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A test of America’s moral condition

The proposal to make women register for the draft reveals the sad state of our country’s spiritual and cultural health

U.S. soldiers attend a ceremony on Omaha Beach on June 4 in Normandy, France. Associated Press/Photo by Jeremias Gonzalez

A test of America’s moral condition
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The Senate’s Armed Services Committee has voted to advance National Defense Authorization Act for 2025. Among its “Major Highlights” is requiring women to register for Selective Service under the Military Selective Service Act.

Current Selective Service law requires nearly all male U.S. citizens and male immigrants between the ages of 18 and 25 to register for military “operational readiness.” Exemptions are few and far between, compelling clergy, trans-identifying, refugees, and most disabled males to register. In the event of a national emergency beyond the Defense Department’s ability to recruit and retain its military force, the Selective Service System would be activated and the military draft instated.

Historically, women have been exempted from Selective Service. At no point in U.S. history have women been subject to a military draft. But if the Senate Armed Service Committee’s bill becomes law, that might change, requiring young women to fulfill military service in a time of war.

Ironically—perhaps, fittingly—the news circulated over Father’s Day weekend, with scores of dads objecting on social media: You will not draft my daughter. Hard no. Over my dead body.

The news also comes amid increasing erosion of women’s safety in the name of gender inclusivity and political progress. Just consider the implications of the Biden administration’s amendments to Title IX. Or the judicially mandated transfer of a violent, male sex offender to a women’s prison. Or the cumulative calls for biological men to have access to single-sex spaces like domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centers.

But the significance of women in the draft is no mere social evolution; rather, it’s a cultural indictment. And its precedent goes back to a biblical era of moral chaos, one that demonstrates the connection between a nation’s spiritual decline and the vulnerability of its women.

Consider the Book of Judges.

The book’s narrator opens with the story of Achsah, daughter of Caleb whose life of faithfulness culminated in military success. In chapter 1, Achsah is depicted as a woman of honor and agency. The narrator includes her words and action, namely her negotiation of strategic and profitable land as part of her dowry.

As Israel’s era of decline continues—a span that may have occurred in just two generations—women are gradually placed in violent and vulnerable circumstances. With each passing scene, the narrator portrays the women of Israel as increasingly nondescript, progressively anonymous in otherwise detailed accounts.

How the men of a nation defend women from harm is a benchmark indicator of that nation’s moral condition.

In chapter 4, Jael assassinates Sisera with a tent peg. In chapter 9, a woman kills an approaching military commander by dropping a millstone on his head. In chapter 11, a young girl loses her life because of her father’s warped (and unnecessary) pledge.

Then comes Judges 19.

The Unnamed Concubine, the legal wife of a Levite, was abandoned by her husband, surrendered to a mob of “worthless,” lecherous men who gang raped her to the point of death. She had no name. She had no recorded words. She had no agency. The crimes against her incited civil unrest and even further violence.

And here the ancient narrator reveals a lesson within the lesson: We can measure a culture’s spiritual health by the degree to which that culture protects its women. How the men of a nation defend women from harm is a benchmark indicator of that nation’s moral condition.

How did the state of women in Israel spiral from an honored daughter to a nameless commodity? By the state of the nation spiraling into depravity. The commands of God and the common good are inextricably linked. And when every man does what is right in his own eyes, every woman is vulnerable (Judges 21:25).

That our nation’s leaders would subject women to the draft is nothing to celebrate; it’s certainly no reflection of gender equity and social advancement. It is, however, an alarming diagnosis on our spiritual, moral, and cultural health. We’re a deeply unhealthy nation.

Katie J. McCoy

Katie J. McCoy is director of women’s ministry at Texas Baptists.

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