Smile Politely

Why gays are morally superior to Christians

Controversy over “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is starting to heat up again, as President Obama continues to drag his feet in the face of continued firings of military personnel who admit to being gay.

The 1993 policy was one of those compromises that made everyone angrier than they already were. Bill Clinton had campaigned to allow homosexuals to openly serve in the military, but waffled on actually implementing it. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” continued the ban on openly serving, but no longer required recruits to sign statements indicating their sexual orientation.

The ruling made gay-rights folks angry, because it sent them right back to the closet and continued the criminalization of homosexuality in the military. The ruling made anti-gay folks angry because they are angry at anything less than total discrimination against gayness.

In honor of culture wars nostalgia, I’d like to resurrect a 1993 entry into the fray from Stanley Hauerwas, a Duke Divinity School theologian. He wrote a short essay titled “Why Gays (as a Group) are Morally Superior to Christians (as a Group).”

“Pacifist,” “cantankerous,” and “funny” are three words not normally anywhere near each other when describing a theologian. However, Hauerwas seems to put them all together into one entertaining package. He once jokingly asked, “Why say carefully what you can say offensively?” Given how often he pisses people off, one wonders how much of a joke it really is.

For example, in this case he uses an incendiary essay title to join an angry debate as a way to lecture Christians about pacifism.

His reasoning is as follows:

  1. The military views gays as bad for morale, as “doubtful warriors,” and as “suspect for military service.”
  2. The military does not view Christians this way.
  3. Ergo, gays as a group are more moral than Christians as a group.

However, he is hopeful that Christians might someday become unfit for military service, if they work faithfully enough at it. His suggestions are:

  1. Apply Just War Theory to their job. This would include things like
    1. question targeting strategies of nuclear weapons
    2. refuse to bomb in cities where civilians may be killed
    3. insist not on killing but on incapacitating the enemy by taking prisoners or wounding them.
    4. question the idea of a standing army
  2. Openly pray for enemies.
  3. Encourage the belief that it is more important to die than to kill unjustly.
  4. Question the sexual license that is so prevalent in military culture.
  5. Make it plain to everyone that a Christian’s first loyalty is to God, and only secondarily to their military commanders.
  6. Make other soldiers concerned about taking showers with them, as a baptism risk.

In the end, Hauerwas completely sidesteps the issue of homosexuality itself. He mainly wants to point out that if Christians lived faithfully according to Jesus’ message of nonviolence, they would be a far bigger threat to military morale and efficiency than those attracted to the same gender.

Yes, it is depressing that President Obama’s spine is now twisting on a number of things, including his campaign promise to decriminalize homosexuality. However, the gay community can take heart in at least one thing: It is unlikely that Christians as a group will become as moral as they are anytime soon.

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