To Ask and Tell, or Not to Ask and Tell: This is the Contradiction

Rabbi Bret is baaaaaaack from vacation (apparently) and he didn’t waste anytime piling on his favorite virus – the infectious disease known as Radical 2K. He reports that the URCNA Synod has decided to send a letter to the U.S. Armed Services official, drafted by the Presbyterian and Reformed Joint Commission on Chaplains and Miltary Personnel (PRJC), that petitions the Pentagon to to hold the line on the current military policy – “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

In the current state of affairs, the various branches of the military do not inquire about the sexual orientation of personnel. But if the Obama administration has its way, “don’t ask, don’t tell” will cease and instead gays and lesbians will be able to come out of the closet. According to the PJRC letter, such a change of policy might force conservative Protestant chaplains to resign because their teaching and preaching of God’s word, especially on homosexuality, will open them to the charge of discrimination. The new policy might even force chaplains those passages in Scripture where God condemns homosexuality.

Bret interprets this URCNA decision as a major smack down of two-kingdom theology.

Despite the ongoing assault against Biblical Christianity from Westminster West Seminary and it’s specious Radical Two Kingdom Theology the URCNA rightly voted to weigh in on a “common realm” issue with an almost unanimous vote to resist, by way of appeal, the US Military’s overturning of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Apparently the Synodical body was not persuaded by the R2Kt ratiocination and argumentation that the Church has no business speaking beyond the realm of the Church. With this vote there can be no doubt that the URCNA has implicitly rejected, root and branch, the foreign theology now commonly referred to as “R2K.”

One would have thought that after a well-deserved break from pastoral duties and service at Synod the good rabbi would not be so quick to hyperventilate about the meaning of this news. I can think of any number of better indications than this letter that the URC has repudiated 2k. Do the formation of a study committee or an actual report with recommendations against 2k come to mind? But if this gets Bret through the night without having to use his inhaler, so be it.

At the same time, Bret may want to regroup and consider that the policy that PRC now favors – “don’t ask, don’t tell” – was precisely the one they opposed back when President Clinton introduced it during his first weeks in office. Maybe Bret was running for Senate or doing something time consuming like that, but Reformed communions like the OPC and PCA both sent letters in 1993 informing the president of the Bible’s teaching about homosexuality. These communications were supposed to provide the official cover for Reformed and Presbyterian chaplains whose consciences might be violated by openly gay soldiers and officers taking up duties under their charge. In a contest between church and state, supposedly, the chaplains could now appeal to the explicit teaching of their own communions.

What is important to remember, though, is that these letters, also hatched by the Presbyterian and Reformed chaplains, came in reaction to the policy that the PRJC now supports. In which case, in the name of biblical Christianity, the PRJC has reversed course and determined that “don’t ask, don’t tell” is just fine and that Obama will damage the military and the nation if he tinkers with allowing gays now in the closet, to come out.

So the question for Bret and supporters of the PRJC is this: is this what healthy 1k looks like? Can the church really change its mind about the policies the Bible requires? Or is it simply the case that the Bible opposes whatever a Democratic president proposes? (Could a GOP Study Bible be in the offing?)

Even more troubling is the propensity for the chaplains from Reformed communions to manifest their opposition to homosexuality to the exclusion of other sins that the Bible also condemns. I wonder why PRJC doesn’t instruct the president about the idolatry of Mormon worship or the blasphemy of the Roman Catholic Mass? Surely there are Mormons and Roman Catholics out of the closet in the military. Some of them are likely chaplains. Does PRJC think that Clinton and Obama understand the regulative principle of worship but need help with the seventh commandment? Or is it that PRJC thinks sexual sins are more eggregious than false worship?

It could be a tough call since the Westminster Standards allow that not all sins are equally offensive. But if sexual sins are more objectionable than liturgical infidelity (you’d have trouble proving that from Israel’s experience), then why not go after porn in the military, or divorce, or adultery among heteros? I personally don’t buy the logic – on display in spades in American Beauty – that the biggest homophobes are really gay. But if PRJC wanted to avoid that sort of canard from the Hollywood left, why not send a letter or two to the president about stealing and lying?

Mind you, I understand at least some of the difficulties that gay rights create for our society and the Armed Services. Rabbi Bret is well within his duties as a citizen to register his concerns. But I sure wish he’d get his facts straight (no pun intended) about biblical teaching and the PRJC’s flip-flop on don’t ask, don’t tell.