God and Women in Combat

This morning, I’m processing Leon Panetta’s allowance of women to serve in combat roles. I have two reasons. The first is, I’m a Christian. Thus, I’m thinking about what this decision tells us about our society, and weighting the question: Does this make Jesus proud? The second reason is more personal:

I have 3 daughters: 10, 8, 2.

I love my daughters more than words can express and want them to have all of the opportunities possible. However, the thought of them going to war is almost nauseating. The thought of them being drafted (an eventuality), is even more depressing. I believe if I had sons, I would feel similarly, but I might feel differently.

I’m a believer that women should have equal access under the law to everything a man does, and vice-versa. However, something about this feels wrong to me. Perhaps it’s that ideology is often much simpler than reality. The implications of our government’s decision are potentially enormous.

For Christians, the question is: does this make Jesus proud? Is Jesus cheering the decision, or is he lamenting it? Does He care?

All answers affirming our government’s decision inevitably praise “choice.” Choice isn’t a bad thing. I love choice. But, I wonder when choice became God. It seems choice really has taken on a life of its own. Our right to choose when the unborn live or die, whether our daughters go to war or not. If we really want to be pro-choice, will it be OK for pregnant women to serve in combat?

We practice very selective choice, these days. For instance, in New York, a woman can now sign up for front-line combat in war–but not be served a soda of more than 16 ounces–because we’re afraid it’s unhealthy for her. So, apparently, women are smart enough to make life or death decisions for themselves and unborn children, but not the size of soda they want to order?

Maybe choice should be selective. The problem is that our society often doesn’t select things that glorify God. Choice is a weak and fickle God. However, it has its place under God.

If this post seems like a wandering process of thinking–that’s what it is. I’m working this through. I welcome your own wandering processes in the comment section below. What do you think?

If you want to read further, here’s a haunting article by Joe Carter in First Things, it’s title coming from C.S. Lewis in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: Battles are Ugly When Women Fight.



Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on ChurchLeaders.com, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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8 thoughts on “God and Women in Combat

  1. Choice has become a god… Yes, sir! Besides the decision to allow women to participate in actual combat, what I lament the most is the way that the majority of American Christians seem so easy with championing and participating in war-making.

    This has nothing to do with whether there is such thing as just war/violence for Christians. In my experience, most Christians have little theological ability to determine when war is just and when it is not. And so support is unquestionably given to most American wars as though it is a good thing…even though that means that someone else – another human being made in the image of God – is going to die. What that does is say that the objective(s) of the war is of more value than the human life. It’s the same utilitarian reasoning that pro-choice advocates make, saying that the objective (right) of women to choose is of more value than the human life of the unborn. So most Christians, including myself, want the practice of abortion to end because it violates the sanctity of human life. But we hardly have a leg to stand on and preach against abortion when we are so willing to violate the sanctity of human life as we uncritically champion the war-making objectives of our nation.

    But since choice is a god who gives us our right to live as a democracy…

  2. Jessica, thanks for the awesome comment and the heads up on the commenting box problem. I’ll look into it. I’ve thought about the female POW question as well. Not a great thought. Thanks for addressing it head on. Like you say… I just don’t know.

  3. For some reason, I can’t post all that at once. The blog runs out of space – I can keep typing, but I can’t see the “Post Comment” button, so I can’t actually post what I type. *using Firefox on an iMac*

  4. Part 3:
    As a woman I am conflicted on the issue, though not because of “choice.” I still remember those strong young women who slept in the same hostels as I did. I think soft Americans would do well to learn how to fight, how to endure challenge, how to not be comfortable all the time. This is not exactly something the average Millennial has had to tough out. But I don’t know. I just don’t know.

  5. Part 2: But there’s another part of me that knows how easy it is for a man to degrade a woman. In addition to torture, there is the go-to that is almost always gone to in war – rape. At times when men would never think of doing this to another man, this will be their first thought with a woman. I suppose that in the end it’s all awful – enduring any form of torture…but I can’t get over that men would treat a woman’s torture differently. Perhaps more intimately.

  6. Part 1:
    When I lived for several years in Africa, I frequently came across combat-trained Israeli women who had served their required years and were then touring the world. As a woman-friend and I backpacked the Chimanimani Mountains, fearing the howling baboons that seemed to be following us, I admired the Israeli woman who was traveling alone – well trained in the art of survival and probably in defending herself against a powerful foe – be it man or animal. A part of me wanted, still wants, to be powerful physically.