Now that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” may be, at long last, on its way out, LGBT Christians must do more than merely rejoice. There is work for us to do yet.
Christians have been a big part of the reason why the grievously discriminatory policy of DADT was such a linchpin of military “discipline” in the first place. Chaplains in the armed services have largely — and vociferously — supported it. But gay and lesbian servicepeople tend, like most of the young folks who enlist, to be among the most religious and responsible members of society at large. There aren’t a lot of wild hedonists interested in risking their lives for their country.
For straight Christians to treat all gays and lesbians like aliens bearing some evil pox from outer space is a grave injustice. It is a shameful slander. The integration of the military cannot be completed while the integration of the churches remains a work undone.
If, indeed, we are to enjoy a new openness in the military ranks, it must not be only the opportunity to show photos of our families or mention our spouse’s name. It must also allow us to share our faith — and specifically what it means to us as gays and lesbians. This will be an important witness, but it will not be easy. The sad fact is that many of those most likely to bully and harrass us for our openness will likely be straight Christians. Many of whom come from backgrounds where we are still vehemently hated and feared.
Those of us who are willing to serve in spite of this will still need all the boldness and courage they can muster. In some ways, with the lifting of the ban on our open service, the battle has only just begun. LGBT Christians all over America need to be aware of the task that still stands ahead of us. We can be of tremendous help by showing support for those brave young people in a variety of creative ways.
Through our welcoming churches, we can send care packages filled with comforts from home. We can send letters to buoy spirits weighted by the worries of war. We can, perhaps, even adopt a soldier whose family might not be supportive. And by all means, we can monitor how our friends in uniform are treated. We — speaking out as LGBT Christians — can hold chaplains to their responsibility to represent Christ to ALL who serve.
Opportunities abound for us to be helpful. We can truly support the troops by helping to support our own: bearing the rainbow flag right alongside the Stars and Stripes. If DADT is really ending, we have reason to celebrate. But in its wake, we must not rest too soon.