A Journey of faith within the church, the culture and the world
Wednesday, June 5, 2013
A Scout is . . .
I am troubled about the recent news stories surrounding the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) organization’s ruling to allow openly gay boys to become scouts, in effect overturning a ban on gay membership. There are two things that trouble me.
First, BSA is open to boys as young as seven years old (Cub Scouts). A boy can enter the ranks of the Boy Scouts at age eleven (that’s when I joined up). The levels of cognitive, social, moral, physical, and sexual development are all over the map when you get boys (girls also, but boys are my topic today) of varying ages together.
I get concerned when developmental labels are put on children while they are still in the process of developing. My guess is that most boys join the Boy Scouts (or move from the Cub program) at the younger ages of eligibility. I wonder how many 11-13 year olds have sufficiently moved through their developmental stages so that a label of sexual orientation can be placed on them?
I do not object, however, to the lifting of the ban. Young boys (and adolescents) are working through many complex developmental issues all at once. It seems appropriate to me to open membership to boys in general rather than attempting to encourage categorizations about sexual orientation that may be premature.
If there is a concern about sexual behavior among scouts, it would be a mistake to assume that having a ban on homosexual membership would stop that from happening in the first place. In his book Surprised by Joy, C. S. Lewis talks about the sexual domination of younger boys by the older boys in the boarding school where he lived. Boys get into these kinds of shenanigans all the time. It’s not a good thing, but it’s also not a new thing.
My other concern is about the very loud and vocal exodus out of the BSA by very conservative Christian groups. I am troubled when Christians extract themselves from the world and create competing organizations. I recognize that there are times when extraction may be appropriate, but I’m not convinced that this is one of those times.
The subtle message that leaks through the reaction to the BSA’s ruling is that there are certain kinds of people that are outside the scope of Christian ministry and care. Perhaps there is even the implication that there are people out there who stand outside the possibility of God’s redemptive love (unless, of course, that they get their acts together—can I please hear my Reformed friends reminding us, “By faith alone!”?) This is, in my view, a problematic message that is being given to the world.
Not all things that happen in our culture should be embraced—I get that. But there needs to be deeper reflection taking place than simply drawing a hasty line in the sand and creating competing subcultures that make Christians appear both irrelevant and ineffective.
[a personal note: I was only in the Boy Scouts for a year. But, to this day, I can quote the BSA oath and the 12-points of the Scout Law. I can’t remember where I left my car keys, but I remember all of that. I guess it’s an okay trade-off]