A kid no more than thirteen or so came to our door yesterday. We stood tall and was freshly pressed in his scout uniform, his black canvas Chuck Taylors the only betrayal of his otherwise high-and-tight appearance.
“Hello sir,” he said. I tried to mask the cringe I always feel coming on when someone calls me sir. “I’m helping out with a fundraiser for our troop, and I wondered if you would be willing to support us.” He explained how, for a gift of $25, they would place a rebar-and-PVC pole in our yard four times a year (Memorial Day, July 4th, Flag Day and Veteran’s Day) and top it with a big American flag.
Now, I’m not usually a demonstrative patriot; I, like many people my age and younger, shy away from some more traditional expressions of national pride. But this kid was so earnest in his presentation that I couldn’t say no.
Did I mention his name was Christian?
So I cut him a check and he signed me up. And as he moved on to the next house, I felt particularly good about supporting the scouts, particularly when I did. Just a few weeks ago, I would have likely declined, namely because of the ban on including openly gay scouts in local troops. And though I’m thrilled that ban has been lifted, I’m still discouraged that gay scout leaders are yet to enjoy such equality.
Regardless of this, I felt it was important, especially now, to offer what support I could. According to a story on the Huffington Post today, several conservative religious groups are threatening what they call a “mass exodus” from the scouts unless the new policy is abandoned before its planned implementation in 2014. Leaders from the Assemblies of God church, the Southern Baptist Convention and the Liberty Counsel all have laid down the gauntlet, threatening to tell families to take their kids out of the Boy Scouts unless they get their way.
And while they’re within their right to do so, there’s been no more important time than now for supporters of a more inclusive culture to make their support for the Scouts publicly known. Granted, even if this new policy is realized, it’s still not as comprehensive as many of us had hoped. But without a strong constituency supporting their change – though incremental – there’s the risk that the negative pressure to roll the plan back will cause them to retreat.
As for the groups threatening to boycott, I understand, though I don’t agree. But consider two things before setting this particularly anti-gay position in stone:
First, the larger culture is clearly shifting to the other side of this issue. Whether they believe homosexuality is a sin or not, and whether they are Christians or not, the consensus is that sexual orientation no longer is a criteria by which discrimination will be tolerated. And in as much as the Southern Baptist convention was caught on the other side of the civil rights debate, it seems a perfect opportunity that even we Christians can gain wisdom from history and learn from our mistakes.
If not, we will continue to be seen as operating well outside of the cultural norm. And while I support some counter-cultural values within the Christian faith, being less open and inclusive than the rest of the population certainly is not one of them, especially given Jesus’ emphasis on reaching out to those outside the proverbial circle.
Which leads me to my second point. It could be the case that we who promote equality for people regardless of sexual identity and orientation are wrong, and that come whatever final judgment there may be, we’ll have to answer for our position. But as a Facebook friend of my wife, Amy, said recently in an online chat about similar issues, if my greatest sin in the end is that I’ve been too open, too loving, that I’ve drawn the circle of inclusion to large, I’m willing to take that chance.