The Defense Department's decision late last year to allow women to serve in all combat roles has sparked intense debate on whether women should also be required to register for the Selective Services' draft. This week on Cornerstone, we ask: is the inclusion of women in the draft simply an issue of equal access and opportunity, or does it have wider implications for religious groups and society at large?
By: Andrew T. Walker and Josh Wester
Under the pretenses of patriotism and equality, Americans are being confronted with a moral dilemma. As the American people now contend with the morality of forcing women to register for Selective Service—the draft—a larger question looms over the discussion. Will American society forever dismiss the distinction between male and female?
Though such a quandary seemed inevitable in our progressive age, the precipitating event was the fateful pronouncement in December 2015 that all US military combat roles, without exception, would be opened to women. That statement, issued by Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, ignited speculation about the prudence of mandating women to register for the draft. In the intervening months, there has been endless discussion concerning the religious and moral considerations bound up in such an act. For our part, the answer is a resounding no. Women should not now—or ever—be forced into military conscription.
There is no valor in requiring a woman to be subjected to the brutalities of a wartime foxhole where unimaginable horrors are played out in real life. For the same reason, there is no need to forcibly compel women into military service. Should the day arrive where the U.S. military were dependent upon female combatants to win a war, the United States will have already lost its most important battles. A nation relying on female combatants has been brought to its knees by political correctness and has lost all trappings of male and female differentiation. It is a nation denying creation and reality in favor of anti-creation and anti-reality.
The logic and consequence of drafting women leads down a path that should cause our consciences to shudder. Think of the moral equivalency of such arguments that would make it the duty of wives to respond to midnight intruders, rather than husbands. That is exactly what those in favor of drafting women are asking us to accept. And it isn’t just a military proposal; it’s about a dangerous worldview built on the absolutizing ideology of egalitarianism.
The cultural ethos behind this proposal carries inestimable consequences for our society’s understanding of sex and gender. As evangelicals, we unapologetically affirm God’s complementary design and purpose for men and women. While men and women are fully equal in essence, worth, and dignity, the burden of protection is squarely placed upon men. We firmly reject policy measures which ask men to acquiesce to a culture of emasculation by surrendering their innate gifting and responsibility. Such proposals reaffirm our culture’s enfeebled understanding of masculinity, making male obligation optional if women are willing to undertake the duties of men.
Egalitarianism is pervasive in our culture. It has largely rendered the recognition of apparent differences between men and women as antiquated misogyny. Yet, the truth is undeterred. Nature continues to testify to the beauty and distinctness of the sexes. And by design, men and women continue to manifest and display both physical and emotional qualities which clarify the follies of female conscription.
There are also practical considerations that ought to make policy-makers reconsider the prudence of drafting or making women eligible for combat. To implement this policy (1) threatens good military order and discipline by unnecessarily escalating sexual tensions among combat warriors, (2) weakens unit cohesion, (3) exposes female warriors taken as P.O.W.s to the special trauma of rape and sexual abuse, (4) places a major new strain on marital fidelity, and (5) risks the nation’s military security by scrambling the moral framework defining male/female relationships.
So let it be said that a regime that depends on female combatants obscures reality, ignores history, and shames our legacy. No amount of “progress” or modern notions of equality will convince us that placing women in combat is a good idea. Because it isn’t. It’s barbaric.
All of this is undergirded by Christian ethics. At the very beginning of the Christian Scriptures, we’re presented with a story of creation. The pinnacle of creation is God’s creation of men and women. God didn’t make us automatons. He didn’t make us asexual monads. He made us gendered, embodied, and different. Those differences extend to all levels of our being—our emotional, physical, and psychological selves—and this is intentional and good. The Christian tradition finds these differences beautiful; and we embrace them with glad acceptance. God made men and women fit for complementary roles and tasks that, when exchanged or blurred, represents a sort of de-creation. Romans teaches us that disavowing creation is its own form of judgment. A nation cannot suppress the natural laws of God and expect to prosper in the long-term, much less in armed conflict.
The biblical tradition testifies that man and woman are made beautifully different for purposeful reasons. The broad shoulders of men aren’t ancillary or accidental features, but evidence of the natural strength that males innately possess. The protective instinct that men can harness at a moment’s notice isn’t an evolutionary instinct passed down from marauding cavemen—it issues from the fact that God made men protectors.
Military conscription of women makes the thwarting of nature mandatory. Women are nurturers, not warriors. That women are delicate, and possess, on average, a smaller frame than men indicates their aptness for less rugged activities, not hand to hand combat. Noting that women cannot comparably handle the physical strain of soldiering isn’t to deny their intrinsic worth and dignity, but actually esteems it as something distinct from, but equal to, a man’s. And incidentally, it underscores the diversity supposedly favored by cultural progressives.
The Apostle Paul tells the Corinthians to “act like men,” which assumes that if men are to act like men, there’s a standard by which manliness is measured (1 Corinthians 16:13). This is why the Bible, the same Bible which provided America with a rich moral ethos, considers it cowardly, shameful, and embarrassing for men to allow women to engage in a sphere for which men are best suited (Judges 4:9).
Nations should always be reluctant to undertake military action, but God forbid, if wars arise, it ought to be sons that do the nation’s bidding. Anyone with an eye toward reality knows we shouldn’t sacrifice our daughters to battle. Clearly the voices of anti-reason would see every last vestige of natural difference obliterated in the name of egalitarianism, nature continues to bear faithful witness to the truth, and so shall we. America may fall prey to foolish ideologies placing women in harm’s way, but not without our strong objection or opposition.
Andrew T. Walker serves as the director of policy studies for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. Josh Wester is a research assistant to the director of policy studies with the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
This article was originally posted by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. It was later republished on March 28, 2016 for the Religious Freedom Project at Georgetown's Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs.