Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Christians and U.S. Military Treat Gays Shamefully—And Cheer Each Another On

In a print editorial today, the Houston Chronicle decries the shameful treatment of two gay Desert Storm veterans and their families by a Dallas-area Baptist mega-church—and says their public humiliation by the church only compounds how the U.S. military disrespects the service of gay people with its Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy.

One of the men, 46-year old Cecil Sinclair, died while awaiting a heart transplant. Sinclair’s brother was a janitor at the church and a member of the congregation. High Point Church reached out to Cecil during his illness. While he was hospitalized, a church minister met Paul Wagner, his gay life partner and a member of the armed forces for 16 years. The church scheduled the funeral, aware that the Turtle Creek Chorale, a Dallas gay men’s chorus, would sing.

But the day before the funeral, after Sinclair’s obituary ran, Pastor Gary Simmons abruptly cancelled the memorial service.

The Chronicle, not persuaded that any reason given by the church justified its action, said High Point’s treatment of the men and their families “ranged from bumbling to insulting.” Acknowledging that the church had a right to reject gays on religious grounds, the editorial said “such disrespect toward a U.S. veteran is galling.”

Yet it noted that the military’s own disrespect for its gay and lesbian service-members encourages such treatment elsewhere. Despite recent polls showing that 79% of Americans believe that openly gay people should be allowed to serve, and even 49% of Republicans in favor of repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the military continues to enforce the policy. The policy has deprived the armed forces of thousands of gay specialists in languages and technology vital to prosecuting the war against terrorists: rather than strengthening the nation’s safety, it has weakened it.

The Chronicle concludes: “Officials at High Point Church may not see the full humanity of gay men and women. But other Americans, increasingly, appreciate their contributions, especially in the military. The fitting tribute is to let them serve in the armed forces without having to keep their nature and identity a secret.”

The editorial is at

The newspaper’s call for an end to Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is commendable. Its condemnation of the church’s behavior does not go nearly far enough.

From the perspective of constitutional law, the church’s right to oppose same-sex partners is unassailable. But by any standard, the church’s behavior is unkind and, by the standards Jesus preached, blatantly uncharitable. Furthermore, it rests on erroneous interpretations of biblical texts and a theology that is several decades out of date.

I addressed those theological deficiencies in postings on 3/12/07, 3/23/07, 5/14/07, 5/16/07 and 6/5/07, as well as in a chapter of my Ph.D. dissertation at

Those open to listening to that analysis and argument might find them persuasive. Those who revere ideology over fact and truth will persist in behavior like that of High Point Church, no matter what anyone says.

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