Co-ed Combat and Cultural Cowardice

If I were the last man on the planet to think so, I would want the honor of saying no woman should go before me into combat to defend my country. A man who endorses women in combat is not pro-woman; he’s a wimp. He should be ashamed. For most of history, in most cultures, he would have been utterly scorned as a coward to promote such an idea. Part of the meaning of manhood as God created us is the sense of responsibility for the safety and welfare of our women.

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.

And collectively that is what society does—unless the men have all been emasculated by the suicidal songs of egalitarian folly. God created man first in order to say that man bears a primary burden for protection, provision, and leadership. And when man and woman rebelled against God’s ways, God came to the garden and said, Adam, where are you? (Genesis 3:9), not Eve, where are you? And when the apostle described the implications of being created male and female, the pattern he celebrates is: Save her, nourish her, cherish her, give her life (Ephesians 5:25-29).

God wrote manhood and womanhood on our hearts. Sin ruins the imprint without totally defacing it. It tells men to be heavy handed oafs or passive wimps. It tells women to be coquettes or controllers. That is not God’s imprint. Deeper down men and women know it.

When God is not in the picture, the truth crops up in strange forms. For example, Kingsley Browne, law professor at Wayne State University in Michigan, has written a new book called Co-Ed Combat: The New Evidence That Women Shouldn't Fight the Nation’s Wars. In an interview with Newsweek, he said, “The evidence comes from the field of evolutionary psychology. . . . Men don’t say, ‘This is a person I would follow through the gates of hell.’ Men aren’t hard-wired to follow women into danger.”

If you leave God out, the perceived “hard-wiring” appears to be “evolutionary psychology.” If God is in the picture, it has other names. We call it “the work of the law written on their hearts” (Romans 2:15). We call it true manhood as God meant it to be.

As usual, the truth that comes in the alien form of “evolutionary psychology” gets distorted. It is true that “men aren’t hard-wired to follow women into danger.” But that’s misleading. The issue is not that women are leading men into danger. The issue is that they are leading men. Men aren’t hard-wired to follow women, period. They are hard-wired to get in front of their women—between them and the bullets. They are hard-wired to lead their women out of danger and into safety. And women, at their deepest and most honest selves, give profound assent to this noble impulse in good men. That is why co-ed combat situations compromise men and women at their core and corrupt even further the foolhardy culture that put them there.

Consider where we have come. One promotion for Browne’s book states, “More than 155,000 female troops have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan since 2002. And more than seventy of those women have died. . . . Those deaths exceed the number of military women who died in Korea, Vietnam, and the Gulf War combined.”

What cowardly men do we thank for this collapse of chivalry? Browne suggests, “There are a lot of military people who think women in combat is a horrible idea, but it’s career suicide to say it.” In other words, let the women die. I still have my career. May God restore sanity and courage once again to our leading national defenders. And may he give you a voice.


This article was published in World Magazine. See also Piper’s short follow-up post “More on Women in Combat.”

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