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Editor's note: The Associated Press reported today that the Pentagon is removing its 1994 ban on women in combat.

Men Are Fitter

Owen Strachan is a contributing writer for the Gospel Coalition and executive director of the Council for Biblical ...

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Displaying 1–42 of 42 comments

Paul Nus

February 13, 2013  11:24pm

On Ash Wednesday 2013, the joint voters meeting of Trinity Lutheran Church-Millersburg Iowa and Calvary Lutheran Church-Deep River, Iowa *unanimously* adopted the following Resolution (http://on.fb.me/12BEBeT) as our own position and our recommendation to all pastors and congregations in The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod: "To Condemn and Renounce The Employment of Women in Military Combat". Note: our reasons are *theological* and based upon Scripture. Many pragmatic arguments can be made (I graduated from West Point in 1984), but those are not for the Church to make. We are to say "Thus saith The Lord", and He *has* spoken clearly and directly to this issue. In fact, it might be said that the original sin (always known as the sin of *Adam*, not Eve) was the employment of a woman in combat. I'd prefer to say, however, that it was a sin of omission: our Lord gave Adam His Word, and Adam failed to speak it, and to interject himself between the enemy and his wife.

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Edward Murray

January 30, 2013  1:50pm

This article is flawed by one major assumption: Deborah, Jael and Judith were second best and had there been men of appropriate faith and courage men would have been chosen instead. This flawed assumption underlies the thinking of much of the rhetoric on gender and Christianity. There is no indication in any of the texts associated with these women that they were chosen or used by God only because there were not men who would do the job. Having said that, I don't think we can adequately and correctly apply these three women and their experience to the question of women in combat in modern warfare. None of their examples are correctly used for this argument. The bigger question is the involvement of Christians in combat in general.

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Ed Tracey

January 29, 2013  8:40am

For those of you who may not be aware of the DoD's ability to confuse the language, I will privide some observations to better inform your opinions: To argue from the point of view I see in the previous 39 entries, the question should be, "Should women continue to serve in combat?" There was no rear area in Iraq and there isn't one in Af'stan. Women have served as crewman aboard attack aircraft, MPs on potrol in hostile areas, gunners and drivers on supply convoys, field inteligence teams, etc. In all of these instances, there has been no question of their abilities to perform their duties. What the DoD actually did was remove the exclusion from women serving in certain combat specific specialites they were previously barred from. Based on the aforementioned history of women in combat, this is more of a carreer equality issue (mostly for officers) than a paradigm shift, that occurred with the last changes in 1994, allowing women in combat aircraft and other direct engagement roles.

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audrey ruth

January 29, 2013  2:07am

The very premise of this article, as exemplified in its title, is flawed. Neither Deborah nor Jael, nor Judith in the Apocrypha, served in combat. None of them were put in harm's way during battles and wars. It would help if apples were compared to apples.

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robert Boe

January 28, 2013  10:54pm

i see a problem resulting with the different roles God has given to men and women ..especialy if a christian women has a higher military rank then men. conservative Lutherans reject the opinion that male headship and female submission apply only to marriage or only to marriage and the church (1 Co 11:3; 1 Ti 2:12). yet Because the unregenerate world is not motivated by the Gospel or guided by God's will (1 Co 2:14), we as Christians will not try to force God's will upon the world (1 Co 5:12). We will seek to influence and change the world by our Gospel witness in word and deed (Mk 16:15; Mt 5:16).

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jacob israel

January 28, 2013  1:20am

@Bill Payne - Some more from the early church fathers:Hippolytus, 170-236 A.D. “A soldier, being inferior in rank to God, must not kill anyone. If ordered to, he must not carry out the order, nor may he take an oath to do so. If he does not accept this, let him be dismissed from the church. Anyone bearing the power of the sword, or any city magistrate, who wears purple, let him cease from wearing it at once or be dismissed from the church. Any catechumen or believer who wishes to become a soldier must be dismissed from the church because they have despised God.” Would you like me to post some more from the early church fathers? Would you like me to post statements by Roman soldiers who were executed because they embraced christianity and refused to fight? Stop kidding yourself and stop promoting your false gospel.

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jacob israel

January 28, 2013  1:06am

@Bill Payne. Nonsense. You are absolutely in error. You ignored my last point about your faulty translation. You also didn't look very far. These all agree with the KJV (1611): KJV Cambridge Edition KJV 2000 Young's Literal Douay Rheims Noah Websters Bible Darby's English Bible In Plain English NASV Holman Christian Standard Bible Aramaic Bible In Plain English God's word (1995) English Revised Version But what did the early church fathers say? Irenaeus 180AD (disciple of Polycarp, disciple of the apostle John) "For the Christians have changed their swords and their lances into instruments of peace, and they know not how to fight Justin Martyr 150AD"That the prophecy is fulfilled, you have good reason to believe, for we, who in times past killed one another, do not now fight with our enemies."26 "We, who had been filled with war and mutual slaughter and every wickedness, have each one-all the world over-changed the instruments of war, the swords into plows and the spears into farming implements, and we cultivate piety, righteousness, love for men, faith, (and) the hope which is from Father Himself through the Crucified One."

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Bill Payne

January 27, 2013  4:30pm

Jacob, I translate directly from the Greek. In fact, I reviewed six translations. None of them agree with the KJV. The other translations support what the Greek says. Imagine that. Few people today believe that the KJV is a reliable translation. If you studied its history, you would know why. As I said before, we have 66 inspired books in the Bible. All of them show us attributes of God and guide us in Christian living. The nonviolence texts were never spoken to nations; nor is there any internal evidence that Jesus intended to imply that. He affirmed soldiers. Certainly, Paul argues for lawful governments who carry the sword. In fact, when Jesus returns, it will be violent for those who have rebelled. Read Matt 24-25. God's judgment is real. Regardless, it is all in the Bible. You remind me of Marcion and Thomas Jefferson. Both cut out portions of the Bible in order to emphasize their own opinions. Now that you know the truth, how will you adjust to it? Don't persist in error.

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J Thomas

January 27, 2013  11:50am

I have no ethical problem (moral problem is a different story) with allowing women into front line combat zone. If they can meet the exact same physical standards as the men do, then let them go if they choose. However, if they cannot, they are putting themselves and everyone else in their company in jeopardy and it would be incredibly unwise to disintegrate the standard of front line combat performance for some abstract "social justice" agenda for the sake of some politicians and their desires to demagogue on a divisive issue.

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jacob israel

January 27, 2013  1:00am

@Bill Payne. Guile? Struggle? I'm afraid these words most aptly describe your inward predicament entirely, not mine. As I said earlier, Governments will use the mainstream church to create translations to suit their itching ears, just as you have chosen the Revised Standard translation to suit what you want to hear. What you fail to understand is that the Gospel will never contradict itself. Jesus whole message was of non-violence. This is why we have the early christian martyrs as an example. But it's time you woke up and used some sense. Your translation is inherently faulty. Let me show you. "Rob no one by violence" ? We are not supposed to rob people anyway, so the qualification by violence is redundant. Or is John saying that we may rob without violence? If he is not, your translation is faulty.

Terese Thonus

January 26, 2013  5:48pm

Pacifists/non-combatants don't have to be self-righteous. They can quote the words of Jesus. Slippery slope: Jan McCormack's quoting of John 15:13 ("Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends") to refer to military combatants. Jesus was referring to Himself and His sacrifice!

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Bill Payne

January 26, 2013  3:17pm

Jacob, is there no end to the guile. You are guilty of misrepresenting the Word of God and of mishandling it. Your translation is what it is but the interpretation is completely false. In Greek the text says, "Rob no one by violence or by false accusation and be content with your wages." It has nothing to do with being a lawful soldier. Please, before you read your interpretation into the text, honor the text. It is the Word of God. Hear this, Jesus loves soldiers and he calls them to himself. Chaplains minister to these special people in God’s name. I sense you struggle with this.

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jacob israel

January 26, 2013  3:08am

@Bill Payne, you are greatly mistaken: Luke 3:14 KJV And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages Now, if I were a thinking soldier, this would mean that I could no longer remain one, wouldn't it? Which is why Roman soldiers who became christians ultimately renounced violence and left the army. This is an accurate translation and in keeping with all of Jesus statements. It's funny how Governments controlling the church can produce translations which corrupt the message.

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Dub Horn

January 25, 2013  10:27pm

Very good. It is about time we opened the door for full equality for all.

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Bill Payne

January 25, 2013  6:19pm

In the past few posts, we see the rage of the self-righteous pacifist brigades doing battle with all who don't acquiesce to their vision of faith. Interestingly, John the Baptist never told the soldiers who came for baptism to quit being soldiers in order to qualify for the kingdom of God. Jesus was also a friend of soldiers and said great things about them. A soldier and his companions were the first Gentile converts. It seems that God accepted them. Of course, God isn't a pacifist. Jesus will execute judgment on the ungodly. The Bible is made up of 66 books. The full story shows a God who fights against injustice through the vehicle of states to whom he has given the sword. Even Cyrus the Great is his anointed. Still, non-violence is required for the church. We have no sword outside our calling to preach the kingdom and do the signs of the kingdom as we war against the kingdom of Satan. We have no enemies. Through suffering, we witness to God's love and call others to Christ.

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hilary cook

January 25, 2013  4:36pm

mmmmm hang on a bit - how about a revolutionary thought that the names with which you headline this article are all under the old dispensation - we are under the new ....and where does it talk about going to war other than with one's own selfish self-centredness?

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Galen Currah

January 25, 2013  4:20pm

Most males remain more inclined towards procreation and building families than towards murder and mayhem. However, our globalist overlords are running out of naive patriots and willing killers. In order to increase their platoons of conscience-seared killers, they want to press females into homicidal roles. That will have the further advantage on crazing 1000s of women into serving as automatic killer drones who will not hesitate to blast away men, women and children during police actions in their homeland when globalists give their order to do so.

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NORMAN STOLPE

January 25, 2013  4:00pm

jacob israel and I are asking much the same question. Is the reason no one is challenging the very idea of Christians (those who desire to follow Jesus' teaching and example) of either gender engaging in state sanctioned violence that we have put our loyalty to country ahead of our loyalty to Jesus?

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jacob israel

January 25, 2013  12:28pm

Those who live by the sword will die by the sword... Considering that this is supposed to be a christian forum, perhaps someone will answer the following: What else did Jesus Christ say about the use of violence? Did he say how the persecuted should react? Jesus, the apostles and the early christians for the first three centuries were all non-violent. They did not take up arms. They did not go into physical battle.We can even find historical records of Roman centurians and soldiers being executed because they refused to fight because they called themselves christian.They all saw injustice, they all heard and witnessed battle around them. Jesus and his apostles could have formed a military campaign, but they did not. Christian martyrs suffered torture and were killed rather than fight back. Violence breeds violence. God said, Vengeance is Mine, I will repay. Furious anger is not meant for the christian man or woman. Christian church leaders should have the courage to say this.

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GeekMOMMA Rants

January 25, 2013  12:08pm

These women were in combat. The new rule only acknowledges this fact. Women have been in combat since the Revolutionary War. The rule that women should not be in combat was created in 1994, and now has been rescinded. No need to discuss whether women are capable of combat as many women have moved from house to house in Iraq checking female Iraqis. Today women do the same job men do, the only difference is these women are being acknowledged.

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Steve Skeete

January 25, 2013  6:18am

'Religiously based arguments that restrict women don't fly in a secular society'. The moment one mentions the 'Bible" in any discussion these days one is told that only secular arguments are allowed. After all, what does the right of people to 'define their own destiny and the meaning of life' have to do with any God? That is one of the reasons why I had a hard time reading this article. Three snippets do not a cogent biblical argument make. Particularly when biblical passages are quoted out of context, three females, one a mythical figure, and another not a 'soldier' at all, are used to represent all females everywhere, and opinions are offered without any attempt at serious or rational analysis. If a subject is worthy of discussion, it should be discussed meaningfully and in a way that helps one come to grips with the relevant issues. And Please CT, if you are constrained to bring the Bible into the discussion, then find persons who know how to 'rightly divide the word of truth.'

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Kathleen Mch

January 25, 2013  12:53am

Owen Strachan's argument ("Women shouldn't be in combat roles because I knew this woman who got cancer") is so ludicrous that I'm surprised it got by an editor. Then again, the quality of writing here is not exactly top-shelf, so perhaps that explains it. Equally absurd is the 'sexual temptation' argument, always put forth by men who fail to take responsibility for their own behavior. If a male cannot conduct himself professionally in the presence of other soldiers, including female soldiers, he is simply unfit for duty and should be removed from the unit. Interesting that so many of the arguments against women were the same arguments used against GLBT service-members. Remember the hysteria from Christian fundies about how gays were going to destroy the military and there would be mass protests and defections and revolt in the ranks? Of course, none of that came to pass and the military changed its policy with nary a ripple of disruption.

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TIM GLOVER

January 24, 2013  7:00pm

Deborah, Jael, and Judith (aprocrypha) were not in combat. Deborah was along for moral support for Barak. He led the battle. Jael and Judith each killed an important enemy. This took courage, but it was not combat. God's design is for men to protect women and children. When this inborn instinct is compromised by competition with women, what is left for men to do but say, "If women want it this way then let them go ahead, I'm out of here." If there isn't a distinction between the roles of men and women, then those roles are abdicated by those best designed to do them and all society suffers. Where do we get off trying to redesign thousands of years of human function? We allow our most precious commodity to suffer abortion, we call gay people 'married' and now we put women in combat. We may be a secular society, and I'm all for it, but there is common sense. Why are we doing these things? We are destroying ourselves morally and socially. Let us celebrate women's strength in other ways.

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Jim Ricker

January 24, 2013  6:34pm

Hi Norman, The Anabaptist view is not present in the article precisely because the subject matter (should women serve in combat roles) is not within the Anabaptist tradition at its core. This is akin to having an article about politics and the role of being the President and then asking why the vie of those who believe no Christian should be in politics at all is not represented. Brother to brother, I applaud your conscience (although I don't agree with the premise of the Anabaptist teaching) and I pray you are experiencing His blessings today.

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Doug Quenzer

January 24, 2013  3:24pm

As a former Army Chaplain I can tell you there is no way the typical woman could possibly carry and maintain the kind of physical demands that an infantry soldier would require. I have served in units with women that were non-combat roles. A woman's physical training requirements are not the same as a man's. I would only agree with women being in combat if they could carry the same kind of loads, endure the same kinds of physical training requirements, and be able to endure the same kinds of mental endurance of a male counterpart. I have seen women's basic training units. They are not the same. Even between the services the physical demands change. The Navy's physical training requirements are not the same as the Army's. I know because I had a son in the Navy. There are some places where being a woman would not require the same kind of physical demands and mental demands. But I can't see a woman in the infantry or assault forces carrying 80lbs. of gear into battle.

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Mark Matthias

January 24, 2013  1:35pm

Being a man is an attitude' being a woman is an attitude, beside the obvious physical differences. You can pull out a few historical examples here and there; or a few (rare) biblical examples to justify throwing a woman into the flames of war; but my conscience prevents me from going there. Why men have become so calloused toward women -- creatures designed to be cherished, is consistent with the spiritual degradation of these last days. "For if these things are done when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?" (Luke 23:31) Notwithstanding, women have another component -- such that, they are the object of man's desire. You can imagine what they go through when they are captured behind enemy lines. A man has to lose his conscience and spiritual sensibilities to sink to this point. Political correctness is not necessarily godly, to say the least.

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Bill Payne

January 24, 2013  1:20pm

Religiously based arguments that restrict women don't fly in a secular society. However, there are other issues to consider. First, serving in combat or in combat units is a ticket to promotion and screening for command. Additionally, those who serve well in combat are eligible for special awards. The present restrictions limit the career progression of the most qualified women. This is a concern. Second, it should be noted that some men are not fit enough to serve in the infantry. Before I left Iraq in Sept 09, I had to do a forced march with my kevlar, flak jacket, backpack and other stuff. I jogged the last 3 miles. It was grueling. Some women could do that, most could not. Point, everyone should be screened using the same standards because the demands are the same. Third, if women can serve, should they be forced to serve if they qualify? Often, men do not have an option. Many would prefer the life of logistics or aviation. Will the standards will be lessened to accommodate change?

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Pam Cochran

January 24, 2013  12:54pm

"This experience confirms the fears of evangelicals who have concerns about women in combat." Just what is the fear that is being confirmed, Owen? That men might get sick too? That they might "catch" an ovary disease? That they might develop ovaries? All your opening illustration illustrates is that someone who gets a disease might have a hard time staying in combat, period. Men get sick too: cancer, for example, even testicular cancer (a particularly masculine disease). I fear that what you were trying to infer is that women are physically weaker. See! They get "female problems." Yeah, well, men get "male problems," which--given the recent and older news--includes the problem of rape and sexual abuse when left in their all-male bastions. That's a more extensive and insidious problem than one woman's diseased ovaries.

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NORMAN STOLPE

January 24, 2013  12:38pm

Why is there nothing here, either in the artlcle or in the comments, from the historic peace and anabaptist churches or the pre-Constantinian pacifist church challenging the idea that any Christian should be engaged in combat, male or female? I would contend, even if you are not a pacifist, that for any Christian to use deadly force on another person, even in self-defense, if spiritually far more dangerous than being killed.

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JoHannah Reardon

January 24, 2013  7:35am

My concern, which I've heard no one address, is that by putting women in combat, what happens if our country has another draft? The obvious answer is that daughters will be drafted into combat as well as sons. I find this terrifying. It would have been awful for me to see my son drafted, but I don't know how I could have faced my daughters being drafted to combat. There is a fine line between increased women's rights and giving up all rights.

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J Thomas

January 23, 2013  11:32pm

Have we become more civilized by throwing our women direclty in the line of fire?

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K. Smith

January 23, 2013  10:48pm

Sorry Christianity Today, this just isn't a religious issue.

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audrey ruth

January 23, 2013  10:30pm

ITA with Owen Strachan: "[M]en are generally larger, stronger, and faster, and have greater lung capacity, a faster metabolism, and roughly 11 times the testosterone of women. God's design for men and women is good. We ignore it at our own peril. If men will not own this responsibility, then women will be forced to take it on as did biblical women such as Deborah and Jael ... Many modern men fail to mirror Christ in leading, providing, and protecting." I also don't see Deborah or Jael in harm's way in the Biblical account of their lives. I have no problem with women serving as nurses or in clerical positions in the military. I do have reservations about putting women into combat, for several reasons.

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Christian Lawyer

January 23, 2013  8:16pm

@Jim Sparks: Good grief, is your copy of Judges ch. 4 missing v.7? "I [Deborah] will draw out Sisera, the general of Jabin’s army, to meet you by the Wadi Kishon with his chariots and his troops; and I will give him into your hand.’” That's hardly seeking "to send Barak off to war while she stayed home in safety." Rather, that sort of deception or feint is a tried-and-true strategy, worthy of a great military leader. Under your interpretation, I guess Eisenhower didn't lead anyone into battle on D-Day because he didn't land on Omaha beach himself? Cultural blinders that prevent some from seeing Deborah as a great military leader are like when our brains rearrange the letters in a word to make it appear like the word we are expecting rather than the word that's actually on the page.

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Kathi Vande Guchte

January 23, 2013  7:36pm

Scripture teaches that woman was made from man, a truth that grounds her dependence on him (Gen. 2:21-22). Only ONE WOMAN was made from a man, and that was Eve from Adam. Women are also not dependent on men. Humans must be dependent on God first, and those who do not have husbands must depend on others - men and women - as well as themselves. This guy's line of reasoning is why women were given and sold, could not own property or have their own jobs, could not divorce an abusive/cheating husband, and if divorced did not get custody of her children, and had no way of supporting herself...oh, and women also couldn't vote. I hope we never return to that way of living - women have to much to offer, which God gifted us with to begin with.

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Christian Lawyer

January 23, 2013  7:30pm

Strahan misreads Deborah. Deborah didn't lead "in the place of men." She was the leader from beginning to end of the story. It was Barak's failure to *follow,* not his failure to *lead,* that drew God's ire. God had raised Deborah up as judge before Barak's failure. Like all the other judges, she was a military leader. She figured out how Sisera was vulnerable and devised a 2-part battle plan, where she would lure out Sisera (probably the riskier part), while Barak, serving as her second in command, would raise an army to meet her where she would deliver Sisera, giving Barak the battlefield advantage of surprise. She wasn't looking for "protection" from Barak. She commanded him to do his part. But Barak refused to follow Deborah's command. After Barak refused to obey, giving up the likely battlefield advantage, God told her to tell Barak that God would give the women the victor's glory. So, not only can women *serve* in combat, sometimes God makes them *leaders* whom men should obey.

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Jim sparks

January 23, 2013  6:48pm

Each of these articles simplistically seek to overlook the issues. "I knew a woman once who . . . " and that is why I hold to my opinion. The issue is far too complex to be resolved in such a short article. And, by the way, Deborah did not lead the people into battle. Instead, she sought to send Barak off to war while she stayed home in safety. It was only when Barak challenged her to "put her money where her mouth was", so to speak, that she agreed to go with the men whose lives were to be put on the line, that Barak agreed to go. Even then, it was Barak, and not Deborah, who led the army on the battlefield, while Deborah stayed in safety on Mount Tabor.

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William bROSKY

January 23, 2013  6:10pm

Though I would accept a limited role of women in combat support positions, to give women full and unlimited access to all combat positions is foolish. Combat is not like sports, business, education, politics or any other endeavor there is. It is life, death and killing. Not equal opportunity. In the movies women look like supermodels and they fight like ninjas. That is not reality. Besides ability there is the issue of compatibility. To expect young soldiers and marines of both sexes to turn off their sexuality is unrealistic. Yes, in other professions that is a factor also, but sexual harassment and lovers quarrels are bound to happen in mixed combat units regardless of protocol. This is not a way to improve combat effectiveness. So some women are upset because they are not allowed to do what men get to do. Better than taking more casualties just to make some feminists happy.

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Gina Dalfonzo

January 23, 2013  4:11pm

I'm a woman who is not in favor of the idea of women in combat, but -- with all due respect to Owen Strachan -- I think the case can be made more convincingly than he made it here. We can note the important physical differences between men and women, and their implications, without making it sound as if women need protection in every single area of life. The ideal of the noble, self-sacrificing man protecting his wife is a good one. But in certain areas and certain ways, God also calls women to be protectors. A woman whom God has called to singleness, for example, may need to protect herself and also to protect others. So to argue that women shouldn't be in combat because they must be protected in all circumstances and at all times is to make far too broad and sweeping an argument.

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Melinda Lane

January 23, 2013  3:53pm

Women have been in battle since the existance of war. Americans (but not Native Americans) tend to forget that every battle fought in villages and towns puts women and children on the frontlines. Strachen's simplistic remarks are to be expected from him and his ilk.

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Matt Jones

January 23, 2013  3:09pm

Does the first article seriously say that the fact that a women got cancer once proves that all women are less capable of combat positions than men? What an absolutely horrifying claim in almost every imaginable way.

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Jack Ratekin

January 23, 2013  3:01pm

I'm confused by Owen Strachan's words. Is he claiming that men in combat don't get sick? Ever?

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