Christian Feminism? (IX)
I was informed by some 20-somethings recently that they needed to go talk to a male friend of theirs who was considering going into the Air Force. After the usual jocularity—“Oh, he couldn’t get into the military, huh?”—I proceeded to ask what the particular problem was. It seems that the young man was struggling with life because his pet bird had flown out of the window that day. For a moment, I stood slack-jawed. This does not bode well, folks. You can only wonder what this young man will do if he ever has to face a real problem.
Of course, given the current state of our military we shouldn’t be totally surprised. Simultaneously, we should not be surprised since I have been chronicling for you how feminists have all but ruined our military preparedness, morale, and unit cohesion. Instead of a warrior mentality in our armed forces, we are experiencing—with notable exception—a thin gruel caused in large part by Feminism and political correctness. Way back in 1980, Charles Moskos wrote: “The main fault stems from the economists’ assumption that the armed forces are just another part of the labor market, and from an unwillingness to grasp the essential distinctions between military service and civilian occupations. It is this faulty theoretical underpinning, not the end of conscription, that has brought the American military to its present plight.”
Here is something that will probably shock the sensibilities of a lot of Americans today who have swallowed the PC Kool-Aid, but I’m going to say it anyway. In the quote from Moskos above it is evident to anyone with a modicum of common sense (do such people still exist today?) that those economists missed “the importance of the military’s masculine character in attracting men.” Mitchell rightly views men in the military as positive, constructive indicators of a healthy society. He writes, “Young men can be persuaded to endure years of dirt, danger, and drudgery in occupations whose only attraction is their manly character. Military service has always been considered the most manly of roles and therefore has always been able to attract recruits, despite its abundance of detractions.” To Mitchell’s mind these are “constant truths.”
Judith Stiehm concluded what a lot of feminists and PC Kool-Aid devotees don’t want you to know, namely that at the outset of the All-Volunteer Forces the American feminist movement was very successful at destroying sex roles, denigrating masculinity, and integrating civilians occupations. Her research led her to believe that the “military could have capitalized on the movement’s success by offering military service as a refuge for men who still wanted to be traditional men—and, at that time, there were still some, who weren’t lamenting their parakeet leaving the building. Branches of the armed forces such as the Marines kept asking for “a few good men” and those with the requisite testosterone responded positively. In fact, “The service that made such a request increased its share of the high quality male manpower pool and got all the men it needed; the services that advertised an integrated force saw their shares of the same pool decline and their billets go unfilled.
It is precisely this approach that has not only weakened our military, but is part and parcel of the dilemma of masculinity in our world today. Mitchell states: “Young American males know enough to profess socially acceptable opinions, but at heart, they are no more feminist than young men were twenty years ago, only more confused about what it means to be a man.” When I first read this quote I wrote in the margin of the book: “use for the Church also.” While it is generally true that contemporary males are confused about what it means to be a man, my main concern is not with society or culture in the first place, but with the modern Church.
In my church affiliation (the Presbyterian Church in America) it is almost a foregone conclusion—and you hear the mantra quite often—that a woman can do anything an unordained man can do. I’m not at all certain where that particular sound-byte might be found in Scripture. In 2006, Ligon Duncan and Susan Hunt co-authored a very helpful little book entitled Women’s Ministry in the Local Church. In that book they brought up the issue of what women can and cannot, should and should not do in the local congregation. They write, “Some churches assert that women can do anything that unordained men can do. The proponents of this approach say that since women are mainstreamed into the total ministry of the church, a women’s ministry is irrelevant or redundant. The vulnerability of this position is that it denies the uniqueness of woman’s design and role and leaves men and women susceptible to egalitarianism.”
They are, in fact, right on the money. What a number of modern churches fail to take into account is that “Biblical womanhood and worldly womanhood are radically different, just as everything about the Christian life is countercultural and counterintuitive.” Trying to make women in the church similar to women in the world is an egregious error on the part of the modern Church. Duncan and Hunt conclude that “the denial or the twisting of the Bible’s clear teaching on manhood and womanhood is one of the central ways that biblical authority is being undermined in our times.”
There is a “trend” in the PCA today to allow women to read Scripture, lead in prayer, and lead on the “praise team.” I can imagine that some are thinking, “So what’s the big deal if a woman reads Scripture in a worship service?” As Bruce Ware from Southern Baptist Seminary aptly puts it, “To compromise on a little thing will pave the way for compromises on much that matters.” Any student of Church History or anyone who observed the wheels coming off the Christian Reformed Church has to know that Ware is correct. Like it or not; believe it or not, there is a domino effect and the Christian Church is susceptible to it. That is why Duncan and Hunt emphasize the following truth: “The church has been called to shape culture, not ape it.” As true as this is, there is no shortage of voices in the PCA encouraging us—naively—to engage the culture. This “engagement” is rather amorphous and ill-defined, if defined at all. It seems to be assumed that we all know what we’re talking about and that we all know how to do it effectively.
In our own tradition, the Westminster Larger Catechism (156) asks, Is the Word of God to be read by all? and gives the following answer: “Although all are not to be permitted to read the Word publicly to the congregation, yet all sorts of people are bound to read it apart by themselves, and with their families: to which end, the Holy Scriptures are to be translated out of the original into the common languages.”
Perhaps I’m misreading this—I really don’t think I am. I’m using this as a literary device—but it is clear that women are not to be reading Scripture and that allowing them to do so is in clear violation of our Westminster Standards. Just how important is this in the grand scheme of things? Some might think that it isn’t all that important at all. When pastors are ordained in the PCA, however, they are asked a series of questions. According to our Book of Church Order (21-5.2) they are also asked the following question: “Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and the Catechisms of this Church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures; and do you further promise that if at any time you find yourself out of accord with any of the fundamentals of this system of doctrine, you will on your own initiative, make known to your Presbytery the change which has taken place in your views since the assumption of this ordination vow? (Italics mine.) That same BCO clearly states in 50-1: “The public reading of the Holy Scriptures is performed by the minister as God’s servant.” Some point to 50-2 as a contradiction: “The reading of the Holy Scriptures in the congregation is a part of the public worship of God and should be done by the minister or some other person.” This is only a contradiction or an apparent contradiction for those looking for loopholes. In its historical context and setting the common sense rendering is that another Elder may read Scripture as well.
What is known as evangelicalism in the U.S. is facing a serious crisis. Doctrine has been watered down and ridiculed until about the only semblance of anything doctrinal among the evangelicals is whether you’re pre-, post-, or mid-trib. You know you’re in deep weeds when the Left Behind series is one of the most popular evangelical books on the market, along with The Purpose Driven…Whatever. The upshot of this is that there is also a crisis of womanhood. Indeed, this crisis “is too critical for the church to be passive.” Why is that? The short answer is this: “Scores of evangelical women are functional feminists, because the world’s paradigm for womanhood is the only one they have heard.” My only criticism of the previous quote is that instead of “scores” I would substitute “tens of thousands.”
And if the functional feminist evangelicals are not hearing what the Bible says from their pastor because his canary flew away or because he’s fearful of losing a “warm body” if he tells the truth, then where are they going to hear it? We all know the answer to that question. There are some interesting parallels between the military and the church, which are often lost on those who have never served. For example, Brian Mitchell says of the military, “It places some in authority over others, it distributes...responsibilities unequally, and it demands that all serve not themselves but a higher common good.” The type of worldly Feminism which has influenced so many functional feminist evangelicals is “rights-oriented, egalitarian, and egoistic. It elevates the rights of individuals above the exercise of authority…. Feminism and the military are at odds…”That’s correct. But Feminism and the Word of God are at odds with each other as well. That needs not only to be stated clearly, but also put into practice in the local congregation—boldly and biblically. In 1979—only three years after Carter rammed the first female cadets down the Air Force Academy’s throat—a West Point study group concluded: “There is nothing inherent in what the Army does that must be done in a masculine way…” That feminist-driven statement is not all that different from someone saying, “A woman in Christ’s Church should be able to do anything an unordained man can do.” It is patently true that our military has been rather thoroughly feminized and the results are not pretty. More important to me, however, is that the Church seems inclined to follow suit. When will we be aroused from our spiritually lethargic slumbers and realize and put into practice the truth that just about everything in the Christian life is countercultural and counterintuitive?
 Charles Moskos, “How to Save the All-Volunteer Force,” The Public Interest, Fall 1980, pp. 79-80.
 Brian Mitchell, Weak Link, The Feminization of the American Military, (Washington, D.C.: Regnery Gateway, Inc., 1989), p. 217.
 Judith Stiehm, “Women and the Combat Exception,” Parameters, June 1980, p. 56.
 Mitchell, WL, 218. Italics mine.
 J. Ligon Duncan III & Susan Hunt, Women’s Ministry in the Local Church, (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2006).
 Ibid., 32.
 Ibid., 33.
 Ibid., 41.
 Cited by Duncan & Hunt, WMLC, 41.
 Ibid., 42.
 Ibid. Italics mine.
 Mitchell, WL, 220.