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Christine O’Donnell, Circa 1998: A Wife Should ‘Graciously Submit’ to Her Husband

Since she won the Republican primary on Tuesday, tea party favorite Christine O’Donnell’s take on premarital sexual relations have become abundantly clear. But in a June 1998 CNN appearance, she indicated that her views are equally strong on the structure of relationships among married couples.

O’Donnell’s CNN interview came right after the Southern Baptists took a hard-line, conservative turn at their conference in Salt Lake City. At the meeting, the group added a resolution to their statement of beliefs that said a wife should ”submit herself graciously” to her husband.

Two days after the conference accepted the resolution, O’Donnell, president of the Savior’s Alliance for Lifting the Truth (SALT), defended the language. Responding to CNN host Mary Tillotson, O’Donnell argued that God designed family structures as such so that wives should be subservient to the leadership of their husbands.

O’Donnell’s comments according to a transcript of the appearance, found via LexisNexis:

OK, this is not about merely a Baptist doctrine. This is a biblical doctrine. And the passage from the Bible the Baptist article is taken from talks about a submissive family. And yet, what the media seems to be reacting to is the word “submit” in the wives. But yet, even in, Mary, your introduction, you ignored or you left out where it says they graciously submit to a servant leader. And that is God’s design for the family. It is not about dominating and it is not about being a slave to your husband.

O’Donnell’s view that wives should submit to their husbands is not “biblical doctrine” according to most Christian denominations. At the time the Southern Baptists wrote the statement, the rhetoric of wives submitting themselves was a break from other Christian faiths which had generally used the language of mutual submission to one another, rather than one spouse holding the power in a marriage. Efforts to weaken the Baptists’ statement were turned back, as the language of submitting had large support among conference attendees. The New York Times reported in 1998:

While the amendment says that husband and wife have ”equal worth” before God, the choice of words about marital relations also makes it one of the most conservative of such declarations. The amendment relies on biblical passages like Ephesians 5:22-33, which compares the husband-wife relationship to that of Christ ruling the church but which is seldom interpreted so literally these days among most Protestants and Roman Catholics.

This post originally appeared in The American Independent.

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