By Rob Boston
On Saturday, the U.S. Senate voted to repeal the so-called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that banned openly gay and lesbian Americans from serving in the armed forces. The Religious Right is not pleased.
To hear Religious Right leaders tell it, the end is nigh. How soon before the North Koreans come rolling down Pennsylvania Avenue?
“Today is a tragic day for our armed forces,” wailed Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. “The American military exists for only one purpose – to fight and win wars. Yet it has now been hijacked and turned into a tool for imposing on the country a radical social agenda. This may advance the cause of reshaping social attitudes regarding human sexuality, but it will only do harm to the military’s ability to fulfill its mission.”
Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission chimed in with a personal letter to President Barack Obama. “Homosexual behavior cannot be normalized without rejecting God’s moral standards,” Land intoned. “We are saddened that this institution in which membership is a privilege not a right would break from a tradition of high moral conduct.”
(Land helpfully provided Scripture passages to buttress his claims: Leviticus 18:22; 20:13 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. Yet Land himself seems to be in blatant violation of Leviticus 19:27. His haircut is totally unbiblical, and he doesn’t even have a beard. I also suspect he’s in violation of Leviticus 19:19. I’m saddened that the chief political spokesman for the nation’s second largest denomination would break from the biblical tradition of high moral conduct.)
Alliance Defense Fund Litigation Counsel Daniel Blomberg added, “The Senate’s cave-in to pressure from activists to impose homosexual behavior on our military will place our troops’ religious liberties in unprecedented jeopardy. Indeed, the first official casualty of this hurried vote may well be the religious freedom of chaplains and Service members.”
But perhaps the most obnoxious response came from Gordon James Klingenschmitt, a former Navy chaplain who got drummed out of the service for refusing to follow orders. He remarked, “Homosexual sin will always be a stench in the nostrils of Almighty God, an abomination which God condemns and shall punish with everlasting destruction. Even if the Senate had voted 100 to 0 to legalize sin, they could not remove God from His throne of Judgment, before which every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”
Yadda, yadda. Keep on blathering, guys. Honestly, you remind me of the bigots who threw a fit in 1948 when President Harry Truman issued an executive order integrating the armed forces. It was “social engineering”! The soldiers won’t like it. The nation wasn’t ready for this. It will break down morale on the front lines. And on and on.
Klingenschmitt and his pals in the Religious Right have been complaining that lifting DADT will put an onerous burden on chaplains who believe homosexual behavior is sinful. But the military has already made it clear that chaplains’ sermons won’t be censored – unless they attack the top brass, which they are already not allowed to do.
For those chaplains who absolutely can’t deal with this change, I have two words: private sector. If you don’t want to do the job the government has hired you to do, if you can’t overcome your personal bigotries and provide services and help to every member of the military, then maybe it’s time to get out.
You want to know what’s really scaring guys like Perkins, Land and Klingenschmitt? It’s that social attitudes are evolving in America. On the issue of gays in the military, The Washington Post noted recently that public opinion has shifted dramatically.
“In May 1993, just 44 percent of Americans believed gays who disclosed their sexual orientation should be allowed to serve in the military,” reported The Post. “This year, a Washington Post-ABC News poll showed that 77 percent now think so.”
Other polls have shown that, for the first time, a bare majority of Americans supports marriage equality for same-sex couples. In the years to come, that number will only increase.
So you see, the Religious Right is on the losing end of societal progress. Its leaders know that. They don’t like it – but facts are facts. What is there left for them to do but lash out in yet another frenzied blitz of venom and white-hot rage?
Feel free to keep ranting, guys. But know this: Fewer and fewer of us are listening.
P.S. I note that Klingenschmitt claims to oversee a network of 125,000 “patriot pastors.” Forgive me for saying this, but I suspect that’s a fib. There is no way so many pastors have signed up with his low-rent outfit. I think someone has forgotten the ninth commandment.