Why Respect for the Courage of Caitlyn Jenner and War Veterans Isn’t Zero Sum

Caitlyn (formerly Bruce) Jenner made her first public appearance this week, on the latest cover of Vanity Fair. If you’ve been through the checkout line of a grocery store at any point in the last six months, you surely have seen her face and been able to keep up with her transition via magazine cover. Now that she is going public, America’s finest and most intolerant are making their disdain well known via social media.

One theme I keep seeing specifically is a take on the “Jenner isn’t a hero, wounded veteran X is a real hero.” Digging deeper, there seems to be special outrage reserved for Jenner’s winning the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage at the upcoming Espys, over a paraplegic veteran who is now a sprinter. Because the Ashe Award is so terribly important, and we can all name last year’s winner off the top of our head.

I got into it with several folks on Facebook earlier over this specific grievance. Here’s my basic point: why are we treating respect and admiration as a zero-sum game? Why does the praise Jenner is receiving for being willing to step out publicly, put her image, career and business on the line and receive withering amounts of criticism, mean that others deserving of our respect and praise are now being sucked dry of all said recognition? This particular tack really frustrates me because it is a sham, a front to hide the real opinion being held: rampant and virulent homophobia, non-acceptance, disrespect and hate of this woman specifically, and trans people in general for being icky and confusing.

As Christians, we are called to love others as we love ourselves, as we love Jesus, as God loves us. Wrapped up in that love is respect, tolerance, acceptance, non-judgement, comfort, among many, many other things. To get on Facebook, hiding behind a keyboard and a feigned concern for injured veterans, is to act in a way that is not loving. It is disrespectful to Ms. Jenner, and it is disrespectful to the decorated veterans who are being used as a shield to conceal the commenter’s intolerance. In a word, it’s un-Christian.

Caitlyn Jenner deserves our love, our respect, our acceptance of who she is, our welcome with fully open arms. We should praise her courage, and admire her journey of self-discovery and fulfillment. She doesn’t need our judgement, and we are in no place to judge her for anything.

Wounded veterans also deserve our love, respect, acceptance of who terrible war has made them, and a welcome home in honor and comfort. We should also praise their courage, their sacrifice, their hard work, while caring for their hurts, both physical and mental. We should not judge them for the unjust situation they were unwittingly sent into, nor should we condemn them for doing their job competently and fully.

Showing love, respect, honor, welcome and comfort for all these people is possible. To give it to Ms. Jenner is not to take it from veterans, or anyone else. It simply injects more love into the world, instead of dividing up a finite resource. We should never shy away from praising everyone who deserves it, and never begrudge those who rightfully receive it. God’s love, and our reflection of it, is infinite and always a good, holy thing.

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