A New World Order

Posted on December 22, 2010

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Let me begin with a clarification, a sort of cover-my-ass disclaimer: I am an officer in the US Army.  I must regularly conduct myself in a manner that is befitting my profession, that does not cast an ill light on the service, and that helps to further my mission, whatever it may be.  I am also a Christian, and since my baptism I have significantly grown in my understanding of what that means.  There are times when the two come into conflict.  This week, events were set in motion that will result in one of those times.  So my disclaimer, after a lengthy introduction, is this: I am a soldier, an expert and a professional.  I will conduct myself appropriately.  I am an American citizen.  I will excercise my rights, as I see fit, according to the Constitution.

Perhaps I’m getting muddled with my train of thought.  I want to relay a story.  I recently had a conversation — or rather, I was part of a group who received a “talking to” — where I was told, “It’s okay to have opinions, but don’t talk about them.”  Or, “If you do talk about your opinions, do so very carefully, and behind closed doors.”  This came about when my class was engaged in a discussion about the presence of women in the military.  Overall, the gist of the conversation was that women had every right to serve as men do, but that there are certain roles where their service might present problems, both logistical and performance-wise.  (Not to say that women can’t perform as well, but on average they have physically weaker bodies, and when a soldier needs to drag a 200lb+ body off the battlefield before he/she bleeds out, then performance makes a difference.)  It seems that word of the conversation got around the office, and when word reached back to us, we had to listen to a scathing (and lengthy) review of our “conduct.”  Many things were said to us, and I agree with most of them.  What I disagree with is the idea that I’ve summarized: it’s okay to have opinions, but don’t openly express them.

As an officer I need to put my military professionalism first in many cases.  For example, I have problems with homosexuality (the act, not the being; the distinction is important, and I might have time to explain in this post; if I don’t, I’ll get to it later).  I am concerned with how soldiers will treat each other when gays are allowed to openly serve.  I know I would be uncomfortable if the lockerroom banter I’ve become accustomed to might be something more than just “male bonding.”  (Pun intended…)  If I feel that way, others do too; but as an officer, I must set aside my personal feelings in this manner and operate in a way that encourages my soldiers to follow suit.  I must acknowledge that, in America, people have the individual freedom to choose their sexual lifestyle.  Furthermore, I must reinforce the decisions handed to me by my chain of command.  And I expect my soldiers to do the same.

But that doesn’t change my opinion.  And I think that it’s innappropriate for anyone to ask me to “just shut up” when it comes to expressing my beliefs.  One of our founding principles concerns the open discussion of ideas.  Well, I’m openly claiming that homosexuality is wrong, and should not be encouraged.  However, I also believe that, as a nation, as a government, or as a collection of laws, we should not regulate personal relationships.  (To a point, to be sure: there are some personal behaviors that are regulated and should be, such as pedophilia, polygamy or prostitution.)  (Am I the only one who noticed that each of those words begins with “P?”)  Assuming that we are still allowed to express our beliefs in this country, in a frank manner that encourages discussion, I will do just that right now.

There is a difference between “being” and “acting.”  To be something is to have an inherent trait, usually one that cannot be changed, or that cannot be changed easily.  I am a man.  I am light-skinned.  I am six feet tall.  I am a heterosexual.  What being is not, is a set of behaviors.  When I get angry, I can say, “I am angry.”  When I punch my fist through a wall, however, I am acting upon my being.  I am married, in love with my wife, and sexually attracted to her.  When I act upon that love, I am engaging in behavior that is different from my being.  But perhaps I’m not providing a controversial enough example.  A serial-killer may have a psychological disorder that makes him want to kill people.  I heard a quote on TV once: “When I meet a man on the street, all I can think of is bashing his head in.  It’s odd to me that no one else feels that way.”  Some people are just… different.  But we punish these people, lock them away, even execute them, when they act on their nature.  We don’t bother with them until they act.  Think bad thoughts all you want, we’re not going to arrest you.  Behavior, action, is different from being.

Now here’s the sticky part: am I really comparing a homosexual lifestyle with the actions of a serial-killer?  Yes and no.  It’s obvious to most of us that the actions of the murderer are far worse than two men making love.  But in the eyes of God, sin is sin, and here is where I bring my Christian beliefs to bear.  Without getting too far into the specifics (another time, perhaps), I believe that the Bible is God’s word, and that it is clear about homosexuality as a sin.  Yet I also believe that it is possible for a person to “be” a homosexual, through no fault of their own.  Still, that doesn’t make the behavior, the lifestyle, right; it just means that their existence is weighed down by a burden that… well, that I can hardly imagine carrying myself.

If you’re still reading this — if you haven’t left in a rage at my “insensitive” or “narrow” views — then thank you.  I appreciate having my work read and critiqued.  And as I’ve indicated above, I believe in open discussion.  So anyone who wants to comment, please do.  I’ll gladly go into greater detail about my beliefs, and I’d like to know what other people think about these topics.

In closing: there is a reason for this post.  Our world has grown to the point where more and more, individual freedoms are of great importance to us.  In the process, however, we’ve had to accept that certain social norms will change.  There was a time when adulterers were branded openly for their “crimes.”  Now we assume that people should make their own decisions freely.  It used to be a serious faux pas to express atheistic beliefs.  Now there are groups advocating the removal of references to God in everything related to the government.  What’s happening is a steady progression toward a subtle reimagining of right and wrong.  I’m not saying that previous eras were morally superior; mankind has always been sinful, greedy and selfish.  What I’m saying is that we are developing into a society where to express a belief that “infringes” upon the personal freedoms of others is viewed as a grevious infraction.  And that is a dangerous place for us to be.

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