Should Christians support the government-enforced, involuntary slavery of human beings? Slavery was, of course, a great evil, and although there are many slavery myths that still linger, there is no denying that some Christians attempted to justify that “peculiar institution.” A greater evil, however, is that some Christians would support — right now, in the twenty-first century — not only government-enforced slavery, but government-mandated slavery.
The government-mandated slavery I am referring to is military conscription.
During the so-called Civil War, both sides drafted conscripts, although draftees were able to hire substitutes. The U.S. government drafted soldiers during both world wars. There was also military conscription in force between 1948 and 1973 when the U.S. government faced off against the Soviet Union during the Cold War and fought the undeclared wars in Korea and Vietnam.
Now we have Congressman Charles Rangel (D-NY), the incoming chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, once again proposing to reinstate the military draft. He actually introduced legislation to reinstate the draft back before Bush invaded Iraq, but his bill (H.R. 163) was defeated in the House in October of 2004 by a vote of 402-2. In 2005 Rangel introduced H.R. 2723, the “Universal National Service Act of 2005.” Earlier this year, he introduced H.R. 4752, the “Universal National Service Act of 2006.” Each of these proposed pieces of legislation would “provide for the common defense by requiring all persons in the United States, including women, between the ages of 18 and 42 to perform a period of military service or a period of civilian service in furtherance of the national defense and homeland security.”
Now wait a minute, Mr. Vance. I thought you were talking about slavery? The draft isn’t slavery. The draft is all about defending and protecting the country. The draft is something all patriotic Americans should support. Didn’t the evil liberal Bill Clinton dodge the draft?
But I am talking about slavery. The draft is a form of slavery or involuntary servitude. Although this practice was supposedly outlawed by the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, the Supreme Court ruled in Arver v. United States (1918) that
as we are unable to conceive upon what theory the exaction by government from the citizen of the performance of his supreme and noble duty of contributing to the defense of the rights and honor of the nation as the result of a war declared by the great representative body of the people can be said to be the imposition of involuntary servitude in violation of the prohibitions of the Thirteenth Amendment, we are constrained to the conclusion that the contention to that effect is refuted by its mere statement.
What else are you going to call the draft if it is not slavery or involuntary servitude? A young person is told that he must join the military. He is then told when to go to bed and when to get up. He is told when to eat and when to sleep. He is told to move here or move there. He is told what he is allowed to do and what he is not allowed to do. And worst of all, he is told that a certain group of people is the “enemy” and therefore must be bombed into submission or killed.
The draft is not at all about defending and protecting the country. It is about getting cannon fodder to fight in an immoral and unnecessary overseas war. How many young men who didn’t know where Vietnam was located would think of going there to kill or be killed unless they were forced to do so? A real invasion of American soil would necessitate, not the conscription of young men to fight, but the need for Americans of all ages to wait in line in order to get a chance to shoot the invaders. Every able-bodied man (and even some women) would fight without having to be coerced or threatened.
The draft is something that all patriotic Americans should abhor because, as Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) has said: “A government that is willing to enslave some of its people can never be trusted to protect the liberties of its own citizens.”
Should we fault Clinton for dodging the draft? It has been correctly pointed out that “he craftily manipulated the system, but he had the proper and legal right to do everything he did. He was never AWOL, never guilty of failing to report, was never a criminal under public law.” Although Clinton’s action of sending U.S. troops to Bosnia and elsewhere was reprehensible, he should not be condemned for using whatever legal means he could to avoid being sent to Vietnam. It is too bad that more young men didn’t use whatever means they could, legal or otherwise, to avoid being sent to Vietnam. Fifty-eight thousand Americans and perhaps two million Southeast Asians are dead because millions of American soldiers obeyed the dictates of the state.
Why, then, would Christians who are opposed to slavery be in support of military conscription? The answer is because they are not opposed to the state. In fact, many Christians are in love with the state. Sure, they may complain about paying their taxes or following some regulation, get upset with Supreme Court decisions about abortion, and even get outraged about government-funded pornographic art, but when it comes to the subject of war and the military they lose their mind. Bombing, maiming, interrogating, and killing are okay as long as it is done in service for the state. The military and the CIA are great employment opportunities for Christian young people. Even if they acknowledge that a war like the one in Iraq is unconstitutional and unnecessary — and even immoral and senseless — some Christians still say that the troops are not responsible and we should support them.
What are the Christians who live by the “obey the powers that be” mantra going to do when the state conscripts their young women? Congressman Rangel’s bills already amend the Military Selective Service Act to authorize the military registration of females. What are these Christians going to do when U.S. troops are directed to attack American citizens in the name of fighting terrorism? Will they still encourage their children to join the military?
Christians who continue to defend Bush’s war of aggression in Iraq are in a state of denial. They refuse to believe that the president lied the country into war. They refuse to believe that loving one’s country has nothing to do with loving the government. They refuse to believe that being patriotic does not mean blindly following whatever the government says. They refuse to believe that the alliance between evangelical Christianity and the military is an unholy one. And they also refuse to believe that war is the health of the state.
Should Christians support slavery in the form of military conscription? Of course not. The draft, whether into the military or into some form of “national service,” is about serving the state. Of all people, Christians should vehemently oppose serving what has historically been the enemy of real Christianity.
The only ones who “owe it” to the country to fight in unconstitutional, unjust, immoral, and unnecessary wars of aggression are the pathetic chickenhawks, the diehard armchair warriors, the “conservative” apologists for President Bush, the Republican Party loyalists, the writers for National Review, the unholy Christian warmongers, and anyone else calling for more money to be spent and more troops to be sent to fight the terrible waste of money and lives that is the war in Iraq.