Two Views on Women in Combat

English: Deborah Praises Jael (Jud. 5:1-3,24-3...

English: Deborah Praises Jael (Jud. 5:1-3,24-31) Русский: Девора воспевает поражение Сисары (Суд. 5:1-3,24-31) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you probably have heard that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has lifted the ban on women serving in combat roles. This decision has been met with everything from snark to moral outrage and everything in between.

Two responses stand out to me.

The first is by Brian LePort over a Near Emmaus. Brian disagrees with the decision to allow women to serve in combat roles. But, he does so on the grounds that men shouldn’t be seen as warriors as well.

Men shouldn’t be seen as warriors, primarily, whose deaths are acceptable, especially in the context of modern warfare.

What if we mourned the thought of a searing hot bullet penetrating the chest of our sons? What if were disgusted by the idea that our brothers might have shrapnel from an IED penetrate their skull? What if we called into radio shows to argue that our uncles shouldn’t have to live with the guilt of dropping a bomb on Baghdad, or catching an Afghan civilian in the cross-fire of war, or control a drone striking a small village in Pakistan.

I have to say, I find this argument to be compelling. But, at the same time, if a woman wants to volunteer to put herself in harms way, who am I to say she can’t serve in a combat role.

And then there’s Dr. Albert Mohler’s response, brought to us by the IRD, which he claims this decision should be seen as a moral decision.

Is the principle women and children first a legitimate and moral cause of gender difference? I think most people would still say so now. I think they would look to a man who took a space on a seat in one of those lifeboats at the expense of a woman… [as] unmanly and immoral. The same thing is largely true in terms of the moral instinct about prohibiting the service of women in infantry and other active combat units on the frontlines of battle. It says something about a society that it now officially forfeits any idea of gender difference that would include the responsibility of men to protect women.

English: Jael Smote Sisera, and Slew Him, circ...

English: Jael Smote Sisera, and Slew Him, circa 1896-1902, by James Jacques Joseph Tissot (French, 1836-1902) or follower, gouache on board, 5 7/16 x 7 3/8 in. (13.9 x 18.8 cm), at the Jewish Museum, New York (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mohler’s moral outrage seems to stem from his complementarian theology. I’m sure Dr. Mohler could point to passages in the Old Testament to support his belief that only men should serve in combat roles. But what Dr. Mohler would likely gloss over is the book of Judges and Deborah. Deborah was a judge called by God who led the counterattack against Jabin, the king of Cannan (See Judges 4-5). Also, the book of Judges mentions one other woman combatant, Jael. Jael is the one who killed Jabin’s military commander, Sisera, by driving a tent peg through his skull (See Judges 5:23-27).

Exceptions in complementarian theology are usually dismissed as that, exceptions, without any justification. Deborah and Jael will be dismissed as a one time exception the same way that Miriam is dismissed with the topic of women pastors is brought up. This is nothing more than special pleading.

In my personal opinion, Dr. Mohler should have read Brian’s post.


3 thoughts on “Two Views on Women in Combat

  1. I should clarify (though I left this ambiguous in my post) that as citizens of the United States I do not think women should be prevented from participating in the military in the same way as men. That doesn’t mean I want them to participate in the military, but neither do I think there should be legislation against it as long as men can serve.

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