Gays in Combat

President-elect Bill Clinton was hoping to charge into Washington full steam, but already he's hit a few rocks on the track. The first was a near mutiny over his plan to open the military to homosexuals. Newsweek magazine found that public support for gays in uniform has dropped precipitously in the past few months—from 59 percent in August to 48 percent today. That's lower than it's been in 15 years. Why are the numbers dropping? The standard media line is that opponents are die-hard bigots bent on discriminating against noble-minded gays who just want to serve their country. But keeping gays out of the military has nothing to do with being bigoted or hateful. Those of us who follow Jesus know we are all sinners; we all fall short of the glory of God. Even though homosexuality is morally wrong, still the homosexual is my neighbor, and I am called to love him. For Christians, opposition to gays in the military should never stem from hostility toward individual homosexuals. Yet there is a principled case to be made: a case that starts with a biblical view of the calling and function of government. In Romans 13 we read that political authorities are established by God. Their purpose is to act as "God's servants," who "bear the sword . . . to bring punishment on wrongdoers." In other words, the government has a divine mandate to protect its citizens from wrong-doers. That means that internally the government has a police force to protect law-abiding citizens from criminals. And externally we have a military to counter threats from other nations. People like myself who have served in the military know how demanding this kind of work can be. It means living in extremely close quarters, sleeping and showering together. It means learning to act as a cohesive unit under grueling conditions. It means trusting your buddies enough to put your life on the line in combat. When you throw sexual attraction into the equation, these intense relationships become skewed. Any time there is what military people call "emotional favoritism," unit cohesiveness is broken. And when that happens on the battlefield, the bottom line is that people may get killed needlessly. This is the heart of the issue. The purpose of the military is not primarily to advance anyone's career or to promote civil rights. It is to defend our nation in time of war. Gay groups may label this discrimination, but so be it: The fact is that the military already discriminates against all sorts of folks--people who are too short or too heavy, people who can't see well enough, people with flat feet. The military should not have to accept anyone into the ranks who will compromise its ability to fulfill its function. Its God-given function, Christians would say. This is the case we should be presenting in the public arena. Restricting gays from military service is not a matter of bigotry. We stand on a set of principles: We believe government is not merely a human institution to be tinkered with at will. It is an institution with a divine mandate—and that gives a standard against which every policy should be judged.


Chuck Colson


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