Women at War

GijaneG.K. Chesterton once wrote, “Feminists are, as their name implies, opposed to anything feminine.” We are now seeing this come to its most poignant fulfillment, as “women’s equality” has reached the point of the US government putting them in full military combat roles. Many conservative Christians are outraged, but this shouldn’t be seen as anything new. Women have already been in mostly non-combat positions in the military, and women firefighters and policepersons are commonplace. Women are taught from the earliest ages that they should do anything that they desire, no matter the perceived restrictions. We could trace this development back much further, of course, as it goes back at least to the middle of the 19th century. We are simply at the logical end of all of that. The women’s movement would say that they are finally winning “the war on women,” but I would suggest that the sides have been misnamed. It is true that there is a war against women. It’s just that the feminists are the ones waging it, and they’ve nearly won.

Christians attempting to respond to this latest development typically point to their bibles, particularly Deut. 22:5. I do happen to think that that verse works perfectly well as an answer, but we can’t be terribly surprised when most people think we’re just pulling the old fundy card on this one. They’re so used to explaining away all of the Old Testament (if they even feel the need to explain at all) as peculiar to that time in history. Others just shrug and say that we don’t keep very many of those rules anyway, so what’s the big deal? The most sophisticated will misinterpret and thus misapply Galatians 3:28. But really, most won’t care and won’t try. They’ll just laugh us off.

Now, Deut. 22:5 actually is not just an arbitrary rule against women wearing blue jeans nor is it about anything particularly ceremonial. It refers to a basic external distinction in decorum between males and females, and included in the keli geber is the gear of a warrior. Josephus points this out as a basic inference of the law in his Antiquities of the Jews I.4.8.43. It was never disputed historically, because the larger context of having clear distinctions between the sexes makes it obvious. But again, we shouldn’t treat this as a proof-text, as if were it not for this verse then we wouldn’t know the answer. No, this ought to be a “Duh” sort of question. Women shouldn’t go off to war because it is unbecoming, undignified, and unseemly. It is contrary to nature. But why can’t people see that today?

It’s because of that long-standing war against women.

You see, a reaction against true misogyny which has existed in the past has combined with a certain sort of covetousness on the part of some women to get us to the point where there can be no more public recognition of women as women. Forget about opening doors or pulling out chairs for women, I have actually been reprimanded for calling an older woman “ma’am.” Women can now be in combat because women can now be bishops, breadwinners, and bridegrooms. In short, women can be men, and it is becoming more and more clear that the preference is that they do so.

Now, surely I’m just being provocative. I’m either being snarky or cute, but I can’t be serious. Actually, I am quite. I understand, of course, that no one is calling for all females to try to actually ontologically transform into males (“Not that there’s anything wrong with that…” we can anticipate hearing) but the fact remains that it is no longer acceptable for women to possess a symbolic difference from men, nor can they be said to have an appropriate “role” as pertains to their sex. No individual can be constrained by their sex any more, and any neanderthal who tries to point to the logic of connectors and fasteners, birds and bees, or the caprice of nature in causing only a certain subset of humanity to ovulate, is begging for the rack.

We can’t have “women’s jobs” because we can’t have women’s roles, and that means that we can’t have women, not in public at least. If you want to personally believe that women exist, then you are free to do so in the privacy of your own bedroom. But for the rest of life, Chesterton was right after all. The feminists have killed the feminine.

It’s important to know that this isn’t only because of uppity women. In large part this is the fault of the men. They were the ones who told the women that the men’s place was the best. They were the ones who said that the women’s roles were demeaning and less important. They stigmatized the feminine and the girly as undesirable. And after a long while, the women finally gave in!  Now even the women believe that a mother and homemaker needs to “get a real job.” Little girls need to do something with their lives and to make something of themselves. They can prepare for motherhood after about 35, if they want, but before then they need to get out there and compete in “the real world.”

We need to make this message plain: Feminism is chauvinism. It shares the belief that traditional “women’s roles” are undesirable and second best. As such, it seeks to make women as much like men as possible. The irony in all of this is that it is almost always a step down. Another great Chesterton quote comes to mind, “What is called the economic independence of women is the same as what is called the economic wage-slavery of men.” Whereas a woman could be a philosopher-king at home, mastering domestic arts and having dominion over souls, she is instead encouraged to go out and get a 9-to-5, working in a mostly impersonal and exploitative workplace. At some points in history, she was forced to make this sacrifice out of necessity. Now, however, she has been taught that it is a virtuous decision for her own empowerment. It’s rather strange how easy it has been to convince women that genderification is gentrification.

It should also be obvious that this means a net loss for humanity. Whereas we previously had more, man and woman, we now have less, man and man-aping woman. I suspect we’ll retain certain objects of lust forever, and thus there will be plenty of boobs (artificial, of course), but I’m less optimistic about the future of the feminine mystique, womanly elegance, and a wife’s wit. I suspect that each of those will be considered prejudices of a dark age long past.

Again, let us not miss the fact that the presence of women in the military did not start with conscription. No, we’re not quite to the point where women can be drafted, if you can believe our abiding primitive condition. The dark irony is that women actually want to go into combat. They are demanding it. It’s no good being mad at the government. Be mad at the people. Be mad at us. We didn’t love our women while we had them. Now they’re leaving us.

To get back to the question at hand though, how should Christians respond to the question of women in combat? Well the obvious answer is that Christians must be opposed to it. Christian women should not sign up for the military, and Christian men should not encourage women to enter the military nor let them do so without lovingly trying to discourage the decision. But I really don’t think this is where the battle should be fought. All of that talk about chivalry and men “not letting” their women “fight for them” can only make things worse, playing right into the hands of the feminists.

Instead, men need to talk about the glories of womanhood. They need to compliment femininity, motherhood, and beauty. Men need to tell women how much better life is because women exist. We need to praise beauty, comfort, and nurture. Woman is the glory of man. We should exalt her name.

If femininity were seen as desirable, the majority of our problems in this regard would disappear. There would always be rebels, of course, but women have a natural desire to be women. Just think if they had a social incentive to match! The battle would done, the warfare ended. But we can’t even conceive of such a situation, not even among the “conservatives,” because we are ourselves beholden to many modern assumptions about individualism and economy.

The home used to be a center of agriculture, economic affairs, and education. For the woman to be a “homemaker” was to be an executive over the central nervous system of society. It was to be a master of arts. It was to be a farmer. It was to be a maker. It was to be a temple, a sacrament, a superlative. Perhaps I’m idealizing things a bit, as the past could indeed be quite dull and gloomy for all genders. Still, I don’t think I’m saying anything that Dorothy Sayers didn’t already say. The home used to be the place of oikonomia. As it lost that function, the notion that anyone would be stuck there became torment. To combat self-alienation, we’ve got to recover a true sense of “the home.” In what ways can it be that place of central affairs today, or perhaps more importantly, what analogous locations (and vocations) can we emphasize as especially important for “home” life?

We need to also stress female education. They need to be well-grounded in the humanities, which means the classics. Why? For starters, because we want them to be expert educators. Every mother should be a professor. But more than this, we want women to understand people, to understand humanity. And in doing that, they will understand themselves as well. We want powerful women, after all, it’s just that, in contrast to feminism, we want powerful women.

To win the war against women, we have to prioritize women. Gone are the days when things can be decided by force. In fact, now the feminists make use of force (through technology) to further subjugate women. We have to do it a different way. We must persuade. Indeed, we must woo.

Do we still have it in us?

I have added a follow-up here.

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31 thoughts on “Women at War

  1. Well said. I get the feeling that some men just don’t like feminine women; it is almost as if they want a man’s soul in a woman’s body, and too many feminists are all too willing to accommodate that. You have articulated something here that I have been thinking for a while, but was not quite sure how to say. Would it be ok with you if I reblogged this?

    Thank you so much for supporting feminine women.

  2. Which version of feminism are you talking about? Second Wave? A lot of conservatives seem unaware that there have been multiple feminist movements (which often disagreed strenuously with each other), and tend to lump them all together. Second Wave Feminism, which was the super-egalitarian version that wanted to erase all distinctions between the sexes, has been out of fashion for decades. The fact that it is still working its way into US military culture says more about the ingrained conservativism of the military than the current cultural relevance of Second Wave Feminism.

  3. Jeremy, I’m talking about the core assumptions of feminism across the board, which began with the first-wavers and continue today (Chesterton is dealing with the suffragettes in England, but he goes to the founding assumptions about humanity and sexuality). I think that you mischaracterize Second-Wave Feminism a bit. There was a strong “I am woman” sentiment to it. Third Wave Feminism or post-Feminism is itself variegated and often disagrees with itself, with some sections wanting to emphasize the micro-sociological distinctives and others wanting to break down “gender binaries” altogether, claiming that these are but arbitrary constructs. I would argue that my post actually applies to the most modern expressions more so than the earlier ones, as those earlier ones still wanted to emphasize the experience of woman as woman (though they never went deep enough in examining the individualism that is inherent in egalitarianism). Today the tendency is to downplay and dismiss any difference at all. Still, in order to have plural feminisms, you have to first have a singular feminism that they can all participate in.

    As I said in the my post, the common thread is the rejection of any public symbolic significance of the female sex and its having a distinct nature with a distinct telos.

  4. What a refreshing perspective! I have been blessed to grow up in a home where all the men — father and brothers — encouraged me to be a woman and protected me from the world-which-would-make-me-a-man. There is so much freedom in that. Meanwhile, I’ve heard so many fathers say they don’t want to “hold their daughters back” from anything they want to do, don’t want to limit them; when in truth, the glory of God’s created order and the roles for men and women lies in the fact that those roles have limits. The order is orderly because it has limits. We celebrate the ocean when it stays within its defined ocean-space, NOT when it comes onto land; trees are trees because they maintain their (limited) shape. . . . anyway, thank you for this.

  5. While I do agree with your sentiment that there is a divinely inspired difference between the genders, I don’t believe their roles are as cut and dry as you describe. Jesus’ ministry was funded by wealthy women (Luke 8:1-3), not to mention the various servant-leaders referred to in many of Paul’s letters. Even the woman of Proverbs 31 could be described as an entrepreneur by selling handmade garments (v24). Perhaps I am misunderstanding some of what you wrote, but I feel as if you are saying the only role a women is divinely inspired to take is that of wife, mother, or daughter, all of which are valuable roles and mean so much more than is stated, but I still believe God might inspire someone to act outside of what we might think of as appropriate behavior for their gender. Deborah was asked to go to war, granted I imagine because of doubt on Barak’s part rather than faith, and the Lord gave the battle into the hands of a woman, Jael. I agree that there is a great deal more that can be said of that story, but Deborah still acted in obedience even if Barak’s request was not given with the same care.

    But I would also like to applaud your praise of femininity and your desire to remind women of the value we have through the God who made us. I would also like to add that I don’t think a women’s place is intended to be in battle, but if a women believes that is where God wants her personally to be placed, then that’s between her and her Father. I am in no way meaning any disrespect. I would gladly welcome further discussion.

  6. Hi Michelle,

    Thanks for the thoughtful and kind remarks. There’s much more that we can say about all of these things, of course, but I had to telescope it all into a readable post. Much of our disagreement will probably be based on assumptions and connotations. For instance, I don’t believe that a woman should be prevented from or discouraged from being an entrepreneur. In fact, I think that’s exactly what she should be, though in our society the complications are many. My desire is for a home-based entrepreneurship, since that is the only way to maintain lasting family-solidarity. Our problem is that “the home” has been shrunk down to nearly nothing in the last century, with all of the traditional features of home agriculture, home economy, and home education being given over to outside industry. We’ve also become “nuclear” without asking enough of the hard questions about what this might mean. Sure everyone wants to get away from their in-laws, but when you do that, along with getting away from grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc., you really do lose an important social network. And for many today, even if they live in close proximity to such family members, they don’t regularly perform social and civic functions for and with them.

    The Proverbs 31 woman is actually rich, by the way. Her husband is a city elder, and she has maidservants under her. You can see how this would affect the situation. In today’s world, I think the internet opens up new possibilities for the non-rich, as they can have home start-ups and sell and trade. We should also emphasize cooperatives and employee-owned businesses which can reduce the exploitative features of much of modern capitalism. Churches have a great opportunity to assist these endeavors as well, since they are essentially non-coercive institutions designed to strengthen and foster families (in addition to the primary call to worship) rather than to compete with them. We also need to find those various features of “home economy” that have been exported and discover what ways they can be returned to the home and what ways they can remain outside of the immediate household but brought into godly communal control.

    It’s also important that I say that I too believe in the “between you and God” solemnity of spiritual judgment. I don’t condemn anyone in that sense, nor do I believe that women can easily exert their ideal roles today, given the complications of modernity. I’m addressing the principles and ideals, and I’m talking about externals only, what is proper for a society. As Christians we have to be clear on this distinction. We can and must speak authoritatively about ethical standards and the call of virtue, but that does not require us to condemn someone spiritually or even judge their heart. The two realms are quite distinct. At the same time, it is also a mistake, and one popular today, to assume that internal dispositions and personal choices are the final arbiter of all disputes. That’s a leftover from the romantic movement, and it really does have the effect of casting aside all laws and norms in favor of individualism. Christians are called away from this sort of absolute liberty, liberty only to one’s self, and towards true liberty, which is the service of righteousness in Christ. We should actually expect to feel an initial sort of constraint (law) as our desires have to be informed and crafted to conformity with the external norm of God’s character and design.

  7. While I mostly agree with your take here, I find it interesting that in your analysis, this is still men’s fault at bottom. Naff!

  8. ” Forget about opening doors or pulling out chairs for women…Women can now be in combat because women can now be bishops, breadwinners, and bridegrooms. In short, women can be men, and it is becoming more and more clear that the preference is that they do so.” So do you see these specific roles changing who women are at the core rather than women bringing new and needed characteristics to the role of bishop (i.e. pastor) and breadwinner (i.e. person with outside the home career)? What makes you think these roles should not be taken on by women (married or not), is it just the Deut passage and insight into what is “naturally feminine”?

    “Women shouldn’t go off to war because it is unbecoming, undignified, and unseemly. It is contrary to nature” Is this statement not also applicable to men in combat, or combat as a whole? Would you say that going off to war is ever “dignified, becoming, or proper”?

  9. Which begs the question: wonder whether the fault lies with Eve or is that a silly question?

  10. Firstly, I would like to say thank you. The thoughts you have expressed here are some of the most empowering and personally encouraging thoughts I’ve had the privilege to hear or read in quite some time outside of those voiced by my husband.

    I’m 25, a woman, and a homemaker. I have known since I was little what I wanted to be when I grew up, I wanted to be a wife, a homemaker, and a mother. When I told people my dreams I was tutted, told I was too young to know that, told I should get a job, travel the world, live before I chained myself in a house. Anger and hurt would be the most apt emotions to describe my internal responses, externally I would smile tentatively and shrug it off, there was no winning the argument I’d learned.

    Oh,I did all of those things, I got a job and it was a good one, I even enjoyed it, but only to a point, it was fun but not fulfilling and as time wore on it wasn’t even that anymore, I preferred, cooking, cleaning, and tending children, but I long for my own. I traveled, it was lonely and while very enlightening and enriching, lack luster and forced even when I was excited about where I was going and what I was seeing.

    A year ago I married the most incredible man. He is hard-working, intelligent, loving, kind, firm, and I could go on but the most incredible thing he does, is what he does when he comes home at the end of the day. He comes through the door, stressed, frustrated, walking on cloud nine because of things that happened at work. He starts talking as soon as he sees me until it is all out and then he looks at me and says “Love, you’re amazing, how did I get so lucky?” He says, coming home is the best part of his day, because I’m waiting for him. He says I’m beautiful, and I’ve made the house a home, and he’d be lost without me. He loves that I’m intelligent and can talk him through struggles at work, that I can just listen so he can vent, that I’m artistic and thrifty, that if I can make it at home for less than it costs to buy, I will. Not because he wouldn’t buy it for me, but because it’s what I do, it’s who I am. It’s part of how I defend our home. He tells me how proud he is of how I’m training the dog. He brags about me at work, about the food I cook, like I’m some incredible thing I’m truly not. He appreciates me and what I do and supports my dreams like no one else. I don’t stay at home because he told me too, I stay at home because I asked to. He encourages me to get out of the house, to spend time with friends but only if I want to. He would stop me from getting a job, but I have a career, and it’s the one I have always wanted (sans the mother…but that will come in it’s own time) and I’m proud of it, and I’m happy. And he is proud that he can provide enough that I don’t have to bring in a second income. For once I’m actually truly happy with what I’m doing. Yes, I do other things, I volunteer, I’m a seamstress, I’m a baker, etc… but I do it from home, because my home and my family are what is most important to me. And for once in my life, I feel truly important, like what I do actually matters, and it is because I have the most amazing Husband, a man who believes every bit as much in my dreams as I do in his. He empowers me to be what I am, and he makes it all worthwhile, because he comes home everyday and enjoys it.

    It was nice to have someone outside my family say as much, I’m not the only woman trapped by the expectations and the feminist agenda, but I also have friends who honestly want the outside careers and that is fine, because they don’t expect that I should want that. But they like being women, they like being different every bit as much as me. They like it when a man looks at them as something special and treats them different by holding a door, pulling out a chair. Sometimes it’s awkward cause we no longer expect it in our culture,it catches us off guard and we don’t always know what to do, but we like it. I know they’re supposed to exist, but I’ve honestly never met a girl who thought it was in anyway demeaning. I’m sorry, people held doors open for kings, it was the powerful who were always waited on, not the subjugated.

    and I apologize for ranting.

  11. This is the first time I’ve read anything you’ve written (found you through a link at Generation Cedar).

    I just wanted to tell you thank you for writing this and not apologizing for writing it. Some of the best words I’ve read on this topic for sure!

  12. Peyton,

    My statements about pastor, breadwinner, etc. are based on Biblical prescriptions (1 Tim. 2:12, 1 Cor. 11:9, Gen. 2:18, Titus 2:5), but also on nature and created sexual roles and identity. I get into this a bit more in my next post, but you can also consult the historic jus gentium. Here’s just one piece of anecdotal support: http://www.goldberg-patriarchy.com/logic.html

    As to combat, it is certainly an imperfect thing, but it is rooted in the basic duty to “protect” and so is not always illicit. And there are ways in which women are protectors, but not in the same way men are. Formal military service, however, requires all sorts of things beyond mere force and aggression (though those are factors). You’ve also got cohabitation concerns, as well as the dynamics that come with relationships between those of the opposite sex.

  13. Modern Butch Women have mangled the true meaning of being a feminist. However, you are right in one respect, the blame of this needs to be spread to the men of our society as well. The goal of a true feminist is equality. At home, at work, in politics, in economy, in society. Raising children is a hard thing to do. They are dynamic and rarely follow a cohesive formula… and I would argue that it is harder to be a parent than it is to be a professional (mainly because you can’t “go home” from being a parent). Modern women see this, and seek the “escape” of work that only men were allowed in the past.

    I have seen many “traditional” families and it is quite appalling what is “expected” of the SAHM. She is expected to cook, to clean the ENTIRE house, to pick up after the kids, to make the doctor/dentist/music/etc appointments and to make sure that the child (willing or not) makes the appointment in a timely manner. They are the ones that spend the most time with the child, and are also required to be the one to discipline the child when necessary. Because it is the “mother’s” role to do all of this, she is typically the one viewed as the “mean” parent, whereas the father, who has been gone all day working, comes home to play time and is the “fun” parent. They expect to be able to go off on their own to while away their spare time on their hobbies while the overworked, over stressed, under appreciated mother STILL has to take care of the children, the household, and her husband. That is the inequality that the real feminists are trying to equalize. Unfortunately, because of the chauvinism of many men in the past and present, the easiest way to signify equality is to emulate these chauvinists. It’s not right and has done more damage than can be quantified to the collective psyche of woman.

    I have seen many “modern” families, and it’s even more appalling to see that the expectations of a SAHM are still applied to working mothers, and other women are part of the problem. We are told from a young age that WE are the ones who are supposed to nurture the child, WE are the ones with the “mothering” instinct, that WE are the ones who determine whether or not the child behaves correctly… and we have to do all of this while holding down a 8:00-5:00 job (because let’s face it, 9:00-5:00 jobs only apply to the hourly workers… the rest of us put in 9-12 hours a day on a regular basis with no overtime pay).

    Sure, there are couples that share the responsibilities of home either equally or fairly, but those are very rare and require such a monumental effort that many couples fail to get this right and they revert to one of the above.

    I am a feminist. I know that we have the capability of being as tough, as smart, as driven, as passionate as our male counterparts.
    I am also feminine. I believe there is power in dressing like a woman, carrying oneself with the dignity of a woman, and making no excuses for our feminine parts.

    I believe in equality, and that a woman should be given the same choices and opportunities that are allotted to men, and vice versa.
    I believe that as soon as the conservatives quit being so negative towards SAHDs (a trend that seems to be growing as we grow closer to that elusive ideal of gender equality) and when the chauvinists stop treating a “skirt” like a “skirt”, I think the “feminists” will stop their war on feminism.

  14. Angie, a-to-the-freaking-MEN. YES. EXACTLY what you said. I, too, am a feminist and am also feminine. How far back to we want to go? Do we want women to give up their right to vote (which was, in the days of suffrage, considered DEEPLY “unfeminine,” among other things)? Do we want women to be limited in their opportunity for education to secretaries or nurses? Or should we keep them out of the colleges all together, preferring to force them into work as a maid, cook, or child care provider (our right to go to college being one of the major wins for the feminists)? Do we want to get rid of the legacies of people like Sally Ride (first woman in space) or Elizabeth Blackwell (the first female doctor in America)? Or what about the progress that women have made in the publishing industry in that we can now write under our OWN names rather than under a MAN’S nom de plume? These are ALL “feminist” victories.

    Look…I love being a woman. I love being a SAHM/W. I love it all. But I also love having the freedom to get an education. I love being “allowed” to wear pants if I want to. I love being able to participate in the political process of this country by casting my vote. I don’t want to be marginalized or limited by my gender and the problem with men doing the “glorifying of womanhood” is that that also means that womanhood is almost always defined, then, by men, which means that men are usually the ones who decide what we are and are not capable of or worthy of. It was thought by male society that women ought to be “protected” from the stresses of politics and so we were kept from voting. It was actually thought that if a woman received too much education or thought too hard, she would get “brain fever.” I have no desire to go back to that way of thinking and I think that to denigrate the entire feminist movement as being responsible for the loss of the ideal of what is feminine is not entirely fair.

    I always thought that what was beautiful and important about the feminist movement was that it gave us the same opportunities to CHOOSE that men had, not that it would MAKE us MEN. I stay home because I CHOOSE to do so, not because society says that I have to, which was certainly not the case as recently as my grandparents’ generation. I don’t find that wrong or reprehensible and I find it difficult to believe that God does either.

  15. The “right” to go into combat will quickly turn into a responsibility to go into combat, and feminists want that to happen; including women in the draft has been a feminist goal for a very long time. Many support the right of women who want to go into combat to do whatever they want to do; I wonder how many would support the right of women who don’t want to go into combat to do whatever they want to do.

    Feminists won’t be happy until women are drafted into combat positions at the same rate as men; under feminism, women can do whatever we want to do, as long as we act exactly like men. Everything is allowed, except being feminine.

  16. Judithann, I feel like you’re making a bit of a generalization. The two commenters above self identify as feminists and I don’t think either would be comfortable saying they didn’t want to “allow you to be feminine”. In fact, no feminist I’ve personally ever known would say that.

    Steven, the hard part of this is figuring out where it all plays out practically. In your next post you laid out specifics in your family which I found very interesting, including how you change diapers and your wife did/does work in addition to homemaking/childcare dutites and would be better suited for a corporate position than certain men. What I don’t understand is where gender roles come into play? I’m assuming with decision making, but other than that are there ways your life (or those around you that you admire- I don’t mean to force you into putting your marriage and family in the spotlight) looks different from the typical egalitarian marriage? Thanks for the discussion and your insights!

  17. Well written! My only qualm is when you state we should discourage women to join the military. Is your objection against women joining in combat, which I agree with, or the military itself, i.e. being a nurse, doctor, or counselor? You may’ve addressed this in your later blog, but I wanted some clarification.

  18. Sarah,

    Thanks for your comment and question. I’m not totally happy with “how this looks” kind of exercises, since the situations will always vary. The biggest problem with most advocates for patriarchy or complementarianism is the assumption that there is some cosmic “list” of dos and don’ts. This is similar to the philosophical category of natural law. The point isn’t positive rules, though those will become inevitable and look very similar, on the foundational level, across cultural lines. The point is rather basic intuitions, dispositions, and relationship-roles.

    From Biblical theology I think we can get a few starters though:

    1) In the creation account, Adam is created first and outside of the garden. God determines that it is “not good” for Adam to be alone, which means that we’re already talking about a supplement and compliment to him. Eve is created inside the garden and after all of the other elements of creation have been inspected and found “unsuitable” to be a helper for Adam. Thus she is a unique helper, complementer, completer. Some from all of this, we see that the marriage and family is not a mere alliance of individuals, but is actually a fundamental whole. Thus husband and wife are not working on their own projects, but they are working on one and the same project.

    So for my wife and I, while we certainly have our own hobbies, friends, etc., we are never permitted to think of those as in any competition of priority with our shared life and family. And even though there is a male headship (authority), this doesn’t mean that the family is the “man’s” project. The family is itself bigger than the man, and he has to conform himself to its needs as well.

    2) Keeping with the creation/garden imagery, I think it’s also worth considering that the wife is herself a part of the garden, even if she is at the top of it. I mentioned that Eve is created after the garden and in it. But we are also told in the psalms that a wife is “like a very fruitful vine in the heart of your house” and that the children are olive plants (Ps. 128). Do we really think this imagery is arbitrary? No, the woman is fruitful, quite literally, and in fact, it isn’t obvious whether the agricultural metaphors came first from agriculture or from marriage. Consider the term “husbandman.” Is that being symbolically applied to farmers (coming originally from human marriage) or symbolically applied to bridegrooms (coming originally from farming)? Indeed, the concepts are so intertwined that we cannot safely and reasonably find the “basic” or the “kernel” inside the husk.

    And again, back in Gen. 2:15, we see that Adam was created for the purpose of tending and keeping, or serving and protecting the garden. That means that man is the protector and provider. He is the worker and guard. And nature confirms this, as men have broad shoulders and other skeletal and muscular features that make them more suited for this sort of work. Eve, on the other hand, is atop the garden. Perhaps she even IS the garden, summed up in herself. This is what we see in later Biblical theology: the new woman IS the church, the temple, the sanctuary. These observations are interesting for literary purposes, but I believe they are also connected to deep human truths.

    3) There’s also the Christ/Church analogy, whereas the husband is the head and authority, but also the one who lays down his life for the church/wife. The woman is the body and the thing which is protected.

    And so in all of that, we can say that in whatever activities we do, we should do them as man/husband/gardener/defender and as woman/mother/garden/body. Some “jobs” can handle both kinds of people doing them, and other jobs are really only suited for one or the other. It takes wisdom to figure out all of these, but we don’t have to out think the room on the basic ones. Biology and anatomy are often quite easily seen as having a significant impact on something, especially relationships and group dynamics.

  19. Peter,

    Good question. I think I would prefer to have a major distinction between military proper- fighters, commanders, strategiests, etc.- and then those jobs that are brought in to help or work with the military. I wouldn’t consider nurses to be “in the military,” even if they are treating the military. I do think that we would still need to be careful before advising a woman to be a field nurse. Obviously that sort of job couldn’t work well with family needs. And I don’t really see it as wise for young ladies to have to travel to Afghanistan and live there.

    And, of course, I’m pretty uncomfortable with the international military-industrial complex in general, along with permanent war and the military as an ordinary career option. But those are all different and more complicated questions.

  20. Thanks for your reply, Steven. I, for the most part, agree with your response. And I totally appreciate the acknowledgment that situations vary and a laundry list of do’s and don’ts really isn’t the best way to go about this topic. At the same time, I’ve realized lately that I’m a very literal person and I like specifics and concrete examples a lot. That’s one reason I really appreciated your follow up post. I read a post a while back in which Russell Moore mentioned how many young, well meaning complementarians were actually “practical egalitarians” in relation to their own marriages. I found it an interesting assessment and was disappointed that he shed no further light on what he meant by this. I was sort of hoping you would, as he (understandably, of course) does not give his comments section the attention you seem to. I see now that’s not really the angle you want to go at this from and, as I said above, I have a great deal of respect for your initial acknowledgement in your response and the grace you seem to be approaching this topic with.

  21. Sarah, I am not generalizing. Drafting women into combat positions has officially been part of the feminist agenda for a long time. Granted, there are some women who call themselves feminists who have never read the ERA, but feminists have gone on the record on the issue of women in combat.

    Feminists want to force women into combat, but they will allow us to wear makeup as we go into battle, so in their minds, they are not preventing anyone from being feminine.

  22. I’m distressed by this post but I can’t put my finger on any particular reason or quote. I feel strongly about my role as a wife and mother and can’t think of a higher calling; perhaps however I part ways with your implication that EVERY woman has this same calling. It seems that you allow for men having a variety of callings (which may or may not include being a husband and father) but that you are relegating all women into being only wives and mothers (please understand that I am not using the word “only” as a way to diminish this role, but as a limiter of options; ladies may be wives/mothers, period).. Perhaps I am misreading you, in which case I would welcome clarification.

    And now I have gone back through the post and am able to put my finger on a few things which really bother me.

    “Women shouldn’t go off to war because it is unbecoming, undignified, and unseemly.”
    War is ugly and deplorable and…as long as we live in this sinful world, necessary. Women have been in harm’s way in so-called “support” roles for decades, There is very little difference in what has been and what will be.

    “how should Christians respond to the question of women in combat? Well the obvious answer is that Christians must be opposed to it. Christian women should not sign up for the military, and Christian men should not encourage women to enter the military nor let them do so without lovingly trying to discourage the decision.”
    Why does there need to be a response to this “question?” No one is lining up to draft your sons, let alone your daughters. A huge percentage of those qualified to serve in our military, do not choose to do so. Are you encouraging your sons and young men to consider joining the military? I also take exception to your blanket statement that Christian women should not sign up for the military. This is your opinion, and undoubtedly based on your values and how you interpret scripture, however that does not make it a universal truth.

    ” We need to praise beauty, comfort, and nurture.” “If femininity were seen as desirable, the majority of our problems in this regard would disappear. There would always be rebels, of course, but women have a natural desire to be women.”
    This is perhaps the most offensive to me… the implication that any woman who does serve the military is denying her femininity, her role as a nurturer, casting aside her beauty, and is simply a “rebel” to what she should be. This is a very ignorant portrayal and shows that instead of really looking into the matter, you chose to accept the very worst of the stereotypes about women in the military. Did you meet or interview any christian servicewomen? Did you ask them how they managed to stay faithful to their gender roles and do their military duty?

    My heart is heavy for girls and young women in our homes and churches who are growing up in a society that devalues femininity and tells girls on one hand that they can be anything they want to be, but on the other tells them that they must do this while attaining a perfect figure and existing to fulfill the lusts of others. As churches and christian communities I think we are failing our young ladies, but I do not believe the answer is to go so far the other way that they feel the only two options are veiled submission or complete worldly gender-bending. There must be a way to teach them modesty, femininity, the carriage of a lady, while still existing in the world in which we DO exist. Not every young woman is going to be married or be a mother, they will end up out “in the real world” and we do a grave disservice to them by denying this and simply never addressing it. Does this mean they should or will join the military? No, of course not, but I stand today saying that the same maturity, femininity, and air of being a lady that that affords them a measure of respect and protection in the corporate world also works in the military.

  23. Jody,

    I’m answering these sorts of questions in subsequent posts. The short answer is that it all comes from an intelligible and objective standard of nature and natural function.

  24. Pingback: Gems in the Web 4/5/13

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