March 17, 2010

Don't Ask Don't Tell

2010 1508 page21 cap have to admit that I’m not totally settled about which side I take in the resurrection and subsequent reexamination of the U.S. military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. As most of us know, that policy relates to gay and lesbian armed forces personnel. As of this writing, it appears that the policy will be thrown out completely, thus permitting those who embrace a homosexual lifestyle to serve openly in the military.
I understand why this policy has to be reconsidered. It seems patently unfair that a deeply personal part of someone’s life would be used as a pretext to exclude them from serving in their nation’s armed forces. A good case can be made against sustaining “don’t ask, don’t tell” as a core value in military policy. What someone practices legally in private should not be held against them in public.
Of course, I speak here in terms of secular society, as there’s an entirely different “bar” for what’s decent and right in spiritual and biblical contexts. The Scriptures are clear: Homosexuality—in practice—is sin.
On that note I have a growing concern, even in a secular context, of a larger, more public issue I see brewing: the slow encroachment of the homosexual lifestyle on every part of the culture, and what I see as the disingenuous arguments made to support it.
2010 1508 page21One main argument in support of a homosexual lifestyle is that it is equivalent to the civil rights struggle that African-Americans pursued for more than 100 years, post-Emancipation Proclamation. I cross swords with those in the court of public opinion who base their argument on such a flimsy rationale. They are not the same. One is celebration of basic humanity, while the other seeks affirmation of a choice.
The heart of my concern arises out of the fact that there seems to be a well-designed plan to impose the gay lifestyle on everyone. I’m fine with private choices, but uncomfortable when those choices are forced on me.
Just prior to the Super Bowl, the CBS television network took major flack for its decision to deny the gay dating service, ManCrunch, the opportunity to air its commercial during the most watched sporting event in the world. CBS, to its credit, gave what I thought was a balanced statement, providing its rationale for denying the airing of the commercial: “It is not within the Network’s broadcast standards for Super Bowl Sunday.”
What CBS did was quite astute in valuing the rights of families. It seemed to draw a clear and unambiguous line between niche type programming that people can select for their personal viewing and the more broad-based network programming people enjoy, such as the Super Bowl.
I’m not naive enough to believe that the executives of CBS took a purely value-based stance. They are certainly in business to make money. Their decision not to air the ManCrunch commercial was probably a crass, commercial decision; maybe even a shrewd attempt to head off the public outcry that was sure to happen. But whatever CBS’s reason, we avoided having to be exposed to a commercial for controversial lifestyle being televised into our living rooms, no matter how slick and subtle the commercial was.
The homosexual lifestyle will doubtless become an unavoidable, public fixture in our society. It will also become an increasingly heated topic in our church. In fact, forces are already in place in our own denomination to create some acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle. Have no doubt, an agenda is at play in the broader culture, and the church is not exempt from its impact.
Other denominations have been rocked by major controversies over issues of homosexuality. Even so-called conservative, evangelical churches are being forced to come to grips with the encroachment of this issue in a growing secular and biblically illiterate Christian culture—a culture in which Christians don’t ask about the salvation of their friends and family, and don’t tell about a Savior who died for all. 

Fredrick A. Russell is president of the Allegheny West Conference, with headquarters in Columbus, Ohio. This article was published March 17, 2010.