Wednesday, February 6, 2013

John Piper, Women in Combat, and How Gender Roles Fall Short of the Glory of Humankind

Co-Ed Combat and Cultural Cowardice, an article written by John Piper in 2007, has resurfaced in light of the U.S. military’s decision to let women serve in combat. I’m posting part of it here not because I want to pick a fight with Piper, or discuss women in combat (I don’t love the idea of anyone in combat), but because it gives an excellent overview of one of the primary differences between egalitarian and complementarian thought: should we function according to our giftings, or gender role? Even more interestingly, it hints at the reasoning underlying the complementarian paradigm. I think discussing this could be helpful.
Piper writes “Back in the seventies, when I taught in college, feminism was new and cool. So my ideas on manhood were viewed as the social construct of a dying chauvinistic era. I had not yet been enlightened that competencies, not divine wiring, governed the roles we assume. Unfazed, I said no.
“Suppose, I said, a couple of you students, Jason and Sarah, were walking to McDonald’s after dark. And suppose a man with a knife jumped out of the bushes and threatened you. And suppose Jason knows that Sarah has a black belt in karate and could probably disarm the assailant better than he could. Should he step back and tell her to do it? No. He should step in front of her and be ready to lay down his life to protect her, irrespective of competency. It is written on his soul. That is what manhood does.”
Before we go any further, I need to address the idea that men are “hardwired” to protect women. While Western culture has developed a beautiful code of chivalry regarding the protection of women and children (at least in theory), I am not sure that history, sociology, or even the Bible bears Piper’s generalization out. In many parts of the world, women are considered less valuable than their male counterparts, and are treated accordingly. Look at gendercide, at the estimated 100 million females missing from world population. Look at rape and other forms of violence against women, almost always perpetrated by men. The fairy tales and cultural myths we grew up with are filled with stories of noble knights rescuing damsels in distress, but the Bible stories aren’t so warm and fuzzy; the wives, daughters, and concubines of “godly” biblical men were often treated like camel dung, more likely to be used as a human shield than vice-versa (with a few shining exceptions). Culturally, women were pawns, to be used in whatever manner most benefitted the patriarch. The Apostle Paul’s instruction that a man should lay down his life for his wife was radical, and it’s doubtful that a stated willingness to die in combat was the type of sacrifice Paul had in mind.
Read the rest here

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