The seeming endorsement by several Republican presidential candidates of registering women for a hypothetical military draft, and the Obama Administration’s removing remaining strictures against women in combat roles, have provoked controversy from some conservative Christians. Nearly all of the critics so far have been Evangelical, mostly Southern Baptist. My colleague Marc LiVecche offers his critique here and here. It would be helpful to find a substantive Catholic analysis, which seems oddly to be unavailable.
Maybe more striking is the silence of Christian pacifists, Protestant and Catholic, who define morality and faith by resistance to violence, and typically are quick to strike against any perceived escalation of societal militarization. Yet so far there is only the sound of crickets, even from the normally quite outspoken guild of neo-Anabaptists. If all violence is wrong, and if warfare for any purpose is the worst of evils, as they propose, shouldn’t any incorporation of women into military combat be profoundly troubling, especially if coercively mandated under possible conscription?
The silence so far of Christian pacifists maybe evinces a dilemma. Most if not nearly all are gender egalitarians and utopians who would be profoundly discomfited to admit different vocational roles for male and female. Many, perhaps most, are so wedded to postmodern theology that they affirm or are quiet about same sex marriage and transgenderism. They have accommodated, or at least pretend to, Western secularism’s current gnostic cri de coeur that gender is an artificial social construct divorced from physical reality. Likely for most Christian pacifists, women in combat is bad in the sense that anyone in combat is bad. But sexual differentiation, rooted in traditional Christian anthropology, is for them even worse.
Christian pacifists also tend to identify the sort of Christians who are critiquing women in combat as their theological, social and political nemeses. Conservative Evangelicals are militarists, nationalists, agents of empire, and Constantinians, according to their caricatures. Probably most Christian pacifists would prefer to copilot a heavily armed fighter jet with a female flyer than be caught in the same suburban megachurch parking lot with a conservative Evangelical having strong traditional views about gender.
Traditional Evangelicals who oppose women in combat, and who are offended by any idea of a military draft for their daughters, root their convictions in the Judeo-Christian creation story and the expansive Christian cosmological understanding of male and female as equal partners under God but decidedly not interchangeable. Probably most traditional Christians with these views would welcome collaboration with Christian pacifists. But Christian pacifists are unlikely to accede to any such cooperation.
This resistance to any common cause with traditional Evangelicals by Christian pacifists is unfortunate. The jackhammer political push to squash traditional roles and militarize young women will further coarsen and confuse our already deluded culture in ways that will hurt a lot of men in women, inside and outside the armed forces.