The New Lavender Peace Movement?
October 31, 2010
[Fayetteville/Fort Bragg NC]--For antiwar folks and peaceniks, there was a welcome, if hidden surprise in the weekend’s news.
You had to dig for it, though. It was buried in a letter about “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” (DADT), which was sent in September but just surfaced in an Associated Press report out of Raleigh NC.
The letter to the president and the Pentagon was signed by 66 retired military chaplains. It urged the officials to maintain the DADT policy.
DADT has led to the expulsion of 13000-plus servicemembers since 1993, and the policy has been targeted for repeal, by the courts, Congress and the White House, and seems likely to succumb to whichever actually has the nerve to pull the trigger first.
The chaplains’ letter, along with a whole cache of other pro-DADT and anti- gays-in-the-military materials, have been usefully collected on this website:
It was among this collection that the good news for peace folks was unearthed.
This news is not about the arguments over DADT itself; those have been pretty well laid out, to the point of tedium.
No, what caught my eye were a couple of solemn prophecies by some of these military weighties on the probably effects of DADT’s repeal.
Taken together, these add up to the best news this peacenik has heard in a long time.
The first piece was in a letter from the Alliance Defense Fund, an anti-gay litigation group based in Kansas. (The full letter is here: )
“Historically, the values taught by chaplains-like honor, duty, self-sacrifice, courage, sexual fidelity, and complete commitment to goals and truths that are bigger than anyone person-directly supported those of the military. Perhaps the only recent example of tension between the combat arms and the chaplaincy was during the later phases of the Vietnam War, when a few chaplains aligned with pacifistic teachings were perhaps overly enthusiastic in facilitating the discharge of conscientious objectors. But a far more serious conflict will arise if homosexual behavior is officially normalized by the military: For the first time in American history, the military's moral policies on sexual conduct would directly conflict with the official doctrines, moral teaching, and ethical standards of every major faith group in the chaplaincy--Christian, Jewish, and Islamic.”(Emphasis added.)
Wait a minute: some chaplains during the Vietnam war were “overly enthusiastic in facilitating the discharge of conscientious objectors”? And “a few” of them were even “aligned with pacifistic teachings”???
That’s news to me; tell me more!
Sure, I’m aware that there were lots of COs during Vietnam; and why not, when an immoral war and the military draft combined to bring tens of thousands of thoughtful young men up close and personal with the moral canyon that yawned between their values (such as honor and courage) and the pointless carnage they were expected to join?
So that’s no surprise. But pacifistic chaplains helping them out with enthusiasm, excessive or otherwise? I want to know more about that, right now.
For the letter’s authors, however, this unsubstantiated reference to troublesome peacenik chaplains is but the lead-in to the prophecy, that ending DADT will create “a far more serious conflict” within the chaplaincy corps and the military itself.
(Does it leap out at you, as it did me, that the private sexual behavior of a small segment of loyal troops is seen here as a much more serious problem than the impact of an immoral war on a much larger segment of the force, not to mention millions of innocent civilians the war left dead and maimed? But for now we can only take note of the incongruity.)
What will this ostensibly cataclysmic change mean for the DADT-free military? Here’s where the prophecies come in. One is from Roy L. Bebee, a retired Navy chaplain and “Executive Director/Endorsing Agent” for the “Evangelical free Church of America.” Bebee says,
“I foresee the day when the military may have problems retaining some of its best chaplains if the repeal is approved. Furthermore, I will be reluctant to endorse chaplains to serve within an institution that embraces and affirms immoral conduct. Approximately 60-75% of all 3300+ of military chaplains and chaplain candidates align themselves with evangelical churches and their beliefs and values. Most chaplains have serious concerns for any Repeal of DADT; I represent nearly 102 of them within our endorsing body and the 1,460 sending churches.”
If DADT goes, Bebee predicts, so will a sizable chunk of the two-thirds plus of chaplains who are doctrinally committed to the anti-gay version of biblical teachings. This prediction (threat?) has been echoed by some other denominations as well.
But that’s not all. Next up is that largest of U.S. Protestant denominations, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), which last June adopted a “Keep DADT” resolution. This declaration included the assertion that if DADT goes,
“Military recruiting will be crippled because:(1) those segments of the American population most represented in the armed services are also those segments most likely to have moral convictions against homosexual behavior,(2) a great many of those who have served in the military since 1993 say they would not have served if required to live on intimate terms with open homosexuals,(3) should current law be repealed, a large percentage of currently serving military personnel say they will not reenlist or will end their careers early, and(4) should current law be repealed, many parents will not entrust their sons and daughters to superiors who require them to live on intimate terms with open homosexuals . . . .”
So there is it. If Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is repealed, we are advised, not only will much of the most conservative military chaplains leave, the military itself will shrivel drastically.
Now I ask you, for a peacenik, in all of this, what’s not to like?
Some of us have been laboring for decades to find ways of shrinking the military, and rolling back the crusader mentality joined with biblicist homophobia in an ever-growing chunk of the chaplaincy and officers corps.
And suddenly, here it is: kill DADT, and presto, job done, or almost.
Where anti-DADT advocates merely thought they were reaching for equality of service in a hazardous occupation, according to these veteran seers, it will turn out that they were actually the vanguard who dealt the Military Industrial Complex a nearly mortal blow. What all our petitioning and mass marches and civil disobedience and tax resistance couldn’t accomplish, the Lavender brigades will achieve by a stealth attack.
Well, if that’s how it turns out, I say, Here's to Irony, and God bless every gay or lesbian who ever hit on a recruiter.
[Sigh.] But what these letter-writers see as a guaranteed nightmare scenario evokes a pleasant daydream that keeps me smiling – for about fifteen minutes.
Then an artillery blast out on Fort Bragg rattles the windows for the nth time today, and snaps me back awake. With that, realism sets in again.
Alas, almost all of this huffing and puffing is just that. Trust me: there will be no US military collapse if DADT goes. Nor will the chaplain corps be emptied out.
The reason none of this will happen is quite simple; in fact, it reduces to a single four-letter word:
Chaplaincy slots are jobs. The pay is good, the bennies generous; pensions beckon after as few as twenty years. And preachers, when you get past the motley of clerical garb and the jumble of doctrines, share one key ecumenical feature: they are all people who need jobs. As too many of us have noticed, jobs are hard to come by today.
So maybe a few will toss away their chaplain’s officer perks and head off to the mission fields. But I confidently predict their numbers will be few -- and that for every one who leaves, many equally evangelical but currently underemployed preachers will be waiting in the wings to take their places, and paychecks.
The same goes for the troops themselves. Overwhelmingly, new recruits come from places where decent civilian jobs are scarce, a fact which happens to overlap heavily with Southern Baptist territory. Recruiters there are still exceeding their quotas this year, even with reduced budgets, given the boost of the unemployment rate.
Besides which, the Southern Baptist resolution made me laugh out loud with its prissy harumphing about “many parents will not entrust their sons and daughters” to a post-DADT military.
Did they think the army is a scout troop, or a Bible camp? Had no one told them that a Baptist youth of only seventeen, though unable to legally vote, drink, get a driver’s or marriage license, can still enlist in the military to kill or be killed, without parental consent? (And once in, Mom, there's no do-overs. Well, unless you want to call our GI Rights Hotline at 1-877-447-4487; then we’ll talk.)
Post-DADT, the more affluent Baptist kids will go off to college, as usual. For the less affluent, unfortunately, military recruiters will still have considerable appeal, until and unless the job outlook gets a whole lot better.
As for the chances of a gay and lesbian “invasion” vanquishing a US military that no force, from the British in 1776, to Al Qaeda in 2010, has able to destroy -- this scenario reads like a bad movie script, and not one from Mel Gibson. More like Mel Brooks.
Oh well; it was nice while it lasted. Back to the grind.