I was distressed to read a paragraph in the Reporter (the national newspaper of the Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod). In the October 2006 issue, page 2, in the article entitled: “Conference explores ways to help chaplains readjust after returning from combat zones,” there is the following paragraph:
“A female soldier is driving a supply truck at dusk in Iraq. A boy, perhaps 10, runs in front of the vehicle, but she has been trained not to stop. She hits him and keeps driving. Back home in the States she thinks about the Iraqi boy all the time. Especially when she looks at her own 10-year-old son.”
First of all, as a traditionalist Christian, I have to say that this is not the proper vocation for a woman. We strain the gnat by exempting women from combat duty, but swallow the camel by training them like men (and usually with men), dressing them in masculine fatigues and boots, outfitting them with weapons, putting them in trucks in combat zones, and expecting (even ordering) them to run over little children.
This is not the biblical understanding of womanhood.
God has designed the female body from the womb up. Even her arms bend differently than those of a man to accommodate her hips. Women are completely designed around the uterus. Their very bodies are temples where the miracle of life begins and is nurtured — the safest and most gentle environment for humanity on the planet. Women are equipped with breasts to feed and nourish babies once they have been delivered from the womb. Women are the cultivators of life, the primary teachers of the human race, the defenders of civilization. Theirs truly are the hands that rule the world by rocking the cradle.
But how many mothers are away from the cradle, neglecting their roles as the teachers and civilizers of youth, doing something “more fulfilling” — such as driving supply trucks in Iraq? And what has happened since women in large numbers have abdicated their vocation as defenders of civilization? Well, we now live in a society that expects mothers to be soldiers and to kill children — and they do it. Their maternal instincts and godly vocation of nurturer do not override their orders to kill.
The article gets it right: they have been “trained.” Women have been “trained” to be killers, to follow and obey unconscionable orders that ought to be refused. And of course, so have men. Most men no longer have examples of manly and honorable fathers and grandfathers, not having been taught by their mothers from the cradle to revere chivalry and decency, nor to defend life and to protect the weak.
No, our mothers are too busy wearing army boots. Remember when that was an insult?
Long gone are the days of George Washington, Robert E. Lee, and George S. Patton. Chivalry is dead in the American Empire. We’ve become a society of savages, of barbarians, a culture of death that can justify even the deliberate running over of a ten-year-old child by a mother of another ten-year-old that she has left behind.
But at least she feels guilty. She has good reason to feel this way. She should have disobeyed this immoral standing order. Hopefully, she has confessed this as a sin and has been absolved — and hopefully her pastor didn’t just shrug off her guilt and try to convince her that she did nothing wrong.
A lot of people argue that the killing of civilians — even women and children — is simply necessary in order to win. Sometimes we have to bomb large civilian cities. Sometimes we have to torture prisoners. Sometimes we have to run over little boys. Of course, using this logic, absolutely anything can be justified. This is the natural end of a philosophy that “might makes right,” that “winning is not everything, but the only thing,” that “failure is not an option.” In this worldview, honor takes a back seat to victory. Winning comes at all costs. There is no right and wrong in warfare — or in civilian life, for that matter.
But there’s also another old military bromide: “Death before dishonor.” We seem to have forgotten that one. According to this most chivalrous motto, losing (or even dying) with honor is preferable to winning but having to commit atrocities in order to claim “victory.”
One of the contributions of the Christian Church to western civilization was the concept of the “just war.” The idea that civilians, especially women and children, ought to be protected, that there are rules even for the waging of war — was a great leap for civilization. We can thank St. Augustine for his role in the practical application of Christianity even to warfare. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect there was a time when the students at our service academies read and studied St. Augustine. I also suspect that they no longer do.
Hence, horror stories like this.
Honor has no place in a military power that justifies the murder of civilian children in the name of winning, nor does chivalry exist in a place where mothers are considered warriors and are encouraged to leave their own children in order to kill someone else’s.
November 1, 2006