May 29, 2013 by Alex Johannigman
Towards the end of last week, representatives of the Boy Scouts of America voted to allow openly gay boys to become scouts. And it’s become a very divisive issue, with many supportive of the change, and many others threatening to quit scouting or stop sponsoring troops in their churches.
As a Boy Scout from 2nd grade until I turned 18 after my senior year of high school, scouting was a huge part of my childhood. I worked at two different boy scout camps for summer and winter camp, and served in nearly every capacity I could including two terms as senior patrol leader of my troop and as a den chief for my younger brother’s Webelos den. And I’m excited about the change and disappointed in the reactions that many individuals and churches are having to the decision.
Here is the official statement released by the BSA leadership.
Many critics of the decision claim that the scouts are abandoning their commitment to be morally straight and reverent. They argue that they are abandoning their Christian roots and alienating church groups which make up a majority of the sponsoring organizations of the Boy Scouts. I however, don’t see this as a conflict with Christianity or with scouting’s commitment to teaching boys to be morally responsible adults.
The ban as it stood excluded boys based on an inclination to sin in a particular way, an inclination not too different from those that tempt everyone else, particularly other teenage boys in the boy scouts who also struggle with being sexual pure. According to the BSA, “The resolution also reinforces that Scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting.” When you look at what they actually said, the scouts are not endorsing sexual activity for any of the youth in their program, and continue to expect virtuous behavior of all of it’s members and leaders. It actually reminds me a lot of the church’s teaching on same-sex attraction.
One could then argue “But what if the gay scout is engaging in immoral sexual activity? Shouldn’t he be banned then for setting a bad example?” I think if anyone is struggling with a sin, the worst thing you can do is ban them from an institution that will help them morally. Would we ban someone from our church because they struggle with a serious sin? Absolutely not! The church is meant to be a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints. Otherwise they wouldn’t let me in either. I agree with the BSA’s leadership when they say that “we can all agree that kids are better off when they are in Scouting. Going forward, our Scouting family will continue to focus on reaching and serving youth in order to help them grow into good, strong citizens. America’s youth need Scouting, and by focusing on the goals that unite us, we can continue to accomplish incredible things for young people and the communities we serve.”
By removing this ban, the scouts are recognizing that this inclination to a certain sin is no worse than any other inclination to sin, all of which seem to be allowed at this time and have been allowed for the history of scouting. It also moves our society one baby step closer to fully accepting and loving our gay brothers and sisters by hopefully introducing those who are adamantly opposed to the resolution to actual gay people, showing that a vast majority of them are not the uniquely wicked caricatures that they have been making them out to be. Similarly, it recognizes that none of us are perfect, Boy Scouts certainly included. Just as I am far from perfect now, I was even further from God’s ideal when I was a teenager. Most other scouts in my troop had their own issues too. There were other scouts that I met in my troop or at camps that bragged about having sex with their girlfriends, that talked about illegal drugs that they used regularly, and who used offensive language on a regular basis. No one ever called for them to be banned from scouting because their behavior didn’t exemplify the virtues of scouting. And despite their flaws, I still could see that scouting was a positive influence on their lives. Boy Scouts didn’t make us perfect, just like anything else, but it introduced us to numerous positive role models (many of whom changed my life in incredible ways) and taught us all to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.
I hope that the individuals and church groups that have claimed that they will pull out of scouting reconsider what they are keeping the boys of their communities from experiencing and instead see this as an opportunity to reinforce the values of the Scout Law and Scout Oath rather than bemoan the disappearance of those values.