Women in Combat and Gender Roles

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I love the Patriot – the Mel Gibson movie about the early days of our country and fighting for freedom. It is one of my favorite films: always in a mood to watch it, and I always cry during several parts. Courage, bravery, family, loss: these are things of which make a good movie. In this movie, Mel Gibson, aka Benjamin Martin, is spurred on to fight for his country when the fighting hits close to home. What Benjamin doesn’t do is urge his sister-in-law, Aunt Charlotte, to fight in his stead. He sends the younger children to stay with her. Was it because Aunt Charlotte wasn’t capable of shooting a musket? No. It was because she was to be at home taking care of the children.
Why do I bring this up? Andrew Sicree wrote an article in the latest edition of Touchstone Magazine entitled “Mothers in the Line of Fire”. His basic premise is that women fighting in combat as immoral based on a pro-life argument. Especially in light of the coming anniversary of Roe V. Wade, I am all for pro-life. Our worth is based on the truth that we were created male and female in the image of God (Genesis 1.27-28). However, even though his logic is sound, I think this is a secondary argument, one that totally leaves behind the first argument about women in the military.
First, some thoughts from Sicree:
“The moral question of placing women in combat applies to all women who serve in positions that make them legitimate military targets, even if they are not engaged in actual combat.” (p. 23)
“The fact remains that it is not men but women who carry pre-born children within their wombs.” (p 24). While true, I do not see much validity in this argument. Men are needed in the “be fruitful and multiply” command as well. And, while yes, women are the only ones who can actually give birth; men are very important as leaders in the home and as fathers. Sicree uses this as the base for his argument, “it is rather, the uniqueness of women as bearers of pre-born children that creates a unique moral problem for women in combat.” (p 24) That is not up for debate, men were not created to be child-bearers.
Sicree alludes to the Just War theory as it says “that waging war on a non-combatant is immoral. If it is immoral to bring war to non-combatants, surely it is likewise immoral to take an innocent non-combatant into a combat zone.” If his argument is the endangerment of the child (or the mother carrying the child), then a woman who is sexually active and may be pregnant (without knowing it) should not ride roller coasters, eat luncheon meat, or drink alcohol.
Leaving Sicree’s argument where it is, what should be the underlying reason for women not to fight in the military? I can’t lay out a verse and say “The Bible says it is wrong for women to fight” because there isn’t one. That doesn’t mean there aren’t many verses that give reason why women shouldn’t fight or be involved in military combat.
1. Women weren’t created as warriors; they were created as helpmates and nurturers (Gen 2.20; Prov 31.27). Men were created to be protectors. 1 Peter 3.7 gives the command to husbands to “show honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you”.
2. In CBMW’s resolution on women in combat, the organization says, “the purpose of combat is to inflict deadly harm upon an enemy, and the essence of combat is to engage an enemy in order to kill, slay and destroy – a purpose and essence aligned with the gender-based roles and responsibilities of males but opposed to the gender-based role and responsibilities of females.”
3. Scripture sets a pattern for men serving in battle. Throughout the Old Testament we see men going off to war. It would have been degrading to the enemy if the opposition sent its women to fight. It just wasn’t done. Deuteronomy 20 speaks of the laws or warfare, calling men to be valiant, brave, and to “draw near to battle” because the “Lord your God is he who goes with you fight for you against your enemies”. (Deut 20.4)
4. I would say that, as with many other oddities in our culture, the fact that women are serving at all in military combative positions is a failure of male leadership. This doesn’t say that I am ungrateful for the women who have given their lives and have sacrificed much on my behalf. I am grateful for the protection you offer; but, you shouldn’t have to. Men should be fulfilling their role as protective citizens. They are men. Men, I plead for you to step up and protect your families, just as Benjamin Martin did in going to war in the 1700s.
There are so many more points and thoughts related to this topic. I can not cover them all. This topic brings up gender neutrality, authority, who is going to raise the children, etc. This is not a perfect world. Sin entered and there has been a battle waging ever since. That war is targeted at the family. By women going off to war with the men, this is just one more scar from the war. As with failing marriages, families is disarray, women pasturing local church and teaching doctrine to men, and a multitude of other areas where the gender roles are bent, this area of women in combat is one more area that needs redemption by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And to that end, I say, “come, Lord Jesus.”

2 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    Please understand that there is a drastic and vital difference between riding a roller coaster pregnant and going into combat pregnant. No one rides a roller coaster with the sure knowledge that some of the riders will die – all soldiers enter combat with the sure knowledge that someone will die. The Just War Theory applies well to understanding the moral obligations of those in the military – it says very little about roller coasters… I attempted in the Touchstone article to focus a very narrow and precise logical argument on one aspect of the problem of women in combat – that there are other points to be considered I would not deny. Thank you for your comments on my article. Andrew A. Sicree, Ph.D.sicree@verizon.net

  2. Alvie L. Davidson CG

    I am old enough to recall the Korean War and Vietnam which was not filled with women wearing flak jackets and carrying an M-1 rifle over their shoulder.Now we have been convinced that women are strong, strong-willed, and able so why not hand them a rifle and say go shoot the bad guy. I am not reaching into scripture I am just reaching into my gut to say that idea is wrong. Men (as strong as they usually are) have difficulty with battle scenes and their after effects so why should we wish this on women who are made to nurture children and be loving mothers and wives.Just my two cents worth.Alvie L. DavidsonLakeland, FL