Desmond Doss is a personal hero of mine.
Doss was the only conscientious objector to receive the Medal of Honor for his courage during World War II. A Seventh-day Adventist who zealously stood by his conviction against taking a human life, Doss nonetheless heroically stayed behind after his commanding officers called for a retreat from Hacksaw Ridge. He spent the night seeking out his wounded compatriots, lowering them down the steep face of the Ridge one-by-one. His bravery saved the lives of at least 75 American soldiers.
There are certainly many aspects of Doss’s life that are noteworthy. But as I was re-reading his story recently, one aspect in particular jumped out to me: At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Doss was working at a naval shipyard in Virginia. Because of his work, he could have received a deferment from military service, because his shipbuilding skills were necessary to the war effort.
But Desmond wanted to do more for the country that he loved. He wanted to serve.
So he gave up his life of comfort and joined the Army. All he asked was that he be allowed to serve his country in a way that did not force him to violate his duty to God. Doss was eventually assigned to be a combat medic. And he likely accomplished more in that non-combat role than he ever would have carrying a rifle.
Our country is in the midst of a crisis of a different sort. Every year, over 600,000 children pass through our nation’s foster care system. They are the tragic victims of neglect, broken homes, domestic abuse, sexual abuse, and drug abuse. These innocent kids have had their lives shattered, and they are in need of loving homes, counseling, and other social services to help them heal.
In the midst of this hopelessness and chaos rise a chorus of voices crying out, “Let us help!” These are the voices of faith-based organizations like New Hope Family Services in New York and Catholic Charities West Michigan who feel called by God to lend a helping hand to these children in need.
Foster care and adoption work is emotionally taxing. You pour your heart into kids subsumed by feelings of betrayal and abandonment. You recruit and train families to welcome these fragile souls into their lives—all the while preparing them for the trials and tragedies that are all too regular for these families.
It would be easier to do something, anything, other than foster and adoption care. These organizations could have stuck to Bible studies, soup kitchens, and employment skills training. But they felt called to serve children in need.
These organizations have long enlisted in the effort to give every child a forever home. All they ask is that they—like Desmond Doss—be allowed to stay true to the religious convictions that compelled them to serve in the first place. These are good-faith convictions related to a belief that a stable home composed of a married mother and father provides the best environment for a child to heal and thrive.
Given the scope of the foster care crisis our nation is facing, you might expect that state governments would be thankful for another helping hand. But that is sadly not the case.
Rather than letting these organizations conscientiously serve the children in their communities, state governments are demanding that these organizations violate their convictions as the price of serving. “Change your views on marriage,” the state demands, while threatening to revoke licenses of those who cannot bend the knee to Caesar because their first duty is to the Creator.
Let them serve. Let them serve consistent with their consciences. Let them serve consistent with their beliefs. For the sake of the children, let them serve!
When the Army let Desmond Doss serve consistent with his faith, he saved 75 lives. How many young lives can be saved—saved from abuse, addiction, and brokenness—if we let New Hope Family Services, Catholic Charities, and other faith-based adoption and foster care organizations like them continue serving children and families in their communities?
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