Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) faced a tough question Thursday night during the first Republican presidential debates: Why did she say she’s a “submissive” wife? And would she “submit” to her husband, even as President of the United States?

“It means respect,” she said. “I respect my husband. He’s a wonderful, Godly man and a great father, and he respects me as his wife. That’s how we operate our marriage.”

While some in the audience appeared to think the question was unfair — including a CNN “relationship expert” who later suggested that the questioner had misunderstood the Christian philosophy of submissive wives — it was actually quite on point. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) faced a similar question in 2008 and defended the position, saying that husbands must also submit to their wives.

However, contrary to the softer version of this philosophy where husbands and wives are instructed to respect and influence one another, many American Christians take Ephesians 5:21-32 literally.

“A commitment to marriage to a young man is the commitment to a lifetime of submission to that man,” explains a lengthy analysis on Bible.org. “If there is any one question which should be in a young woman’s mind concerning marriage it is this one: ‘Is this the kind of man I want as my ‘head,’ to whom I will submit in all things for the rest of my life?’ Surely our text suggests the necessity of premarriage counseling, so that an independent, objective third party can help in arriving at the answer.

“Once in marriage, this question must be laid aside. The man you have married is the man to whom you must submit. This is not due to any merit on his part, not because he is a good leader and deserves to be followed, but because he, as your husband, is the picture of Christ in your marriage, as you are the picture of His church.”

This video is from CNN, broadcast Thursday, August 12, 2011.