Gender Bender in the Military

Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. posted an article yesterday commenting on the present state of gender policy in our military. As a Christian who believes in Biblical gender roles, I found Dr. Mohler's perspective to be both intriguing and concerning. A few excerpts:

A nation's moral character is revealed in the way it fights its wars. This report, filled with documentation, reveals that our nation's moral character is now being redefined before our eyes. If it is true that a majority of the American people affirm their readiness to see women "join combat units, where they would be directly involved in the ground fighting," the American people are demonstrating their disregard for the moral wisdom of the ages. The nation is forfeiting the responsibility of men to act as protectors of women, and acquiescing to the failure of men to fulfill their duty.

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When women are injected into combat, the dignity of women is undermined. In the extreme conditions of combat, women are exposed to the very worst that human beings can do and a physical violence that exceeds the imagination. There is no shortage of arguments against this practice. Biological arguments document differences of physical strength and stamina. Psychological arguments consider not only the psychological profile of women in combat but the difference the presence of women makes on men fighting alongside them.

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Are we a nation ready to admit that our men must be accompanied by women on the battlefield? Are we ready to break down the necessary lines of respect between men and women? Is this really who we are? Will Americans look the other way and refuse to see this quiet circumvention of morality? Far more than the future of the military is at stake.

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Dr. Mohler presents practical as well as moral arguments against women serving in active combat alongside men. The whole article is worth the few minutes of time it will take to read its entirety.

As a fairly assertive, perhaps strong-willed (I've been told) woman, part of me feels as though I should support the feminist goal of equality with men in the military, as in all areas of life. But it seems to me that equality in worth does not necessitate fulfilling all of the same roles (I know, I know, no new territory here, fellow Reformed Christians). I am perfectly content to be a high achiever in academia and psychology, to be a student of theology and music, and to increase my skill at tasks required to make my house a home. I can excel at many things while accepting my God-given role as a woman, as one who is to be protected and honored, generally a receiver rather than an initiator, and primarily a homemaker rather than a provider.

There are always occasions for these gender roles to be bent out of necessity, but as a general rule, this is where the Lord has created me to be - by a man's side, yet behind him in order to be led and protected. The dominant side of my personality finds that this is a wonderfully challenging role, as God conforms my spirit in submission to both Him and to my husband. For many women, it is difficult to submit to the authority and leadership of men. For many men, it is easier to allow the strong women around them to take charge than to do the hard work themselves of leading, providing, and protecting.

This indeed is at the heart of the curse on all creation: The Lord said to Eve, "Your desire will be for your husband, but he will rule over you" [Genesis 3:16]. I read once that the word for "desire" here is the same that is used when the Scripture speaks of Satan "desiring" to have us. The ESV Study Bible notes that "for your husband" could be translated "against your husband". It is a desire for power and authority, for control. Ladies, we are destined to struggle for power if we do not acknowledge that this is part of our curse, and repent of our desire to be in charge. When we feel as though we are naturally inclined to assume authority, we must seek ways to do this in a Godly, feminine way - by leading other women and children, by managing our homes with excellence, and by channeling this drive into our God-given roles in the church and in the world.

Men, I pray, step up into the difficult place of leadership. Return to the wisdom of the ages - respect us women, honor us, protect us and fight for us. Lead so that we don't have to. Women, in turn, let us allow men to do these things for us. It doesn't mean that we are the slightest bit incapable of doing these things for ourselves; rather, it is God's ordained way for us to bear His image rightly. In marriage, we portray the bride of Christ who has been chosen, pursued, and bought with a price. In the created order more broadly, we are the lovely crown of creation, created especially to give nurture and help, to offer our strengths in complement to those of Adam. Bear your feminine image proudly, women! By adorning ourselves with Godly femininity, we will encourage the men around us to grow in Godly masculinity.

And what could be better than that?

The Elusive Quiet

Lately I disgust myself. It's easy to read through the Old Testament and shake my head at those silly, grumbling Israelites, yet I find myself doing the same. Worse, even, since I live on this side of the cross, God's most tangible proof of His covenant faithfulness.

And so I grumble. The murmurings of my heart belie an unquiet spirit. Only a short time ago, I danced before the Lord in thankfulness for my internship, an affordable apartment, signs of fertility, and positive reports on the health of my family. What a short memory I have! Like the Israelites, I so easily lose sight of the wonderful things God has already granted and grumble for the blessings I hope He has promised me.

Thus and such a friend has a new house and a beautiful baby, I remind God. Where is my child? When will we have a forever home? I focus so intently on my hopes for the future (not all bad), comparing my present to that of my peers (usually bad), and forget all about what the Lord has done in the quite recent past (definitely problematic). In these times it's helpful for me to return to the Old Testament and learn the lessons of the Israelites. Yes, they looked forward to the Promised Land and, ultimately, to the coming of the Messiah who would rescue His people from the just wrath of God. What promises! What a future! But how much time did they spend grumbling and complaining, comparing the bland manna of their wilderness journey to the garlics and leeks of their slavery in Egypt?

As Sara Groves would say, I've been painting pictures of Egypt and leaving out what it lacks.

Lord, help me cling to the blessings you have already freely and generously given. Let them remind me that you are a God of fulfilled promises...that your will for my life is my salvation and sanctification, to become more Christlike rather than more yuppy-like. Better is one day in your courts than a thousand in the house of my dreams with a wraparound porch and five bedrooms full of children. You are my portion; be thou also my vision, thou Lord of my life.

"But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and [all that you need] will be added unto you." Matthew 6:33

My Favorite Anniversary Yet

In celebration of our third year of marriage, Joel and I spent last night at a charming Bed and Breakfast (run by fellow Grovers, no less, who gave us a "Grove City Discount"!). We enjoyed a unique dining experience at Fenz complete with cheesecake and coffee, and promptly whisked a complimentary bottle of red wine and three fresh chocolate chip cookies up to our room upon our return to the Australian Walkabout Inn. The wine was sipped leisurely while we lounged in the hot tub that was located about five feet from our bed. The cookies served as late-night refreshment during our private viewing of the mid-90's blockbuster smash "Outbreak" (it was like reading one of my favorite Michael Crichton novels, only with an all-star cast and special effects, and from the comfort of a four-poster canopy bed). What a lovely night it was!

This morning, we awoke to fresh coffee and a four-course breakfast cooked extra specially for us. I should mention that we were the Walkabout's only guests last night, which entitled us to a free upgrade to any room of our choice (best of five, baby), and all the culinary attention we could handle. Fresh pineapple zucchini bread, spinach strata, chicken artichoke sausage, fresh berries, and a bottomless mug of java. We were not remotely hungry for the remainder of the day!

Following a leisurely breakfast, we checked out and headed for Amish country. We made it as far as a brief drive-through of Strasburg when the Walkabout called with tidings of Joel's phone charger. On our second attempt, we took a route that took us past a Mennonite Historical Society building that was holding an outdoor used book sale. If you know Joel and me, as I'm sure all five of you do, you realize that this was the highlight of our anniversary! We bought twelve books for $22 and have several aged additions to our theological and classic literature libraries. It only took an hour of weeding through The Purpose Driven Life and Prayer of Jabez to find some Reformed gems. Joel's getting out his library embosser as I type!

Onward and upward, we left the book sale for Starbucks (Joel had a gift card) and decided to hunt down a local Farmer's Market. We found success in the little village (town?) of Bird in Hand, and bought a tasty treat for some dear friends of ours who shall remain nameless so as not to spoil the surprise. We spent the afternoon driving around the area east of Lancaster in search of Quilt and Craft shops and other fun authentically-Amish attractions. We learned that we love us some Mennonite handiwork, and our (possibly long-term) goal is to buy an Amish quilt for our bedroom. These run several hundred dollars (the most expensive we saw today totaled $1600!) so we'll be saving up for a while. Other highlights included an "Amish flashlight", which consisted of a block of wood with a match sticking out of the end, and a kitschy wall hanging that says "Get kisses from the misses when you do the dishes!" This we will hang in the kitchen, more as a reminder to Joel than as true decor.

We stopped at one particular quilt shop whose proprietess, Emma Witmer, flipped through at least 20 quilts for us, rattling off the names of the patterns, stitches, and prices as only a seasoned expert can. It is our hope to return there one day to purchase a work of art to grace our bed. Those Amish quilts are truly amazing!

After a full day of exploring the Amish countryside, we returned home via a more local Farmer's Market where we picked up some sweet corn and fresh raspberries. The corn was possibly the best we've ever tasted, and the raspberries will garnish the last of Joel's "Welcome Home" chocolate chocolate chip cake with fudge frosting.

I'm sure there are details I've missed, but all in all, we've had a simply delightful anniversary celebration. What fun it was to meander about rural Pennsylvania with nary a worry and nary a plan, drifting where the wind blew and stopping wherever we pleased. If you are planning to visit any time soon, we will likely coerce you into a day trip back through Amish country. Don't worry, it may be a whole different world, but it's only about half an hour away.

To the husband of my youth: I love you more today than I did three years ago. It's hard to believe that much time has gone by - and at the same time, doesn't it feel like forever? Here's to many more years of abounding laughter and ever-increasing love! Tell Gramma Roach that we're on a roll so far, heading toward our fifty-year honeymoon :-).

In Which Ramblings I Ponder Theological Purity (Snobbery?)

The gospel of Jesus the Christ is more precious to me than life. In fact, it is life.

I speak as chief of sinners, as one who is hateful, prideful, selfish, adulterous, faithless, resentful, bitter, malicious. I have sinned against God and man, have scorned His law before His very face. There is nothing in me, nothing at all, worthy of anything but the pure, boiling wrath of God poured out for all eternity in just punishment. I am fully, utterly depraved by virtue of having been born.

And Christ stands before this most holy, holy, holy God and intercedes. Beloved, He says to me, You are washed whiter than snow. Because I chose you, before the foundations of the world, to belong to me as one of my covenant elect, I was obedient to the Father unto death for your sins. Blessed child, I am the fulfillment of the Old Testament sacrifices. My blood, shed once for the forgiveness of many, is sufficient to justify you before the Father. My righteousness is sufficient to be counted for you forever. Christian, nothing you do, or fail to do, can separate you from My love! The Father has given you to me as an inheritance and nobody can pluck you from My strong hand! Not by your own merit, but by the Father's grace is He pleased to look upon me and count you forgiven.

Rejoice, beloved!

My heart leaps at these most precious truths. The church we have been attending here - Covenant Reformed Church, of the URC persuasion - proclaims these truths boldly, joyfully, and most assuredly every week. The pastor clearly expounds upon our wretchedness, the purpose of corporate worship as a covenant renewal service, leads us in corporate and private confession, assures us of our forgiveness and right standing before God, and administers the Lord's Supper (yes, weekly!) as a visible, tangible sign of the invisible work of Christ's sacrifice. Each time we have been there, I have felt tears spring to my eyes at the unashamed announcement of my sin and, miraculously, the assurance of grace to God's covenant people.

Because the Lord has been impressing these truths upon my heart in sharp relief, my heart is likewise enraged at any perception of error in this soul-piercing/life-giving message. In Barnes and Noble the other day, I picked up a book by a notable leader in the Emergent (Emerging? Have they Emerged yet?) movement in hope of skimming through it myself for some firsthand info. The gross error on the back cover alone evoked a visceral reaction similar to what might be expected upon simultaneously chewing spoiled meat, stepping in raw sewage, and being showered with sour milk. I actually could not prevent my face from contorting and my stomach from twisting.

This raises the question for me of the importance of being familiar with a movement or teaching in order to most intelligently and effectively dialogue with/refute it. Along similar lines, how are we to relate to those who depart significantly from orthodox theology (let's say, even, from Reformed theology) when we so strongly grieve the error represented in these people's doctrine. Scripture exhorts us to cling to the truth and to abhor evil and falsehood. How does that play out in terms of doctrinal differences between believers? Or in terms of familiarizing oneself with unorthodox teachings, perhaps heresies, in the name of being conversant with unbelievers or erring brothers and sisters?

Brethren, we must not be soft on doctrine. Ours is a system of belief based on facts, upon revealed truth from the very mouth of God. We declare truth; this is what sets us apart from the world and, indeed, gives us something to say to it.

I recently began a book by Doug Wilson entitled, "A Primer on Worship and Reformation". In the book, Wilson compares the apostate Christian to an adulterous husband. The man who engages in promiscuous flings, flirts with trouble, is not better because he is married. We do not say, well at least he has a wife! Quite the opposite! How much worse it is that he is not only being foolish, but he is also violating his marriage vows. Wilson compares this to the Christian whose doctrine is in error; we ought not to say, well at least this person is a brother in Christ. Rather, we should be even more fired up that this person believes wrongly about this or that doctrine. Because he is a child of God, his error is that much more egregious.

I confess I had never thought of it this way before. Wilson has more to say about the importance of fighting error within Christian circles, and about pursuing unity - but not at the expense of doctrinal standards. According to Wilson, conservatives pursue standards at the expense of unity, while moderates too often uphold unity without concern for standards. Neither is the correct approach.

I haven't gotten far enough in the book to learn what Wilson's solution is. I certainly hope that he offers one! Meanwhile, what say you? What of believers who differ on the matter of, say, perseverance of the saints, or the doctrines of predestination and election? To toss a grenade, how about paedobaptism vs. credobaptism? How important are these doctrines, and how do we handle disagreement? Where is the line between theological purity and spiritual snobbery?

And go...comment away!