Don't Ask, Don't Tell - The Day We Stopped Talking
From 1950 – 1993 the Uniform Code of Military Justice forbid homosexual men and women from military service. In 1993 President Bill Clinton offered a compromised policy that became known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The policy forbid military recruiters from asking about an applicant’s sexual orientation. The policy also demanded discharge for any military personnel who claimed to be homosexual or expressed intent to engage in homosexual activity.[i] On Saturday (12/18/2010) Congress voted to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. On Wednesday (12/22/2010) President Obama will sign the repeal into law.
Opponents of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell cited first and foremost that the policy violated the civil rights of gay Americans. Opponents also appealed to the changed American conscience and its opinion of homosexuality, more particularly its opinion of gays serving in the military. According to an article posted by The Christian Science Monitor, 2/3 of active military personnel do not object to serving alongside openly homosexual men and women and 77% of Americans are in favor of the repeal.[ii] Those against repealing the policy believe that repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” would disrupt military service and lower morale which could be especially dangerous during a time of war.[iii] Others point out that using the military as a social experiment violates its fundamental purpose and poses a threat to national security.[iv]
While Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell appeared to be a compromise in policy that the homosexual community resented, its effect was that it legislated that the moral opponents of homosexuality leave the argument. In 1993 gays stopped telling and we stopped talking. 17 years later the conversation about homosexuality shifted from morality to military morale and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was easily repealed. Because the voices of morality left the conversation in 1993, the homosexual community was able to easily erase the most paramount question from our conscience, is it wrong to be gay? As we debated the issue over the last few weeks, no one even asked.
In the 1954 film “White Christmas” the word “gay” was used repeatedly to describe a quality a guy looks for in a girl. Now the word “gay” is a complete redefinition of marriage. For the last twenty years homosexuality has been funny. It came out of the closet, onto the stage, onto the screen, into our sit-coms, and our songs – we sang it and laughed at it. On Saturday we completely forgot the problem with it, it’s wrong. Saturday’s vote had nothing to do with our military; it was a resounding statement by our nation’s leaders that morality no longer matters.
The end of the moral conscience, especially as it pertains to homosexuality, has been coming for quite some time. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was a bad idea from its beginning. It was not a bad idea because it forced homosexual people to lie about their sexual orientation; it was a bad because it was moral compromise. The policy was sold to America and its lawmakers as a way to end military abuse and hazing against homosexuals. Instead of more effectively punishing those that were abusive, we ceased to question morality. In the meantime the homosexual community took the opportunity to redefine morality. So what is the end result? Did stopping the conversation about homosexuality in the military end abuse and hazing? Has the incidence of sexual abuse in the military diminished to zero since 1993? No way! Policies don’t fix idiots or infidels. Furthermore, redefining morality does not discourage sin, it only enflames it. The end result is that sexual abuse is no longer a part of the conversation. The incidences of abuse and hazing, as horrible as they were (and remain to be) were the scapegoat. Truth be told, abuse was not the primary issue or concern of the liberal community when it came to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell represented a strategic shift in the argument. We will no longer say that homosexuality is wrong; in fact we won’t even talk about. For the next 17 years during Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell the homosexual community spoke. On Saturday they won the argument that their opponents, in 1993, were legislated to leave.
Personally, I am not as concerned about the implications of this repeal for our military as much as I am about what it says about our culture and the church. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was moral compromise grounded on moral relativism. If we continue without a moral compass to govern us, there is no end to the evil of our imaginations. The church needs to reengage the conversation, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is over, let’s talk! The homosexual community is open with their agenda; let’s do the same with the gospel. As we do so, we must also examine ourselves and ask if we, as a church, have lost a Divine sense of absolute morality? It will be difficult for the church to accurately convey the voice of God to our culture when sexually we too are in disarray. If we speak out against homosexual marriage, the question that will inevitably echo back our way will question what we are doing with marriage? Is it working? Furthermore, as we voice our opposition to homosexuality, we must not forget the full scope of the gospel. The problem in America is not a homosexual one, it is a sinful one. Sin is sin. Homosexuality poses no greater degree of transgression than does violence, greed, gossip, or gluttony. The good news is that the gospel is able to heal the repentant sinner – all of them – all of us. As we reengage the conversation we should not do so as if we are the authorities on the subject, but as if we are healed.
[i] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don't_ask,_don't_tell (12/20/2010)
[iv] See Tony Perkin’s (Family Research Council) comments as posted on: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/federal-eye/2010/12/dont_ask_dont_tell_senate_vote.html (12/20/2010)