A Matter of Integrity
For longer than I can remember, our weekly prayer group has opened with a prayer written by Howard Thurman that begins and ends with the stirring plea, “Lord, I want to be more holy in my heart (United Methodist Hymnal, 401).” Last week, as I listened to Admiral Mullen’s public testimony in favor of ending the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy against GLBT people in the military, this line from that prayer came to mind: “In my heart, above all else, let love and integrity envelop me until my love is perfected and the last vestige of my desiring is no longer in conflict with thy Spirit.”
Admiral Mullen said that repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is matter of integrity for both the individual and the institution. He is so right — not only for the military but also for the church and for our society.
In the military the most basic aspect of integrity stands out — that is, telling the truth, not lying and not being forced to lie. Virtues like honesty are among the core values the military pledges to protect, so it undermines their very mission to require silence about a significant aspect of a person’s life which is, in effect, to lie. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell then ripples out to friends who have to choose between loyalty to a comrade in arms or to a rule demanding a betrayal. This tears at the fabric of mutual support upon which military effectiveness is built.
Further, the prejudice against GLBT servicemen and women rests upon another lie: that being gay has any impact at all on effectiveness in serving one’s country. Senator John McCain, himself a veteran, acknowledges this falsehood when he says that gay soldiers have served admirably and he honors their sacrifice.
In the church we know that integrity is not only about honesty within individuals and communities, but is also, and perhaps most importantly, about our connection with God, who Thurman highlights as Spirit. Integrity is one way to describe our oneness with God; we know we have integrity when we feel all through ourselves a consonant harmony with God’s loving will, God’s Spirit.
The wonderful GLBT people I know in the church testify to experiencing this kind of integrity when they embrace their whole selves as part of creation, which God calls good. They rejoice because their love has been perfected and their desires are in full harmony with God’s Spirit.
Accepting the faithful integrity of GLBT Christians is in harmony with my experience of how to be a Christian. As the wonderful 1966 hymn by Peter Scholtes says, “Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” I pray every week that God’s love and integrity will envelop me so that my love for others will be perfected and my desires will be harmonious with God’s. From that point of view, Scripture from start to finish supports loving embrace of GLBT people. Indeed, Scripture teaches me, just as Admiral Mullen says, that it is all a matter of integrity.