You’re only as sick as your secrets. Is that why our church is so sick.
I was reading a blog the other day…there are some great bloggers out there…Nevercontrary.com (from the US) usually brings a smile to my face. Recently she got me thinking about keeping secrets…
I myself blog for various reasons. In my “real” life I am a teacher in a religious school in a conservative city in a republican state. This leads to a lot of me not being able to discuss my opinions, thoughts, or feelings on a daily basis. Sure I could discuss them, I just might lose my jobs, family and friends. Do I want friends I can’t talk to or a job I have to be super careful in that is another discussion for another day. For many years I just kept my thoughts and feelings bottled up. As many of us are trained to do from a young age. But as I became a parent I find it harder and harder to do so. I don’t want my daughter ever afraid to be who she is and say what she means. If I am not setting that example then how will she learn to do it?
I think i know more about American Politics than Australian these days. Thats a bit of a worry : / . Believe it or not, i was actually moved to tears recently by the passing of one particular piece of US legislation. ( Really Neil?? Tears? Yup! From a legislation? Yup!) The legislation was the repeal of DADT and the tears were for what happened as a result of the legislation rather than the legislation itself.
For those of you who dont know, DADT was the American military’s way of dealing with the fact that they have LGBT people in their ranks. DADT stands for “Dont Ask, Dont Tell”.
Wiki explains it this way.
The policy prohibited people who demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts from serving in the armed forces of the United States, because (supposedly) their presence would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline. ( So…any Gay person in the military would obviously not “tell” that they were gay). The “don’t ask” part of the DADT policy specified that superiors should not initiate investigation of a servicemember’s orientation without witnessing disallowed behaviors.
The result of this bizarre policy was completely as one would expect. A dark cloud of secrecy descended on the organisation and within that dark cloud, within the secrecy, the twin evils of ignorance and prejudice were the order of the day.
The sadest thing of all was the burden that DADT placed on young gay service men and women who were completely unable to be honest with their closest friends and even with their families. US Airman Randy Philips was serving in the Persian Gulf when he started filming anonymous youtube clips in which he talked about what it was like to be gay and in the military. His Vlogs showed only his torso…no face…and no clue as to his real identity.
Then came 21 September 2011. Day 1. A new era for the American military and a new beginning for Airman Phillips. President Obama had kept his election promise. Dont Ask, Dont Tell was repealed. Randy Phillips made one more Vlog. This time he showed his face, as he phoned his dad back home in bible belt, conservative Alabama. That moment was shown on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show.
“Oh my Lord!” said Randy. A son could now be honest with his father. A father had a chance to reaffirm his love and support for his son. The cloud had lifted. Light was shining into places that were once dark. O my Lord, indeed! Randy Phillips’ father was eventually interviewed by various news stations. He was understandably not all that happy that this very personal moment had been shared with millions of youtube viewers. But I’m glad we got to share. His clip brought that tear to my eye when i first saw it in September this year.
I was reminded of all of this when I read Nevercontrary’s blog and I asked her permission to share it with you. My first thought was of the Australian Armed Services. I have done some army chaplaincy in the past but I must admit to being unaware of the policy on LGBT people in the Australian Army. perhaps dark clouds remain where they shouldnt in this country…
When the terrible realisation hit me…
Forget about the Australian military, Neil, the dark cloud exists in our churches and our colleges.
There are perhaps a hundred LGBT people who serve in our churches and our colleges, principals and pastors, church workers and teachers, who would love to come out. They know that the keeping of secrets does damage. They know that the secrets are hurting themselves and their families. But they are also in no doubt that they will be discriminated against if they were to come out. Career advancement would be curtailed. Life would be made uncomfortable. They know that they would be unlikely to experience justice from congregations and church councils, college boards and parent bodies. Compassion? From some? Sure. But not justice. And so they are forced into hiding not only from their employer but also from their families and closest friends.
How very sad that the church..that body commissioned by Jesus to bring light into dark places, make statements that hurt and force its servants into hiding
The LCA…creator of secrets…bringer of darkness…
There are some LGBT people in the US Military who are smiling this Christmas. Maybe Randy Phillips is home. Maybe his dad is giving him a hug even as you read this.
Maybe next Christmas will be better for us…for our church…