Two-thirds of Americans support the recent decision to allow women in combat, according to a Pew Research survey, with nearly identical percentages of men (65 percent) and women (66 percent) in favor of the change. Most say the new policy won't harm military effectiveness and see it as a move that will make opportunities better for women.
I fall on the other side of those statistics, uneasy about the prospect of sending women into the front lines of the battlefield.
I'm not the only one. Writing in the Washington Post, Kathleen Parker argued that when it comes to combat situations, women are not actually equal to men primarily because the art of war is much different than the corner office on Wall Street. Men and women can work many jobs at the same capacity with no real differences between them. Combat is a whole other ballgame.
"Arguments against women in direct combat have nothing to do with courage, skill, patriotism, or dedication," she wrote. "Most women are equal to most men in all these categories and are superior to men in many other areas, as our educational graduation rates at every level indicate. Women also tend to excel as sharpshooters and pilots."
"But ground combat is one area in which women, through quirks of biology and human nature, are not equal to men — a difference that should be celebrated rather than rationalized as incorrect."
A female active duty Marine wrote in The Weekly Standard that biology alone proves that women are not physically capable of the rigors of war at the same level as men. Something will have to give. Either men will die protecting their female comrades or the standards will be lowered, and no one will win in those situations. While many are praising the Defense Department's decision, others are not as convinced that this is the best thing for women and our military.
The issue of women in combat really has nothing to do with equality, despite the government's claims. To deny women the front lines is actually a declaration of something much more than that — women are valued enough to be protected from violence and war. It is precisely because we are equal in value and dignity that we should be protected from the horrors of war.
As Christians, this has profound implications. While it would be easy to simply focus on the pragmatic rationale for or against women in combat, Christians have a higher calling to consider. There are a host of opinions circulating the Internet these days, but those won't create a sustainable argument when it's all said and done. We recognize that there is something much deeper going on in our disapproval of women in combat. Men are called to protect and lead like Christ does for his bride (Eph. 5:25-32). Inviting women onto the battlefield only makes a mockery of the image this protection is designed to display.
I grew up in a home of all boys. In a crisis situation, I always knew my brothers and my dad would protect me. Could I have protected myself in the moment? Maybe. But my determination and skill was not the point. Deep within my brothers was a desire to protect me as their sister. It had nothing to do with our equality as human beings or even our physical capacity (though they quickly outgrew me), rather it was their belief women are valuable and thus deserving of protection.
Few people would have recoiled at the thought of men protecting women and children on the Titanic. When a number of men gave their life protecting their girlfriends on that fateful night in Aurora last summer, the country applauded their bravery. If these men had treated women as "equal" partners in the battle to save themselves from a shipwreck or a crazed gunman, we would have been appalled. Why? The protection of women is part of our psyches as human beings. Deep down we expect men to give their lives to protect women in a moment of crisis.
"We can train our men to ignore the screams of their female comrades, but is this the society we want to create?" Parker asked in the Washington Post. "And though some female veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have endured remarkable suffering, their ability to withstand or survive violent circumstances is no rational argument for putting American girls and women in the hands of enemy men."
We protect what is most precious to us and when a society gives up protecting women (as it already has children) it is making a much more profound statement about what it values than we realize. Christ always protects his Bride. He gives his life for her.