The Bible and Combat Women

[The Secretary of Defense announced that all combat positions will be open to any woman or man who can meet the rigorous qualifications. As Marine Lance Corporal Brittany Dunklee said in NPR’s story yesterday:

I know a lot of males that can’t do what I can do. But as long as you can do it, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be in combat.

I offer the following archived post dating from the original decision two years ago about women and combat that set the stage for yesterday’s announcement.]


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.

Women in Combat (Department of Defense)

Women in Combat
(Department of Defense)

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 gay Americans. 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. Yet my point here is not to insist that the Bible requires women take on combat duties. It’s about how these issues lead to a better understanding of the type of battle we are all called to fight in the kingdom of God.

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 has 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 today, 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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10 Responses to The Bible and Combat Women

  1. Bev Murrill says:

    I remember in the first church Rick and I pastored, we got this guy named Brad saved and he was totally gung ho for the Lord. So enthusiastic and so longing to be God’s man. But he must have been talking with someone other than our church because one day, when he’d been a Christian about a year, he told me seriously that women can’t do spiritual warfare, only men can.

    I asked him why. He looked gravely into my eyes, and then to his strong hand, curled to grip a sword, and said ‘because a woman’s hand isn’t built to carry a sword.’

    Wait! What? I taught him how to pray through in the spiritual realm! Most of the most powerful pray-ers in the church were women, but Brad had developed (maybe with some outside help) a theology that meant wouldn’t couldn’t even darn well pray… rueful chuckle! Those were the days my friend. I’d be surprised if anyone would be willing to look me in the eyes and spout such crap nowadays.

    • Tim says:

      What a conversation that must have been! I hope that young man has now grown to understand that the armor of God is nowhere described as gender-specific clothing, Bev.

    • Pastor Bob says:

      This veteran would have looked him in the eye and asked for a deep explanation.
      That is, after the blank stare form me had faded….

    • Pastor Bob says:

      Spiritual warfare is not the same as physical warfare.
      From my re-enacting days, i have known many women who could beat a male swordsman. What a match between your odd-believing male friend and the one we knew as Artemis.

  2. “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.”

    Love, love, love this line. So many try to make gender a matter of “girl vs.boy” as if the two were two different species, and there are those who insist “all genders are exactly the same,” which isn’t accurate either. There’s middle ground to be had, there.

    • Tim says:

      In Christ we are all individuals who become the true person God made us to be. There are no cookie cutter Christians in God’s plan.

    • Pastor Bob says:

      I have commented before on the “All or Nothing” fallacy we bring into spiritual discussions that clearly do not call for this false dichotomy.
      “There’s middle ground to be had, there.” doe snot always fit, but here it does.

  3. I don’t know why the bell curve concept is so difficult for some people to comprehend when it comes to sex and gender.

    Think about all of humanity as being in one big bell curve and men and women having their own bell curves super-imposed over it in different colors. For any given category, there will women and men at the extremes and those in the middle. Due to a combination of culture and biology, there may be more women / men who share specific characteristics. But we are all individuals with our own likes and dislikes, talents, skills, and traits. In general, women may be more likely to train as ballet dancers and men may be more likely to be lumberjacks, but trends on the bell curve do not morality dictate. And a male ballet dancer is still a man (and manly); just as a female lumberjack is still a woman (and womanly).

    I see a lot of people who look at the bell curves and say: see, most women in the center of the female bell curve like “hello kitty” and most men in the center of the male bell curve wouldn’t be caught dead carrying a “hello kitty” purse; therefore it is right and good for women to like hello kitty (gals, if you don’t, you aren’t very womanly) and it is wrong and morally suspect for men to like hello kitty (guys, if you do, you are a man fail). That’s what a lot of comp “theology” and relationship advice sounds like to me. “Women really want to be led, because a majority of the women we talked to either told us so or hinted that it was their secret desire which they couldn’t express (because #feminism).” Or, “Men are designed to lead, provide, and protect and suffer deep soul wounds when women don’t allow them to fulfill these roles.”

  4. Pingback: Really Recommended Posts 2/19/16- Textual Criticism, Lent,and Jesus on Evil | J.W. Wartick -"Always Have a Reason"

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