We are losing good people who are eager to serve
Despite public and military support for overturning Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the legislation which bans openly gay service members, political, military and religious leaders cite a variety of objections to changing the law.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) worries that allowing gays to serve openly would impact troop "morale;" Marine Corp Commandant Gen. James Amos says that a policy change may affect "unit cohesion" and "combat effectiveness." Among the religious leaders opposed to overturning Don't Ask, Don't Tell is Catholic Archbishop for the Military Services Timothy J. Broglio, who fears that chaplains would be forced to compromise their principles in accepting "objectively disordered" homosexuality, adding that he "can never condone -even silently -homosexual behavior."
What beliefs are behind banning gays in the military? What's the role of religion in this debate?
Like the loving and merciful God who made them, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people are everywhere. And yet, it's often difficult for them to live openly and honestly as who they are. With 72 percent of Americans believing religious messages contribute to "negative views" of gays and lesbians, it's no secret that religion contributes greatly to a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) mentality in our society.
For more than a year on my personal blog I have been writing about the similarities between the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy and church policy when it prohibits openly LGBT people from becoming ministers. As I said in a post from two weeks ago:
In my eyes, the repeal of DADT is more than just allowing LGBT service members to serve openly. It's an opportunity for the entire military community to get to know some of their own as who they truly are. After all, LGBT people have been serving our country in the military all along, just serving in silence about those they love.
In many ways, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is at the same juncture. Just as in the military, LGBT people have been a part of the church and serving as deacons, elders and ministers all along. Yet, the reality is that since the 1970's, we have been living with a Don't Ask Don't Tell policy when it comes to ordained office.
I talked a little more about what this means in an earlier post from this past June:
The fact is that success in the church comes in the same way it does in the military: through each person knowing and doing the job that fits with his or her gifts and inspiration. From the Sunday school teacher to the Moderator of the General Assembly, Presbyterians are called to an office and their service builds up the Body of Christ.
Rules against gifted LGBT people serving have cost both institutions dearly. Don't Ask, Don't Tell has cost our country the service of thousands of patriotic Americans who would put their lives on the line to help defend us, but have been turned away because they are LGBT. Likewise, through ordination standards that exclude LGBT Presbyterians who are honest about who they are, the church has lost wonderful gifts for service in the church. And in both cases, we ignore powerful callings - to serve our country and to serve God.
Indeed, we are losing good people who are eager to serve - we being the church and we being our country.
However, I do see hope. More and more people of faith in America are coming to recognize the gifts LGBT people bring to our communities. According to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, 86% of Americans "believe in God or a higher power" and a CNN poll found that 78% of Americans believe in repealing DADT. There need not be a direct correlation between these findings to draw a conclusion from them about who we are in America.
And as I said in a previous On Faith post on anti-LGBT bullying, I believe that, while the church is currently part of the problem, faith in God as Love can also be a powerful solution. Opening our hearts to God's inclusive love and changing the policies and messages in our churches that push LGBT faithful away can help further change the Don't Ask, Don't Tell mentality in our society.
In my eyes, religion is crucial to the ending of DADT in both church and American society because our faith in God undergirds the way we treat one another and that helps guide the laws and policies in our communities. I thank God that, more and more, we seem to be comprehending how loving our LGBT neighbors is loving ourselves. So ends DADT.
Posted by: APaganplace | November 19, 2010 1:55 PM
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