This may seem like a strange question. Obviously, the Woodworking and First Aid Merit badges would be easy for him.  Joining the “Order of the Arrow” would not present much of a struggle either. Jesus had plenty of service hours and his ordeal was 40 days! Finally, who could imagine a more magnificent Eagle project than rebuilding the temple in three days (pardon all the inside scouting lingo).  But of course, the requirements for advancement in scouting would never be the problem for Jesus. The potential problem would be the proposed change in membership requirements.

For those of you who are not up on the issue, The Boy Scouts of America have had a policy since their inception over a century ago that no openly gay boy can be a part of scouts. Nor can any openly gay man be a leader in scouts.  Recently, there has been an incredible amount of political and financial pressure on the Scouts to revise this requirement (a few private organizations and many local governments have withdrawn their support).  Over the last year, surveys were sent to every parent of current scouts seeking to solicit the view of those who had already committed to the scouting experience for their son. I received and completed one of these surveys. Some of you may get them too.

Not only does the survey solicit my opinion on the issue of allowing self-professed gays into scouting, but it also asks whether I would withdraw my son from the Boy Scouts if the decision does not go my way.  This is a tough question for me. Overall, my boys have had a wonderful experience with scouting. If being missional permeates my whole life (and it should), what impact, if any should my view of God as a missional God play into my answers to the survey? 

I will not share my answers with you but the issues are much more complex that one may first think. There is a lot I could say, but I will settle on 10 points that need to be considered.  Not all of my points lean the same way. 

  1. The Boy Scouts are not a church. True, when Boy Scouts was founded, Protestant Christianity enjoyed the home court advantage in both England and the United States. However, according to the handbook, no religion is given preference and each religion has its own merit badge. Since it is not a church, should the issue of gay scouts be that big of a deal?
  2. Again, when Boy Scouts were founded, the gay lobby was pretty much non-existent. Thus the pressure to lower the age at which someone declares their life-long sexual orientation was not present.   Probably many boys with various levels of same sex attraction have joined scouts; they just have not self-identified as homosexual until after reaching adulthood (if ever).
  3. The Boy Scouts are a private organization, free to construct their own membership requirements. I teach at a similar private organization where every year I have to sign a contract promising to abide by the behavioral standards outlined in the handbook. If I falsify my position, or renege on my word, it is grounds for dismissal.  
  4. It must be admitted, sadly, that the traditional membership requirements for the Boy Scouts has not guaranteed the sexual safety of scouts. Boy scouts have suffered sexual abuse and assault from each other and from their leaders as documented by recent reports. However, the awareness and reporting procedures for current scouting is much more rigid and many policies have been implemented to prevent sexual activity as much as possible. Currently, every parent has to read and sign a 20 page booklet about sexual safety. Leaders have even stricter standards. I have witnessed the strict adherence to these standards in my boy’s troops.
  5. The standard ages for Boy Scouts are 12-18. During this time, most boys (and girls) go through a time of experimentation with many things. Is it therefore even possible to say that a 13 year old boy could be irreversibly identified as gay?  What if he identifies as gay at 13 (and is refused membership in Scouts) but by 14 no longer self-indentifies as gay? Should he be allowed in Scouts then? Likewise what about the boy who develops feelings of same-sex attraction while in Scouting? Should he confess these feelings to his scout leader or just wait another year to see if his feelings change again?
  6. Likewise, there are different levels of same-sex attraction. For some it is merely experimentation. Others might refer to themselves as still trying to discover their sexual orientation. Still others may claim to be bi-sexual, while others may fully identify with the gay lifestyle.  And at each level there are those who are ambivalent about their feelings of same sex attraction. Who then counts as “gay” when considering membership into the Boy Scouts?
  7. Some boys have successfully completed their Eagle projects and then declared that they were gay all during their scouting experience. While this may demonstrate that being gay may or may not interfere with the scouting experience, it does seem to violate the scout law which clearly states that a scout is “honest”. Knowing the membership requirements and lying about them is hard to construe as honest.
  8. Because Boy Scouts are losing support, their main institutional support now comes from churches (many of whom may have a problem with allowing gay members or leaders). If these churches withdraw their support because of changes in membership requirements, it could mean the end of scouting.   Likewise, if enough parents take their boys out of scouting because of the change in membership requirements, it could be the end of scouting.  
  9. Do I want my 12 and 14 year old sons in a tent or changing clothes in front of an 18 year old girl? If not, why would I feel comfortable with them sharing a tent with an 18 year old boy who has already made it known that he considers himself to be gay? Likewise, would I want my son to go camping with a leader who has identified himself as gay?
  10. As a Christian, should I let my moral standards serve as a litmus test for any organization that I (or my sons) join? What about a sports team or a chess club or the city council? Is the Boy Scouts any different?

Hopefully, you can see the thorny issues involved. Is the kingdom of God at risk whether the Boy Scouts dissolve or thrive? Of course not. God will still be on a mission. We must remember this as the culture turns more and more against Christianity which no longer enjoys home court advantage.  By the way, it appears that the decision for now (starting next year) will be that boys who see themselves as gay will be allowed to join Scouts. However, potential leaders who identify as gay will still be excluded from leadership.  Is this an acceptable compromise? What do you think?


0 # Scott 2013-06-10 07:19
I really appreciated what theologian, Roger Olson, posted yesterday at his blog.
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0 # Phil DiLernia 2013-06-10 09:13
I'm sorry to read this musing without a conclusion. If you're not willing to share how your thought process impacted your answers to the Boy Scouts questions - you even failed to reveal what those questions were - then your observations seem much less relevant.

You never even answered the question which titles your article! lol

Next topic.
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0 # Bryan Maier 2013-06-10 11:34
Scott, Although Olson makes a somewhat compelling case for his "so what?" view, would he likewise write the same article if the vote had gone the other way? If it really is not a big deal, why not leave it the way it was since the founding? It is precisely because it is a "big deal" to the gay lobby that the whole issue was raised in the first place. And the gay lobby is already on record that they are not satisfied with this ruling. They want gay scout leaders also and why should they not fight for what they believe, when their opponents don't seem to care that much?
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0 # Bryan Maier 2013-06-10 11:40

You are right, I did not reveal my answers. I wanted to recognize the complexity of the issue. However, I voted to leave the rules they way they were mainly becuase of the points I made in #3, 5 and 9.
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0 # Phil DiLernia 2013-06-10 13:53
So now will you still be sending your children to the Boy Scouts?

It is the complexity of an issue that demands well thought out people to share their conclusions. :)
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0 # Scott 2013-06-10 14:00
Bryan -

I don't think Roger Olson is arguing that it doesn't matter. I understand him to be saying that it's not as big a deal as some SBC-ers are making it out to be. We could argue the 'slippery slope' perspective that if they allow gay boy scouts, then they will at some point allow gay leaders.

Not to mention what you bring up in point #5 - there are too many variables to make a blanket statement about the allowance of gays into Boy Scouts.

As with Olson's article, why are we so selective of which sins to highlight and which ones not to? Should churches allow or not allow the Boy Scouts if they accept Mormons, Muslims, smokers, etc, etc? We make this one issue most important. I think we get off base to put so much weight on this one issue.
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0 # Bryan Maier 2013-06-10 15:18

As far as I know, the Boy Scouts have always accepted Muslims and smokers and Mormons. But they have decided that boys who identify or practice homosexuality will be excluded. And yes, that is what I meant in #5. Most boys join Boy Scouts at age 11 (6th grade). How many 11 year olds can or have made lifetime decisions about their sexuality? So when most boys join it is a non-issue and probably will continue to be. But it is the trajectory that is of concern.
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0 # Bryan Maier 2013-06-10 15:23

My boys have been in scouting since 5 years old and sex has never been an issue (which is appropriate at that age). Now they are well on their way to getting their Eagle so I leave the decision up to them. If the Boy scouts allowed Gay leaders, that might the limit for me. I would still let my boys finish but I would no longer support BSA finacially.
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0 # Phil DiLernia 2013-06-10 16:30
Thanks for sharing that Bryan! I do find it just a bit disconnected that you would allow your kids to attend but remove financial support? Also, I feel the same disconnect that you may even reconsider their attendance if there are homosexual leaders based on your assertion that the reason for allowing them to attend is their age and maturity (that's what I took from the well on their way to Eagle statement) ... if homosexual leaders come on board they would still be on their way to their Eagle status. If your kids were younger would you let them attend? I can tell that this situation bothers you in your spirit and I feel for you. I am thankful that my kids don't attend so I can partially avoid it.

As a church we let the BSA use our church for their gatherings. We are now discussing whether we should change that. I will be able to use some of what you wrote to help me think this through. If you're interested I'll share what we decide and how we came to that decision.

Scott, if I understand the new rules then there is a huge difference between the issue of other faiths vs. homosexuality.

I may be wrong here but here is what I am hearing. Not only should homosexual kids be "allowed" to participate in BS but that their choices must/will be affirmed as being equally valid to the choices of heterosexual males. If what I am assuming is true (and I believe it is ... and it certainly will be once they give in on the issue of leadership ... and they will because the threats and opposition is the same) then that is a big issue.

If a Muslim kid attends BS will they be allowed to promote the values of "allah" at the same time that the BS promote the values of Christ? If that is true then I would have a big problem with that as a financial supporter.
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0 # R. Todd Mangum 2013-06-12 06:11
Level-headed contribution, Bryan, on an issue that needs some level-headed thinking and analysis. Thank you.
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0 # Scott 2013-06-12 14:19
Bryan -

In response to your comment at #7. I'm not sure we are disagreeing anywhere.

As you note, what does an 11-year old know? Sure, at 16 or 18 they might make a decision. And they might be thinking such at 11. But if the Boy Scouts will allow a teen who is Muslim or Mormon to join, both of which are not in line with orthodox Christian faith, then why not allow a possible young teen who thinks, or is unsure if, he is gay?

Each situation calls for its own wisdom of how to walk it out, but here is an opportunity to connect with a young person that just might need to encounter the living Christ, like that half-blood, adulterous woman at the well. Embraced by the gracious one. To make a blanket statement that, 'We won't allow Scouts to meet in our church buildings because of this issue,' (even though such was never said when they accepted other 'groups' that would be considered sinful), it seems quite extreme. But this is one of the biggies in the cultural wars in America, if not the biggest.

I'm just not convinced blanket statements (like this one: will ever be helpful.
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0 # Scott 2013-06-13 08:50
Bryan -

Sorry to keep commenting. :) I hope it's not too much. I think this quote from another blogger also sums up my concern:

Does the SBC plan to disassociate from any group that might have gay members? Will Alcoholics Anonymous be banned from meeting in the church basement because some of its members might be gay? Will children be asked about their sexual orientation or the sexual orientation of their parents before being enrolled in Vacation Bible School? Will churches drop all partnerships with community nonprofits that don't discriminate based on race, gender, or sexual orientation?
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0 # Bryan Maier 2013-06-15 15:01
Thanks for your continued comments. I guess I would just want to respond to two issues you brought up.

First, the Boy Scouts are not a Christian organization (which can be frustrating to those of us who are Evangelicals). They respect all religions and the religious badge (one of the most coveted pins) requires you to be versed in YOUR religion - whatever it is. So I do not expect Boy Scouts to have a doctrinal position. However they do have their version of a moral code and I believe they have a right to it.

Second, whether the SBC should withdraw support. How would you feel if the SBC opened up their churches for KKK meetings? I think the SBC feels the same way about opening their buildings to gays (or those that endorse gays)

Thank you for your thoughtful comments.
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