So I’m a Christian, a Mennonite: anti-war, anti-violence, anti-military. My Dad would say I’m a good liberal Mennonite (since those two words are, in his mind, synonymous) but I’m also gay. So I was surprised when I watched the video on YouTube entitled “Telling my dad I am gay- Live” (see below) and I was excited for the guy. Sure it’s not strange that I’d be excited to hear a guy, heart racing, scared to death, come out to his Dad and that I’d be even more excited when I heard his Dad say the words “I still love you” and “this doesn’t change our relationship”. The part that surprised me was that I was such a big fan even though this guy is in the military.
I have to admit that since I became convinced of Anabaptist theology sometime after college I’ve never been a fan of any man in the military. In fact I cringe at the thought and I’m very uncomfortable around such people. Even still on Wednesday when I watched this video I was thrilled and encouraged. To be fair my reaction had little to do with the fact that he’s a soldier and more to do with the response he received but nonetheless I became a fan of a soldier.
When Steven R Phillips sat down in that chair (showing his face for the first time and officially coming out of the end of DADT) and said he was going to call his Dad then mentioning that his Dad was in Alabama (where he was from) I couldn’t help but be afraid for him. I don’t know any Dads from Alabama but I do know conservative Dad’s from rural states (specifically my own) and it didn’t give me much hope for what he might hear on the other end of the line. As the phone rang Steven mentioned that his heart was racing and I could imagine. In fact it was very easy for me to put myself in this man’s shoes as I anticipated the day that I might tell my own Dad that I’m gay and I knew exactly how he must be feeling. When his Dad picked up the phone and Steven responds with “Hey Daddy” in true southern fashion and I heard his Dad’s accent I fear that my presumptions are correct.
Needless to say by the end of the conversation after hearing all his “Daddy’s” encouraging words my fears were relieved and with Steven I breathed a huge sigh of relief and I don’t think I could express the feeling better myself than Steven when he whistles and says “Oh my Lord!”
In my heart I rejoice with with Steven and all the men and women in the military who are coming out for the first time. At the same time my mind says “are you crazy?” these people are in the military they are responsible for the deaths of many innocent lives and perpetuate this awful cycle of violence. Furthermore why should I care if these oppressive institutions are slightly less oppressive than they were a few a days ago. Also why should I care that these violent oppressors are not being as oppressed themselves any longer? My heart has no answers for my mind and my mind does not convince my heart to feel otherwise. So here I sit in the paradox a gay Mennonite rejoicing and yet in conflict with my emotions at the end of DADT.