A recent Associated Press article provided the disturbing news that a group of retired military chaplains are claiming that repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy would be a violation of their religious freedom.
The high-profile policy, forged in 1993 as a first step toward moving beyond an outright ban on homosexuals in the military, forces gays and lesbians to remain in the closet in order to remain in uniform. Thus, Christian gays and lesbians (which I do not believe to be a contradiction in terms) can neither work nor worship with full integrity, having always to hide one of the deepest aspects of their identity — and their freedom is not being violated?
The retired chaplains behind the letter claim that current chaplains could be disciplined as bigots if they should preach against homosexuality, and that this violates their religious freedom.
My question is, do they think that military chaplains, especially in a time of war, have nothing better to preach about than their views on homosexuality? Have they run out of things to say about faith, hope, and love, of brokenness and confession and forgiveness? Have they grown tired of talking about courage and trust and service to others, or practical topics like coping with the stress and grief that accompany times of war and separation from loved ones?
Military chaplains have an obligation to minister to troops of all faiths and denominations. There’s nothing that says they can’t hold a Bible study for members of their own denomination and express their views about homosexuality there — but when they’re leading worship for service-folk at large, it should be obvious to all that themes of hope and encouragement and the presence of God will serve that congregation far better, and will build far more esprit de corps than a diatribe against homosexuals.
And if there should be chaplains who can’t find it in their heart to minister with understanding and compassion to someone they know to be gay, those chaplains always have the option of choosing to work in a setting of more homogenous belief.