However, none of us go to churches without their problems, and what we didn’t see on Fox News was the week to week sermons, the actions of the church in the community on a daily or weekly basis, etc, etc, etc. And Obama DID catch heat for associating with Wright, and Obama was smart to start landing punches before questions could be asked. He’s a lame president, but he’s a pretty great politician, I’ll grant him that.

        As for “I have no idea how he could have gone to that church and missed out on x,” I’ll give you a personal example. My home church is still in the midst of a battle over a lesbian couple that was denied church membership. I have somehow managed to miss (through playing at other churches, work commitments, etc) every single sermon, church discussion, small group prayer session, etc on the topic. If I can have plausible deniability of craziness going on at my church, certainly a state senator/US Senator/otherwise busy guy like Obama could have missed plenty of nutty moments as well.

        re: Ayers – tell me, what EXACTLY have Ayers and Obama done together?

  10. Ken Temple August 17, 2011 at 9:55 am #

    http://video.foxnews.com/v/1111917921001/bachmann-faces-tough-questioning-from-media

    Bernie Goldberg makes the same point that Denny Burk and many of you here are making.
    She should have answered the questions more directly and not dodged them.

    I agree with Bauchman’s positions by the way – but I don’t like the way she dodged the questions – she should have said, “yes, the bible teaches in Ephesians 5 and I Peter 3 that wives are to be submissive to their husbands and also that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church. We respect each other and love each other. But, as President, “my job as President is separate from my marriage as far as decisions and policies go – Marcus will not have authority to overrule Presidential policy, submission in the Bible is for the marriage relationship, not for other areas that don’t relate to that”, etc.”

    On the homosexual issue – she should have said – “I stand by those statements and homosexuality is a sin and bondage and it is sad; and there is really no such thing as marriage for homosexuals. I am opposed to so called “same sex marriage” and so I don’t think any “open gays” will be wanting any position on my cabinet, so no, I don’t think I would appoint any openly gay person. And yes, we are to think and evaluate things and behaviors. To judge means to evaluate and think; we can judge somethings as right or wrong. ” “No, they are not a family (a gay couple who adopts); sorry; it is wrong.”

    Kirsten Powers is more liberal – that is known by anyone who has read her and listened to her – they have her on Fox News all the time to represent the more liberal side. I like her article there; and she seems attracted to the way that Bauchman and Huckabee explained the Christian position on marriage. They are seeking to give the positive side, because the word “submission” is abused and misunderstood by bad examples in the past of male abuse and harshness.

  11. Ken Temple August 17, 2011 at 10:03 am #

    If you google Kirsten Powers and do some research, her positions show that she is more liberal. The wikipedia article shows that most of her positions are more “liberal”. Just as my positions are more conservative.

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