Women in Military Combat: a post-decision perspective

imagesThe long-anticipated – or long-feared, depending on one’s perspective – official decision to rescind limitations on the use of women as U.S. military combatants was recently announced:

Defense Department Post

Defense Department Memo

White House Press Release

It follows, not surprisingly, soon after permitting those with homoerotic inclinations to serve openly in the military. The primary pragmatic and emotional rationales have not changed. Sexual identity and orientation are not relevant to military service. In the case of those with homoerotic proclivities, the argument was that they had been serving in the military already for some time. Thus, according to strained reasoning about preserving “integrity,” they should be able to do so openly and not have to “live a lie,” although it is not at all clear what manifestly sexual behaviors would be acceptable in the military context. There are, to be sure, already pressures to provide material benefits and “family” privileges to same-sex partners.

In the case of women’s enrollment as combatants, a key argument is that women had already been fighting, killing, and losing their lives in the increasingly amorphous modern theatres of war that lack traditional front lines. That women have been excluded from specified direct combat roles meant that they have not been eligible for advancements in rank and to command positions that relate to such roles. Thus, a primary rationale for the new policy is that women have already been armed, been serving, and employed in hostile engagements; now they are to be granted the “opportunity” to do so without artificial restrictions relating to their womanhood. Aside from the media’s use of wounded women to arouse sentiment in favor of granting such “opportunity,” the only pro-and-con considerations or concerns that can be stated publicly are purely pragmatic: Women must meet physical criteria required in battlefield conditions; not recruiting capable women eliminates a significant available “talent pool.” All rests on individual capabilities – woman as useful citizen of the secular state, permitted to fill any role for which she meets the qualifications. Is she a daughter, a wife, a mother? It does not matter. What does matter in the context of military combat? If a woman can be treated like a man and act like a man, she qualifies for certain military operations. Functionality supersedes essence. The value of a person (woman) resides not in who one (she) is, but rather in what one (she) can do.

What does Scripture have to say about these issues? Does (should) it make any difference to those involved in making military policy decisions? More to the point, do Christians have a responsibility to speak prophetically in matters relating to the Order of Creation? The image of God as it relates to man is revealed in the Old Testament and affirmed in the New Testament: “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Gen. 1:27) [emphasis mine]. “The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called “woman,” for she was taken out of man.’ For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Gen. 2:23-24). “‘Haven’t you read,’ [Jesus] replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator “made them male and female,” . . ?’” (Matt. 19:4).  The image of God in the created order is not person and person, nor is it human being and human being. It is male and female. The nature of God is complementarity without confounding: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The essence of man in the image of God is complementarity without confounding: male and female. In the New Testament, the marital image of Christ (Bridegroom) and His Church (Bride) affirms the complementarity also in the Order of Redemption. Christ and the Church are not interchangeable. The Order of Redemption, as Paul describes it in Gal. 3, neither negates nor contradicts the Order of Creation, much less the image of God that underlies it.

In his temptation of Jesus in the wilderness (Matt. 4), the devil does his fiendish best to separate Jesus from His Father. Why focus on minor matters when he can attack the very essence and nature of God? And this the devil does still today – by tempting us to ignore, even expunge, the image of God in His created order. Gender confusion – the confounding of the sexes – is the very “wallpaper” of our social order. Acknowledging any distinctions between male and female other than in the area between knees and neck is politically unacceptable. What is your gender?  That’s up to you. It is best not to dwell on any m/f distinctions except the inescapable one related to reproduction. And, thanks to modern medical technology, it is possible even to reproduce with minimal use of the physical “equipment” that so visibly identifies us as male and female.

For Christians, the stakes are high. It is the prophetic responsibility of the church to affirm the Order of Creation and its source in the very image of God in any context where confusion reigns, as it now most certainly does in the United States military. Not to do so is to invite God’s judgment, not only on the country and the body politic, but also upon those who identify themselves as Christians. The following paragraphs, adapted from the Logia article referenced below, serve as a fitting conclusion to these remarks:

The eradication of sexual distinction is both a manifestation of Original Sin and part of a larger picture in which distinctions cease to exist and contraries are joined, mirroring ancient pagan practices and beliefs that have persisted since the Fall to the present day.  Male and female in one entity releases the energies and powers of both. The sexless (or blended) one is more God-like. To be sure, Satan grasps the essential centrality of the established order of the crown of God’s Creation, and so his temptation in the Garden is designed to disrupt that order.  Eve believes the deceiving words of the serpent: In eating the fruit of the tree she will become more like God. The sin – what is it?  Unbelief and lack of trust in the Creator? (Cf. Luther on Genesis)  Pride? Disobedience?  All of these, to be sure.  But just as surely, the sin lies in the disruption of the Creator’s order. Taking the lead in eating the fruit, Eve assumes headship rather than accept her Creator-ordained helper-ship. (She had been informed about the Tree, presumably by Adam. Cf. Gen. 3:2). Alternatively, she elects to combine Adam’s headship and her helper-ship into one, a monad.  Regardless, in following Eve’s lead, Adam becomes her “helpmeet-in-sin,” partaking of the forbidden fruit.  In abandoning his God-ordained headship, Adam is ultimately responsible for the Fall, as the Scriptures make abundantly clear (Romans 5:12, I Cor 15:22). “Old Eve” is not in our vocabulary; Christ is the “New Adam.”  In the reversal of the Creator’s order, in the mutual denial of that order – in the blending of male and female – Adam and Eve become monads of the moment. They would modify the image of God to their taste and, in their muddled melding, become more like God. In that moment, the plan of Creation is disordered. God’s design for the pinnacle of His Creation, i.e., the very image of God, is rejected.

From this primeval confusion follow all disorder and confusion (evil) relating to sexuality – “gender issues” as the euphemism would have it – that underlie so much sin and its disastrous effects in human life and history. We see that the initial effect of the first sin is sexual shame. Need we be reminded of recent revelations of priests and boys and their effects on the Roman Catholic Church? Of the distorted view and treatment of women in Muslim cultures?  Of the divorce of the sexual act from procreation and even from marriage? Of its perverted use between men and men and women and women? Of the effects of pornography (women, men, and children treated as sexual objects)?  Of the confusion of gender and sexuality in nearly all aspects of modern Western life? The examples multiply ad infinitum.

In Christ’s redeeming work the order has been restored. The Creator’s original order is re-affirmed. It is no accident that both Saint Paul and Saint John employ the New Testament image of Christ and His Church as the paragon of bridegroom and bride. (Cf. II Cor. 11; Eph. 5; Rev. 19, 21.) Christ (the New Adam) as bridegroom (male) and Church as bride (female) is more than poetic metaphor. Christ, the New Adam, is both source and protector of His bride, the Church. In Christ, we are indeed a new Creation. The plan of Creation has been restored through the redemptive work of the Word, present also at the Creation. That the new Creation is depicted in very human, concrete terms – the marital relationship of Christ and the Church – reminds Christians, living in the midst of a culture that prefers and promotes sexual disorder and confusion, that they are to give visible witness, as well as declarative explanation, both to the saving work of the Redeemer and to the (re)ordered life – in families and in the larger social, cultural, and ecclesiastical milieus – made possible by the work of the Sanctifier. In these matters as in others, Christians have no choice but to speak and practice the truth in love, to issue warnings (yes, the Law) to a wayward culture, and, ultimately, to proclaim the Gospel to repentant sinners.

For additional details and more thorough treatments of women in combat and related issues, please see



Berger, David O. “I, monad, take thee, monad.” Logia 20, no. 3 (Holy Trinity, 2011): 41-44.


David O. Berger

February 2013





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