The Titanic and women in combat in the PCA...

Women and children first?

July 6-24, the Scripps Survey Research Center at Ohio University put the following question to 1,010 men and women:

You may recall that male passengers on the Titanic agreed to give up their places on the lifeboats for women and children. If there were a similar situation today, do you think men should be expected to die and allow women to live, or is this an old fashioned idea?

Among men, 63% of men agreed to die for women; 23% thought the idea was old fashioned; and 14% couldn't make up their minds. "Quick, the boat's sinking, Mr. Bayly: What'll it be--you or your wife?"

"Well um... Ahem... On the one hand..."

Among women, though, 43% said men shouldn't bother sacrificing for them while only 39% still thought it was good for men to give up their spots in the lifeboats for women; 18% were undecided. "Quick, the boat's sinking, Mrs. Bayly: What'll it be--you or your husband?"

"Well um... Ahem... I don't know--Tim's the man of the house; let him decide."

We all know the world has lost its way on the meaning of sexuality, but what about the church? I'm reminded of two experiences in my own denomination, the PCA, where the state of affairs became clear.

Several years ago, I served on a study committee of our general assembly assigned to produce a study paper on women in combat. As you might guess, I was agin' it but there were a number of pastors and elders on the committee who would have fit right into this poll. Some were military officers (chaplains, sadly), while others were pastors of local churches. Just short of half our committee believed..

that it was entirely the personal decision of a woman whether or not to serve in the military; and also, in what capacity she would carry out her service--combat or otherwise.

One pastor with an earned doctorate who taught seminary courses out East accused those of us who claimed Scripture called men to defend women and children of being "dispensationalists." Not just once, but frequently. Go figure.

He also warned the other members of committee that if we had our way the women of the PCA would soon also be barred from working outside of the home and being doctors and lawyers. "Where would the insanity stop," he asked?

Good question. But to reassure those of you showing great alarm on your faces, while our General Assembly did approve a statement against women in combat, subsequent to that statement no PCA women who serve as doctors, lawyers, or judges have been disciplined. And there are many PCA women who are mothers of small children and work full time outside the home. So far as I know, none of their husbands have been brought up on charges.

But to return to the Titanic survey, also a few years back a close friend of mine was doing deputation with the PCA's denominational missions agency, Mission to the World, in preparation for going to Africa and training pastors there. Part of MTW's preparation for him and his family was to put them through a couple weeks of cross-cultural group training.

Part of that training was a surprise simulation of a terrorist attack. Terrorists broke in on them and demanded hostages. They got to choose who they would send to be the hostage. My friend, a husband and father of four, offered his services but ran into conflict with a woman who was adamant that she should be offered up as the hostage.

My friend said, "No. You're a woman and have young children. You shouldn't leave here. I'm a man and it's my responsibility to go."

Well, you know what Shakespeare said about a woman scorned? The woman went ballistic, demanding to be allowed to serve as the hostage. It was quite a ruckus. She did not appreciate the suggestion that her being a woman and my friend being a man, nor her being a mother of small children, was used as an excuse for denying her full right to leave her children and serve as the hostage.

Later, my friend was able to see some degree of rapprochement between himself and this woman, but the conflict came at about the same time as I was fighting to get the PCA to say "no" to women in combat. The two things became joined-at-the-hip in my mind and I've always remembered them together, thinking, "If the PCA has lost the meaning and purpose of sexuality, where in the world are these things remembered?"

If being a follower of Jesus Christ has nothing to say to women in combat and the question of who should get first dibs on the seats in the Titanic's lifeboats, we in the PCA have nothing to say to the lost no matter how good we are at pronouncing 'covenant' and 'sovereign' and 'providence' and 'reformed.' It's not that Scripture doesn't address the matter, but rather that we are ashamed of the Gospel and cannot find our way clear to taking up our cross and following Jesus.

Thank God, there was one person of the real-man gender on our committee who understood what it meant not only to profess his faith, but also to confess it. A high-ranking military officer, when it came time to vote which report his name would appear under when we went to the floor of the General Assembly, he placed his future military career on the line and signed on to the report demonstrating Scripture's call to men to serve in the military, protecting their women and children. For years, I've saved his godly E-mail announcing his vote to the committee. What praise I gave to God for this man when I received it. God used it to assure me that there still are many thousands who have not bowed the knee to Baal:

After prayerfully studying both the (pro and con women in combat) position papers, I must declare my agreement with the (con) position as outlined in the report edited by Brother Bayly. Like all of you, I don't take this decision lightly. As a senior military officer, I am not excited about putting my name in lights by taking a position opposite that of the current (and presumably continuing) position of the US Government and the Department of Defense... But my role as a Ruling Elder in the Church compels me to place my feet where I believe God's Word is telling me to stand. And so I do.

So where is God calling you to stand?

One final comment. There are times when I'm in a situation where an extended discussion of the Biblical teaching on man's duty to give up his life for women and children is not possible. Then I say someting like this: "You know, if you think about it, does it seem just that the sex that's already had her body split open and shed her blood to give birth to the child should also have to shed her blood to defend that child? Isn't one war enough for women? Why can't men step up to the plate and bear their fair share?"


when you were sharing about the survey I was thinking to myself this...

how could any man sit there safe in a lifeboat and let his wife perish? how could he live the rest of his life?

Hey Alex; I/we miss you. You're a man of God.

This is going to be an odd appeal, but....

In Aztec culture, when a woman gave birth, her midwife celebrated the event in the same way as a returning warrior would be celebrated. A woman in childbirth was seen as a warrior who had fought a hard battle and "captured" a child.

It seems to me that the Aztecs were onto something here.

Thank God the Aztecs didn't treat the baby as they did captured warriors! (by sacrificing them and eating their flesh)

At a certain level, this whole thing is surreal. I remember leading a Bible study where some ladies couldn't get it through their heads that, in an era where physical strength was paramount in battle, that it might be a BAD thing to have your warriors be like women, as one of the prophets describes the warriors of Babylon.

It's not just an issue of higher hermeneutics here, but rather a blatant refusal to face reality. Sad to watch it happening in too many churches.

"Thank God the Aztecs didn't treat the baby as they did captured warriors! (by sacrificing them and eating their flesh)"

Well there is that. Grin.

Like I said, I know that it's a weird comparison. At the same time, the "barbaric" Aztecs figured out something that our "enlightened" society is busy ignoring.

True. (sigh)

(I guess the nation that gave us chocolate can't be ALL bad.)

As a former military man (The Citadel, tank commander, teacher of tank gunnery) and a pastor in the PCA for the life of me I cannot understand anyone in their right mind wanting women in combat. I was deeply grieved that it took the PCA so long on such a "slam dunk!" Sadly, we are rapidly becoming an "issues" church--on the the latest being welcoming illegal immigrants into the country as a blessing. We need a lot of prayer!

This does seem to be a watershed question. Those on one side (including me) can't even imagine how any man would even for a moment be in doubt about his duty. Yet there they are, and even in the PCA.

As for the men and women lifeboat question...were it worded this way, I could have only one answer:

"You get to choose who gets the last seat on the lifeboat, you or your husband. Who would it be?"

No question at all. You see, I love my husband. I'm not talking about just mushy, romantic love. I'm talking about real love, the kind that is not self-serving, the kind that sacrifices, the kind that is willing to give up one's one life for the sake of the one loved. There is no way, if it were in my power, that I could selfishly insist on taking the last seat on the lifeboat. My husband would belong there, not me.

Loving Christian wives are like that. It's easy for me to write those words, but I've met women who said it was just as easy, requiring no thinking or decision-making whatsoever, to risk their lives for their husbands, whether it was starting the car every morning (while the husband was safely in the house) after a credible bomb threat, standing in the way of an attacker, shielding the husband's body with her own from falling debris, or something less dramatic like foregoing food in time of famine so that the husband could eat.

Before I was married, one of the wise older women in the church, who was living out the Titus 2:3-5 passage, told me that it was important for me to practice the "little sacrifies" in the early years of marriage, in preparation to be ready should the ultimate sacrifice ever be required of me. After all, she told me, wives were to be the ones to give up careers, dreams, asprirations, goals, hobbies, desires, likes, dislikes, etc., etc. for their husbands. God had called us to a life of sacrifice. That's what love requires.

Beautiful, Rebecca, and it's the purpose of manhood to support your giving your life up for your husband and children by dying to protect you.

Putting women into combate places them at a special risk men generally don't face. IIRC, one female soldier captured by Saddam's forces in the 1991 Gulf War was sexually assaulted. The Serbs in the former Yugoslavia were infamous for using a coordinated campaign of mass rape. Do we want to expose our women to that kind of danger?

From a secular perspective, women in combat is nuts. It's been well established that women are not as effective in combat as men are, that putting women with men leads to fraternization, and so forth. The purpose of the military is to kill people and break things. Implementing a policy that makes those objectives more difficult is foolish.

I can't help but be reminded of those corny Cynthia Rothrock movies from the early 1990's. The fight scenes were so *bad*. There is a limit to how far I can suspend disbelief, and watching her whup 4 or five much bigger men at once is a bit beyind that limit.

And I simply cannot spell tonight.

Scott Tibbs wrote: "Putting women into combate places them at a special risk men generally don't face. IIRC, one female soldier captured by Saddam's forces in the 1991 Gulf War was sexually assaulted. The Serbs in the former Yugoslavia were infamous for using a coordinated campaign of mass rape. Do we want to expose our women to that kind of danger?"

This is written from the perspective of those who have had the luxury of not having a war on their soil for many years. I am reminded of the eloquent words of one woman soldier; unfortunately, I cannot do her words justice. She spoke of women being dragged into combat, of being the spoils of war, of being---along with children---its most vulnerable victims. She spoke of the mass rapes, of how she knew very few girls and women over the age of 10 or so who had not been raped by soldiers during the latest conflict in her country. She was exceedingly grateful when she was taught and equipped to be a soldier, rather than a victim. Finally she could defend her children, her mother, her aunts, her grandmothers. As she put it, women have always been in combat. Why must they be kept unarmed, ill equipped, and unable to defend themselves?

But of course, this is the whole rationale behind the feminist movement in the first place. Men can't be trusted so we must take matters into our own hands. Men divorce or abandon their wives and children so women must not allow themselves to become vulnerable to such betrayal. Rather, they must prepare for being able to land on their feet when they and their children are so abandoned, not missing a beat as they are forced to play the man.

What no one considers is the terrible price we pay for women being able to land on their feet, whether the abandonment is in the home or on the battlefield. In other words, do we give up womanhood because manhood sometimes fails? And if we give up womanhood, turning our daughters into doctors and lawyers and pastors, what will we lose? What will our grandchildren lose? What will our sons-in-law lose? What will our nation lose? And most importantly, what will our daughters lose?

Yes, it sounds good to have our schools take over parenting because, as any reasonable person will admit, there are so many bad parents out there ruining their children. But when the natural sovereigns God has placed over a child--his father and mother--are replaced by a government employee, there will be a few children who are, for a time, better off, but in the main the consequences within the group will be catastrophic. It's law being written for exceptions.

Women should not have to sacrifice their womanhood in order to save it.

Starting at the end of Mr. Bayly's comments: I don't know where you got the school-taking-over-parenting idea from my post. It is certainly not an idea I expouse in any form.

You raise an interesting point. What price do "we" (by this I'm not sure if you mean men or if you mean socity in genral) pay for allowing women to protect themselves? Wouldn't it be better for men or all of society for women not to be able to "land on their feet", not to be able to defend themselves against those who would harm them or their children, not be able to support themselves and their children if widowed?

What about the price that the women pay?

Is my widowed sister-in-law less of a woman because, in order to raise her children, she now teaches other children as well? Is the midwife who delivered my babies less of a woman because she is not confining herself to her home? Or is she more of a woman than the doctor who treated me after my miscarriage? As a woman, I am thankful for all those very womanly women who have been my doctors, nurses, and midwives over the years --- and I am exceedingly grateful that I have had the option to seek their care, rather than have to go under the care of males who, in my opinion, are all to often out of their league when it comes to women's health issues.

I don't think society gains anything from keeping women helpless in the face of injustice and assault. I certainly don't think anyone who cares for women in any real way would think that a woman gives up womanhood when she chooses to care for mothers and babies, or when she chooses to raise her own children, rather than giving them away while she herself becomes homeless --- all to appease someone who thinks it more womanly not to be able to "land on her feet".

When you're holding a nail, everything looks like a hammer...

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