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Seeing Things Differently Now

This morning while I munched on a bowl of cereal I found myself thinking about that statement heard at most weddings, "What God has joined together, let no one put asunder". Or, to put that in more contemporary terms, "What God has joined, let no one separate".

I got to wondering if the reverse of that statement could be true: "What God has separated, let no one join". The trigger for this question was a radio news item concerning the issue of women in the Armed Forces being allowed to serve in front line combat situations. The discussion in the media this morning seems divided over the issue.

On the one hand there is the desire to remove any discrimination suggesting that women are somehow less capable than men and are therefore inferior to men. On the other hand there was the need to recognise the historical reality that since the 'year dot' men have been the warriors. This doesn't make them superior, just different. Like it or not, the fact is that men and women are different. They are different physiologically, emotionally and relationally.

It's those differences that are the real issue for me.

The differences are undeniable. What we do with them and how we respond to them is another matter altogether. What we do with those differences is largely determined by how we understand their origin. Are they the product of cultural pressures over the ages? Are they the result of gender discrimination that denigrates one gender and elevates the other? Or are those gender differences the deliberate choice of a creative initiative that designed the differences for the overall benefit of the human race?

I certainlyknow that I'm in the minority when I say that my starting point is the statement in Genesis 1/27:  ".....male and female He created them."  I take that to mean that the Creator deliberately chose to make this fundamental difference between the sexes and that, contrary to popular but distorted opinion, this choice was not meant to promote one sex as inferior and the other as superior. The intention was that there be equality of both sexes but difference in function - each complementing the other and together making a delightful unity of personhood.

So what has that to do with women in front line military combat situations? Let me come back to that question because I want to pose a more fundamental question.

Have you noticed that there seems to be some kind of conspiracy to minimize if not eliminate the differences between men and women? Or am I just a paranoid male who is scared of such far-reaching social change? At the very least I am deeply concernedwith what seems to be a social agenda - however well intentioned by its proponents - to blur the male/female distinctions and to confuse the unique role which each is meant to bring to the human family.

Which brings me back to that reverse statement with which I raised this whole discussion; "What God has separated, let no one join". It seems to me that, in so many ways, we try to separate what God has joined and join what God has separated. This is our feeble but rebellious attempt to play God. We are trying to exercise the power of veto over the creation as God intended it to be and replace it with what we want it to be.

Can I give an example, you ask, of how we trying to join what God has separated? Such a question takes us immediately into the social mine-field of homosexuality and its predictable expression in same sex marriage. This is a huge subject and far beyond the scope of this article. However, this is a primary example of how we are taking what God has separated (the male/female distinctives ) and we are seeking to join them and thereby blur the differences.

I am especially sensitized to anything that undermines or compromises the traditional understanding of the family unit. Remove or restrict the intended role of either male or female - mum or dad - and the family balance is compromised.

Please note: I want here to salute and honour the role of single parents who give of themselves over and above what might reasonably be expected of them. My own daughter is a single mother with two girls. What I am exploring here is the intended ideal of a fully functional extended family.  I want in no way to suggest that single parent families cannot be successfulin raising mature and well-adjusted children.

If the heart of a warrior beats within the chest of a man and this is how he has been wired by the act of creation, then let us not try to change or separate the heart of man and replace it with the heart of a woman which, by all objective evidence, is not the heart of a warrior. Her heart is that of the carer, the nurturer, the peacemaker, the conciliator.  And please don't try to tell me that this is a second-rate, inferior role!! If anything, it is the most demanding role and is best facilitated by the male providing the security of encouragement and protection. Each needs the other to function effectively and consistently. "A man needs a woman and a woman needs a man". (Hmm, isn't that a line of a popular song some time back?).

It's the complementary nature of the relationship for which I am pleading. I want it noted that this interdependence goes beyond the husband/wife relationship which has some unique dimensions that are non-transferable - the obvious one being the sexual dimension of the marriage relationship.

We were never meant to "do life" alone. We are social creatures who need community. The "male/female differences" hold true for community life, too.We ought to see this dynamic in the life of the local Christian community. The Bible gives clear directions for the care of widows and the fatherless so that, in their vulnerability, they find protection and provision.

Without doubt there are, in every generation, those (men) who have exploited their role and abused others - especially the abuse of women. But the abuse of a role or position does not invalidate the position itself. By all means let's expose and remove such abuse. But let's not remove the ideal represented by that position or role.

There's so much more that could be explored on this subject. So many life situations that are dependant upon a recognition of all that's involved in the simple statement, ".....male and female He created them." Our Creator made them separate. Let's not join together what God has put asunder.

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