I very much enjoyed my years of involvement with the Boy Scouts of America. Learning leadership, camping, evening meetings on school nights...I have very fond memories of it all. From the age of 8 through 8th grade graduation, Scouting was a major part of my identity and I did well in it, achieving its highest rank and holding all of the offices open to someone my age.
That is why I have had a passing interest in following the issues of membership eligibility that have been so much in the press of late, culminating with the recent decision that boys who are gay can be members, but adults who are gay cannot serve as adult leaders.
I have no idea who might have been gay in my years with the organization. In fact, the word had a very different meaning in those days, to the extent that The Flintstones could sing “And we’ll have a gay old time…” and no one thought anything about it. Ah, the innocence!
Now America’s largest Protestant denomination is voting this week on whether or not to leave the movement, en masse, because Scouting will no longer ban gay kids. The vote is expected to support the exodus. As one Baptist leader commented, the belief is that the Bible is quite clear that one chooses to be gay, and choosing to be gay is a sin. This is not the Catholic position (nor is it the Bible’s). For us, being homosexual is neither choice nor sin. Acting on the orientation is a different matter, perhaps for a later one of my postings.
In the confusing time of adolescence, when many youths are very unsure of their identity, including their sexual identity, excluding any child from any organization from an organization can only be hurtful. The organization is hurt by its bigotry and the potential members by their exclusion and rejection. How can a Church, established to make God’s reign operative on earth for all, exclude anyone? It baffles me, but such behavior is not limited to Christians. It is the story that makes up world history.
If the Baptists do not change their minds, wouldn’t it be great is some other church or religious group offered to sponsor rejected troops? Without qualification? Prudence is needed regarding adult leaders, but there are mechanisms for that.