Women in Combat: American Southern Baptists voice their opinion

Terri Stovall

Terri Stovall

 

Calling women in combat in the United States military “tragic mistake, Baptist Press: News with a Christian Perspective, says “several Baptist Leaders who expressed concern over privacy and military effectiveness and also warned the move is part of a larger societal effort to blur differences between men and women,” are critical of Defense Secretary’s Leon Pannetta’s decision to add them to the action.

In a telephone interview earlier 2013, Terri Stovall, dean of women’s programs and associate professor of women’s ministry at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, said the change is a bad idea. In that same Baptist Press report, she also said:

“There are biological and logistical considerations that make this a difficult situation: accommodations will have to be made to account for differences in physical strength, living quarters will have to be adjusted — not to mention the issue of pregnancies,” Stovall told Baptist Press. “The first time a woman lays down her life for our country and we discover she was pregnant, what will be the outcry then? If culture wants to claim equality, then everything should be equal and that is impossible to achieve.”

In that same interview conversation held with Professor Stovall, she told this religion writer in explanation of Baptist viewpoint towards women in combat, in a Biblical based concern for roles of men and women, we’ve seen this evolving since the 60s with the rise of the women’s movement. Some women favorable to women in combat are trying to erase anything between men and women. They say, We can do anything men can do. Part of it is that culture tells women this point of view: You can have it all, you can do it all. What we’re finding is women think they want it all, but when they get there, they still aren’t happy. It has something to do with the breakdown of the marriage: I can do it all. I don’t need a man.

It all goes back to the beginning of creation, where men were created to provide and protect. Women were created to be a helper, to be a compliment, and to nurture. It all comes down to your view of scripture and God. Scripture is timeless. Scripture holds today just as it did when it was penned. Culture does not trump scripture, history does not trump scripture, and nothing trumps scripture.

It is belief in God which comes through faith, and I just know that is the word of God. It is alive, it is active.

Baptist hold very strongly to the complimentary gender roles. Men were created to protect; women were created to nurture. It’s manifested in how we’re created physically. Just how we are created physically confirms those two roles.

WLW_Approved_CoverIn this conversation where more listening was done that talking, she continued with her opinion of Southern Baptist viewpoint: At Southwestern in her 11th year, she is 50 years old. She says,  I teach in the area of women’s ministry, and women’s study. Her book’s title is, “Women Leading Women,” published by Broadman and Holman. The session I’ve had with students is part of a bigger problem, we are continuing to degrade men and make them feel less masculine. We see that in a lot of areas of culture.

A lot of people are turning to the differences on the biological. It is bigger than that. If a man is called to protect, then he needs to be protecting. He doesn’t need a woman to protect him. It is just wrong.

Quoting directly from the Baptist Press report, its interview reads in part:

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, called the change a “tragic mistake” that will have “grievous consequences.” “[But] not because women are not capable of performing most of the combat roles to which they will be assigned,” Land said. “They certainly are capable in modern warfare of flying planes and driving tanks and driving jeeps and operating artillery, etc. The problem is if they are captured, they will be treated very differently than male captives have been treated. This is the reason the Israelis, who used to have women in combat, have taken them out of direct combat roles. “We discovered in the first Iraq war that our female pilots were treated much more barbarously than the male pilots were that were captured. This has been largely covered up by our government, but the fact is we are dealing with enemies who do not obey the Geneva Convention and they will much more savagely mistreat women prisoners than men prisoners and I’m aghast that our government would put our female citizens in such danger,” Land said.

 

Among the more succinct remarks on viewpoint regarding gender roles, the report quotes Professor Stovall again:

“Gender is more than biology,” Stovall said, “and as much as today’s culture tries to convince us those men and women are equal on all fronts, the truth of the matter is, men and women have been intentionally created with differences that complement each other. And it is through these complementary roles that the Gospel is communicated and God’s glory is seen in a tangible way. “To allow women to accompany men into combat ultimately distorts these roles and therefore distorts the picture of the Gospel. Man was created by God with the innate desire to protect. It is part of his DNA. It is not a matter of biological masculinity that makes men better for the task; rather it is a matter of honor and fully embracing his manhood to be the protector of his home, his family, and his country,” Stovall said.

 

 

Continuing to quote extensively from the Baptist News, this interview with makes an excellent point giving an even fuller view on gender roles, especially the role of women in life. A religious viewpoint that explains a Southern Baptist way of living life, for some in the secular America this statement will be an anathema. As this Religion Writer has been told, such attitude and belief, especially taken to practice, is just “not with it.” That part of American press commenting on the place of women in combat has been favorable, and even supportive of such change. That it may lead to a draft for women that is a registration for a draft, does not disturb these members of the press. At least judging from what I’ve read in Washington Post and New York Times. Of course much is being read into this interpretation, but it has a ring of the real thing and represents a significant secular judgment on the matter of women in combat. The quotation from an interview with Baptist Press as interviewed by Michael Foust of Baptist Press.

Owen Strachan: My theology of war -- and women in combat -- is directly related to my theology of sex and gender. When it comes to making mankind in His image, God creates Adam first. He makes Eve from Adam. Her body is literally made from his, which signals both Adam's leadership and his duty to protect Eve.

Owen Strachan: My theology of war — and women in combat — is directly related to my theology of sex and gender. When it comes to making mankind in His image, God creates Adam first. He makes Eve from Adam. Her body is literally made from his, which signals both Adam’s leadership and his duty to protect Eve.

BAPTIST PRESS: What are the biblical and theological reasons you oppose placing women in combat?

 

STRACHAN: My theology of war — and women in combat — is directly related to my theology of sex and gender. When it comes to making mankind in His image, God creates Adam first. He makes Eve from Adam. Her body is literally made from his, which signals both Adam’s leadership and his duty to protect Eve. In other words, Adam gives his body so that Eve may exist. He is called for the rest of his life to give his body so that Eve may thrive. This is the starting place for distinctions between the sexes. God doesn’t make Blob A (Adam) and Blob B (Eve). He doesn’t make gender-neutral people. We don’t believe in a divine creation of Teletubby-esque nature as Christians. The Bible shows as a matter of first principles that men and women are different, distinct and complementary. When Eve is brought to Adam with her distinctive shape and form, Adam rejoices. He cries out, “This at last is bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Adam delights in Eve, the one “taken from man.” All this shows that sexual distinction is not incidental, as our culture says today. Biology to a large extent is destiny. Eve is created with a womb and a bodily system to nurture children (oxytocin is God’s biological call to this duty). Adam is not. He and his male descendants are made stronger, larger, and faster and with 11 times as much testosterone as Eve, as secular research has shown. This is why, on average, boys are much more naturally drawn to play-fighting, wrestling, and rough sports than girls. They have over 1,000 percent more testosterone than girls. We’re not talking about slight differences here; we’re talking about foundational realities. It’s just common sense to affirm that men and women are physically different.

 

It is clear the Southern Baptist sense of the role of women in American society and that means in this case, their role in general wherever they may be is described by” professor and theologian Owen Strachan who was speaking out against such a possibility, saying it not only went against Scripture but also defied common sense.” Succinctly put, Women in Combat is not compatible with scripture.  Foust also reports, “The new executive director of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Strachan penned a column for Christianity Today late last year outlining the biblical case against placing women on the front lines of combat.” Nonetheless this practice is being accepted and practiced by all branches of the American military forces.

 

This article owes much to the work of the writer of Baptist Press news article on this subject of women in combat: Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).