I was having lunch with a couple of old college friends a few years ago, one of whom is a passionate supporter of gay rights. We began discussing this girlfriend I had in college who eventually dumped me. You see, prior to dumping me after dating for years, she made this sweet little handkerchief in the pre 9-11 years that she said I should take with me if I ever deployed to War. Well fast forward to 2003 when I was deployed with the Marines to Iraq and she had dumped me I most certainly didn’t take the handkerchief with me. In fact, she called me months after dumping me when she heard I was deploying to Iraq and asked if I was taking the handkerchief with me. I told her and I quote, “No, I’ll probably piss on it and burn it.” Clearly I had some bitter moments. But that is not the point. Upon telling this story to my friends over lunch, I recounted while explaining why she made the handkerchief and I quote, “Yeah I know, that’s pretty gay.” And in one instant as I watched my friend’s head drop in disappointment, I realized, I was kind of a bigot.
Why is anything gay? You see, to me growing up in small town Southern life, something was gay if it was stupid, girly like, and just generally unaccepted by the norm. I have been told by friends to quit being gay before and I have to tell you, at no point in doing whatever I was doing was I thinking, “Mmmmm… Penis.” Don’t get offended at that, stick with me. You see, I realized that the word gay had become little about sexual orientation. Rather, the word had become synonymous with a population of American men that America had become so used to insulting, that by default the word itself was an insult by association. And much to my surprise when I self-reflected, I used it more often than I ever thought.
Now, I am a Christian and thankful recipient of the grace of Jesus. I don’t hide it on this blog, but nor do I talk about it every time. I don’t have a back-up plan to grace and when I step before God himself, I will have nothing to plead but the atonement of Christ for all my sins and not just some. So yes, I have some beliefs on homosexuality that derive from my faith, but I am not getting into that. It is not that I am avoiding, but rather, it would hijack this blog post to the 10th degree were I to explain them and that is not the point of this particular blog. I might blog about it someday, but only if you can get George Takei to share my blog to one of his 10 billion Facebook followers. But let’s talk about gays in the military.
When the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t tell came out, I remember being skeptical if not opposed. It wasn’t on moral grounds as a Christian or anything. I don’t know if you know this, but Marines do some things from time to time that the Bible frowns upon. After being activated in 2003 for Iraq, my unit worked up at 29 Palms to get ready. Just before deploying, our battalion worked out a weekend liberty in Palm Springs, California. I can’t say how many went, but I’m pretty sure it was half the battalion. Do you know what happens when a battalion of Marines hits a resort city prior to war? It might not have been gay, but the bible has some words on those matters people. Moving on.
I have seen a lot penis in the military. It’s true and any Veteran will tell you that time in the military means you will see more penis than if you googled the word penis. Yet, I wasn’t opposed to gays in the military because I thought someone would touch my penis. A Marine can defend himself just fine if an unwanted penis toucher comes around. Funny story from Iraq, a Navy guy, sorry Navy I know this is inconvenient given the reputation of the Navy, but Navy he was. This Navy guy tried to do some unwanted penis touching on a Marine. Well guess what America, it ended poorly for Mr. Navy guy.
Look, the main reason I was skeptical of gays in the military is that I thought gay people would complain about military talk. Specifically, the field conversation. Oh how I miss conversations in the field with my Marines. Prior to the age of the smart phone, when you are in the field and there is nothing to do but talk, the conversations are hilarious, enlightening, and totally irreverent. If I typed some of the things spoken about in the field, they would throw me off the internet.
Nothing is off limits in the field. Not your wife, your girlfriend, your ugly wife, your ugly girlfriend, and yes America, even your race. It is a warrior’s culture and you survive by taking it as good as you give it. It is an alpha male, dog eat dog, brotherhood that I miss so much. And you bet ya, the word gay and more was thrown around like an insult as if it were cool.
The Softcore Truth
I don’t apologize for the military culture. I am sorry, but if you can’t handle the military culture, particularly the Infantry, then don’t bother to come knocking. In my best Jack Nicolson voice, I don’t have the time, nor the inclination to explain to the world what it means to be a Marine and I would rather you just said thank you and moved on about your way.
That being said, why did I assume a gay man couldn’t handle it? I hate to admit it, but it was because I thought gay people were pretty gay. And thus again the confession of a one time, and still at times bigot. But hey, I’m trying here.
Now, I do reject the notion that to have biblical views on gay marriage somehow makes you an instant bigot. That’s crap. I had bigoted tendencies because the culture in which I was raised made ostracizing gay people look as American as apple pie. I wasn’t a mean kid and I consider myself a reasonable loving guy. But that lunch with my friend led me to realize just how insidious any form of bigotry can be. It is that self-realizing moment when you look around and realize the jerk in the room is actually you.
Looking back, if any of my battle buddies from the Marines were to tell me today that they are actually gay, I would probably respond with, “huh, I never knew. Thanks for not touching my penis.” However, I wouldn’t hold him in any less regard as a warrior brother. I wouldn’t weep less at his passing and it was an honor to fight beside him. He clearly could handle the rough talk of the field, so what’s the big deal. If God wanted to judge the military for immorality, he had plenty of ammo long before the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. I promise you that.
And so it is with America. God is no less sovereign today than he was last week. Faith in Jesus Christ will still atone for our sins, not in part, but the whole. I am not here to change anyone’s opinion. But honestly, now that this gay marriage debate is out of the way in America, perhaps we can return to letting the gospel just be about the gospel and not about anything regarding a random secular government that is temporarily on this planet. Plus, I am actually kind of hoping that my Facebook feed will return to cute kitten videos now that this is over. As it is with the Military, if God wanted to judge America for its immorality, he probably had enough ammo by lunchtime on July 4th 1776.
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