Bachmann’s ‘devout’ husband

Michele Bachmann has certainly drawn a media spotlight in recent weeks since she announced her candidacy, as some wonder whether she’s just the media’s “flavor of the month.” We’ve talked a little bit about how the media has handled her faith with mockery or puzzlement, and it’s a bit depressing to see little serious coverage of her beliefs so far.

The Washington Post‘s style section looks at Bachmann’s husband’s views of homosexuality and how Bachmann’s own views could be similar. The basic gist is that Bachmann’s husband has said some kinda strange things about homosexuality and since Bachmann has said she is submissive to her husband, she probably believes the same ideas, and it all stems from her religious beliefs.

Starting at the top:

In an interview last year with a Christian-radio talk show, Marcus Bachmann, a therapist who runs a faith-infused counseling center here, compared homosexuals to “barbarians” who “need to be educated, need to be disciplined.”

If you’re going to make this the shocking bit to get people into the piece, why not follow up further down in the piece to offer the full quote and context?

They share a bond born of a mutual religious awakening in high school and college, a deep faith in an especially conservative form of Lutheranism, and a common abhorrence of homosexuality.

What is a “deep faith” and how do you measure that? What does “especially conservative” mean and what are you comparing it to, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America? The church appears again later in the article.

The church belongs to the highly conservative Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, which, in explaining its views on homosexuality, points to the passage in Corinthians where the apostle Paul says to former sinners, “That is what some of you were.”

Again, what is “highly conservative” and is that particular interpretation of that Bible passage out of the mainstream of many Christian churches? Besides, what does conservative mean? Politically? Theologically?

A devout Lutheran, Marcus Bachmann grew up on a dairy farm in Buffalo County, Wis., with his parents, who had emigrated from Switzerland, and his two older brothers. He became a born-again Christian in high school.

Here we go, that word that kind of gives us the same feeling you get when you scratch fingernails on a chalkboard: “devout.” What does devout mean?

The rest of the piece mostly looks at the strange coming together of the couple and how they felt God leading them together. Bachmann’s candidacy has led some reporters to uncover things she has said that might seem fairly uneventful for its context (a Christian conference, for instance) but that might seem unusual for a presidential candidate. There’s little exploration of other ways her beliefs might impact her policies, so let me ask you: What questions do you still have about Bachmann’s faith? What angles do you think reporters could explore?

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

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  • Bethany

    I just want to comment on that “common abhorrence for homosexuality.” Honestly, it made me laugh. It sounds like their mutual hatred of gays brought them together. Seriously? My husband and I agree that we believe homosexuality is wrong, but that belief is hardly central to our faith or marriage. And, just because we believe it’s wrong doesn’t translate to despising those who practice it.

    I get tired of Christianity being reduced to a list of sins, and then regarding one thing as sin automatically becomes hatred for those who practice it.

  • Jerry

    Bachmann has said she is submissive to her husband,

    This struck me like a 2×4. She’s basically apparently saying that her husband will be the de-facto President if she’s elected because she’ll defer to his judgments on matters of state. We’ve had such controversies in the past, to be sure, but never a situation so blatant as this appears to be.

  • Mollie

    So Mr. Bachmann is both a “born-again” Christian and a “devout Lutheran”? It’s not impossible but we tend not to use such language.

    Also, Michele Bachmann is no longer Lutheran. But her husband still is?

    And, finally, as a woman who submits to her husband, that doesn’t mean I get approval from him before I type this comment or write a post or report a story. It’s certainly nowhere near that reductive.

  • Stephen A.

    The Washington Post’s style section looks at Bachmann’s husband’s views of homosexuality and how Bachmann’s own views could be similar.

    I understand that in the context of the “submission” comment. But why is it acceptable for a female candidate to be so characterized – i.e. primarily in light of her husband’s supposed beliefs and HIS public statements, which may or may not be (by the reporter’s admission) the same as his wife’s? And she is the actual candidate here. Have reporters done this with ANY of the other candidates? I guess I’ve forgotten, but did we do this with Sarah Palin’s husband’s beliefs? Did the media care (at that point)?

    Surely we didn’t extrapolate Mitt Romney’s beliefs from his spouse, who is also likely to be submissive in their Mormon tradition. I just find it a bit sexist for a reporter to make those leaps, in the face of an obviously tough assignment that apparently yielded few answers.

    I think reporters are still getting used to women being candidates and the spouses being males.

  • Theresa K.

    I do not believe they are Lutherans. I have not yet read a quote or report that meshes with Lutheran practice. A few years ago, she spoke (as in delivered a campaign speech) from the pulpit of a megachurch during worship at the invitation of the pastor. This scenario on multiple levels indicates a complete disregard of Lutheran practice.

  • mattk

    What does the reporter mean by “born again”? I might be wrong, but don’t all Christians describe ourselves as born again?

  • tmatt

    A key here: is the ELCA now the “normal” Lutheran for journalists, while the groups that have declined to change their doctrines are now strange?

    In other words, “Lutheran” sounds too smart. So what do we need to say in order to, uh, dumb these folks down a bit? To clue readers in?

  • Theresa K.

    Unfortunately, there are great divisions and differences among Lutherans. If a reporter uses the term “Lutheran “, I would prefer that synod names are also used as a guide to that set of beliefs. Otherwise the sky’s the limit on what a Lutheran might believe today.

    ELCA as “normal”? They have moved far outside of what was taught by Martin Luther. Not sure what the “smart” refers to.

  • Mollie


    While all of Christendom would likely agree with Jesus that “no one can see the kingdom of God without being born again,” “Born-again Christian” is not how everyone would describe themselves. My evangelical friends are much more likely to say “I’m a born-again” than my Catholic friends, for instance.

    I rarely hear a Lutheran self-identify this way, which is why it sounded so off to me in the article.

    And, again, I know that Michele Bachman is no longer Lutheran so I’m very curious that her husband still is. Or is he? I’m not entirely sure how well this reporter understands all these distinctions.

  • dalea

    In my long ago confirmation class, I can remember the pastor denouncing the whole born again way of religion. He taught that what distinguishes Lutherans from the Evangelical Covenant and the Free Churches is that we do not have emotional experiences but instead learn from study and prayer and the teachings and practices and sacraments of the Lutheran Church. There was even a name for the born again heresy: Rosenianism. This approach seemed to be fairly common among rural Scandanavian Lutherans.

  • David

    If Marcus’s position as a “Lutheran” is in question…This may be kind of like “duh” but would it be possible for someone to call up the pastor of Salem Lutheran Church (WELS) in Stillwater, Minnesota, and ask about Marcus’s current status as a member of the church? Or ask Marcus himself? reported that Michele was released from formal membership, no reasons released. apparently did not specifically ask about Marcus. Both Marcus and Michele have backgrounds in non-Lutheran Pentecostal/Evangelical education (Oral Roberts, Regent) as well as in Lutheranism.

  • http://!)! Passing By

    I remember during the 2008 election, questions were raised about how a Christian who believed in wifely submission could support Sarah Palin holding high office. I don’t remember the question ever being asked regarding Hillary Clinton during the primaries.

  • Chris Jones

    “especially conservative”

    In defense of the article, it seems to me that this is a fair and meaningful way to describe the Wisconsin Synod. Among the three main Lutheran denominations in the U.S. (ELCA, LCMS, and WELS), WELS is in fact generally regarded as the most conservative. Both LCMS and WELS are more conservative than the ELCA on the hot-button social issues that this article is concerned with. But WELS is more conservative than LCMS, particularly on gender issues. For example, neither denomination ordains women to the pastoral ministry, but WELS does not allow women to vote in congregational meetings nor to serve on parish councils (which LCMS does). I think that qualifies as “especially conservative” in the Lutheran context.

  • Jerry

    Following up on my earlier comment about submission, I found this:

    In a speech at a mega-church in the Minneapolis area back in 2006, Michele Bachmann explained her decision to pursue tax law. It wasn’t her choice, exactly. God had already told her to go to law school; God had also told her to marry a fellow named Marcus Bachmann. Now Marcus told her “to go and get a post-doctorate degree in tax law.” This was not a particular desire of Michele’s (“Tax law? I hate taxes!”), but she was certain God was speaking through her husband.

    “Why should I go and do something like that?” she recalled thinking. “But the Lord says, ‘Be submissive wives; you are to be submissive to your husbands.’ ”

  • Elijah

    I agree with 13. Chris Jones: describing WELS as ‘especially conservative’ may not be stylistically ideal, but it’s a fair representation. It is sort of a relative description, though.

    Mollie, having been born, baptized, confirmed, etc. Lutheran, I would not expect to hear “born again” very commonly. But I do hear it more often from adult converts or adults returning to the church. Most German & Scandinavian Lutherans I grew up with were incredibly tight-lipped on matters of faith (at least outside their homes) anyway, so the idea of Lutherans self-identifying at all is sort of strange to me.

    @David 11. – hear, hear. Why not just call him up and ask him?

  • Hector_St_Clare

    Re: She’s basically apparently saying that her husband will be the de-facto President if she’s elected because she’ll defer to his judgments on matters of state.

    While I disagree with wifely submission (and have very little interest in voting for Michelle Bachman or any other Republican), I don’t see that a hypothetical President Michelle Bachman submitting to her husband is, in principle, any worse then a hypothetical Democratic President submitting to the every whim of the National Abortion Rights Action League.

    In the last analysis, we all ‘submit’ to somebody.

  • Big Daddy Weave

    Richard Land claimed back in early June that Michele Bachmann is now a Baptist.

    Referring to Huckabee’s decision not to run, Land told NewsMax:

    “Many Southern Baptists were mildly disappointed that he didn’t run, because it’s always nice to be able to vote for a Southern Baptist,” Land said. “But Tim Pawlenty is a Baptist, and so is Michele Bachmann.”

  • Brett

    In the last analysis, we all ‘submit’ to somebody.

    Bob Dylan, please call your office…

  • Mike Hickerson

    Ok, this isn’t central, but what’s up with media references to “Corinthians”? I’ve seen/heard a number of pop culture references that omit the 1 or 2 that any Biblically literate person would automatically add. Two that pop to mind: the 30 Rock episode in which Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) reads from 1 Cor 13 at a wedding but calls it simply “Corinthians”, and a recent tweet by TV critic Alan Sepinwall that mentioned the TV series Deadwood’s use of “Corinthians.” Is it really so hard to realize that there are 2 of them? You’d think that the idea of numbered sequels (a la “Transformers 3″) would be old hat to the media.

  • Suzanne

    I would like to see someone directly ask Bachmann what it means to her to be submissive to her husband. It obviously can mean different things to different people. She’s already been quoted as saying that she deferred to her husband in a fairly important professional decision. What would it mean if she were President and she and her husband disagreed about a point of policy?

    Many people were uncomfortable when Bill Clinton touted his marriage as a sort of “two-for-one deal” to voters. This seems to be a degree of magnitude greater in terms of how much influence a spouse might have.

    If there’s a chance she’s going to substitute his judgment for her own in her decision-making, then his agenda is directly relevant to her candidacy. And reporters should be asking both of them about it.

  • MichaelV

    “The church belongs to the highly conservative Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, which, in explaining its views on homosexuality, points to the passage in Corinthians where the apostle Paul says to former sinners, ‘That is what some of you were.’”

    I think the article should have given the name of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod document, and probably the scriptural chapter and verse numbers in question. A line later the article mentions the Synod’s web page – it would have been nice if a link was included (the article has lots of links already). These changes would make it easier for interested readers to look further into what these people believe and why.

  • Mike Hickerson

    I think the article should have given the name of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod document, and probably the scriptural chapter and verse numbers in question.

    I agree. I don’t think the average reader would know the meaning or context of this reference.

    The WELS document referenced by the article, by the way, is their websites’ Questions and Answers section, under “social issues.” It’s hardly the most prominent thing on their website.