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

Error message

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?"