Reconciling Morality: Misunderstanding Respect and the Military
US Army SFC Timothy Seppala is a Religious Affairs Specialist, otherwise known as a chaplain’s assistant. He recently wrote a few articles about the chaplaincy and one on “Reconciling your Morality: Finding the Common Ground.”
The article begins with a fairly reassuring statement that morality is “highly objective”, but it soon becomes clear SFC Seppala meant the other word [emphasis added]:
The truth is that morality can come from almost anywhere and is something that is unique to each individual.
As you can imagine, having so many sources of morality leads to many different views on what is right and wrong.
In other words, Seppala mean to say morality is subjective, not objective. That doesn’t bode well for the rest of the article on morality.
Seppala goes on to note that social issues divide society — and the US military reflects the society from which it is drawn, even on issues of morality [emphasis added]:
Issues like abortion, gay marriage, capital punishment, transgender bathroom choice, or even less controversial issues such as alcohol use, pornography, divorce, and premarital sex can all have a dividing effect on society.
Although not as prevalent or vocal, this societal divide does extend into the military, particularly when policy runs contrary to the moral system of some of the Soldiers and leaders of our units.
That’s an astute statement which recognizes it’s not just homosexuality, as some would assert, but the greater issues of morality that are at “issue” — and the “issue” is whether or not the government is perceived as officially supporting or endorsing policies contrary to the morality of its troops.
So what do we do about it?
Those of us in uniform are not allowed the ability to speak out against policies that we find run contrary to our moral beliefs.
That statement requires far more nuance than he gives it in the admittedly short space. For example, the military went through substantial work to change DODI 1300.17 to comply with a law passed by Congress and signed by President Obama to say [emphasis added]
In accordance with section 533(a)(1) of Public Law 112-239…unless it could have an adverse impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, and good order and discipline, the Military Departments will accommodate individual expressions of sincerely held beliefs…of Service members…
Thus, the expression of sincerely held beliefs (that is, not just religious views) that may run counter to military policies is not just permitted, but it is also protected. Again, there is room for discussion on nuance, but it is incorrect to imply a categorical restriction on expression about issues “contrary to our moral beliefs.”
Still trying to answer his own question, Seppala says the solution is to
not let your views of morality prevent you from treating everyone with the respect and dignity that they deserve as fellow Soldiers and human beings.
…and that is potentially the most disappointing statement in the article.
Seppala’s statement presupposes the negative: that is, the exercise of “morality” could prevent the treatment of others with dignity.
Yet nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the exercise of morality demands treating others with respect.
On the other hand, the post-modern construct of morality is predicated on redefining “respect” to demand acceptance and even affirmation. Thus, many activists today will say they are not respected because someone refuses to affirm their immorality.
Think about it: When was the last time a Christian US military service member actually mistreated a fellow troop because of their beliefs about homosexuality?
Then think about this: When was the last time a homosexual US military service member mistreated a fellow troop because of their beliefs about Christianity? There are at least two public cases:
- LtCol Elisa Valenzuela — who now goes by Victor — publicly degraded Christianity and called a chaplain a “bigot” because of the chaplain’s beliefs.
- Two US Sailors attempted to entrap a Christian chaplain by asking him questions about sexuality and then reporting him for answering those questions based on his theology. They were almost successful, and only after Chaplain Wes Modder obtained a lawyer and went through months of appeals was the adverse action invalidated.
There are also a few non-public cases very similar to Chaplain Modder, in which homosexual troops — either out of anger or a desire to make a name for themselves — have “reported” Christian troops for the crime of stating Christian beliefs. In one case, they even allegedly wore wires in an attempt to record military officers saying something controversial. To date, such attempts to sanction Christian troops have been unsuccessful — but it hasn’t been for want of trying.
Troops who want to live their lives consistent with their faiths in a society whose “policies” run counter to their morality don’t want the “freedom to discriminate,” as some have claimed. They also don’t have to be reminded to treat others with dignity and respect — that’s what they want to do anyway. They just want to be treated with dignity and respect as well.
So who is it that really needs the lecture on morality and respect? It isn’t, as Seppala implies, those with objections to “policies that we find run contrary to our moral beliefs.”
What kind of world is it when homosexuals actively denigrate Christians and yet Christians are the ones being lectured about treating others with respect?
SFC Timothy Seppala has some interesting perspectives, but his summary about “the Golden Rule” isn’t bad. Now if we could just encourage everyone to follow that rule “equally.” If some homosexual activists would live by their own mantra — and accept that their peers just have to be able to “shoot straight,” regardless of their religious beliefs — maybe there would be a touch less strife in the world.