Combat Women – the military finally catches up with itself

Female vets cheer new era for women in combat: ‘It’s about time!’ said the headline yesterday. The U.S. military is dropping the prohibition on women in combat assignments, opening these up for all qualified members of the armed services. Just what “qualified” means remains to be worked out, but the days of meaningless distinctions – arguments like “A woman can’t do a man’s job, any man’s job” – are over.

This announcement follows other changes in the way our armed forces look on their members. In late 2010, Congress set in motion the repeal of the ban on openly gay people serving in the military, with the judiciary then ruling that the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was in fact unenforceable, and the President formally announcing its repeal soon after. Even earlier, President Truman ordered the military to desegregate the ranks so that African Americans and other minority personnel could serve in all capacities alongside all other members.

Of course, all these formal actions in some way merely reflect reality. African Americans have been serving in the military throughout this country’s history. So have gays. And women are not only in combat situations every day overseas, even if their job title doesn’t reflect it, but have been on the front lines from the beginning.

Like the headline said, it’s about time we removed these discriminating limitations.

Serving in God’s Kingdom

There’s a kids’ song at church that we used to sing with the younger Sunday School classes.

I may never march in the infantry
Ride in the cavalry
Shoot the Artillery
I may never fly o’er the enemy
But I’m in the Lord’s army

It’s got hand motions for marching and riding and shooting and flying and saluting, and it’s cute to see all the little boys and girls singing along and marching like little soldiers. Of course, it’s important to remember that the armor of God does not look like something worn on the front lines in Desert Storm, and that our battle is not against flesh and blood but against spiritual forces. But I really like this song for how it points out that all of us who belong to Christ are in this battle together – women, men, boys and girls – because in him there is no male or female.

Does that mean that women are exactly the same as men? That’s like asking if all men are exactly like one another and whether all women are exactly like each other as well. Instead, much like the military now intending to identify the qualifications for various combat positions, we do things in God’s kingdom according to our abilities.

And through it all, God does immeasurably more in us than we could ever hope to achieve.

Now that’s the way to serve.

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25 Responses to Combat Women – the military finally catches up with itself

  1. Aimee Byrd says:

    Well you certainly make some good points, Tim. I’m a bit worried about how this ruling will affect things like the draft, and even preserving some of the important value systems of protecting women and children. In many ways, like you already said, the change in thinking has already occurred before the ruling. I know that there are women perfectly capable, and gifted to be in the front lines, but the headline itself is shocking to me. I’m not convinced that this is a good move for our country.

    • Tim says:

      Thanks, Aimee. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., wrote “The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience.” I think that’s what the military is facing now too. They look at the realities in the world and craft rules that address those realities. To do otherwise is an exercise in futility.

  2. nmcdonal says:

    Does this mean women can be drafted into the military too, Tim?

    • Tim says:

      Some commentators have said that the selective service system may need to be changed in light of this decision, but I haven’t read anything that says this is in the works officially.

  3. I used to sing that song in Sunday School, Tim, so thanks for bringing back some memories of the militaristic religion of my youth. (Just kidding, sort of). It will be interesting to see how this new policy plays out. Interesting take on it.

    • Tim says:

      Do you still remember all the hand motions, Keri? And once we’ve sung through this one a couple times, I can teach it to you in Spanish like we used to sing on our mission trips to Mexico.

      Aunque no marche en la infanteria
      la Artilleria
      Aunque en avion no vaya volando
      Pero soldado soy!

      Soldado soy de Jesus
      Soldado soy de Jesus

  4. KSP says:

    In my post earlier this week at Her.meneutics, I address the topic of labels and binary categories that have outlived their usefulness. This post is somewhat related. In a sense, this development may be a non-issue since women have been serving in the military for a long time now and the definition of “combat” really means something much different from centuries of yore. “Women serving in combat”? What does that even mean, really? I just hope that whatever the requirements are for whatever the given task, they will be met, regardless of the person’s race, gender, or sexual orientation.

    • Tim says:

      You’re right, Karen, it does tie in with your her.mi post on category labels. And I’m all for tossing labels aside when they get in the way of getting the job done. Even labels like “combat” and “non-combat” are moving targets nowadays (pardon the pun or embrace it, your choice!).


  5. Akash Charles says:

    except the standards for men and women in the military are different which is unfair for new males in the military

    this is not about standing together but rather trying to put men ahead of women because they have lower standards

    if men and women had the same standards it would be fair and I may not have a problem with-except with the verse about husbands protecting their wives

    • Tim says:

      Which verse says husbands are to protect wives? It isn’t coming to mind.

      • Akash Charles says:

        I think they take it from ephesioan 5:25 where husbands are to be like Jesus who protects his church

        anyways what do you think about the different standards-it is harder for a man to get promoted etc than a woman-I think this should change

        • Tim says:

          I think assignments and promotions should be based on merit regardless of sex. And relying on Ephesians 5:25 for the proposition that men are to physically protect their wives – and to assert that it supports the idea that women do not have a corresponding role for their husbands – seems to me to be taking that verse seriously out of context, and engaging in some serious spin at the same time.


        • Akash Charles says:

          except the promotions are based on lower standards for women and that is why I am opposed to this till the standards are the same

          btw where in the bible does it call wives to love their husband like Jesus does to the church???-cause you said it should happen both ways and well I only know of the verse regarding the husband

        • Akash Charles says:

          you see the military has heaps of these diversity metrics etc where women are promoted even if they are less fit than their subordinates-so they are promoted for being female

          if that happened for men in the civilian world-everyone including you would cry DISCRIMINATION/SEXIST ( and rightly so) but we as a people seem to not do this when it happens in reverse-and we expect men who are discriminated against to continue as if nothing has happened-many military men oppose women in combat because even though they say the standards will be the same it never has been

        • Akash Charles says:

          also there is the treat your wives as a weaker vessel etc

          I actually think it is good men care commanded to protect women-much better than what abusive evil men do to women actually far far better

          also this whole putting women in combat reminds me of how the islamist terrorists who treat women badly also put their women on the frontlines-if this king of attitude develops among our men it is scary

        • Akash Charles says:

          any way these thought on gender have really been troubling my mind and thanks for answering!

        • Tim says:

          Akash, I don’t know why you say that I would decry men getting preferential treatment in the civilian settings but not decry it should women get preferential treatment in the military scene. My point is that there should be a uniform set of standards applied regardless of sex. I should think that was completely clear from my post and from the comments I’ve added, but if I haven’t made that clear enough before I hope it is now. No one gets preferential anything.

          Plus, you do know I never said the Bible teaches women to protect their husbands, right? I said using that verse to promote that idea while saying it does tell men to protect their wives is a stretch. Of course, that debate has gone on for a long time and smarter people than I have weighed in on both sides.

        • Akash Charles says:


          was not trying to accuse you-although I am on your blog so it does seem like it!!!

          I was meaning our culture- and many egalitarians seem to hold different standards for men and women(not you) when they should be eliminating all of them to ensure equality

      • Akash Charles says:

        actually you did say that supports the idea that wives do not have to do anything in return-which implied there must be a verse to counterbalance ephesians 5;25

    • Akash Charles says:

      yeah -of course women should protect men too-maybe in different ways-but if someone comes to attack us – I am going to jump to protect her-it seems kind of natural

      • Akash Charles says:

        by the way I am still young and haven chosen what to do in life-you seem to have struggled as well-how did you decide what would be your occupation??

        • Tim says:

          I wish I could say I struggled with career decisions, but it’s more like I dithered, Akash. God has blessed me throughout, though, and I am so happy to follow him at work, at home, with family, with colleagues, with friends. Keeping my focus on Jesus has led me to where God has me now, and sometimes he has brought me places despite the fact that I’ve lost focus occasionally too!

        • Akash Charles says:

          so did you just trust on God – how did that conflict with say-taking certain matters inot your own hand, for example by being proactive.
          cause trusting on God sometimes leads to the tendency of being lazy which is wrong

        • Akash Charles says:

          so did you just trust on God – how did that conflict with say-taking certain matters in your own hands, for example by being proactive.
          cause trusting on God sometimes leads to the tendency of being lazy which is wrong- and can create conflict.

  6. Akash Charles says:

    sorry should have said women ahead of men

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