Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is Unjust

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is Unjust September 21, 2010

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“Matthew is gay and it makes me feel uncomfortable” – One of Matthew Sheperd’s detractors

Don’t ask don’t tell is willful ignorance to not know the person next to us. The flimsy principal behind the “don’t ask don’t tell” is the abstract principal of abjection. The direct irony of such a principal hides in the rhetorical intention, whereby someone doesn’t want to know whether someone else is gay, because if they did know, there would be a space for judgement and persecution. The problem with this idea is that in the middle of their desire to try and promote inclusion they endorse the spirit of false inclusion.

It is in our discomfort that the exclusion of the other arrives.

Homosexuality gets treated as the inherent ‘dirty little secret’ that should be kept secret. It’s in the belief of the heterosexual soldiers who share that if they don’t know the sexual orientation they can remain true friends in their staged relationships. The fatal flaw in this way of thinking is two-fold: (1) The truth of their relationships with their fellow soldiers are masked in their desire of ignorance and therefore only have relationships based on a forced discomfort (2) Most fears are found in superstitition. We as people need to make sense of our fears, which are naturally unknown entities.

Homophobia is one such fear.

Much like when we were children and were told about the monsters in our closet, (although they didn’t really exist)), because someone in a position of authority said they should, we easily believed the lie. Homophobia is the monster in the closet to which it should never have resided. There should be no closet where the fabled monster lives.

I think we have to come to a place where we meet truth without our superstitions.

The philosophy of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ enforces a duplicitous engagement with our existentialism. It promotes a life where we are compelled to live in a non-existent reality and accept it as real, valuable and truthful and to deny the reality that is real, truthful and beautiful. The scandal of such a philosophy, is that it is completely unjust which is masks itself as justice. Ignorance isn’t justice.

Ignorance is distance.

Ignorance is violent abjection that seems to keep the peace but in reality endorses more violence than it seems to curb. It is in the abstraction of such a concept that we notice it denies the concrete ideology of Christ’s invitation to love our neighbour as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39).

It seems Christ has an idea of what love looks like.

It has flesh, in this regard it is counter-cultural to the abstract idea that is perpetuated in the philosophy of don’t ask, don’t tell. To Christ, love is concrete rather than abstract. Also, I think its important to remember that Christ spoke Aramaic more than he probably spoke Greek. When Christ invites us to love our neighbour it is a term of vulnerability and radical openness. The word in Hebrew is ahab. It is very close to the Greek rendering of this word which tends to be agape. Embedded within the spirit of each definition is the idea of self-sacrifice.

A self-subverting revolution hidden in this one word.

A dying to ourselves. To our ideas. To our pride. To our ignorance. To love. To openly accept and embrace the person next to us. In Hebrew, the idea behind the word neighbour finds its redemption in how we treat the other. It isn’t the person across the fence or someone who borrow sugar, its a brother or sister who might have a need you could meet. This was a new kind of radical hospitality that informed how we relate to one another. In this moment of love, of ahab, the person who borrows a cup of sugar now becomes the brother or sister who helps inform our existence. The person who has a direct affect on how see the world and those others around us.

One of the best things that the American government can do is to participate in this rule of love by repealing the law that would create the very division that Jesus so vehemently spoke against. To truly ahab one another means we are willing to break down the very fences we so readily make to save us from changing our own worldviews. If the government does nothing, than they agree that to be human is to be contained, constrained and imprisoned by a mass majority who is uncomfortable with what it means to be human and wants to allow the discomfort of ignorance to lead us into an era we were never meant to be in.

My time in the US Navy involves the awareness of the unnecessary tension between the gay community. I remember hearing stories of the homosexual persecution by the heterosexual community and how it seemed so acceptable and unquestioned as a normal behaviour. How is ostracizing another human ‘normal’? How can defining what equality is be considered equal? In the midst of such a violent silence there is a spirit of denigration that overshadows this ignorant uknowing.

When we choose to not know our neighbour, we are choosing to devalue them and to agree with the lie that we are more valuable then they are because they don’t fit a certain definition. This should not be so.

If we as Christ’s follower are to help make this world a better place, I pray we can intentionally participate in this new kind of reality where there are no gays or heterosexuals, but the human family that exists as one because that is how we were created to be. If we deny this truth, than we deny the very fabric of our being. If we embrace this, than we accept that the world has the ability to be what it always could be.

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146 responses to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is Unjust”

  1. I was struck by the opening quote “Matthew is gay and that makes me uncomfortable.” so um…Matthew should go into the closet? Matthew should be beaten and tortured and killed? How about the person being made uncomfortable own their baggage? How about the people being made uncomfortable grow the hell up? Novel concept I suppose.

    Thank you for a well written and thoughtful article, btw.

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