Don’t Ask (for permission, and) Don’t Tell (me you can’t preach)!

I don’t generally rant, so just indulge me for a moment…

When did Christian clergy become such wimps?

I just heard this story about military chaplains who fear that a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell would affect the way they do their jobs. These evangelical chaplains fear that if the law is repealed, the military would no longer protect them when they assert their conviction that homosexuality is a sin. Seriously? Is that the kind of limp, conviction-less clergy we’re producing these days? What happened to the real preachers? The prophets with a fire in their bellies and the faith of the Apostles, that led them to a martyrs death for proclaiming “Jesus is Lord,” when Cesar had already laid claim to that title? And you didn’t hear the Apostles whining that the Roman army wasn’t protecting them, did you? What about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, thrown in a blazing furnace, or Daniel locked in a den full of hungry lions, because they wouldn’t abandon their faith and bow to the idols of the empire? People like that don’t lament that they “can’t freely express their faith”—they give whiteness boldly in the face of the empire, and then live (and sometimes die) with the consequences. Look at William Wilberforce, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Desmond Tutu. These men didn’t ask for permission to hold their convictions. They proclaimed the gospel of freedom even as it brought them into conflict with their governments. They were beaten, imprisoned, even killed, and they endured it gladly for the sake of the good news they were proclaiming. I can almost hear those whinny, feeble, little military chaplains now: “but I might lose my job.” Give me a break!

Now, frequent readers may find it surprising that I seem to be encouraging Christian clergy to take a harder line on their opposition to homosexuality. But please don’t misunderstand, that’s not what I’m saying. In fact I’m not taking up any position on homosexuality, or the homosexual’s relationship to the Church or the State, (not in this post, anyway). For the record, I agree with Stanley Hauerwas’ observation that “gays as a group are moral superior than Christians as a group” (not to say that these groups don’t overlap at all), because gays at least managed to get themselves kicked out of the military in the first place. If Christian chaplains are going to start worrying about sin in the military they would do well to reflect Jesus’ command not to “resist evil with evil” (Mt 5:39), but to “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you and pray for those who abuse you” (Lk 6:27-28) Or his advice to Peter: “Put away your sword! For whoever lives by the sword will die by the sword.” In other words, while these military chaplains are trying to “remove the specks from their parishioners’ eyes,” I’m more worried that they are clumsily banging them over the head with the “planks” in their own. Perhaps military chaplains will indeed have to choose this day who they will serve—God or country—not because gays serve openly in the military, but because one cannot bear the weight of both the cross and the sword.

But I digress…the point I am trying to make is that the choice  between serving God and serving country, that these chaplains “are being forced to make,” is simply not a choice for the Apostles, prophets and true preachers of the gospel. They don’t ask for permission or protection from the government, but often find themselves in opposition to the powers, proclaiming that Jesus is Lord and Caesar is not. They stand unyieldingly on their convictions and proclaim the gospel with boldness. And they do not cry about what fate may befall them as a result of their proclamation, but scoff in the face of incarceration, torture, death, lo, even a slight reprimand at work!

Toughen up preachers!

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