Let’s Talk About “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

The Pentagon has finally come forward with their report which recommends the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in the military. Of course it was, for a long time, a foregone conclusion and I have no doubts that the policy will be repealed and that gays will be able to serve in the military openly. And after thinking through the whole issue I don’t really have a problem with it – if the study is honest in its assessment that it won’t make that much of a difference in the effectiveness of the military.

However, my main concern is not that the Pentagon should decide that gays can serve openly in the military, but that a Federal Court determined about a month ago that the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy was unconstitutional and ordered that it be struck down. The scary thing for us as churches is that we have the prospect of a court someday saying to us that we cannot “discriminate” as a Christian church against, say for instance, an openly gay individual who desires to be ordained.

If you think about it, the word “discriminate” is not really a bad word. Of course, some kinds of discrimination are wrong (the scriptures say specifically, for example, that discrimination against the poor is wrong.)  The fact is that we discriminate ALL THE TIME – and often for good reason! When you chose your spouse you were most certainly discriminatory. Children are not allowed to drive. Illegal immigrants can’t collect social security. If you are overweight and have a bum leg the army is likely to discriminate against you and say you can’t serve your country – no matter how much you want to. Not many would think of these discriminations as being unfair.

But the issue of “gay rights” in the military illustrates this incredible problem that we have in determining appropriate discrimination in our society – especially when it comes to these controversial “moral” issues of the day. The real question is WHO should make these discriminations – and upon what basis? Are the Courts to make these judgments? Or elected governments? Is the basis for those judgments the Bible or popular opinion – or just practicality? Should we as Christians really expect that the government would prop up a biblical worldview in its governance – especially when most of its citizens don’t agree with it? But what of the courts? Should they have power to dictate to institutions who they must hire for a particular job? It is a hard thing to come to good answers!

And so we come to the church – a church that does indeed PLAINLY discriminate against individuals who, according to the judgment of God in the scriptures, act contrary to His will. With Jesus-modeled kindness and compassion, recognizing that we are ALL sinners, we are to witness to the truth in love. We are called to discriminate in our church between those who openly and purposefully sin against the Lord (and this, of course, extends to other issues besides the gay lifestyle), and those who do not.

Supposedly we have this treasure called ‘religious freedom” in this country which would allow us as a church to continue to discriminate according to our faith and conviction. Let us pray that we can keep it!


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