GOP congressman’s book: ‘The wife is to voluntarily submit’ to her husband


Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) when he won his congressional seat back in 2010. (AP)

A Republican member of Congress says in a recently released book that a wife is to "voluntarily submit" to her husband, but that it doesn't make her inferior to him.

Rep. Steve Pearce's (R-N.M.) memoir, "Just Fly the Plane, Stupid!" was released last month. Its publication -- and his acknowledgment in the book of the controversial nature of the submission debate -- come as the Republican Party reevaluates how it talks to and about women.

In the book, Pearce recounts his rise to owning an oil-field service company and winning election to Congress. In the book, the Vietnam War veteran says that both the military chain of command and the family unit need a structure in which everyone plays his or her role.

He said that, in his family's experience, this meant that his wife, Cynthia, would submit to him and he would lead.

"The wife is to voluntarily submit, just as the husband is to lovingly lead and sacrifice," he writes, citing the Bible. "The husband’s part is to show up during the times of deep stress, take the leadership role and be accountable for the outcome, blaming no one else."

Pearce, who is Baptist, emphasizes repeatedly in the chapter that submission doesn't mean inferiority but rather that husbands and wives play different roles. He also says it doesn't mean his wife doesn't have a say in major decisions.

"The wife’s submission is not a matter of superior versus inferior; rather, it is self-imposed as a matter of obedience to the Lord and of love for her husband," he writes.

Pearce recognizes in the book that he's delving into controversial territory. He recounts the time his wife broached the subject of submission with him, saying he cringed at the conversation.

"The principle is among the most controversial of all directives coming from the Bible. Critics abound, both Christian and non-Christian," he writes, adding: "Many of my friends dealt with the directive by ignoring it..."

In the Bible, the book of Ephesians says wives should "submit to their husbands in everything" (according to the New International Version). Pearce's book doesn't quote this verse, but it does criticize men who use this passage in order to "bully their wives and families." He says that "authoritarian control is not given to the husband."

Democrats in recent years have repeatedly attacked Republicans for their views on and comments about women's issues, particularly when it comes controversial comments made by GOP candidates. Mitt Romney suffered from one of the biggest so-called "gender gaps" in recent history in the 2012 election -- an election in which two GOP Senate candidates might have cost their party a seat because of comments about rape and pregnancy.

Since that election, GOP leaders have sought to coach their members on how to be more sensitive when talking about women's issues.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, the political left attacked a statement similar to Pearce's from former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee (R). It was revealed at the time that Huckabee had signed on to a 1998 Southern Baptist Convention statement that a wife should "submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband."

Pearce is a back-bench member of Congress from southern New Mexico's 2nd congressional district, but he formerly served as an assistant GOP whip.

He has served two separate stints in Congress since he was first elected in 2002. He also ran for Senate in both 2002 and 2008, losing the latter race to now-Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.).

In recent years, Pearce has distanced himself from GOP leadership, becoming one of the few GOP House members to vote against John Boehner for speaker. He has since said it was his most popular vote ever.

Update 5:25 p.m.: A Pearce spokesman is out with a statement accusing the Post of "falsely and inaccurately" mischaracterizing Pearce's book.

"This was a piece of either sloppy journalism or wilful intent to deceive," the spokesman said. "The words clearly written show that Pearce believes the phrase 'submission' is widely misunderstood in society and criticizes those who distort the bible to justify male dominance."

The statement does not make clear what Pearce's office believes is inaccurate.

The spokesman also accuses the post of "refusing" to use a number of quotes that add context to the congressman's words. One of the supposedly refused passages -- "But a close study of the Bible shows that authoritarian control is not given to the husband" -- is, in fact, quoted above.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix, the Post’s top political blog.
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