Blogger and United Methodist Pastor Keith McIlwain has a very thought provoking post about service in the military. Click here.
In the post, he asks, "If we believe that murder is a sin, then shouldn't Gen. Pace want an army of gay people, who in his mind are already immoral? Why shouldn't gay people be permitted to kill for their country?"
This question is wonderfully complex. You have the whole "military killing is morally different than murder" discussion. You have the whole "war is sinful, but necessary" discussion. And those discussions are interwoven in this case with all the standard rhetoric about sexual orientation. Wow! My brain is working overtime, just thinking about all the implications.
(By the way, Keith and John engage in a very respectful and enlightening back-and-forth in the comments of Keith's post, and I hope you read that, too.)
In his post, Keith quotes Stanley Hauerwas, who ponders why the military considers homosexual people morally unfit for military service, but not Christian people. Hauerwas believes Christians ought to be conisdered morally unfit to serve in the military, since they believe human life to be sacred, created in the image of God, and therefore would be unwilling to kill.
I served as an associate pastor in Warrensburg, Missouri for four years. Several members of our congregation were B2 bomber pilots and their families, support personnel, and other staff of Whiteman Air Force Base, just a few miles away. The enormous, black, no-way-that-contraption-should-be-able-to-fly B2 soaring overhead was a common sight. I have had conversations with military people about this issue for years and years. I was on one pilot's file to be one of the people present at the notification of his wife, should "anything happen" to him while flying a mission. I have prayed over men and women being deployed, and cared for their families while they were gone. I have embraced returning soldiers with tears of joy.
I write all that just to say that I cannot think of Christians serving in the military as any more sinful than anyone else. I know that, through their interpretation of scripture and their personal convictions, they are striving to live a faithful life and become the person God wants them to be, just like I am. I personally hold the belief that non-violent resistance is the most authentic Christian response to evil, but that's me. My friends in the military, who do not believe as I do, are no less faithful because they have come to a different conclusion that I have. All I can do is witness.
What I have a tough time understanding is the perspective that says a gay person who genuinely wants to serve in the military is somehow less morally fit to do so than a straight person of a similar mindset. Or, as Keith McIlwain writes it, "What is it about a person's sexual behavior that makes it easier or more difficult to kill?" I'm asking; who's telling?
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