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 (please see my comments policy), 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.

This is not to diminish the fact that many men would willingly die to protect their wife, or any woman in the vicinity. But is this because he is a man, because sacrifice and protection is what manhood does? Or is it because he has a godly impulse to defend those he perceives as vulnerable, because he was taught that it is the honorable thing to do? And don’t godly women have that same impulse? Is a man more likely to sacrifice himself for a woman than, say, a woman is to sacrifice herself for a child? (Anyone who can convince themselves of that has clearly never been a mother at a crowded playground.)

I would suggest that society has assigned men the role of protector not because of “divine wiring,” not because God designed men to be more protective and sacrificial (and dare I say “heroic”) than women, but precisely because of those competencies that Piper pish-poshed. Men are, on the whole, bigger, stronger, and sturdier than women. They have more testosterone pumping through their veins. It just makes sense for them to be the protectors, until it doesn’t–until the boogeyman jumps out at Black Belt Sarah, and her scrawny date insists on proving his manhood by leaping in front of her, effectively hindering Sarah and putting everyone at greater risk.

That’s not manhood. That’s prideful and stupid, even if it is sacrificial. And it’s almost certainly going to do more harm than good.

Why not work together to disarm the bad guy, leveraging both parties’ unique strengths and competencies to achieve the best possible outcome? (This sentence has been brought to you by the letter P, the number 7, and the word “cooperation.”) That seems a much better approach not only to knife-fights in dark alleys en route to Micky D’s, but to life in general.

But I digress.

The really interesting thing here is that while Piper acknowledges that gender stereotypes do not always line up with reality, and that clinging to traditional gender roles is not always the most efficient, effective way of getting things done, he insists that it is right to cling to them anyway, even at the cost of life, limb, and a competent woman’s conscience. It seems to me that this is because he views masculinity, femininity, and the relationship between men and women as symbolic, almost a Christianized version of Plato’s Theory of Forms. In this paradigm, the individual is subsumed by the ideal, the here-and-now human relationship by the eschatological one it points toward. It doesn’t matter if Sarah has a black belt, and Jason is physically handicapped in some way–the important thing is that they live up to some cosmic ideal of manhood and womanhood, as a way of representing God and humanity’s relationship with Him.

This is, to my mind, completely backwards.

Certainly, the masculine and feminine aspects of humanity reveal something beautiful and important about God’s character, and marriage is often used as an analogy of our relationship with God. When masculinity, femininity, or marriage is in some way diminished, our understanding of God is, as well.

The human tendency, however, is to take this too far; to sort and systematize and simplify gender until all we’re left with is a dry list of desirable characteristics and behaviors assigned to each gender. It’s like the stick-figure men and women used to mark public bathrooms; while we can easily identify which gender they are supposed to represent by the characteristics they portray, they fall impossibly short of the breathtaking beauty and complexity of real human beings. While gender stereotypes do serve an important cultural purpose, we should be wary of turning functional caricatures into cosmic ideals.

When we force people into gender-based boxes, insist that individuals conform to our concept of what men and women are supposed to be, we lose the wonder, the mystery, and the full-orbed expression of God’s image uniquely revealed in each human being. God created us male and female, yes, but He didn’t just create us male and female; he created us Jenny and Aaron, and Jason and Sarah, and John and Noel. All of us reflect God’s image in different ways. And it is very good.

Here’s what it comes down to for me. My gender is not something I perform; it is something I am. Womanhood is not something I do; it is something I live. Femininity does not define me; as a woman created in the image of God, I define it, in community with my sisters. When we reduce manhood and womanhood to a list of characteristics, behaviors, and roles assigned to each gender, we are not defending masculinity and femininity; instead, we are diminishing and impoverishing them.

Symbolism is all fine and good. We could do with a lot more of it. But when it comes to being the person God created you to be, to living the life God gave you to live, and stewarding the gifts and relationships God has blessed you with, chose the real over the hypothetical, the truth of who you are over traditions regarding gender roles. You, with all your unique strengths, quirks, and idiosyncrasies, are a symbol, made in God’s image to reflect Him as part of Christ’s diverse body here on earth. Don’t let anyone hide your light under their gender-shaped box. Burn bright, burn fierce, burn free, and do it for the glory of God. And when necessary, kick some a.

Galatians 5:1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

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

  1. Sophie February 6, 2013 at 6:36 am #

    Whenever I read Piper’s views on men naturally sacrificing themselves as heroes for women and therefore requiring submission, it reminds me of the arguments people made against women’s suffrage. They argued that women needed to be ‘protected’ from the brutal, masculine world of politics. They argued that women needed chivalrous protection from the harsh world. Yet even while the arguments raged against women’s suffrage, women were working from dawn til dusk in hot laundries, sometimes stripped to the waist and passing out from the heat and fumes. Women had been working down mines until it was outlawed in 1842. Yet they were oh-so-gallantly defended against the right to vote.

    And you’re right, the Bible itself is the strongest argument against his assertion. Piper needs to reacquaint himself with the story of the concubine in Judges.

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong February 6, 2013 at 7:31 am #

      Yes–sometimes “protecting” someone is just a nicer-sounding way of retaining control over them, intentionally or not. And that story from Judges definitely crossed my mind when I was writing this–a LOT of stories crossed my mind!

    • Tim February 6, 2013 at 2:37 pm #

      Good point, Sophie. I thought too of the old argument that women should not bother with higher education since their brains weren’t made to think such great thoughts. Poor Madame Curie, being all stupid and not able to figure out complicated physics and chemistry and stuff.

      Tim

  2. Christopher February 6, 2013 at 11:20 am #

    3 words: Zero Dark Thirty.

  3. Don Johnson February 6, 2013 at 12:18 pm #

    Wonderful insights!

    I wish to point out that “cowardice” is often an emotional trigger word for those with anger management issues. If a (supposedly) “manly man” calls another man a coward, them’s fighting words, at least in the “manly man” rulebook, as there ain’t nothing worse than being called a coward! (I am being sarcastic, but the “manly man” rulebook is very real.)

    The point is that Piper chose his words carefully and thoughtfully as a way to present his ideas to his audience and we egalitarians need to be just as careful and thoughtful when we deconstruct his arguments and show them to be wanting, but we can also choose to decline to use emotional trigger words.

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong February 6, 2013 at 2:09 pm #

      Thanks Don! And excellent point about choosing words carefully, in ways that are not intentionally inflammatory–that can be hard to do at times.

      • david hilton February 8, 2013 at 7:25 pm #

        i know that GOD made women because men needed someone to share the load.both people
        compliment each other.the strengths of one compensate for the weakness of the other.in the happiest, most productive relationships each finds a way to use their distinct gifts to help the other.in the north florida panhandle around 1900 a housewife come outside to aloud noise.she saw a panther taking the farms only pig in his mouth.armed only with a homemade broom she beat the panther until it dropped the pig and ran out the gate.why did she doe this,because she had to- her husband would have expected nothing less.russian women drove unpainted tanks right out of the factory to face the nazi invaders.women fought in the revolutionary war and worked as spies in the civil war on both sides.women drove ambulances at the height of the blitz in ww2.women have done what they to do throughout history and the smart men were enternally grateful.i am a 65 year old man and i have seen it all we rescued an army nurse who was trapped in the tet invasion in 1968.defining other people restrictsthem down to whatever

        • Jenny Rae Armstrong February 8, 2013 at 7:28 pm #

          “Women have done what they had to do throughout history, and smart men were eternally grateful.”

          Great points, David! Thanks for sharing those stories!!!

          • david hilton February 8, 2013 at 7:43 pm #

            dont ever let anyone restrict you or yours down to whatever their conception of what you can and cannot be or do.We try to do this all the time with GOD and it wont work with him or his creation.when you are on a steep mountain path let the mule you are riding pick the best way to go. He doesnt want to fall any more than you do!you will never know what anyone can accomplish if you wont let them try.nice meeting you jenny. david

    • Headless Unicorn Guy February 7, 2013 at 8:47 am #

      I wish to point out that “cowardice” is often an emotional trigger word for those with anger management issues. If a (supposedly) “manly man” calls another man a coward, them’s fighting words, at least in the “manly man” rulebook, as there ain’t nothing worse than being called a coward!

      This reminds me all too much of the editorial attitude in Guns & Ammo or Soldier of Fortune magazines back in the Seventies and Eighties. Just with a Christianese coat of paint.

  4. Tim February 6, 2013 at 2:34 pm #

    Love that phrase “gender-shaped box”, Jen!

    On the mugger on the way to McDonald’s you know the other thing wrong with the ill-equipped guy throwing himself in harm’s way? After the poor slouch gets stabbed to death the woman will still have to use her karate skills to disarm the attacker. Plus she’ll have to deal with a dead body on the ground getting in her way.

    Tim

  5. Bob Edwards February 6, 2013 at 5:34 pm #

    I’d like to respond to the following portion of the article above: “It seems to me that this is because he views masculinity, femininity, and the relationship between men and women as symbolic, almost a Christianized version of Plato’s Theory of Forms.” This is a comment on John Piper’s view of gender relations, and it is perhaps even more profoundly insightful than the author realizes.

    Please allow me to explain. John Piper is a Calvinist. He’s not just a Calvinist, he’s a Calvinist’s Calvinist. In one article he boasts that he believes in a seven point Calvinism, whereas Calvin himself really only embraced five principles.

    What does this have to do with gender roles and Plato? Simply put, everything. John Calvin’s view of men and women was borrowed almost without modification from the pages of St. Augustine’s theological work in the 4th century, and St. Augustine’s view of women was borrowed–again almost without change–from the philosophy of Plato.

    In the 4th century, St. Augustine was accused of mixing up Greek philosophy with the Bible. Critics alleged that his previous philosophical training and cultural socialization skewed his perception of the Bible. The alleged distortion included his understanding of the Genesis account, particularly his understanding of male and female roles and relations.

    When St. Augustine (and later Calvin, followed by Piper) saw that Eve was Adam’s “helper” for instance, he concluded that she was created to be his subordinate. Calvin went as far as to conclude that Eve was Adam’s “inferior aid” (Trombley, 2012). Today, many complementarians would agree that God created Eve to be Adam’s subordinate. His job was to lead; hers was to follow.

    The problem with this conclusion is that it is entirely wrong, and unbiblical. God is Israel’s “helper” (same word in the Hebrew exactly) just as Eve is Adam’s. Clearly God is not inferior or subordinate to Israel. Neither then is Eve inferior or subordinate to Adam. However, St. Augustine “believed” that she was. Not because the Bible says so, but because Plato’s philosophy and Roman culture said so. Sadly, however, Augustine’s distorted view of the Bible has been confused with “the word of God.” It is not. It is one man’s misunderstanding, borrowed from an ancient philosophy that has wrongly been canonized, particularly by John Calvin, and sadly by his present-day disciples.

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong February 6, 2013 at 5:45 pm #

      Thanks so much for sharing your insights! I don’t know a whole lot about Greek philosophy, but the more I’ve learned, the more I’ve been shocked at how profound its impact on Western theology has been. Turns out a lot of the things I was taught have nothing to do with the Bible, and everything to do with Aristotle and his buddies. It beats being stuck in the middle ages, I guess, but still…

      • Bob Edwards February 6, 2013 at 7:07 pm #

        Thanks for the response. Plato did talk about equality for men and women in some of his works on an ideal society. These thoughts were very progressive. Unfortunately, however, he also made comments like, “The one gender [male] is far superior to the other in just about every sphere” (classicnetwork.com). Aristotle embraced a patriarchal viewpoint even more dogmatically. The social norms of their culture are clearly evident in their philosophical work, and the social norms in their work are clearly evident in St. Augustine’s theology. Augustine makes reference to Platonic dualism overtly, comparing men to the “spirit” and women to the “flesh,” concluding that just as the spirit must rule the flesh, men must rule over women. A purely Platonic thought is projected onto the Bible, and a gender hierarchy is the unfortunate outcome.

        • TL February 7, 2013 at 2:57 pm #

          Thank you for bringing up Aristotle. What is interesting about Aristotle’s influence is that the Rabbi’s in Jesus’ day and probably the Pharisees were greatly influenced by Aristotle’s teachings. Thus, Jesus and the disciples had a really huge hill of false teaching to dismantle.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy February 7, 2013 at 8:50 am #

      Please allow me to explain. John Piper is a Calvinist. He’s not just a Calvinist, he’s a Calvinist’s Calvinist. In one article he boasts that he believes in a seven point Calvinism, whereas Calvin himself really only embraced five principles.

      In other words, he’s More Calvinist than Calvin.

      That is not a good sign.

      There are too many similarities between Calvinism and Islam as-is, too many of the same side-effects and after-effects; this sounds like taking Calvinism to the level of the Taliban.

      • Laura M. February 7, 2013 at 6:57 pm #

        This is a very unfortunate comment. To equate Calvinism to Islam is just ridiculous! As a life-long “Calvinist,” I have NEVER been put-down, mistreated, or boxed-in for being a woman. There are a few Biblical principles regarding the role of husband and wife and the role of women in the ministry that are taught, but other than that, I have never been discouraged from pursuing any interest. This seems to be a very distorted view of reformed theology.

        • Jenny Rae Armstrong February 8, 2013 at 7:41 pm #

          You’re right, Laura. This is not a “Calvinist” thing–I have reformed friends who are very complementarian, reformed friends who are extremely egalitarian, and reformed folks aren’t any more likely to be legalistic than other evangelicals.

          I think that some of the louder voices coming from the reformed crowd, combining with many people’s unfamiliarity with Calvinism, gives a skewed perception of the movement. When a hotshot reformed rockstar says something that is SUPPOSED to be perceived as somewhat edgy and outrageous by fellow Calvinists, those of us who are largely unfamiliar with reformed thinking can get absolutely shell-shocked! When that’s all many people know of the movement, perceptions can get pretty far off base.

          • Tim February 9, 2013 at 12:03 pm #

            I’m one of your solidly Calvinist friends who is also solidly egalitarian, Jen!

          • Jenny Rae Armstrong February 9, 2013 at 3:00 pm #

            I know it, Tim! There are a bunch of you!!!

        • Headless Unicorn Guy February 11, 2013 at 10:04 am #

          I had a writer contact in Louisville, KY. When he first moved to Louisville, he encountered a Truly Reformed church who displayed all the symptoms of Islam — fatalism, passivilty, submission to Whatever Will Be Will Be, God Wills It control-freaking, Infidel-sniffing, and a God who was OMNIPOTENT but NOT benevolent. All these seemed to trace to an Extreme form of Predestination, which makes me think you’d find them in any Extreme Predestination environment or when OMNIPOTENT WILL, i.e. POWER, becomes God’s primary characteristic.

          My main writer contact in PA (the burned-out preacher) has also reported run-ins with twentysomething Calvinjugend who are much more Calvinist than Calvin and have taken Utter Predestination into what he calls “Socratic Atheism”, i.e. God Himself is but another puppet of Predestination, Willing only what He Hath Been Predestined to Will. Where is the “atheism” in this? Well, if Predestination trumps God, then God is not God, Predestination is. Eh, Kismet…

          • BereanWoman February 26, 2013 at 8:15 am #

            I tend to agree with Unicorn Guy’s summary, even though I also have Calvinist friends who in behavior do not reflect the negatives of Calvinism.
            In fact, Piper is Calvinist in thinking and teachings, but his actions are not pure Calvinistic in that he seems to support loving one another through free will. I don’t think even Piper sees his own inconsistency there, and yes, I have heard of his 7 point Calvinism view.
            The reason I think Mr. Unicorn equates the two is due to the fatalistic view “Allah wills it” equal to “God wills it”. The two both are fatalistic, in that the “excuse” for what we do has now become blameable upon the God, be it God of the Bible, or God of Islam.
            The core teaching of both Islam and Calvinism is that “God wills it”. Islamists “Allah” form of God, is based on eaons of Muslim teaching as well as Muhammed, but both are seeped in the religion of Ba’al, since Allah is a derivative of Ba’al. For the “Christianized” God term of “God wills it”, it relegates God into a box of hate, meaning, that when he “predestined men to hell(which is the implicational and logical response to people being predestined to heaven and some predestined to wrath that Calvin taught), this form of “God” presents a God of hate.
            That is totally contradictory to anything taught in the Bible, whether Old Testament view of wrath – sin recieving punishment, and also contradictory to the New Testament’s story of Jesus Christ’s love and grace given through the Cross, via Christ’s own sacrifice. Sin is negated in Calvinism, meaning that men’s sins don’t send people to hell, but their predestination does. Sin is then ignored in Calvinism except to speak it to stay in the realm of Christianese, in order to deceive Christians.
            That is how false teaching works.
            I know that there are people in both Muslim religions who need Christ and in the Christian Church who need Christ. Anyone who works for salvation, doesn’t get it, that salvation is a free gift, and cannot be earned, nor is it a result of some “predestined” God wills it..or Allah wills it. “For by grace are you saved” that Grace being…the story of Christ’s death and resurrection, not the “grace definition” that Calvinists use. And the “works based salvation” of the Islamists seek to make people into slaves of a horrific murderous religion at it’s core, though many Islamists themself are against those “extremes”, and why? Because they are seeking the truth themselves, and recognize that hate is never the answer, and humans don’t want hate, but want love. So an Islamist who lives in America, often sees love and becomes more loving, even though they have a religious background of Islamist thinking. This is not to imply at all that America is perfectly Christian, please understand, what I am really saying is…in America, the general “religion” is Christianity, in it’s many forms, whether it’s a true Christian representation, we all know that not every church truly represents Christ of the Bible. But in *general*, America is known for it’s Christian Heritage and Freedom and elevating of God’s word in Government(not wanting to debate the current trends). Idealistically, Christianity is always to be about love. Sadly, when men impose on the Bible their thinkings(as Calvin does and followers of Calvin do), the original Bible teachings often get distorted. I have friends in the Calvin theology, and I look more at their heart and actions, than at their words, because often their lives are Christian in following Him, but the words and teachings are contradictory to scripture. We can find that happens often, not just with Calvinists, but in all of us. None of us have perfect theology, but I find this to be my best defense in determining if something is in agreement with the Bible: If the theology cannot be lived out in the real world, then it is not biblical theology. That’s how I keep it real. Muslims, when they live out their religion, become despisers of those who don’t agree. Christ doesn’t do that. Calvinists often take the same mindset when others don’t agree, despising those who don’t accept Calvinism.
            But true Christianity always embraces desiring to lead people to the Saviour, no matter the political or religion world of the person that is being befriended. Christ is a Friend of sinners, and not an isolationist. Both Calvinism and Islam seek to isolate and put people into boxes, as well as “predestine” lives to insecurity in wondering..”am I saved, a predestined one?” or “will I please Allah enough to get to heaven?” Yes, there are similarities between the two and although I am not a “published” author as Piper is, I am still God’s child and thus just as equal to him, especially since no human is ever above another. I hear Paul’s writing speak loudly at times when it comes to “sectioning off”…Paul says “Why do I hear that there are contentions? people saying ‘I am of Paul, or I am of Apollos, or I am of Cephas, Instead we should be saying ‘I am of Christ’ “. I paraphrased, but the bottom line is..anytime a religion becomes isolationist, it is not of Christ. Christianity is to be based on “Love God, Love your neighbor, Love self” in that order. But it also is based on Christ’s atonement for sin, and I am a sinner, who has been saved due to that atonement, not due to my works, or earning salvation in any form(works either as a Christian or as a Muslim), and my sin made me deserving of Hell. It wasn’t a “predestining to hell” that made me deserving of Hell, but my own sin puts me there, unless I have received the free gift of salvation, which is “in Jesus Christ”, not in me, nor some “destined to hell” plan. That is sadistic! and I never want that version of God. That is why people backlash so strongly against Calvinism and often become agnostic. Instead, if they could only go one step past agnosticism to see that God loves them, and always will, but that they do have to admit the need to be forgiven for sin.
            Sin disappears in Calvinism. Sin is punished in Islam.
            Either way, sinners end up hopeless while on earth if either road is chosen. Yes, chosen. But when sin is confessed, and Christ received, then that person is “born again” and becomes a new creation.
            I see strong links to satan’s desire to keep men from Christ, and he will use whatever he can to disillusion, destroy truth, detour well-intentioned men into leading others away from Christ.
            If my theology leads people to Christ as Saviour, but yet can lead some away from the Savior(which is what I believe Calvinism can do), then I believe that theology needs purifying into real world logical thinking. I find that when my theology is based on God’s word alone, when someone hears it, if it leads them to recognize sin as the sole reason for going to hell, then they can get saved. But calvinism focuses on “predestination”…as does Islam.
            I know I have been redundant on a couple points, but it’s just trying to speak it out so that maybe the similarities can be seen.
            I simply belief this: Preach Christ, born of a Virgin, lived, died, resurrected to eternal life, and in Heaven. I Corinthian 15 speaks to that. His death gives me life, and on that, my salvation is based, and nothing more and nothing less.
            And we all are equal at the foot of the cross, all in need of a Saviour, and Jesus Christ is that Saviour. So I lean on Him, not Calvin, or Piper, or Muhammed, or any human…only on Christ.

      • Elizabeth L February 13, 2013 at 11:33 am #

        Just as we are talking about Calvinism and not Christianity as a whole, there are many different versions or threads of Islam. It’s incredibly unproductive and harmful to attribute all of these negative characteristics to almost one-quarter of the human population. The Taliban is in no way representative of Islam. The similarities claimed here between Calvinism and “Islam” become grounded in reality when it is expressed as Calvinism and Islamism.

        Islam and Islamism are two radically different things. Just as WBC is not representative of Christianity, yet is a part of Christianity, Islamism is not representative of Islam, yet is a part. People from both camps will argue passionately that neither WBC nor Islamism is “real” Christianity or Islam.

        I am not trying to be negatively critical (or, as I have been accused of doing, telling Christians that they must see Islam as equally valid as their own religious convictions), but I do try to speak up when harmful assumptions that perpetuate stereotypes and misrepresentations of people are expressed. Since this particular blog is about rethinking the assumptions of human relationships, I thought my comments might be productive.

        • Daisy February 21, 2013 at 10:52 pm #

          Elizabeth said, “do try to speak up when harmful assumptions that perpetuate stereotypes and misrepresentations of people [ie, Islam] are expressed.”

          IMO, Muslims do that to themselves.

          They are one of the few religious groups who strap bombs on to mentally disabled people, kids, and women and blow up civilians and that kind of thing.

          I agree with HUG’s comparison of Calvinism to Islam. I see similarities between the two.

          Islam is not a, or the, “religion of peace.”

          And by and far they are not supportive of women.

          Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a woman who left Islam, and she wrote and spoke out against its dangers towards females.

  6. Greg Hahn February 6, 2013 at 6:33 pm #

    Here’s a really key part of the problem: Piper thinks only difference between men and women is that men lead, women follow. See from 6:55- 8:20 in this video: http://bit.ly/13aolUp

    So- in his view, men MUST lead, men MUST protect, because those are the only things that make them men. He says in that video that nobody has ever been able to tell an eight year old boy what it’s like to grow up to be a man unless they can point to hierarchy.

    So you see why he clings to it. Gender equality is an attack on HIS manhood.

    • Bob Edwards February 6, 2013 at 7:17 pm #

      I think this is incredibly insightful. I only wish Dr. Piper would be more open to reflect on the origins of his “views” of manhood, and be humbly willing to revise them if they are not in fact biblical, or evidence-based. “Man” equals “leader” is a worldview that is socially constructed. Unfortunately, Dr. Piper seems to confuse social paradigms with God’s design. Perhaps he should broaden his studies beyond Calvinistic theology, and explore some texts on social psychology and the generational transmission of prejudice.

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong February 6, 2013 at 9:47 pm #

      I keep seeing that video make the rounds on the internet, but I just can’t bring myself to watch it. :-/ There’s only so much sexism a woman can be subjected to before it starts doing damage, and I think I hit my quota sometime in my mid-twenties. To hear other people discussing your life and humanity so callously–good gravy! I’ll watch it someday, but for now occassional snippets of articles is about all I can handle.

      • Kathy February 7, 2013 at 1:52 am #

        Yes exactly Jenny!! Sometimes we have to just choose not to watch those things in order to protect our hearts. The damage it does to me is to make me bitter and angry at a fellow Christian and I just can’t afford to go there!

        • Christopher July 17, 2014 at 1:49 am #

          What you say is true of the men who endure it, too. We are not made of stone, either. :-i

  7. Jessi February 6, 2013 at 9:36 pm #

    “It makes more sense for them to be the protectors – until it doesn’t.” Yes, and amen.

    And… I’d kind of really like to introduce John Piper to Jaelle…I think she might beg to differ with him on a few points. I’m guessing he doesn’t care for those chapters much. They don’t fit well with his version of the ‘scriptural’ views of women OR men. Deborah, Barak…the whole messy bunch of them really throws a bit of a monkey wrench into these ‘Biblical’ definitions and interpretations of masculinity and femininity.

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong February 6, 2013 at 9:44 pm #

      Yes indeed!

    • Lydia February 7, 2013 at 2:53 am #

      Sadly, I had Deborah and Jael thrown at me today, as evidence of God’s so called gender roles being reversed, when I linked this eloquent article. *sighs* Apparently I’m a fluffy feminist.

      • Jenny Rae Armstrong February 7, 2013 at 8:47 am #

        A fluffy feminist? I assume that’s supposed to be bad, but I kinda like the sound of it! :-D I’m a fan of warm, soft, comforting things that nevertheless retain the shape of their values.

  8. Kathy February 7, 2013 at 1:58 am #

    While gender stereotypes do serve an important cultural purpose, we should be wary of turning functional caricatures into cosmic ideals.
    When we reduce manhood and womanhood to a list of characteristics, behaviors, and roles assigned to each gender, we are not defending masculinity and femininity; instead, we are diminishing and impoverishing them.

    Oh… so many good lines in this fantastic article!!

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong February 7, 2013 at 8:27 am #

      Thanks Kathy!

    • Headless Unicorn Guy February 7, 2013 at 8:52 am #

      While gender stereotypes do serve an important cultural purpose, we should be wary of turning functional caricatures into cosmic ideals.

      Wasn’t a lot of Plato based on ideal cosmic archetypes?

  9. Tschaka February 7, 2013 at 4:17 am #

    A fantastic finish to a thoughtful article.

    Jenny, out of interest, which side of the bed do you sleep on? Is it the side closest to the door or farthest away? Please forgive the mysterious question, I realise it could be either and for a number of reasons. Most of my female friends tell me they sleep furthest from the door for security reasons, though some sleep near the door because of their children. But, in agreement with your article, I’m not willing to put anyone in a box – there could be any number of reasons for sleeping either side of the bed.

    While I started out thinking your arguments were a little ridiculous, as are John Piper’s, I couldn’t help but agree with you when it came to refusing to be defined by social stereotypes.

    I fear that while the individual may be able to throw of the pressures placed on them by society, humanity as a collective cannot and we will constantly keep finding ourselves fighting against our moral entropy. We do what we think is right, but we are influenced by the evils of subtle social norms more than we know. And while we aspire to greater things and more egalitarianism our God-given instincts seem to also get in the way. Mothers will always be mothers, and fathers will always be fathers, no matter how we try to define those roles – there’s a social pattern according to which we condition ourselves, even if we change what the pattern should be.

    The result seems to be that no matter how we work out our roles as individuals, male roles and female roles will always have a difference, and there will always be a subtle power play at work. The instinct of the collective has a part to play in these matters and I think, organically, it leans towards both male and female leadership, with male leadership taking a slight headway.

    I dream of a society where we can tell everyone to be who they were made to be, and anyone can reach their full potential regardless of gender or anything else, but I think there are subtle issues, like which side of the bed we sleep on, which hold us back more than we know.

    Competency is crucial, but there are other factors at play, the grace of God working in a holy society is as important as God’s grace at work in the individual, and we need to keep our eye on both, lest the prowling lion move in to devour us all.

    Forgive my rambling, I’m working out my thoughts as I write. But I guess it’s not so much ‘get back in your place’ as find your place with your brothers and sisters and work it out to the best of your ability. Oh, and make sure you leave a legacy that the spiritual daughters of the future can truly build upon.

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong February 7, 2013 at 8:42 am #

      Conditioned by years of pregnancy, I sleep on the side of the bed closest to the bathroom. :-D

      I do agree with you that men and women tend to gravitate toward different roles and ways of doing things, sometimes based on biology, sometimes based on culture. And I have no problem with that whatsoever! It’s when we insist that people dwell within the box we have made for their gender, even when it doesn’t fit and stunts their growth or capacity, that I become aggrieved. I think the real thing working against equality, or course, is the fallen state of humankind, the sinful desire to use and dominate, so we can get our identity from who we are in relationship with other people, instead of who we are in relationship with God.

      • Jessi February 7, 2013 at 9:46 am #

        Excellently put!! I also don’t want to fight against ‘roles’ jsut for the sake of it…if they work out better that way, great!! But another angle, in addition to, like you said, when it DOESN’T work, or boxes people in…is that when we claim what works for us is GOD’S way…or the ‘Biblical’ way… There’s a big jump between just admitting, this works, for our culture, for us as individuals, for us in our giftings/strengths, and doesn’t seem to go against anything God says…versus…this is what works for us so it MUST be God-ordained!

        What great discussion here all the way around!

      • Tschaka February 8, 2013 at 4:02 am #

        Thanks Jenny, for putting it so much more concisely than I did!

      • Headless Unicorn Guy February 12, 2013 at 9:20 pm #

        Conditioned by years of pregnancy, I sleep on the side of the bed closest to the bathroom.

        So do I, conditioned by years of an enlarged prostate.

  10. Gillian February 7, 2013 at 8:58 am #

    Jenny, I don’t think there’s anything I can add to what you’ve written, but I wanted you to know how good and refreshing I found it to read this. Thank you for putting into words so articulately what I can’t always quite express!

  11. Douglas February 7, 2013 at 10:31 am #

    Yes! Thank you so much for writing this. I read the Piper article and was so angered by it. These gender roles are presented as fundamental but they are too simplistic and kind of mean, denying the infinite variance and beauty of individuals. And, though not included, he goes on to say that men can’t follow women at all, and shouldn’t; that struck me as so very wrong, if not misogynistic. The example he makes of the mugging seems just odd; like you, I read it and wondered “you know that sounds ridiculous, right?”
    I love how you start this off, that it’s not really a debate about women in combat.
    “I don’t love the idea of anyone in combat.”
    Agreed, this is not about what women should or shouldn’t do, or what a man’s divine role is, this is about how we treat people. If we turn to any one person and tell them they can’t do something or must do something else, regardless of who they are, but simply because they are man or woman, we are doing something terrible to them and to God.
    Thanks.

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong February 8, 2013 at 7:42 pm #

      Thank you, Douglas!

    • Sophie February 9, 2013 at 4:35 am #

      Unfortunately Piper has no idea when he sounds ridiculous – perhaps because so many hang on his every word. In the book he edited ‘Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood’, he gives another crazy example. He says that a male motorist may stop to ask a woman for directions, but when that woman gives him directions, she has to do so in a manner that does not make it seem as if she is speaking authoritatively to the man. I’m not making that up.

      • Jenny Rae Armstrong February 9, 2013 at 7:21 am #

        Wow. :-/ Seriously, that just makes so little sense–I don’t understand where he gets that from, or how either men or women could in any way benefit from that.

        • Sophie February 9, 2013 at 9:29 am #

          “At that point she is giving a form of leadership. She has superior knowledge that the man needs and he submits himself to her for guidance” – from ‘Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood’.

          Yeah there’s really no benefit there! Imagine how difficult it must be to live life with such a worldview – for both women and men.

          “Is my demeanour appropriately submissive while giving this man directions?”

          “Am I doing something offensive to the creation order by working for a female boss?”

          “Is it OK to explain this scripture to my teenage son verbally or do I have to write the explanation down? Or do I have to wait for my husband to pick up his Bible…?”

      • Headless Unicorn Guy February 12, 2013 at 9:24 pm #

        He says that a male motorist may stop to ask a woman for directions, but when that woman gives him directions, she has to do so in a manner that does not make it seem as if she is speaking authoritatively to the man. I’m not making that up.

        Which seems to imply a 200-page rulebook describing the “manner that does not make it seem as if she is speaking authoritatively to the man” to make sure she doesn’t act Uppity. Does she have to wear a burqa and keep her eyes cast downward or something?

        A little secret, Sophie: One of my favorite expressions is “You think I could make up s**t like this?” Because in an age of extremes like today, as crazy as you can imagine, there’s some True Believer out there twice as crazy and dead serious.

      • Daisy February 21, 2013 at 11:03 pm #

        Sophie, there is a good review of that book on the Christians for Biblical Equality site, and the reviewer mentions that very part you’re talking about, where Piper tells women if they do something like give a lost man driving directions, they had best make sure they are doing so submissively or very feminine (paraphrasing his views).

        Piper at another time was answering questions from people.

        One woman asked him if she needed her husband’s permission first before going to the bathroom.

        He graciously said no, she does not. When what he should have done was said it was a moronic, odd ball question to even ask.

        As I’ve pointed out on other blogs, one huge problem with most Christian gender complementarians, in addition to their many other problems, is that they have no room in Christianity for Christian women who are either childless (not mothers), or who remain unmarried (don’t have husbands).

        I am in my early forties, a Christian woman, never married, and never had children.

        Women like me are not even discussed or thought of in these gender role debates, not usually.

        The gender complementarians are too busy trying to stuff ‘married-with-kids’ Christian women into tightly defined roles and into boxes to even notice or care that approximately 50% of the U.S. population over the age of 20 is unmarried.

        But it’s a church-wide problem, not specifically a gender complementarian one(*), but to me, it shows the extent of their sexism that they cannot even conceive of a woman not being married or not having children, which is probably one reason of why they never mention older, single ladies and what our “roles” are.

        *Even Christians who are not “gender complementarians” tend to ignore any Christians who do not meet the “age 25 to 45, married with kids” demographic. It’s like we don’t exist.

        All the church programs at most churches are gravitated towards catering to, or meeting the needs of, parents and children.

        • BereanWoman March 1, 2013 at 7:17 pm #

          Hello Daisy!

          Thanks for speaking up for the single women. I find Piper’s thinking as ridiculous as asking a cat to bark when a dog walks by. A cat will communicate as it does and let the dog know that it’s not wanted. Does manner become an issue? No…the cat speaks cat, and it’s manner all depends on it’s own vocal cords, not on the “gender manner” of Cats.

          I know that’s a horrible word picture to try to explain the absurdity of so much of the “complementarian” view. Being an adult, single myself, over 40, the maltreatment has almost 100% come from people who “box” in and don’t care at all about people outside their box. To me that is a violation of James writing about have no partiality.

          If a man doesn’t open a door, should I demean him for it? That is actually what the complimentarian view teaches. For it’s saying, if a woman doesn’t have the “right” manner, she’s sinning. Well then by golly so are all the “Christian men” who don’t open doors for a woman all the time. Is there a “rule” in the Bible about that one?
          Of should a man’s “manner” be judged in the same way as a woman’s? What is the MANS manner to be? Why is this not addressed? Shouldn’t the MAN have just as much concern for manner?
          I say…it’s not about manner. But about Eph. 4:32. Be ye KIND one to another” And kindness is just something everyone can do, and I don’t see any special “gender role” in kindness. You either are, or are not kind.
          To me, I see Jesus asking us to have character. There is no “manner” or “tone” that can truly be of woman or of man. Yes, there are generalizations that women have higher voices and men lower, since we are made with physical features different, but the MORAL structure, the Construct of how we as Christians are to live, I see as consistent and across the board for men and women. Eph 4:32…Be kind, tender, forgiving, as Christ is”. Jesus never got into a tizzy about “manner” and in fact, manner is only addressed as “manners” in the Bible, meaning actions and character. If a man is more “gentle” would that mean he is feminine and should become more brusque to prove his maleness? That is sadly what often results.

          I find…the church is just to follow Christ…not John Piper.

        • Christopher July 17, 2014 at 2:05 am #

          Daisy, I hate to always be the person with the dark view on things, but there are practical reasons why they cater to these demographics, which involve money and power/bondage. They and the demons behind the scenes know that adjusting the program to acknowledge that it is okay to be alone and more independent than others undermines the whole edifice of power.

          For similarly sinister reasons, good luck being a single person (even WITH a penis) and getting hired on as a professional pastor or missionary — or, worse, being brought on to serve in such a capacity without the need for it to come with a salary. Oh, and the degree isn’t free, either: it’s best if you’re already a pastor’s kid and/or can get sponsorship from your “church home”. It gives “bond-servants of the Gospel” quite the diabolic twist, despite the presence of pious, well-meaning people every step of the way.

  12. Don Johnson February 7, 2013 at 3:14 pm #

    I had an insight. I can see where mother, father or even parent MIGHT be considered a role, as I am a parent and father to my children. But I am not ALWAYS in that role, it is only appropriate when I am dealing with my children.

    And I can see where husband or spouse MIGHT be considered a role, as I am the husband of my wife. But I am not ALWAYS in that role, it is only appropriate when I am dealing with my wife.

    However, I am ALWAYS a man or male human. If a man as a man has a role, then I NEVER stop being in that role, it is something inherent in being a man or a male human. I never ever get to step outside that (supposed) role, even if I somehow lost my genitals. To me this means that the term role is not accurate, one does not use the term role for something that one cannot stop being. So I see it as yet another example of Orwellian doublespeak by comps.

    • Lydia February 7, 2013 at 5:38 pm #

      I would just like to add briefly, that there is huge danger in suggesting that motherhood/fatherhood/wifehood/husbandhood is a role–they are a relationship (of course I understand that you are not arguing that they are, it’s just a personal red flag)

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong February 8, 2013 at 7:44 pm #

      Great insights–reminds me of “Good News for Women” by Rebecca Merrill Groothies.

    • Christopher July 17, 2014 at 2:22 am #

      Frankly, not only do I disagree with Don, here, but this is also my main bone of contention with Jenny Rae: it IS performance, and it IS role-play (same thing, really), even if we don’t personally recognize it as such. I am more than my gender identity, and, while my gender identity is something I carry around with me, informing many of my actions, it does not inform all of them.

      I do agree with Jenny Rae that I have a hand in the evolving definition of gendered identities (more than just one of them, in fact), but when I walk into the kitchen in my underwear with no one around to pour myself a glass of water, my “manhood”, inherent or assumed/performative is rather irrelevant, except in that the likelihood of my including a bra in the above reference to underwear is slimmer than if my gender identity, cultural conditioning, anatomy were different.

  13. Kristen Rosser February 7, 2013 at 7:24 pm #

    I think that Piper has taken the social paradigms he imbibed as a child, and assumed that they are (and should be) universal norms. Men should be in charge because when he was a boy, men were in charge. Men should protect because when he was a boy, protecting was what men did, and being protected was what happened to women.

    From his privileged status as a white male who grew up in a largely hegemonous world, he sees the way he was taught to think as the default way to think for everyone, not seeing that he himself has an interpretive paradigm for normality that really only fits the world he grew up in. That paradigm is making less and less sense in today’s world– but to him this doesn’t signal the need to examine the paradigm, because he is blind to the fact that it even exists. To him, the fact that assumptions that never used to even be questioned, are now being overridden, is a sign of the moral decline of society– not a sign that he needs to open his own eyes.

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong February 8, 2013 at 7:50 pm #

      I think you’re exactly right, and I think that is the case with many aging Christian leaders–they have a massive sense of culture shock, and are trying to stand against a shifting cultural tide that they consider to be negative, because it makes no sense to them. I’m actually really interested in reading “Bloodlines” by Piper–it seems like a similar mindset might be at play in more than one area. Along those lines, I also wonder about the impact certain denominations’ histories and interpretave frameworks play in this conversation.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy February 12, 2013 at 9:25 pm #

        I think you’re exactly right, and I think that is the case with many aging Christian leaders–they have a massive sense of culture shock, and are trying to stand against a shifting cultural tide that they consider to be negative, because it makes no sense to them.

        Wasn’t that the basic idea behind the character of Archie Bunker?

        • Christopher July 17, 2014 at 2:28 am #

          This is yet another reason, in addition to an odd physical resemblance, why I think John Piper could be replaced by Larry David, without compromising on everything.

  14. erin a. February 8, 2013 at 9:07 pm #

    This is excellent, Jenny! I didn’t come and read it until I read the bits on Rachel’s blog. When I had seen the title, I thought, “oh, I don’t feel like reading about John’s Pipers comments. I already know they were dumb.” But, I should’ve known better. You are always gracious and articulate, calling out the important issues. This is excellent, excellent.

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong February 8, 2013 at 10:07 pm #

      Thanks Erin! I know the feeling–I have a definite tolerance threshold for dog hair and hierarchical writings: too much of either, and I start sprouting hives. It’s been a benadryl sort of week…

  15. Caroline Schleier Cutler February 9, 2013 at 5:42 am #

    “God created us male and female, yes, but He didn’t just create us male and female; he created us Jenny and Aaron, and Jason and Sarah, and John and Noel. All of us reflect God’s image in different ways. And it is very good.” Amen and Amen and Amen yet again!

    I would also add “sisters” to your statement that ” the wives, daughters, and concubines of ‘godly’ biblical men were often treated like camel dung.” Look at the examples of biblical brothers who raped, killed, and sold their siblings into slavery. The one example of a truly protective biblical sibling that I can think of is Miriam who protected her little brother Moses. I’m not saying that sisters are naturally better than brothers. But I do think patriarchy sets up a system where men are taught entitlement and that doesn’t benefit anyone.

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong February 9, 2013 at 7:39 am #

      Good point about the sisters! Actually, that crossed my mind as I was writing this, but from a different perspective–it seemed to me that sometimes male relatives like brothers and cousins were MORE likely to look after their female relative than her father. Jacob’s son’s rescued their sister Dinah when their father wouldn’t, the root of Absalom’s conflict with David was the fact that David did nothing when a half-brother raped his sister, and Mordecai’s relationship with Esther may portray the most sincere care and concern for a woman’s well-being portrayed in the OT–you sense that they have a deep relationship based on authentic mutual concern and affection.

      In fact, I’ve heard that in that society, male children were raised to have a closer relationship with their mother and sisters than anyone else (even their wives)–that that was where their loyalties were supposed to lie, because they were expected to look out for them, ultimately, in a way that the father or patriarch wouldn’t. Which is part of why it was such a big deal for women to have sons, and why Jacob’s sons and Absalom were so wounded and infuriated by their fathers’ non-chalance regarding their mother’s daughters.

      But still–that patriarchal mindset of male entitlement didn’t do anyone any good, least of all the women.

      • Christopher July 17, 2014 at 2:32 am #

        Quite so. Having spent a great deal of the last few years among Saudi youth in their late teens and twenties (men AND women) and read their personal essays, I have consistently observed this cultural dynamic in play.

  16. Yogamama February 9, 2013 at 10:10 am #

    Something just occurred to me as I read your post that I hadn’t thought of before. You talked about how women had been treated like “camel dung” in biblical times. I think that was why Paul talked about a man laying down his life for his wife, not because it was a divinely appointed gender role but because men had been acting so atrociously to women, even in their own families. They had to change their thinking radically from women as ‘non-people’. Men needed to know that Christ’s sacrifice, his laying down of his life for his friends, didn’t just apply to men, but to women, children – all of us!
    Obviously thousands of years later there are still many who can’t understand that people are children of God regardless of gender, color, age or any other identifier and all should be treated as such.

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong February 9, 2013 at 3:05 pm #

      You’re exactly right–their ideas about women were corrupt. Women weren’t considered non-human, necessarily–just flawed, half-baked humans who existed to accommodate their betters, if we’re going with the Greek view of things.

  17. Brandi McElheny February 13, 2013 at 11:29 am #

    Yes, yes, 1000000 x yes!

    LOVE this post so much. I agree completely – especially as a girl who does not fit into Piper’s “godly womanhood” roles at all.

    I’m a single mom (oh wait, right there I think I’m thrown out :)

    I also do Krav Maga (Israeli hand to hand combat) and think it is ABSURD that some untrained man should protect me if I have the skills to protect us both! That is just plain insane. Seriously. I train hard so that I can kick ass when necessary and plan on using it if I am ever in the situation.

    I also believe that we are ALL called to stand up and fight for the oppressed, vulnerable or marginalized!

    And….like it or not, Mr Piper, I will live out that calling. Actually, I am :) We are running a campaign called “She’s Worth It” (www.shesworthit.org) to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to rescue and restore victims of human trafficking.

    It seems to me that Piper and the complementarians would have me not use any of these skills….not my ass kicking skills in a brothel raid (or knifing outside mcdonalds – though my knife defense skills rock) or using my voice and my talents to lead in ministry and inspire others to get involved in trafficking.

    I really should just find some man to marry me (or maybe go back to my abusive ex?) and stay at home like a pretty little housewife and raise my kids (though my 6 year old daughter that wants to be a slave-rescuer might be disappointed in her mama if I did so) :)

    (hope the sarcasm of much of this comes through :) LOVE this post. LOVE your heart in this matter!

    Thank you
    Brandi

    • LWall June 10, 2014 at 9:44 pm #

      Impressive! As long as we do not make another falter in sin (10 commandments are not suggestions) we can all be heros for God

  18. Luke February 13, 2013 at 3:06 pm #

    Fantastic!!!!! YES YES YES!!!!

  19. Nicole March 8, 2013 at 7:39 pm #

    Jenny, I am so glad to have found your blog. I followed you here from a friend posting your latest article in Relevant Magazine onto my facebook wall. You are SO quotable! I appreciate and share your perspective as far as I have read. Thanks for the work you do!

  20. Shawn Woo April 6, 2013 at 6:06 pm #

    Jenny, thank you for your thoughtful post. These are issues that I am wrestling with right now. You say that men’s impulse to protect women stems not from his “manhood” but from a general desire to do that which is honorable (i.e. to protect the vulnerable). Then, you imply that women have the same impulse, saying that a man is no more likely to sacrifice himself for a woman than a woman for her child. But doesn’t your example further illustrate Piper’s point? I think Piper would say that a woman’s impulse to protect her child is a motherly instinct characteristic of “womanhood” while a man’s impulse to protect a woman is an instinct characteristic of “manhood.” Why did you not say that women are just as likely to sacrifice themselves for men as men are for women? Is it because that does not sound true to reality?

    • Jackalope April 6, 2013 at 7:34 pm #

      Speaking as someone who is fiercely protective of her friends, both male and female, I think it is not the case that women would not protect their male friends (after all, the original post was about a man and a woman in a mugging attack where the debate was whether the woman should force herself to go against her instincts and not help her friend even though she had a much better chance of winning than he would). I would say, though, that many women who have been taught that they are helpless and incapable of defending themselves or anyone else suddenly find out for the first time that this is a lie when their children are attacked and they defend them tooth and nail. Men are less likely to be surprised by this instinct to protect their children because they’re more used to the idea, but some women never realize that they have that strength until suddenly it’s all or nothing.

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong April 7, 2013 at 9:43 pm #

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Shawn.

      When I suggested that a woman would be just as likely to sacrifice herself for a child as a man would for a woman, I was talking about the impulse to protect people whom we perceive to be more vulnerable than ourselves (and women are, typically, much more physically vulnerable than men). Really, I think men would be just as likely to rush to a child’s rescue as a woman would, and women would be quick to help an elderly gentleman who was in some sort of trouble. It’s a matter of perceived practicality, and the “with much power, comes much responsibility” phenomenon. Who is best able to respond to and address the situation? That’s the person who SHOULD respond to and address the situation, and who will probably feel the most responsible to do so.

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