Today is the New Hampshire primary, and for the last 36 hours, Christians who take their civic duty and their faith seriously have had another prominent issue to weigh.
In a nutshell, the issue is this: whether any follower of Jesus, in good conscience, can vote for a candidate who believes it is OK to force women into combat roles.
Last Saturday night, a Senator and two Governors appeared to clearly support requiring women to register for selective service. This means that in the event of a national emergency requiring the reinstitution of the draft, our daughters would be included in those conscripted--many of them against their will--to enter into military service, and possibly face the dangers of combat.
A number of Christian leaders have rightfully responded. In particular, I recommend the following from Grant Castleberry, and this excellent piece by Andrew Walker. Additionally, this post by my friend Marty Duren looks at the wider issue of the draft in general applied to the present debate.
Hearing the affirming, yet seemingly mindless words of the Republican candidates on Saturday, my heart sank. I didn't just hear those words as a pastor. I am also a father of three--two sons and a daughter. While I would not want to see any of my children die on a battlefield, there is a marked distinction between my sons and my daughter, rooted biologically, culturally, and from the standpoint of my faith, Scripturally in their respective genders that forces us to see their death on a battlefield in starkly different ways.
The Christian faith proscribes a complementarity between men and women that is rooted in the created order. Yes, we believe in the equality of men and women, but that equality of value, dignity and worth is emphasized, not diminished, by acknowledging the biological, functional, and spiritual distinction between them. Ignoring or seeking to eliminate these distinctions is to present a picture of androgynous humanity that violates the very Scriptural equality presented clearly in male and female identity.
But these principles of gender distinction are not unique to Christianity. They have historically been true of our culture as well, regardless of religious faith.
The unique contributions to society that only women can make have always been given a place of honor. That honor has historically been expressed, at least in part, by exempting them from circumstances where that honor might be violated. Certainly we can agree that the prospect of a woman's body being riddled and torn apart by enemy fire, or the horrific situation any woman would face as a Prisoner of War is enough to make us reconsider whether requiring any woman to be available for this possibility removes the honor our society has historically sought to give to women.
Exempting women from the draft is not in any way a denial of the essential equality of men and women. At the same time, we must acknowledge obvious distinctions between the sexes. The absurdity of seeking to eliminate those distinctions leads ultimately to the kind of cowardly policies that would forcibly send our daughters to bleed while able-bodied men stay home.
This is not honoring to women. Such is precisely why the death of one of my sons in service to his country, while tragic and unspeakably sad, can carry honor. But the death of my daughter in this way--indeed the forcible conscription and subsequent death of anyone's daughter--would reveal our national character to be marked by cowardice.
There are times when followers of Jesus should be conciliatory. There are other times--especially when our national character is on the line--when we must speak with an edge. This is one of those times. One writer has already expressed it well:
"I cannot fully articulate just how damnably evil and cowardly it is to send women into war against their will. Whether or not such a war ever comes — and I believe it may, sooner or later — the very fact that we are prepared to do such a thing, that the law has mandated such a thing, is enough for me to pray that God finally smites our hideous, craven society, so that we can construct a new one from scratch. And if that ever happens, I’d like to hereby suggest that we banish from our new society any gutless, reprehensible, cowed little man who is now nodding with approval at the idea of forcibly shipping our daughters off to be blown apart. Men as unspeakably selfish and weak as that can be of no use in the rebuilding process."
Yes, this issue is that serious.