‘Perform or provide’

DADT repeal gives progressive chaplains a chance to counter evangelical clergy in the military

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CATCH-ALL CHAPLAIN | Chaplain Chris Antal (Lt.) attended the meeting of the Forum on Military Chaplaincy at Cathedral of Hope in October. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com
When a soldier recently came to Chaplain Chris Antal, a lieutenant in the Army National Guard in New York and a Unitarian Universalist minister, and asked if he’d pray with her even though she was a pagan, he said he replied, “Of course I will, but you’ll have to show me how.”

Several weeks later, when he saw her again, she told him that the day she had come to visit him, she had hit rock bottom. He had, she told him, saved her life that day.

But Antal said he was only doing his job — helping any soldier who comes to him.

“I’ve earned the nickname, the Catch-all Chaplain,” he said, explaining that it means he takes everyone the other chaplains don’t want to deal with.

Carpenter.Dodd

Capt. Tom Carpenter (ret.) and Col. Paul Dodd (ret.)

Being there to help a soldier in need is what it’s all about for a military chaplain, said Col. Paul Dodd, a retired chaplain who now lives in Austin.

“The duty of a military chaplain is to perform or provide,” said Dodd, adding that he once sponsored an Islamic conference.

Dodd said that no chaplain can perform every service needed by every member of the military. But if a chaplain can’t perform the service requested, he or she must provide that soldier with a referral to someone else who can.

Antal said that chaplains who enlisted knew what they were getting into — to some extent. But none of them really expected the repeal of the military’s anti-gay “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. And for many, that repeal was a game changer.

In October, a group of active and retired chaplains and military personnel and other people of faith, such as the Rev. Steve Sprinkle from Brite Divinity

School in Fort Worth, met at the Interfaith Peace Chapel at Cathedral of Hope to begin looking at ways of addressing the issues that arose for military chaplains around DADT repeal.

Dave Guy Gainer said The Forum on Military Chaplaincy is not exactly new. It formed in 2005 as a project of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and worked under the radar until DADT was repealed.

Sprinkle said people in the Pentagon, up through Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, knew about their work and considered their statements throughout the DADT repeal process.

And now, with repeal complete, the group met to “come out.” At their meeting in Dallas, forum members considered ways to become an independent organization helping to ensure newly out service members receive the pastoral care they need while serving in the military.

Susan Gore, principle of The Mentor Group and editor of the book Coming Out In Faith, moderated the Dallas conference. She said the group started with several retired military officers “who wanted to push back against the far-right skew.”

Sprinkle has been part of the forum for four years and said he was recruited to participate because of his work on hate crimes.
Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Sprinkle said, more and more members of the Chaplain Corps have come from just one school — Liberty

University, founded by far-right evangelical Jerry Falwell. Today, Sprinkle estimated, one-third of military chaplains come from Liberty University.

“They instituted a program that barely meets minimum requirements,” he said of the evangelical school. “It’s an online course.”

And, Sprinkle said, Liberty University’s goal is to take control of the Chaplain Corps and use the military as a pool for religious recruits.

“This is fertile ground to bring people to Jesus at taxpayer expense,” said Tom Carpenter, a retired Marine captain and one of the forum’s founders.

“I’ve heard stories of them holding the hand of someone who’s dying and trying to bring them to Jesus.”

And although such actions contradict military policy, no one in the corps has been disciplined or dismissed for it.

“They give chaplains a lot of leeway,” Carpenter said.

Gainer said the military is looking for well-rounded ministers who bring experience with them to the military.

According to the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School in Fort Jackson, S.C., candidates must be endorsed by their denomination or faith group and be “sensitive to religious pluralism and able to provide for the free exercise of religion by all military personnel, their family members and civilians who work for the Army.”

But Sprinkle said that Liberty University is transparent about its goals, and those goals do not line up.

“They’re not committed to pluralism or serving all the troops,” he said.

Gainer said that the greatest opposition to repealing DADT came from the Chaplain Corps because military chaplains answer to two groups — the military and their denomination. Those chaplains that didn’t adhere to a strict stance of maintaining the ban on gays and lesbians were threatened with losing their accreditation from their endorsing religious body — and with it their livelihood and their pensions.

But that contradicts the stated goals of the Chaplain Corps.

“Someone has to say, ‘Either you comply and serve all the troops all the time or get out,’” Sprinkle said.

Gore said that one of the goals of the newly public forum is to “rebalance the Chaplain Corps by bringing in more mainstream faiths.” She said that for many who come from more liberal traditions, questions of what’s a just war make it hard to serve in the military. Antal, for example, is one of just four Unitarian Universalists in the Chaplain Corps.

During its push for repeal of DADT, members
said, the forum had several successes working behind the scenes.

Despite the assumption of confidentiality between parishioner and clergy, that wasn’t always the case between gay soldier and chaplain. Dodd said that a number of discharges under DADT occurred after a soldier talked to a chaplain and the chaplain turned them in.

In fact, he wrote a white paper on the practice. After he submitted it, the military tightened up on chaplain confidentiality, Dodd said.

Carpenter, an attorney, wrote an amicus brief for the Log Cabin Republicans’ lawsuit against DADT. The court found in favor of declaring DADT unconstitutional, but Congress repealed the law before the decision could be enforced.

Carpenter said that the repeal allows gays and lesbians to serve with no protection. The legal decision, had it not been vacated upon repeal, would have allowed gays and lesbians to serve equally.

Now that DADT is gone, the forum is examining how to ensure LGB personnel receive the same services as other troops from chaplains.

Dodd said that right-wing chaplains charge that allowing gays and lesbians to serve in the military will force them to act in ways that go against their beliefs. Some have said they would be required to perform same-sex weddings.

Dodd called that ridiculous. Chaplains are never asked to perform duties that go against their religious beliefs, he said.

“I turned down weddings,” he said. “An officer came to me who wasn’t divorced.”

He said the officer tried to pull strings and force the issue, but Dodd wasn’t going to discuss marrying someone who was still married to someone else.

“But we’re insisting chaplains have the authority, if it’s in keeping with their faith, to marry same-sex couples,” he said.

Because of the Defense of Marriage Act, the repeal provides no family benefits. For some issues, Dodd and Carpenter suggested work-arounds.

Issuing ID cards would be extremely helpful, especially to same-sex couples with children, Carpenter said, noting that “That way either parent could get on base to get a child to the hospital.”

In another example, joint assignments can be offered at the discretion of a commanding officer, and married couples are often assigned together when they both qualify for positions that are available at the same base. Same-sex couples could be given the same priority.

As the forum looks ahead, rebalancing the Chaplain Corps with members from a more diverse background to reflect the membership of the military is a priority.

“And we need to take care of our trans brothers and sisters,” Carpenter said.

The repeal of DADT did not address any transgender issues and does not allow transgender men or women to serve in the military.

Gainer believes representatives of the forum need to sit down with far-right members of the Chaplain Corps and agree to disagree. He said that before the repeal of DADT, they talked to people at Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion. While both groups testified against the repeal, they met with some success.

“The president of the VFW in Pflugerville said it was the right thing to do,” Gainer said.

That dialogue, he believed, would help chaplains perform or at least provide a useful referral, rather than doing more damage to a soldier seeking help.

Gore thought that the focus of discussion should be with the majority of chaplains “who want to do a good job and are part of the moveable middle.”

“We have to convince administrators and educators in divinity schools to encourage some of their best and brightest to serve,” Sprinkle said. “So many schools dropped what they were doing during the Vietnam era.”

Antal thinks that gays and lesbians will gain more acceptance as they tell their stories in non-confrontational settings and others see “their identity as professional service members is primary.”

While the work of the forum will concentrate on helping LGB military personnel, creating a more diverse Chaplain Corps may help a majority of service members. Recent polls show that a majority of troops find the chaplaincy irrelevant.

Sprinkle called the work of the forum a gift from the LGBT community to the nation.

“You wouldn’t think we’d be the ones opening the doors so that all troops will be served with dignity, integrity and respect,” he said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 4, 2011.

 

—  Kevin Thomas

And This We Pray: Please, Jeebus, Put Christians In Charge Of America

Janet Porter prays that America “recognizes the lie of separation of church and state, which exists only in the Soviet Union.” (Soviet Union?) Janet also prays that Jeebus knock some sense into those 19 states without anti-gay marriage laws! Glory! Prai$e Hi$ Name! The donation plate is now being passed!

Joe. My. God.

—  admin

ATLANTA: Pastors To Gather To Pray For Bishop Eddie “Down Low” Long

Atlanta’s pastors are getting together for a “lock down” prayer vigil where they will ask Jeebus to watch over disgraced Bishop Eddie “Down Low” Long, his 22-room/nine bathroom mansion, and his 0K Bentley. Glory! Praise Hi$ Name! And send in another teenage hottie!

Joe. My. God.

—  John Wright

SACRAMENTO: Thousands Of Bigots Gather To Pray Against Gay Rights

Dominionist, extremist, Christofascist preacher Lou Engle gathered several thousand bigots in California’s capital today to pray against same-sex marriage and for “authority over Jezebel and San Francisco values.”

The Sacramento event, Engle said, helped to highlight immoral laws being passed out of the Capitol and called on traditional marriage to be restored. “If marriage is going to be upheld between a man and a woman, which we believe is the best for families and children and society, then right now, it seems we need divine intervention,” Engle said in an interview between appearances on stage. “That’s part of the reason we’re coming here, to pray, but also to take a stand and be a prophetic voice to stand for truth.”

The above-linked story notes that “offering stations” were set up throughout the audience. Jackpot. Another Lexus for Lou Engle, who, should you have forgotten, is one of the American evangelists responsible for Uganda’s “kill gays” bill.

Joe. My. God.

—  John Wright

Mike Huckabee Invites You to ‘Fast + Pray’ For Sacred Prop 8

Over Labor Day Weekend in Sacramento, religious conservatives will celebrate Lou Engle's 10th Anniversary The Call prayer rally to bring attention to … something that rhymes with Stop Fate? My attention span is so zapped right now. To promote the event, folks like FRC's Tony Perkins have been asking supporters to attend. Now here comes Mike Huckabee, the man in denial about saying awful things about homosexuals, who's insisting that with "Judge Walker reversing the votes of millions of people concerning traditional marriage, this is a perfect time to gather for a solemn assembly to fast and pray and stand for the most critical issues of our day." So quick, everybody, "recommit to the lord wholeheartedly" and "cry out for mercy" so we can "turn this nation back to god as Jesus is our only hope." Also: Pray for rain!

CONTINUED »


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Queerty

—  John Wright

Watch: Toronto ‘Christians’ Pray in Front of Gay Couple’s House and Neighbors Drive Them Out

Toronto

Torontoist posted this video of a prayer group from Highfield Road Gospel Hall in the Dundas and Greenwood area of Toronto that apparently prays outside the homes of regularly harasses gay and lesbian couples.

The videographer, resident Geoffrey Skelding, writes:

"This is a group from a church at the end of my street. Apparently they have been grouping in front of a gay couple's house and reading their bible loudly for the past 7 years. They may have also driven a lesbian couple from the area as well by doing the same thing. Tonight most of our neighbours came out and were successful in getting them to leave. The people who go to that church don't even live in our area! Police came by shortly thereafter."

Says one worshiper in the clip: "We have an authority to preach the gospel. We've been doing this seven years."

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP

(via slog)



Towleroad News #gay

—  John Wright

Movies: Eat, Pray, Love Your Seven Ex-Boyfriends




Julia_james_eat
James Prays. Julia Eats and Loves.

GuestbloggerNATHANIEL ROGERS
…prefers air conditioned movie theaters to hot beaches in the summertime. He blogs daily at the Film Experience.

**Editor's note: Our apologies — though we'll blame an attempt at summer hours — that this didn't get posted Friday. Enjoy.

Your Feature Presentations
For this weekend's moviegoing adventure, may I suggest a film about a whiny protagonist who dives too quick into romances, breaking innocent hearts? The movie is actually pretty good even though you'll want to slap some sense into the lead on occasion. If only our hero could find a little personal redemption and a way around the personal baggage that comes with multiple exes. What movie were we talking about again? Oh yes, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World ! Or was it Eat Pray Love?

Eat Pray Love is based on the best-selling memoir by Elizabeth Gilbert. "Liz" (Julia Roberts) is a beautiful writer in New York City. She's still hurting from a painful divorce from Stephen (Billy Crudup). She jumps into a new relationship with David (James Franco) who is too young for her. She's ambivalent and unhappy. She remembers an old prophecy from a healer in Bali and decides that returning there is the fresh start she needs. In order to find balance and inner peace, she'll have to forgive herself for that trail of exes and learn to trust in love again.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is based on a series of very funny comic books. "Scott Pilgrim" (Michael Cera) is a 22 year old bassist hipster in Toronto. He's still hurting from a painful breakup from Envy (Brie Larson). He jumps into a new relationship with Knives Chau (Ellen Wong) who is too young for him. He's ambivalent and unhappy. When he sees his dream girl (literally) Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), he wants to make a fresh start. In order to be with her, he'll have to forgive her that trail of seven evil exes and defeat them in battle

Scottpilgrim_vs_superman

MORE after the jump.

Julia_pizza (Left: Julia Roberts as Liz Gilbert "I'm having a relationship with my pizza")

There's a sense while watching Eat Pray Love that it hasn't quite worked out how to be a movie. The excessive narration suggests that it's an audio book with slide show and this crutch is unnecessary. Prolific gay creative force Ryan Murphy (Glee, Nip/Tuck) is more sure-handed behind the camera than he was on his first feature (Running With Scissors) and the beauty of the images (courtesy of renowned cinematographer Robert Richardson) combined with the emotional accessibility of Julia Roberts are better Baedekers while traveling. Though it's repetitive and maybe a little pandering to its mature female demographic (Food porn? Check. Several hot men? You got it. Reassuring messages about fulfillment later in life? Si.) it definitely has its moments. It's essentially told in four acts: New York, Rome, India, Bali. India gets a little draggy but "Pray" isn't the best cinematic verb. Rome ("Eat") is the most enjoyable. Julia seems to truly relish emptying her plate and there's a great bit where she teaches hunky Italian actor Luca Argentero that the American word for wine is "therapist". Ha ha.


Scottpilgrim_sword
(Left: Michael Cera as Scott Pilgrim. He's finally got [The Sword of] Self Respect.)

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World clings to its original source medium just as tightly as the Julia Roberts movie but the effect is smoother. After all, comic books are cinematic by their very nature, being a series of narrative images. Scott Pilgrim is also steeped in video game culture but for once that works in a movie since it's not an uncomfortable graft that's only there to please intended demographics. Not that Scott Pilgrim isn't preaching hard to its young male choir (Beautiful dream girls? Check. Nerdy guys winning them? duh! Reassuring messages about nerds being bad-asses when push comes to shove? Guess.) Scott's adventure to win Ramona is told in a series of seven setpieces (though it's not quite as simple as one battle per ex), the best of which are with two cocky lookers Brandon Routh (Superman Returns) as a vegan bassist and Chris Evans poking fun (at himself?) at the conceited action star type. The entire cast is really game for the stylized comedy including Anna Kendrick as Scott's bossy sister and Keiran Culkin as his gay roommate, who have quite a funny relationship. Michael Cera knows just how far to push both Scott's geek factor and his own star charisma and wins big laughs from things as simple as his drink choices (Coke Zero) and his line delivery whenever the word "lesbian" pops up. Which is often.

Eat Pray Love and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World are pitched
to entirely different audiences and their constituencies might well think that the other movie has nothing to say to them, but they'd be wrong. The message is the same, they're just speaking different languages. Scott Pilgrim is younger and more playful but has less heft (it's hard to raise the emotional stakes in a video game context) whereas Eat Pray Love is more literal-minded but has that 'last chance' true story pull. The takeaway is the same: To be your best self, you're going to have to be honest and forgiving; if you want true love, you're going to have to make peace with the past… or defeat it in battle. You vs. Your Personal Baggage. It's as if Hollywood is playing therapist and they've decided this is the message we all need to hear at summer's end.

Wine or Coke Zero? Your choice.


Towleroad News #gay

—  John Wright

Eat, Pray, Love Author Lobbies for LGBT Rights

Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, will join the
Immigration Equality Action Fund in September in support a bill to
expand immigration rights for gay and lesbian binational couples.
Daily News

—  John Wright