Women in the Draft

The Millennial Theologian


The Series

The Millennial Theologian
The Apologist Father
The Female Veteran

When articles about the US military drafting women started showing up in my social media feeds, I ignored them because I assumed it was overblown click-bait. Yet, a few days later I found myself being asked to write about the issue from the perspective of a female member of the Millennial generation who will actually be affected by such laws. Honestly, I doubt my perspective is going to be very popular, but if nothing else I think it is important that more seasoned political and theological commenters observe why my perspective is different.

A lot of people, especially in the politically conservative arm of the Christian world, are quite upset over the possibility of their daughters being drafted. In reality, reinstituting the draft at all would make most parents very nervous for their draft-aged children, so adding daughters to the mix is simply adding to that concern. I would like to state here at the top: if my younger sister were drafted, I would be just as scared and anxious for her safety and how her personality would handle being in combat as most parents would be for their daughters. I by no means dismiss those concerns.

However, here's where I get stuck: I would be just as anxious and concerned if my younger brother were drafted. I have great respect for our military personnel, and both of my siblings are wonderful, strong people, but neither of them have personalities or interests which have thus far attracted them to the military. It isn't so much about my sister being female as it is about her not being what we might think of when we think of soldiers. And I would feel the same about the majority of my non-military friends, male or female.

Once personal anxiety is set aside, the idea of women being drafted does not bother me.

Considering that this legal decision will affect me directly, and many Christians are saying that drafting women is unbiblical, why am I so nonchalant about drafting women? I have both personal/experiential and ideological concerns influencing my perspective.

On the personal front, I, too, have chosen other paths for my life outside the military, and honestly don't think I would make a good combat soldier. But many before me and many after will be called to serve in ways not inherent to their makeup, and I would be willing, though scared, to attempt it as well. Meanwhile, women's roles in the US military have been expanding over the course of my whole life, and discussion of women in combat has been common especially since 9/11, when I was only ten years old. Also, there is now a significant percentage of females in law enforcement, so the idea of women protecting their cities and country is by no means shocking to me, as it may still be for some members of my parents' and grandparents' generations.

Also important to me and how I view drafting women is the political/legal situation and biblical/historic perspectives on women in combat.

Many are upset about women in combat, and there is certainly a lot to be said on that front. A person's view of how men and women are supposed to interact within and outside marriage will largely determine how you view women in combat. While arguments can be made biblically and philosophically against women in combat, the fact remains that the US military now accepts women in all combat positions. As such it makes good legal and arguably moral sense to include women in the draft. If the government has decided that it is legally, and thus morally, acceptable to place women in combat, in order to be morally consistent they must add women to the draft. If they do not, it is a moral (and legal) injury committed against men, placing them in greater peril than approximately 50 percent of the combat-eligible population.

Although the point is essentially moot since the decision has already been made at the legal level, the biblical and historic perspectives on women in combat are pertinent in explaining why the draft issue fails to upset me.

Biblically, nowhere in the Bible can you find an injunction against women being involved in combat, the military, or military leadership. We instead find the judge Deborah instructing, nay goading on, another general, and physically leading Israel to victory against its enemies. We find Esther involved in advising the King in how to handle a violent assault on Jews. Considering the highly patriarchal societies in which those events occurred, it is essentially impossible to argue that they were merely "cultural," and in both cases the women were clearly ordained by God to be in their respective positions of authority.

Meanwhile, historically it is simply incorrect to say that women have not been involved in combat. Here is a mere sampling of historical records. The Trojan War in the 13th century BC was the first recorded instance of women cross-dressing in order to be in combat, a tradition continued in many cultures and situations including the American Civil War. Ancient Greek and Chinese cultures left many records of female military leaders who went into battle with their armies. On the Kazakh-Russian border graves of women buried with weapons have been found and dated to the 6th century BC, and similar graves dated to the 3rd century BC near the Sea of Azov. In the 2nd century BC, Roman armies encountered a number of societies where women were commonly found in combat. Gothic women attacked Rome alongside their male counterparts. The Viking women were well known for their fierceness in battle. Britain and Germany both placed women in anti-aircraft installations during World War Two, while Russia used female units made up of snipers and other specialists.

I see no reason biblically, culturally, historically, or legally to oppose the drafting of women, or the placing of women in combat in the first place. In fact, I think it is legally and morally necessary to place women in the draft since they are already accepted in combat. Just as I respect the concerns of many Christian brothers and sisters, I hope that those who disagree with me will at least understand the reasoning and altered cultural perspective which informs my difference of opinion.

Image Credit: MCRD Parris Island, SC; untitled; Creative Commons

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Published 2-29-16