Apr 30, 2010

Retired Chaplains Reveal Hypocrisy Over DADT

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

At the risk of becoming repetitive, I must point out that the obsession of some Christians with homosexuality is absurd and hypocritical. Case in point:

More than 40 retired military chaplains warned President Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates that allowing gays to serve openly in the military will force current chaplains to choose between obeying God or men.

"This forced choice must be faced, since orthodox Christianity -- which represents a significant percentage of religious belief in the armed forces -- does not affirm homosexual behavior," the chaplains wrote in their Wednesday (April 28) letter.

The retired chaplains -- affiliated with denominations including the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the Presbyterian Church in America and the Southern Baptist Convention -- said the change could force chaplains to water down their teachings, or force them to preach or counsel views that conflict with official military policies.

Until these retired chaplains -- retired being the operative word -- start sending sharply worded letters warning the Commander in Chief to put a stop to the serving of seafood and pork products to all service members, and terminating the use of all synthetic blends in uniforms, I really can't take their Biblical scholarship seriously.  I have addressed the disingenuousness of cherry-picking obscure scripture before -- notably here and here. I can add little to the pithy genius of the famous "Letter to Dr. Laura" which I include in those writings.

Such hypocrisy breeds hypocrisy. The "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" rule is one of built in hypocrisy. It doesn't prevent gay people from serving their country. It simply requires them to lie about it. This sad compromise is dying the ignominious death it deserves. As a military spouse, I know what the majority of service members know: It's over. Repeal of DADT is imminent... Thank God.

The disproportionate focus on homosexuality underscores one of the trickier puzzles of religion as part of greater culture. It is very hard to make a Biblical case against same sex relationships. That so many Christians (and some Jews) do so, is based far more in cultural biases than scripture, where the issue is barely mentioned and is of a piece with many antiquated admonitions to which few people pay any mind at all.

Culture and religion are enmeshed in many ways. As I learned many years ago, during my brief flirtation with fundamentalism, a kind of cognitive dissonance is required to convince yourself that your lifestyle is consistent with that of some ancient, desert Jews. On my way to a pentecostal church with some friends, I asked them how that church justified its female pastor. I had been reading my Bible, like any good, born-again teenager. The problem was that I kept getting derailed by passages like this one.

"Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law." ~ 1 Corinthians 14:34

My devout Christian friends informed me that some parts of the Bible were appropriate to a certain time but weren't anymore. But how do you decide which ones? No one could answer me on that one... or look me in the eye after that. (As a fun exercise, turn on any fundamentalist Christian broadcast and count the number of women who aren't keeping silent in the church.)

Not surprisingly, as a new generation of born-again religion matures, some of the stupider scriptural obsessions are falling by the wayside. The death knell Christian homophobia can be heard clearly in the recent announcement of Christian music star Jennifer Knapp that she is in love with a woman.

I'm in no way capable of leading a charge for some kind of activist movement. I'm just a normal human being who's dealing with normal everyday life scenarios. As a Christian, I'm doing that as best as I can. The heartbreaking thing to me is that we're all hopelessly deceived if we don't think that there are people within our churches, within our communities, who want to hold on to the person they love, whatever sex that may be, and hold on to their faith. It's a hard notion. It will be a struggle for those who are in a spot that they have to choose between one or the other. The struggle I've been through—and I don't know if I will ever be fully out of it—is feeling like I have to justify my faith or the decisions that I've made to choose to love who I choose to love.

. . .

The Bible has literally saved my life. I find myself between a rock and a hard place—between the conservative evangelical who uses what most people refer to as the "clobber verses" to refer to this loving relationship as an abomination, while they're eating shellfish and wearing clothes of five different fabrics, and various other Scriptures we could argue about. I'm not capable of getting into the theological argument as to whether or not we should or shouldn't allow homosexuals within our church. There's a spirit that overrides that for me, and what I've been gravitating to in Christ and why I became a Christian in the first place.

Yep. The shellfish again. How many Bible toting bigots have proved themselves to be total hypocrites over a lovely shrimp cocktail appetizer?

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