A National Shame

It is a great national shame that we send women off to fight our wars. I understand that saying such a thing is terribly non-PC these days. The general egalitarian spirit of the age looks askance at the idea that women are to be protected, not deployed. Nevertheless, that used to be the consensus view in the Christian West. But we have fallen a long way from that integrity. That is why I am surprised to see Mary Eberstadt’s OP-ED in Friday’s Washington Post. It goes decidedly against the egalitarian grain. She writes:

“The latest flurry of attention toward gays in the military shows that the question of who gets to be a soldier, and why, is sometimes unavoidably moral. So let’s ask that question about another group of soldiers who haven’t attracted as much talk but should: mothers, many of them single, in combat boots — and combat zones.

“When Congress passed a law in the 1970s allowing women with dependent children to enlist, a collision between motherhood and soldiering became inevitable. . . a mother with a baby might choose the baby.

“The notion that women can be soldiers in war zones, therefore women who are mothers should be soldiers in war zones remains a blatant non sequitur.

“Sending fathers into military zones has been a tragedy for as long as war has been around. Sending mothers along with them — many of them the only parent a child has — is simply wrong.”

Eberstadt’s argument is good so far as it goes, but it doesn’t go far enough. It is morally wrong to send mothers off to war—especially single ones!—but there is more to it than that. If we understood the difference between men and women, we won’t be sending women to combat at all. Albert Mohler is certainly correct in writing that,

“A nation’s moral character is revealed in the way it fights its wars. This report, filled with documentation, reveals that our nation’s moral character is now being redefined before our eyes. If it is true that a majority of the American people affirm their readiness to see women ‘join combat units, where they would be directly involved in the ground fighting,’ the American people are demonstrating their disregard for the moral wisdom of the ages.  The nation is forfeiting the responsibility of men to act as protectors of women, and acquiescing to the failure of men to fulfill their duty.

“From a Christian perspective, the concern about women in combat goes far beyond the pollsters’ questions. If we truly believe that God created men and women for different but complementary roles and shows his glory in the faithfulness of men as primary protectors and women as primary nurturers, the entry of women into combat roles is an open rejection of God’s purpose. As military historians document, every society throughout history has normalized the military service of men. Though women have known combat in isolated cases throughout history, the fact that such cases are rare is the exception that proves the rule. This wisdom is part of general revelation and thus the moral wisdom shared by virtually all cultures.”

27 Responses to A National Shame

  1. John Holmberg March 2, 2010 at 12:45 am #

    I understand your argument Denny and am sympathetic to it. But in my opinion, the shame lies in sending human beings to war, regardless of gender. We should not be depressed and furious at the fact that we send women (whether married or mothers) to war, we should be depressed and furious at the fact that we send human beings made in God’s image to war. “From a Christian perspective,” this is what should be highlighted, and any perspective that says otherwise is not very “Christian” at all. “God’s purposes” are to have no human being in combat, so perhaps the wrong arguments are being made from the get-go.

    Just my two cents.

  2. Jan March 2, 2010 at 3:47 am #

    When I was a high school senior in 1974, 3 little letters struck fear into my heart and into the hearts of countless young women across America in that graduating class.

    It was Section 1 of the E.R.A., The Equal Rights Ammendment Act of 1972. Here is a synopsis:

    Proposed E. R. A. (1972)
    Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State on account of sex.

    Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

    Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

    The reason for our fear? If this ammendment had been ratified in 1974,(and it only needed the vote of just 38 states to pass,) every 18 to 35 year old female in the United States would by LAW have been required to register for the draft.

    Keep in mind back in 1974, the draft was in effect and we were still fighting the Vietnam War.
    Under the ERA, it would have been illegal to draft males only.

    As I anticipated walking across the stage for my high school graduation at ironically War Memorial Auditiorium in June of 1974, I didn’t know if I would have a diploma in one hand, and a 1A draft card in the other. That possibility loomed large!

    At the time of my graduation, this ammendment was just a handful of state votes away from becoming a reality. Thankfully, the votes did not come in 1974, nor during the 7 year extension that followed.

    In the end, the combat issue was the main point that killed this bill. (and the fact it could have done away with separate restroom facilites)

    I agree with Dr. Mohler and Dr. Burk. This issue is more than just about sending mothers of newborns and young children into combat zones. Men and women ARE wired and created differently. That is the beauty of the opposite sex and in being fearfully and wonderfully made!

    Passing some rule on a sheet of paper cannot magically alter one’s physical,emotional,psychological, or biological make-up. That stuff only happens in the movies…

  3. Nate March 2, 2010 at 8:51 am #

    John, I appreciate your opinion and understand the point you are trying to make. However, we do live in a fallen world and while we should speak about the hope that will come, it should not diminish our disdain for this tragedy.

  4. Donald Johnson March 2, 2010 at 10:24 am #

    On the phrase “the exception proves the rule” the meaning of “proves” is “tests” and NOT “validates”. An exception tests a rule and may mean the rule needs to be changed. This is an example of the meaning of an English word changing over time and a phrase seeming to mean something it does not. This can also happen in other languages.

    The problem I see when taking generalities and making them hard distinctions is that a husband is supposed to nuture as well as protect and a wife is supposed to protect as well as nuture and these aspects of Biblical morality should also be taught.

  5. David Vinzant March 2, 2010 at 11:39 am #

    It all started with giving women the vote. Then they thought they could actually run for office. Next, we made the mistake of letting them own property. The next thing you knew, women were pretending to be lawyers, doctors, business owners, and even, gasp, ministers. Now you’ve got women thinking they should be able to get a divorce when they’re stuck in a bad marriage. The next thing you know, ladies are going to think they can be policeMEN, mailMEN, fireMEN, and construction workers. Before long, they’ll be bossing around men at work. The only solution I see is rolling back the clock to about 1600.

  6. Nate March 2, 2010 at 12:00 pm #

    David, your sarcasm aside, you failed to actually speak to the subject matter. Do you think it is alright for the US to employ women in combat? Do you think it is acceptable that single mothers can go into combat to potentially leave their children orphaned? And yes, we all realize these women could be killed in other professions, but no other profession exists specifically to kill their enemies daily.

  7. Darius March 2, 2010 at 12:53 pm #

    To add to what Nate said, I don’t think it’s a good idea for women to be police officers or fire fighters. I want the toughest, strongest people doing those jobs, and it is a rare exception where a woman is not weaker than a man. The only way women are in those jobs is because they changed the standards for them (with the occasional exception where a woman actually earned it). Changing standards in the name of political correctness leads to all sorts of foolishness and bad results.

  8. Matthew Staton March 2, 2010 at 1:22 pm #

    A nation’s moral character is revealed in the way it fights its wars.

    This is a thought-provoking statement.

  9. John Holmberg March 2, 2010 at 1:44 pm #

    Matthew,

    I prefer: “A nation’s moral character is revealed IF it fights wars.”

    Nate,

    Again, I am sympathetic to your position, but playing the “fallen world” card for everything is not Christian at all. Our purpose as Christians is to give others a glimpse of what life was intended to be, and what life will be one day. Making concessions on account of sin destroys the nature of God’s reign over a community. If I were pressed & forced to make a decision on who should fight a war, I would say men. But as a Christian I don’t get to make that choice, because all war is antithetical to life, and the kingdom Christ inaugurated to driven by peace and truth. The end is not just or peaceful if violent means are used. Mohler tries to give a Christian perspective on this, when in reality it is not very Christian at all. It is antithetical to anything Christian, quite frankly, because underneath all his anti-women-in-combat rhetoric is still an absence of a critique of war itself. This should be the “Christian perspective” if we want to do justice in any way to the term “Christian.”

  10. David Vinzant March 2, 2010 at 1:48 pm #

    Nate,

    Do you think it is acceptable that single fathers can go into combat to potentially leave their children orphaned?

    I believe women and men of sound mind and body should be allowed to serve their country in the way they choose.

    A nation cannot have moral character. Only a person can have moral character.

  11. Darius March 2, 2010 at 2:50 pm #

    John, you seem to think that all war is morally wrong. How do you square that with the Bible? War is certainly NOT antithetical to life, as some wars are fought to preserve life.

  12. Nate March 2, 2010 at 3:13 pm #

    “A nation cannot have moral character. Only a person can have moral character.”

    A nation reflects the moral character of its people.

    And your argument is circular, but men can petition to not serve in combat zones if that is the case.

    BTW, Darius is absolutely right that the requirements for enlistment, boot camp training, and advanced traning have been watered down to accept women. Our nations protection should not be a test tube for culture wars. G.I. Jane does not exist!

  13. David Vinzant March 2, 2010 at 3:22 pm #

    It is true that the OT records God as ordering his people to butcher with the sword enemy men, women and children.

    How does that fit in with your moral character?

  14. Darius March 2, 2010 at 3:28 pm #

    David, I’d recommend reading Show Them No Mercy, which is an excellent book which presents four views on the God’s command to wipe out tribes. Suffice it to say, we can’t understand it until we recognize the point of the Old Testament and the fact of God’s utter holiness.

  15. David Vinzant March 2, 2010 at 4:04 pm #

    Thanks for the book recommendation, but I think I understand pretty well. Books like that are more for people who are trying to explain away the obvious meaning of the text.

  16. Darius March 2, 2010 at 4:15 pm #

    Perhaps, but just so you know, one of the views is probably something you could agree with (at least in part). So they’re not all in lock-step with each other and orthodoxy. The other three views are similar with just different nuances. The book consists of four theologians each offering his view, then the other three each giving a rebuttal.

    What’s your view of God, the OT, etc.? You may have said this before, but would you call yourself a Christian? If so, then how do you read the portions of the OT (and NT) where God appears violent. If not, why do you presume to know better what a religious text says than the majority of those who adhere to said text?

  17. John Holmberg March 2, 2010 at 4:35 pm #

    Darius,

    Fighting a war to preserve life is contradictory & paradoxical. Also, the Bible has accounts of all sorts of things which we know are wrong, so your argument does not work. The Bible has rape in it, does that make it okay?

    Regarding your inevitable assertion about God commanding Israel to wipe out the Canaanites, I would just say there are many things we don’t understand, and to pretend to is to be dishonest. Whatever concession God made in that era, we now know him fully as revealed on the cross, which is a picture of a God who absorbs violence and does not inflict it. As Christians we read the OT in light of Jesus & his message, and he was pacifistic to the core.

  18. David Vinzant March 2, 2010 at 6:04 pm #

    Let’s keep this focused on the topic at hand and not make it personal. I try to read and understand the Bible using common sense.

    I was not aware that anyone had determined exactly what a majority of Jews or Christians believe about those texts. Seriously, Darius, can you think of any reason that adherents of a religious view might want to reinterpret passages in their religious text that might put their deity in a bad light?

  19. Jessi Bridges March 2, 2010 at 10:05 pm #

    As the wife of an active duty Marine, I absolutely would not feel comfortable with a woman serving beside my husband.

    And as the wife of an active duty Marine and Iraq War Veteran, I don’t think women should be serving in any combat capacity.

  20. Sue March 3, 2010 at 12:37 am #

    I am personally extremely grateful that there are policewomen. I don’t think men have any concept of the tragedy of women’s lives.

    First and foremost, women are in the greatest danger in the home, from injury from their intimate partner. We should perhaps propose that women live in all female compounds protected by women, in order to protect women from injury and keep them nicely protected.

    Or, on the other hand, we can admit that there is no ideal safe way to live. No, women do not want to go to war. No, women do not want to send their sons to war. No, a thousand times no.

    However, I do think that, on average, men are more suited to combat than women. So, I think it should be an exception that women go to war. However, in the English Civil War, when many wealthy men were imprisoned, their wives took over command of their estates and personally, with the help of their servants, defended their land, on behalf of their husbands.

    Let women be real human beings, who love their sons and their husbands.

  21. Matthew Staton March 3, 2010 at 12:33 pm #

    John, I would point out that for 100 days in 1994, the US did not fight a war in Rwanda while 1,000,000 were slaughtered. Yet, few see this as the high-water mark of US morality.

    I’m not really interested in engaging this debate, just wanted to remind you how very unethical and horrible it can be to fail to engage an enemy as well. I cannot justify war using only the Sermon on the Mount. Neither can I justify standing idly by while 1,000,000 people were killed while politicians argued about the legal shades of the technical term “genocide.”

  22. Darius March 3, 2010 at 1:20 pm #

    Amen, Matthew.

    “Fighting a war to preserve life is contradictory & paradoxical.”

    So you think that WWII was immoral as regards America’s participation?

    “Also, the Bible has accounts of all sorts of things which we know are wrong, so your argument does not work. The Bible has rape in it, does that make it okay?”

    No, obviously not. But it does make it okay if God shows that he supports something as morally and ethically right. And clearly, based on an honest and complete reading of Scripture, God seems to have no problem with defending human life and morality via war.

    “Whatever concession God made in that era, we now know him fully as revealed on the cross, which is a picture of a God who absorbs violence and does not inflict it. As Christians we read the OT in light of Jesus & his message, and he was pacifistic to the core.”

    This doesn’t appear at all faithful to Scripture. God was quite merciful in the OT and Jesus was depicted as quite violent at times in the NT (His whipping in the Temple and the Book of Revelations come to mind). God never said that violence was inherently evil. Otherwise, God would be guilty of evil.

  23. Donald Johnson March 3, 2010 at 3:18 pm #

    Christians are to oppose evil and sometimes that can mean fighting and sometimes not.

    Jesus was not a pacifist, and there are some NT verses that show this. It is true that some believers choose pacifism, but not all do.

  24. John Holmberg March 3, 2010 at 6:17 pm #

    Matthew,

    That would not be called a “war” if we stopped them. Also, there is such a thing as a non-violent protest. We could have easily stopped them without killing them. Defending the weak is good; taking human life created in God’s image is not.

    Also, Darius, is a war just if the means that lead to it are unjust? Other than that, your view of the violence of God and Jesus is so abysmal and void of any sort of historic orthodox claim I’m left speechless. Give me your Bible; I’ll let you have it back when you learn to read it.

  25. Darius T March 4, 2010 at 12:30 am #

    Nevermind, John, you’re going ad hominem again on us. Suffice it to say, you clearly have no idea what the historic orthodox position is on war and violence.

  26. jeff miller March 5, 2010 at 12:38 pm #

    It may be to high a vocation for Christians to be the determiners of what is intrinsically evil. That aside, we should be aware of the transition from Moses to Jesus. Here are some thoughts on why war was pressed by God under the O.C. http://personaldiscipleship.blogspot.com/2008/04/just-war-what-is-it-there-for-on-that.html

  27. Barton Ramsey March 7, 2010 at 1:19 am #

    Always strange to see such verbally violent pacifism. Quite normal to see failing arguments result in ad hominem attacks, though.

    John,
    To avoid any AH, it will suffice to say that printing out your arguments and letting a high school logic class dissect them for contradictions and fallacies would be both beneficial and time consuming. Notice that is an comment addressing your arguments.

    This was a good post. I agree that sending women to fight war is morally wrong. Although I am not completely sure where I stand on the four views of God/war, I do believe that most any view is compatable with Denny’s post. So, you guys are arguing on the wrong blog.

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