Destroying the Boy Scouts

The Boy Scouts are caught between Scylla and Charybdis–or, as more of them might put it less classically, a rock and a hard place.   The organization has had to deal with scandals involving gay scoutmasters and some incidents of child sexual abuse.  So it tightened its standards and its scrutiny.  Now the organization is under fire for being anti-gay.   The organization has announced that it is reconsidering its policies banning openly gay leaders and scouts.  Barton Gingerich (a former student of mine) has some inside information about what is going on.

Barton Gingerich of the Institute on Religion & Democracy:

The proposed change to the Boy Scouts of America’s exclusion standards has hit national headlines. Currently, the BSA forbids openly gay leaders, volunteers, and scouts. This reflects the opinion of the vast majority of active parents and Scouting leadership. As an Eagle Scout and Brotherhood member of the Order of the Arrow, I was shocked and saddened to hear the announcement that the Boy Scouts were considering a change to this longstanding standard.

While The Atlantic insisted that the main impetus behind the change was the collection of heart-wrenching testimonies, this Christian Post article reveals the crux of the matter: large corporate donors are threatening to withhold funds to the BSA unless it alters the leadership standards. Within the past year, big donors Merck, Intel, and UPS threatened to no longer give to BSA because of its ban on gay scouts, volunteers and leaders. In case you were wondering, the rapid-fire volley of divestment threats does not simply happen without much work behind the curtain. Just this week, Scouting leadership announced it was reconsidering its stance.

The change faces great opposition within the Scouting community and on the grassroots level. Families threaten to leave the program entirely; no doubt many troops in the already-declining and financially-enfeebled organization will close down for lack of members. Churches, tremendous BSA supporters through donations and their facilities, have weighed in as well. . . .

The leaders of the LGBT agenda have long targeted the Boy Scouts. First, they persecuted the organization legally, through juridical attacks that reached all the way up to the Supreme Court. Even though the BSA is a volunteer private organization, it found itself under fire from both prosecutors and the media. Now they have assaulted the BSA at a much weaker spot: finances. . . .

The LGBT champions on company boards and positions of cultural leadership that are putting the pressure on the BSA have no love for the organization. If the organization keeps its current standards, it loses big-time corporate donors. If the Scouts change their policy, then they are going to lose grassroots participation via facilities, membership, and funds from many families and churches. Either way the organization is hurt badly. No one who really loves an organization tries to annihilate it in such a manner. Sure, a few former Scouts are gay and would perhaps like to see it reform its ways, but other gay Scouts I have talked to would rather the organization keep its standards rather than face immanent destruction.

These days, lack of affirmation for the LGBT agenda IS intolerance since not speaking out against “heterosexism” is considered the same as not speaking out against racism. And it is probably not going to stop with excluding leaders–there will be more demands (perhaps insisting the BSA offer sexual education rather than leaving that responsibility to parents, a custom that has come under fire before).

Most of those that have put on the pressure on the relatively feeble Boy Scouts of America do not give a care for the organization. It is just another casualty in their culture war.

via How I Know the LGBT Movement Hates the Boy Scouts « Juicy Ecumenism.

How can openness to gays not destroy the Boy Scouts?  I know, I know, not all homosexuals prey on young boys and in fact those are very few.  And yet wouldn’t the nature of the organization attract those few?

And will parents want their children to join the organization, just out of fear of what might happen?

And will boys want to join the organization under these circumstances, knowing how boys think and how they tend to be worried about how others think about them?

And in what sense is a pre-adolescent to be identified as “gay”?  Pre-pubescent children either aren’t having sex with anybody, or they are being sexually abused.  The notion that a Cub Scout-aged boy, for instance, is “gay” is surely problematic.   I suspect a common-sense solution such as admitting all boys, but not allowing gay Scoutmasters will not satisfy the pressure groups.  If worse comes to worse, maybe the organization should just disband.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • fjsteve

    And yet wouldn’t the nature of the organization attract those few?

    Yes, it already does. They just hide it; and they will continue hide even if the BSA changes it’s policy because their specific predilections is not just for males but for boys. No matter what policy change is made within the BSA, men sexually interested in boys will never be acceptable. Not that I’m discounting the risk because I believe it will be slightly higher if the policies are changed. The other big risk, however, is opening the doors to activists who have long wanted to remold the organization into their own image. Say goodbye to merit badges in rifle shooting, say hello to merit badges in tolerance and transgendered sexuality (only half joking here).

  • Trey

    This is another sign that our nation is dying. A private organization can be badgered by a very small percentage of fanatics who have corporate backing.

  • Paul Reed

    And another domino falls…

    ” If worse comes to worse, maybe the organization should just disband.”

    Yes, it should. But we should know that God has “disbanded” entire cities over the same matter.

  • mikeb

    Let us remember: Lord Robert Baden Powell began the Scouting movement because, in his view, boys were not being raised to become men. Today the culture does much to prevent boys from becoming men and there is no end to the feminization in sight. Killing BSA is just another unintended consequence (?) along the road.

  • Cincinnatus

    Claims that this will “destroy” BSA are, I think, hyperbolic. Or they’re too late: if a cabal of private, corporate donors can compel the BSA to remake themselves in the corporate image, then BSA has already lost.

    Also, local troops in socially progressive areas have long been welcoming openly gay members and scoutmasters. Because that’s the case, maybe some judicious localism is precisely what will save the organization from increasing irrelevance. That is, it might not do much good for an organization struggling to attract interest from the video-game/individualistic generation to take a rigid stand on an issue that is already not an issue for a number of its members and troops.

    Please read me charitably here. I’m not endorsing homosexuality or arguing that the BSA should “compromise” its core values. I’m unsure whether this is a core value, though. As an Eagle Scout, while I disagree with the leadership’s decision, I don’t disagree enough to give them a call and express my disgust.

  • Cincinnatus

    One more thing: Can we end the canard that homosexuals are also (more likely to be) pedophiles? As far as I know, that simply isn’t true. They are different perversions. I can’t see how inducting openly gay leaders is going to make molestation of underage members any more likely. Pedophiles–and there’s no such thing as an open pedophile–would already have been attracted to the organization.

  • SKPeterson

    To follow up with Cincinnatus @ 5, this is almost precisely what the course of action will undertake. The proposed actions by the national council will allow for a local option, but not require any troop, district or council to adopt a pro-homosexual policy. It will simply allow it. I know this because a)my son is a Scout (almost Eagle), and b) I am the Charter Organization representative for my son’s troop which meets in our church, and this was communicated directly to me in a letter from the council office. The expectation is that nothing will be changing whatsoever at the local level here, because there has been exactly zero agitation for there to be any change to the existing policies in place. Moreover, the existing Youth Protection Training requirements address issues of inappropriate sexual behavior, without regard to the sexual identity of participants. It is always and everywhere inappropriate for any sexual conduct to be associated with Scouting activities.

  • http://homewardbound-cb.blogspot.com ChrisB

    The pedophile problem probably won’t change. I’m just curious what camping would be like with openly gay boys washing with heterosexual boys. What does single “sex” showering mean when there are homosexuals in the mix? Should we do away with segregated bathrooms and showers at schools too? I fear privacy and modesty are the next thing on the chopping block …

  • Jon

    “The expectation is that nothing will be changing whatsoever at the local level here, because there has been exactly zero agitation for there to be any change to the existing policies in place.”

    Let’s see. What stage is this–number two? Just tolerate them–they are so few and weak you’d probably never even notice them.

    But what is it teaching the boys about what acceptable man behavior is from their pro-homo-sex scout master? What behavior that is out and proud are the boys now going to understand is included within bounds of “morally straight” found in their motto?

    This is just more indoctrination. What better place to recruit for the team?

  • http://www.juicyecumenism.com Bart G

    If I may politely contest part of Cincinnatus’ argument: http://bpnews.net/BPFirstPerson.asp?ID=39636

  • sg

    One more thing: Can we end the canard that homosexuals are also (more likely to be) pedophiles? As far as I know, that simply isn’t true.

    I don’t want to turn this into a semantic game. However, pedophiles very often self identify as gay because it is obviously more socially acceptable. So, while most gay men are not pedophiles, all pedophiles are gay men. I over simplify, of course, but that is generally the case in the “self identifies as” game.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    The BSA should stand their ground and forgo corporate donations if that’s what it takes, even if it hurts a lot.

    Otherwise, they need to modify the Scout Oath and the Scout Law.

    On my honor I will do my best
    To do my duty to God and my country
    and to obey the Scout Law;
    To help other people at all times;
    To keep myself physically strong,
    mentally awake, and morally straight.

    A Scout is:
    Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful,
    Friendly, Courteous, Kind,
    Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty,
    Brave, Clean, Reverent.

  • http://www.cyberbrethren.com Rev. Paul T. McCain

    So much for “morally straight.”

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    MIke, probably had better strike “clean” from that list, too.

    OK, a couple of thoughts.

    1. Most Scouts are under 13. How many people really know they’re homosexual at that point? Of those, how many are going to admit it?

    2. OK, for the few Scouts who know, and admit it, do the Scouts really want someone who openly admits to a sexual attraction for the young male body to be tenting with the likely object of his attraction?

    3. Do we really have data proving homosexuals are no more likely to molest? Let’s be honest here; the thing that stops (most) heterosexual men from approaching teen girls in this way is not that they are not attractive to us. It’s about self-control, among other factors. Do we really believe that it’s any different among homosexuals?

    To be honest, I question whether the data are really there, or whether the “studies” were designed not to find the intuitive correlation.

  • Abby

    @11 Unless the pedophile is a married man with children who rapes little girls.

  • Jon

    Bike asks “Most Scouts are under 13. How many people really know they’re homosexual at that point? Of those, how many are going to admit it?”

    Well, the vociferous out and proud ones are all sure to tell you they knew it from a very early age–they always knew it! And these are the ones you can expect to be clamouring to be Scout Masters.

    That is abuse all by itself to sexualize young boys by teaching them to identify sexual preference that way at all. It is pure indoctrination. And what better place to recruit than BSA?

    “10 percent is not enough!” indeed.

  • tODD

    Veith said:

    The organization has had to deal with scandals involving gay scoutmasters and some incidents of child sexual abuse.

    Which is a curious way to phrase it. The scandal involved the abuse, not the fact that the scoutmasters were gay.

    Anyhow, (Bart) Gingerich’s article is remarkably thin gruel. (And, since it apparently matters, I say this as a fellow Eagle Scout and inductee into the Order of the Arrow.) I mean, what exactly was the point of this line?

    In case you were wondering, the rapid-fire volley of divestment threats does not simply happen without much work behind the curtain.

    Hey, in case you were wondering, there’s a grand conspiracy afoot here, but, whoops, I forgot to say anything more about that to back up my assertion and let’s just move on with the article, shall we?

    And then he goes on to threaten “immanent [sic] destruction” on the Boy Scouts, based on vast swaths of conjecture.

    Can we take a step back here? The Boy Scouts have had gay people in them for a long time. It’s been a while since I was in a troop myself, but there were boys who we suspected were gay back then, and, to the degree I’ve reconnected with some of them on Facebook, some of them did, in fact, turn out to be gay. So this won’t fundamentally alter the demographics at the troop level.

    I don’t actually recall anyone inquiring as to my sexual orientation when I joined, anyhow. I guess they ask the leaders about this? I don’t know. So, at best, that’s the only real change this will see: the allowing of (out) gay adults into the BSA sphere.

    However, remembering a thing or two about the junior-high and high-school boy mind, I don’t really think this will quite have the effect everyone seems to fear. Because, at least in my experience, boys had a choice as to which troop to join. If one troop has known gay leaders, and that’s a problem for the boys, then they’ll simply leave and join another troop. Problem solved.

  • Cincinnatus

    BartG and others:

    On why homosexuals are not coterminous with pedophiles:

    1) Because many (probably most?) pedophiles prefer children of the opposite sex.

    2) Because many (probably most?) homosexuals prefer adults.

    3) See 1 and 2, in case they aren’t crystal clear.

    Arguing that homosexuals are pedophiles–or more likely to be pedophiles–seems to me to be little more than an antiquated prejudice. I’m not even willing to suggest that a higher proportion of homosexuals molest children than heterosexuals until I see a reputable study(/ies) that demonstrates as much conclusively.

    Oh, and let’s not forget that our understandings of pedophilia are to some degree culturally constructed: while it’s always deviant/wrong to indulge an attraction to youth of the same sex, or to youth below puberty, it’s not “universally” wrong to indulge desires for, say, a teenager capable of bearing children. This is a case of biological impulses conflicting with very modern prejudices.

    None of this is to say that I approve of open homosexuality in the Boy Scouts–I certainly don’t, in fact. But please find a better argument. The homosexuals=pedophilia argument is hamfisted, embarrassing, and, most importantly, wrong.

  • sg

    “I’m not even willing to suggest that a higher proportion of homosexuals molest children than heterosexuals until I see a reputable study(/ies) that demonstrates as much conclusively.”

    Who is going to fund/do that study? Who in the social sciences wants an objective unbiased answer to that question? I am guessing few if any.

  • sg

    “it’s not “universally” wrong to indulge desires for, say, a teenager capable of bearing children.”

    I thought that was called universally normal. Young adults are the most attractive to the opposite sex. Duh. Have you seen movies/TV? Lots of teen aged young adults cast as adults in sexual situations. The age of majority for entering contracts other than marriage is an absurd standard and is not even used as the age of consent now. Humans reach adulthood before age 18. Well before in most cases.

  • tODD

    FJSteve said (@1):

    Say goodbye to merit badges in rifle shooting, say hello to merit badges in tolerance and transgendered sexuality

    What about fear-mongering? Are you angling for a merit badge in that?

    Trey said (@2):

    This is another sign that our nation is dying. A private organization can be badgered by a very small percentage of fanatics who have corporate backing.

    Dear right-wingers, could you be a little more consistent about this? Sometimes you love it when corporations speak with their money, sometimes you see it as a sign of our nation’s death-knell. I’m confused.

    ChrisB said (@8):

    What does single “sex” showering mean when there are homosexuals in the mix? Should we do away with segregated bathrooms and showers at schools too?

    Wow, um, you seem to think Boy Scouts involves a lot more showering than I remember it actually having. Is this a hang-up of yours?

    Jon said (@9):

    But what is it teaching the boys about what acceptable man behavior is from their pro-homo-sex scout master?

    Probably the same thing they’ve already been learning from their pro-hetero-sex scout master? Honestly, do you imagine scout masters spend a lot of time talking about sex to Boy Scouts? If so, I’d say that’s a problem, no matter what orientation they are. The last thing I wanted to hear from any adult when I was in junior high, much less from a middle-aged man, was about sex. And it’s not like they screened straight scoutmasters so as to only allow in those that were perfectly pure, sexually. Honestly, were you ever even in the Scouts?

  • tODD

    Paul McCain said (@13):

    So much for “morally straight.”

    You see how that works, gay people? Merely by being gay, Paul McCain has judged you to be immoral. Nothing is being said in the suggested changes about sexual activity.

    But all one has to do is admit to being gay (no matter what one thinks or does about it, even from within one’s faith), and Paul McCain has judged you.

    This is Lutheran?

  • Cincinnatus

    SG:

    That’s probably true. So your option, then, is to continue spreading the unfounded suggestion without proof or evidence of any kind? Just a hunch? Just “creeped out” by the gays?

    Again, not in favor of endorsing homosexuality in the BSA. I’m just disappointed by the logic deployed to oppose it. No wonder the gays are winning?

  • DonS

    I also, have been the chartered organization representative for our home school group’s troop and pack.

    The idea of a local policy, where each local council or troop decides its policy regarding homosexual admission, isn’t going to work. Local units can’t financially survive the kinds of lawsuits they are sure to face in the future.

    Other organizations, such as Keepers of the Faith, have supplanted the Girl Scouts for years now in many Christian communities. I suspect the same will happen with the Boy Scouts. The problem the Boy Scouts have is that they have far too much overhead and need far too much funding to withstand the kind of social pressure they have been under for years now. Money always wins when your convictions are not deeply rooted in absolute Truth and faith.

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD@22:

    Let’s not go there–again. I could just as easily argue that, yes, it’s immoral to an alcoholic (according to the scout law/oath), even if you’re not cracking upon a Colt .45 during camping trips.

  • Cincinnatus

    to be an alcoholic*

  • fjsteve

    tODD, what part of what I said was fear-mongering?

  • SKPeterson

    DonS @ 24 – Well, it looks like the “local option” is going to be how this shapes up. I for one am not likely to be too concerned over the potential for a devolution from the national office to one more operative and representative of local concerns even in regards to funding. The BSA can probably operate quite effectively as a cooperative confederation as opposed to a more corporate structure. Anyhow it remains to be seen what will or will not be decided.

    More likely than not, though, this will play out like Todd notes. Boys aren’t forced to join any particular troop, and the better troops have extensive adult/parent involvement. To a great extent that will act as a (sometimes maybe not so) subtle brake and check on the rampant queering of the Scouts people are fearful of. This reminds me of the old adage that you can bring a horse to water.

  • DonS

    SKP @ 28: I agree — the national organization announced its policy change, and it will most certainly happen. All I’m saying is that an official “local option” won’t work legally. When local councils or troops get sued, that will be the end of it. After that, it will be solely at the troop level — as you say, certain troops will continue to thrive because of strong parental leadership. Homeschooled troops will continue to meet at 1 PM, which is a powerful control on membership ;-). And many will drift away into more conservative non-secular organizations.

  • Grace

    There are several pages, well worth the read.

    The Daily Beast

    The Boy Scouts’ ‘Perversion’ Files Detail Abuses, Convictions—and a Shocking Cover-Up

    Author Winston Ross – Oct 21, 2012 4:45 AM EDT

    Over decades, the Boy Scouts kept secret files of more than 1,200 alleged and convicted pedophiles. When were they planning to tell anyone? Winston Ross on what the files show.

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/10/21/the-boy-scouts-perversion-files-detail-abuses-convictions-and-a-shocking-cover-up.html

  • helen

    Cincinnatus @ 18
    Arguing that homosexuals are pedophiles–or more likely to be pedophiles–seems to me to be little more than an antiquated prejudice. I’m not even willing to suggest that a higher proportion of homosexuals molest children than heterosexuals until I see a reputable study(/ies) that demonstrates as much conclusively.

    What about NMBLA [National Man Boy Love Association], a gay group which argued that boys should be taken into homosexual care at about 8 years (Cub Scout age, incidentally) “to learn what real love was.”

  • Cincinnatus

    helen,

    …what, exactly, does the existence of NAMBLA prove? That NAMBLA exists doesn’t show that a disproportionate number of homosexuals are pedophiles (and certainly not that most/all of them are); it only shows that some homosexuals are pedophiles.

    Similarly, the existence of fundamentalist Mormonism shows that some heterosexuals are pedophiles and/or polygamists. It does not show that all, most, or many of them are.

    Trust me: this is a losing argument, helen.

  • Grace

    We would never allow our sons to be in the Boy Scouts. There are Christian youth groups that have supplanted the Boy Scouts. The problems within the organization aren’t worth the risk.

    All one has to do, is research the problems, see the results – then decide for yourself if the RISK of sending your son/sons to the Boy Scouts is something you want to chance. ]

    Do you think as Christian Believers you want your child to be in a situation that will never be forgotten. Christian parents have a responsibility to PROTECT their children.

  • fjsteve

    SKP

    Boys aren’t forced to join any particular troop, and the better troops have extensive adult/parent involvement.

    As I recall, in my neighborhood there was one choice. It was the only school within walking distance. And, at least in my case, there wasn’t an awful lot parental involvement. What you’re describing seems to be to be the desired scenario but for a large number of kids it’s just not reality. They get what they have easiest access to.

  • helen

    Cincinnatus @ 32
    Trust me: this is a losing argument, helen.
    Not proposing to argue; just observing that NMBLA exists.
    It came to our attention along with SIECUS back in NJ.
    There seemed to be some overlap in their membership.

  • tODD

    FJSteve, you asked (@27), “what part of what I said was fear-mongering?” Well, probably the part I quoted, where you half-seriously suggested that the shooting merit badges would go away, to be replaced by “merit badges in tolerance and transgendered sexuality”. Wasn’t that obvious?

  • tODD

    Cincinnatus (@25), in what way does merely being gay or an alcoholic violate the Scout Oath and/or Law?

  • fjsteve

    tODD, I would have thought the “only half joking” was obvious too. Honestly, I can see a move to introduce tolerance as a merit badge, although transgendered sexuality may be a stretch. Either way, I think a fear-mongering label is a little hyperbolic–therefore somewhat ironic.

  • tODD

    FJSteve (@38), I question your understanding of fractions.

  • sg

    “Again, not in favor of endorsing homosexuality in the BSA. I’m just disappointed by the logic deployed to oppose it. No wonder the gays are winning?”

    No wonder they are winning?

    Sympathetic media.

    Step one. Media covers shakedowns of corporations that hate and fear bad publicity.

    Step two. Cowed corporations fear media covering their continued support of BSA and further shakedowns.

    Step three. Cowed corporations stop funding BSA.

    Step four. Cowed BSA gives “self-identifying gays” opportunity to participate in BSA.

    Get it? It is just like gay marriage. Without the media, it literally does not exist. It is not a grass roots issue. There is virtually no interest in such things by and large. It would never even occur to most people, and the rare few who would think of it wouldn’t find anyone else interested in it. Regular gay men are not interested in participating in BSA. Pedophiles who self-identify as gay are the ones that want into BSA, and parents don’t want them around their sons.

  • fjsteve

    *sigh*

  • sg

    Has anyone seen the names of the people who voted for this change? It was not decided by BSA. It was decided by corrupt leaders. Those individuals have names.

  • Grace

    sg @ 40

    Don’t blame the media for exposing the problems within the Boy Scouts. If it were not for the media the majority of parents, wouldn’t know anything about what goes on, not only within the BSA, but GLBT, NMBLA and all the rest of the mess.

  • Grace

    sg @ 42 “Has anyone seen the names of the people who voted for this change? It was not decided by BSA. It was decided by corrupt leaders. Those individuals have names.

    Do you have a list handy

  • tODD

    SG (@40) said:

    Regular gay men are not interested in participating in BSA.

    Just wondering: what is the basis of this claim of yours? Is it your experience in the Boy Scouts? Or is it some data you’re just not pointing us to?

    Because I’m pretty sure you have no idea what you’re talking about.

    Again, there are plenty of (non-pedophile) gay men who used to be involved in Scouting as youths. Why wouldn’t some of them want to be involved in the BSA as adults? Or, alternately, what about being gay would make a man less likely to want to volunteer with the local troop than would a straight man?

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    For reference, a 1998 JAMA article on men raping boys reports tht 98% described themselves as heterosexual.

    http://www.rapevictimadvocates.org/PDF/MythsFactsMaleSurvivors.pdf

    OK, we can quibble about whether they actually were or not–certainly sexual contact with another male would indicate the person is not “strictly heterosexual” on Kinsey’s scale–but we can infer that no more than 2% were likely to march in a pride parade. Here’s some more.

    http://ezfame.com/child-molestation-statistics/

    It indicates that the perpetrator is most likely a family member of friend. I still am not sure they’ve really gotten to the bottom of things–it seems like homosexuality is shrouded in ambiguity–and I don’t know that I’d want a homosexual Scout tenting with my son–but statistically, it’s clear that the fact of the matter is that your likely perpetrator is close to home. He’ s not the creepy guy with the Village People t-shirt asking to volunteer with the troop.

    But, that said, Baden-Powell did mean some things by “morally straight” that most Scouts today with agree with, and so I’d have to agree that what’s going on will tend to erode what credibility the Scouts still possess.

  • Jeff

    I’m starting to think that the LCMS should stop supporting the Scouts and form a Lutheran Pioneers group like the WELS did.

  • Grace

    Bike @ 46

    I believe that many of these men, some married, some not, are bisexual, therefore, they aren’t identified as homosexual per se. That’s one of the reasons, they might be hard to detect.

  • Grace

    American youth organizations

    The Girl Scouts of the USA accepts gays and lesbians, and allows its members to substitute another word in place of “God” when reciting the Girl Scout Promise.

    The American Heritage Girls is a Christian Scouting organization that provides an alternative to the Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA). American Heritage Girls’ policies on homosexuals and atheists are similar to those held by the BSA. It was formed by parents who were unhappy that GSUSA accepted lesbians as troop leaders, allowed girls to substitute a word more applicable to their belief for the word “God” in the Girl Scout Promise, and allegedly banned prayer at meetings. American Heritage Girls has about 10,000 members, whereas Girl Scouts of the USA has around 2,500,000 youth members and 900,000 adults. Some youth organizations do not have policies that exclude or restrict gays and atheists, and are coeducational, such as Camp Fire, SpiralScouts International, 4-H, and the BSA’s Learning for Life program.”

    ANOTHER EXCERPT:

    Access to governmental resources

    Historically, the BSA (and the Girl Scouts of the USA) has often been granted preferential access to governmental resources such as lands and facilities. In certain municipalities, the conditions under which the Boy Scouts of America can access public and nonpublic governmental resources have become controversial, sometimes resulting in litigation.

    When a private organization such as the BSA receives access on terms more favorable than other private organizations, it is known as “special” or “preferential” access whereas “equal” access is access on the same terms. For example, state and local governments may lease property to nonprofit groups (such as the BSA) on terms that are preferential to or equal to the terms they offer to commercial groups, in other words they may give nonprofit groups either special or equal access. Special access includes access at a reduced fee (including no fee) or access to places off-limits to other groups. The categorization of access as “special” or “equal” is not always clear-cut.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boy_Scouts_of_America_membership_controversies

  • fjsteve

    Jeff @ 47, I disagree. Perhaps if they change their policies then the LCMS and other religious organizations can reassess their relationship. But it seems to me that know is exactly the wrong time for religious organizations to stop supporting the Scouts. They should be there and be involved to make their concerns known. There’s not much else in the way of the stream roller.

  • fjsteve

    “know” should have been “now” is exactly the wrong time.

  • Grace

    fjsteve @ 50 “But it seems to me that know is exactly the wrong time for religious organizations to stop supporting the Scouts.

    It’s always the ‘RIGHT TIME, to end the support of organizations who do that which could harm children. No child should be in an organization that embraces leaders who are known homosexuals, etc, there should be NO sacrifice. If the BSA want a different program, they can have it, they just won’t have the support of those who want to protect their children, or corporations that won’t financially support.

  • kerner

    Jeff @47:

    They did. My wife’s home congregation had Lutheran Rangers and Rangerettes. The reasons for these, as well as the Lutheran Pioneers, was mostly concerns about unionism. All of the kids swearing fealty to a common generic god, and not the Triune God. But in the LCMS that concern was fading as apparently Scout Troops were associated with schools and LCMS schools recognized the same God the congregation recognized, and the BSA never interfered with that. My congregation had a cub scout troop, and I participated with my younger son. I don’t know whether we have it anymore.

    When you come right down to it, it is just as big a problem that the BSA is part of American civic religion, because that is the reason this issue is coming to the forefront now. Approval for gay sexual relationships is becoming part of the American civic religion. Which we probably should have been avoiding in the first place. Sorry all you Eagle Scouts out there, but Lutherans are porbably better off doing without scouting.

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD@37:

    I suppose it depends upon how you interpret the scout code in particular and morality in general. The Boy Scouts are not a Lutheran organization. They are free to construe morality that may depart from the Lutheran conception. For example, for Plato, morality is a condition of the rightly-ordered soul. Thus, there is no difference between a righteous soul and a person who acts rightly: a rightly-ordered soul produces right actions. A wrongly-ordered soul produces wrong actions. So, for instance, a homosexual who does not actually commit homosexual acts is not actually homosexual (and vice versa). An alcoholic who doesn’t drink isn’t really an alcoholic at heart.

    This Platonic model has been embraced by many Christians throughout history, including, I would argue, contemporary evangelicals. When I was a Boy Scout, I was under the impression that the Scout Oath and Law are also a rather Platonic statements: when a Scout claims to be “Trustworthy,” for example, he doesn’t simply mean that he doesn’t tell lies. Rather, he means that he is the sort of person who doesn’t tell lies too. Morality isn’t merely an external activity. Hence, when a scout promises to be “morally straight,” he is referring, obviously, to the condition of his soul–his soul is straight, not crooked.

    Either way, though, it’s a matter of interpretation. Maybe my understanding of the scout oath is “wrong” and yours is right.

    Let’s be clear: the Scouts are an instrument of the law, not the Gospel, to put it in Lutheran terms.

    tl;dr: My point is only this: the Scouts can define morality however they want. If they want to claim that “morally straight” precludes open homosexuality in the ranks, then let them. Trotting out the now-fashionable distinction between homosexuality and homosexual activity doesn’t do anything to solve the question because it doesn’t comport with all understandings of morality. And even if Scouts were to make such a distinction, they could still keep out homosexuals: maybe they disapprove of happily “married” gays too. And why not? Private organization, traditional moral codes, etc.

  • tODD

    Kerner (@53), I had to laugh at this:

    Sorry all you Eagle Scouts out there, but Lutherans are porbably better off doing without scouting.

    I agree, of course. But not because of the gay issue. Because, call me crazy, but I predict that the Boy Scouts will never make it a membership requirement that one actually tolerates or approves of homosexuality, however one may define it.

    However, the Boy Scouts have always had as a requirement that one have faith in some sort of supreme being. They don’t care what it is, of course — you can worship whatever. But you have to worship something. And they’ve gone to court to defend this pointless pantheism.

    That is why Lutherans are better off without Scouting.

  • tODD

    Cin (@54), your musings on the Platonic implications of the Scout Oath/Law are interesting, but do somewhat run up against the fact that at no point has BSA actually done any sort of litmus test for potential members to make sure that they are the sort of person who is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, etc.

    There’s also the problem that, legally, the BSA has defined itself as not subscribing to any particular religion (and therefore any associated moral codes). You are right when you say that the “Boy Scouts are not a Lutheran organization”. Indeed, they are not any particular religious organization; they allow everything (even Buddhists that don’t, technically, believe in a supreme being; eh, close enough for the BSA). So they certainly can’t lean on any religious justification for their (apparent) claim that merely being gay is contra their moral standards.

    Trotting out the now-fashionable distinction between homosexuality and homosexual activity…

    Yes, yes, you’ve hit my weak spot there. You know how desparately I cling to what is hip, how I adhere to things merely because they are trendy, because there’s a Tumblr out there somewhere with animated GIFs espousing this theology. Yes, yes, that’s it. My bad.

    Anyhow, of course they can legally eschew gays. And they can also suffer the consequences of making decisions that are contrary to the people with the money.

    But, in all my time in Scouting, I never once saw or heard anything from BSA HQ claim that certain people are to be excluded from membership merely because of the type of people they inherently are. Indeed, such an attitude would rather fly in the face of scouting’s founding mission. If anything, the official notion from the top always seemed to be a message about making the right choices, about changing who you are to make yourself a better person.

  • Joe

    Jeff @ 47 – you know your comment is interesting to me because LCMS sanctioned involvement with the Boy Scouts was the result of a long process. One of the earliest and most vocal critics of Scouts from the religious community was Professor Theodore Graebner of the St. Louis Seminary. In 1943, the LCMS convention received a report from a Synod committee that had been investigating the Boy Scouts since its formation (in 1908) to try to determine if it was more like the Masons or more like the local rotary club. Could members be involved or not? Ultimately, the committee reported that it could not say that participation in the Scouts necessarily yielded unionism or syncratism. The convention left it up to the congregations to decide. And, it became common for LCMS congregations to charter their own troops so they could ensure that any doctrine that was taught was inline with the Church’s doctrine. I would imagine some congregations have (or did have) language in their constitutions about it.

    I have always wondered that if you have to have your own troop because you can’t trust the organization as a whole to get it right, why are you in the organization?

    And since it appears to matter, I made it to Webelos before I quit. And, my scout master was an alcoholic, who cheated on his wife and beat her and his kids. Morally straight and all that …

  • sg

    Again, there are plenty of (non-pedophile) gay men who used to be involved in Scouting as youths. Why wouldn’t some of them want to be involved in the BSA as adults? Or, alternately, what about being gay would make a man less likely to want to volunteer with the local troop than would a straight man?

    Seriously?
    Men with sons are the ones who want to participate for the sake of their sons. Generally that is married men, but can be single. The gay men I know don’t have kids and yeah, that is pretty typical. So, duh, they aren’t interested. Gays are a tiny fraction of the population and gays with kids even smaller.

  • sg

    One more point on BSA members. The chartering organization decides who may join its troop. My son’s troop is chartered by an LCMS church and therefore that church decides who may join. I didn’t know that before the last YPT training I attended.

  • Joe

    Also – how come no one gets on the Girl Scouts? One of my proudest moments as a parent was when my daughter decided to learn more about the Girl Scouts (okay I asked her if she knew where the cookie money went – I really did not know that much at the time – and she started investigating). Once she found out about the connections between Girl Scouts and Planned Parenthood she told us she wanted to quit Brownies. She told all of her friends about what she learned and they disbanded their what-ever-you-call-the Brownie-equivalent-to-a-cub-scout-den and just got together to do fun activities sans the official trappings of scouting.

    They are openly working with Planned Parenthood to provide sex education (including the wonderful brochure titled “Healthy Happy and Hot” about how to make sure young people with HIV can still have a pleasurable sex life).

  • DonS

    Joe @ 60, as I noted @ 24, many Christians have abandoned the Girl Scouts in favor of other organizations. This is particularly true in the homeschool world, of which I am a part, so I have more familiarity. For example, our home school group charters a Boy Scout troop and pack, but not a Girl Scout troop. Instead, for the girls many of our families affiliate with Keepers of the Faith, but there are others.

  • Grace

    Joe “She told all of her friends about what she learned and they disbanded their what-ever-you-call-the Brownie-equivalent-to-a-cub-scout-den and just got together to do fun activities sans the official trappings of scouting. “

    You have a very smart daughter, you must be very proud of her.

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD@56:

    Apparently, if I had left out the word “Platonic,” you would have kept your proverbial thinking cap on, because when you say this:

    If anything, the official notion from the top always seemed to be a message about making the right choices, about changing who you are to make yourself a better person.

    …I agree with you completely. The question, as we’ve both suggested, is what that actually means.

    And of course the BSA has never “officially” announced its opposition to homosexuality as an orientation. Perhaps you’ve forgotten that, until about two decades ago, there was no such thing in popular parlance as a distinction between a (celibate) homosexual orientation and homosexual action. There was no distinction made between being homosexual and acting homosexual. Gay sex was (almost universally) regarded as immoral, and people who did it or were inclined to do it were thus immoral. For better or worse, it was as simple as that. Expecting the Boy Scouts prior to, say, 2000 to have issued an official clarification of what they meant by homosexuality is like critiquing the Catholic Church for not condemning internet pornography before the internet.

    All that said, I’m more concerned–or amused, depending on the moment–by your accusation that the BSA is pantheist. That seems to be a rather maximalist reading of the BSA standards, to be polite. Yes, official BSA dogma dictates that all scouts ought to believe in “God”–by which they mean something like the AA’s “higher power.” At the national level, it doesn’t matter which God. To that extent, you’re right. But rather than embracing pantheism or unitarianism, this serves rather to assist in the preservation of BSA’s somewhat unique localism. My troop met in a Presbyterian church, and so was robustly Christian. There are Jewish troops. There are, as you’ve apparently discovered, Buddhist troops. There are Mormon troops. And, yes, there are troops that prefer to emphasize camping without spending much time worrying about the specific nature of the “God” in question. The point is that the Boy Scouts are not “pantheistic.” They’re just ecumenical in a way that, to my eye, doesn’t conflict with Lutheranism. If you want your local troop to be more specific in its religious injunctions, that’s fine. But it’s not the business of the national office.

    This is because, as you yourself said, they’re an organization concerned with helping boys become better people, better leaders, better citizens of their communities. And, as Tocqueville recognized, what is important here is, among other things, a belief in a God who dictates/undergirds certain standards of moral conduct. The Boy Scouts is not and never has been concerned with doctrinal orthodoxy or nuance. Hell, I wouldn’t have joined if they were–I already went to Sunday School. In other words, understand the mission: the Boy Scouts encourages young boys to be good people and good citizens, not good Lutherans or Catholics or Mormons. The latter is a task for other organizations. In the meantime, I say with no hesitation that the Boy Scouts has been a force for good in its stated mission.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    > what-ever-you-call-the Brownie-equivalent-to-a-cub-scout-den…

    I believe the word you’re looking for is “coven. ” A Brownie Coven.

  • Cincinnatus

    Joe,

    What DonS said. The Girl Scout ship sailed long ago. It was passing out condoms (or may as well have been) when I was still a cub scout. And in my opinion, the Girl Scouts have always had different–and arguably more pernicious–aims than the Boy Scouts. The Boy Scouts are about encouraging good conduct, good citizenship, and–if I may–manly skills like camping, comradery, hiking, knot-tying, etc. The Girl Scouts have always been about producing “strong, independent women,” with all the baggage that the Sexual Revolution added to such an ideal.

    And they enforce this vision quite rigidly from the national level.

  • Grace

    Cincinnatus @65 ” The Girl Scouts have always been about producing “strong, independent women,” with all the baggage that the Sexual Revolution added to such an ideal.”

    That isn’t true. The Girl Scouts ‘were very different than they are today, or only a short time ago. My daughter was in Scouts, and I was involved with ‘camp outs – it was NOT the feminist, sort of thing you’re conveying at all.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    When I was in scouts, it was the troop sponsored by the Men’s Club of the Methodist church we attended. I don’t recall anything at all religious about the experience (well, except for that God & Country award, which I had to pursue independently); it was just as secular as the troops that were sponsored by public schools, and was mostly about camping, hiking, etc.

  • Joe

    Grace – my wife and I are very proud of her!

  • Grace

    Joe,

    I wish more young people were aware of what’s going on. I believe strong Christian leadership at home is the answer – and of course the LORD being the most important of all.

  • tODD

    Joe (@60):

    They are openly working with Planned Parenthood to provide sex education (including the wonderful brochure titled “Healthy Happy and Hot” about how to make sure young people with HIV can still have a pleasurable sex life).

    Did you actually do any research into the matter yourself?

    Because the Girl Scouts themselves explicitly deny these claims. Everywhere you look.

  • tODD

    Cin (@63), what, exactly, is your point here? Who is talking about the Boy Scouts prior to 2000, other than you? Is there some reason you’re ignoring the present?

    And your personal experience of explicitly religious troops bears no resemblance to any of the troops I encountered growing up. My troop met in a public school. There was no religious expectation, other than the official party line. I know we had Jews and various types of Christians. And I had Mormon friends in Boy Scouts, but they were not members of Mormon troops. Often the troops met in churches, but nobody in these troops discussed them in terms of actually adhering to the tenets of the churches in which they met. So no, I know nothing of this “pick the troop that aligns with your religious belief” notion that apparently was all you knew. Boys of any religion — and I stress, any religion — picked their troops based on location and preferred activities.

    If the BSA was truly indifferent to religion (like it almost is), then my charges wouldn’t stick. But since it insists that you believe in something, and yet doesn’t care what that something is, let’s call a spade a spade: they’re pantheistic. Pick a god. Any god will do. But it makes you better to worship something. Anything.

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD,

    I’m addressing your suggestion that Lutheran churches ought not affiliate with the Scouts because they are “pantheistic.” So, a couple of questions:

    My troop met in a public school. There was no religious expectation, other than the official party line. I know we had Jews and various types of Christians. And I had Mormon friends in Boy Scouts, but they were not members of Mormon troops.

    Is your position that Lutherans should eschew the Boy Scouts because some troops meet in secular institution, or because some troops don’t emphasize the potentially religious aspect of Scouting? My own troop, as I said, met in a Christian emphasis and was closely involved with the Church, but there were plenty of non-Christians in the troop. On the other hand, the pastor in my old fundamentalist church refused to hold bake sales because he did not think the church, as an institution, should be supported by secular funds from directly secular sources (i.e., unchristian brownie buyers). Similarly, you seem to think that Lutheran churches should not affiliate with non-Lutheran organizations. That position is clear and common enough, I suppose, but it’s not one I share.

    Meanwhile, that word pantheism–I still object. A more appropriate term, I think, would be “formally unitarian”–and even then, this would only apply at the national level. The national office is formally unitarian. As I said, the Scouts insist that faith in some kind of God–to a point, anyway–is a necessary prerequisite for moral conduct and good citizenship. Obviously, someone like FWS would disagree, but not on the grounds that this is “pantheistic.” It’s merely an assertion that good morals are rooted in a transcendent order. It’s up to local troops to elaborate on what that transcendent order means/is. To that end, local troops can forbid or welcome whatever members they want, as long as they believe in God (or, I should say, a God that supports a moral code that could broadly be conceived as Western; Moloch need not apply). A Lutheran church could refuse to accept anyone except LCMS members and leaders. Increasingly, Mormon troops can–and do–accept only Mormon members. Or a school could just say, “We’re fine with the general God thing, but we’d like to provide a more diverse forum for local kids.”

    I don’t have a problem with this, personally. In fact, I think it’s a good thing. And, even if I didn’t, I fail to see how this is in any way “pantheistic”–even by your idiosyncratic meaning of pantheism (I assure you that the Scouts wouldn’t [openly] welcome troops who worship Moloch or Ra or “nature” or what have you). If and only if the national office dictated the minutiae of policy at the local level–by, for example, prohibiting a Lutheran troop from excluding Jewish or Muslim members; if, in other words, the national office also forced local troops to be “formally unitarian”–then you might have a point. But the national office doesn’t, so you don’t.

  • Cincinnatus

    Example: This is why Scouts in specific religious troops and traditions can earn awards/medals/certifications (“religious emblems” usually called “God and Church” badges–I earned a couple) that are specific to the religious affiliation of the troop. When I was a kid, we were United Methodist–so I earned the Methodist “award,” which involved a one-on-one study with the pastor, learning about doctrine, doing some service projects around the church, etc.

    There is, in fact, a Lutheran equivalent.

    Again, Scouting itself is hardly “indifferent” to religion. It’s just ecumenical at the national level.

  • Grace

    TRY THIS:

    Pelosi: Girl Scouts-Planned Parenthood relationship ‘very valuable’
    http://www.wnd.com/…/pelosi-girl-scouts-planned-parenthood-relationship…Cached
    You +1′d this publicly. Undo
    Feb 2, 2012 – (CNS NEWS) —House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Planned Parenthood’s relationship with the Girl Scouts of America is “very …

    Everytime I try and read the above, it shuts down

  • Grace

    Articles: The Girl Scouts: Planned Parenthood’s ‘Tactical Arm’
    http://www.americanthinker.com/…/the_girl_scouts_planned_parenthoods_…Cached
    You +1′d this publicly. Undo
    Mar 9, 2012 – The Girl Scouts: Planned Parenthood’s ‘Tactical Arm’ … supporter of Planned Parenthood — like former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

  • http://www.caryschwarz.com saddler

    The freedoms of a private organization are at stake, and I believe we can see the end (of the BSA) from here. It’s a no win deal. From the ashes will grow smaller organizations that will carry the torch without corporate support and Mormons will lead the way.
    -from a decorated Eagle Scout, Order of the Arrow, and Pro Deo et Patria medal recipient.

  • Grace

    I don’t see the Mormons “leading the way” – many denominations and strong churches have Youth Groups which meet each week – with all sorts of activities, camps and missions trips too. They offer far more than Boy or Girl Scouts ever have.

    My mother organized one for girls, it worked beautifully, the kids went to camp summer and winter. They learned how to do many things, but the most important, they heard about Christ.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Church youth groups (at least all the ones I’ve ever seen) don’t offer anywhere near the structured experience that Boy Scouts do.

    Sure, they may offer lots of activities, but they’re not going to offer the equivalent of, say, merit badges in diverse subjects.

  • Grace

    Mike,

    Church clubs offer activities that give awards. Merit badges, shouldn’t be the criteria for going to a club, if so, it’s very sad.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    “Merit badges, shouldn’t be the criteria for going to a club, if so, it’s very sad.”

    Huh? If it’s a club that’s meant to replace scouting, Why not?

  • Grace

    Mike,

    If that’s the kind of club you would like, I see no reason why you shouldn’t start one – maybe with your church. I wasn’t thinking of an exact replacement, sometimes things can be improved on, perhaps “merit badges” need to be revamped. ;)

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Well, OK then, Grace.

    But ddler had mentioned “smaller organizations that will carry the torch” if/when it becomes necessary to disaffiliate with the BSA. By that I assumed that these smaller organizations would carry on the same functionality as the BSA, providing the equivalent development and advancement structure, including development of diverse life skills, such as Citizenship, Cooking, Animal Husbandry, Agriculture, Woodworking, Electronics, Farm Mechanics, Genealogy, Plumbing, Public Speaking, First Aid, Veterinary Medicine, Welding, Art, Personal Finances, Railroading, and more than 100 other subjects, even Atomic Energy.

    Like I said, you aren’t going to get that from a church youth group.

  • tODD

    Cincinnatus, you asked (@72):

    Is your position that Lutherans should eschew the Boy Scouts because some troops meet in secular institution, or because some troops don’t emphasize the potentially religious aspect of Scouting?

    Neither. My position is that Christians ought not be part of any organization that is explicitly religious as to its membership (one must be a believer in something to join the Boy Scouts), and yet accepts all creeds as to its dogma (one must merely have some sort of justification for a moral basis; beyond that, anything goes).

    If they went ahead and called themselves a church, they would be more easily rejected for the heretical hodge-podge they clearly are.

    But most people are happy to ignore the BSA’s unrelenting religious position because, frankly, it has precious little to do with why they like scouting. Which, of course, makes it all the more baffling. And yet, there it is.

    Even your scouting experience, which was notably more religious than mine, still strikes me as Unitarian or something similar, meeting “in a Christian emphasis” (whatever that means), yet with “plenty of non-Christian” members to be had.

    Meanwhile, that word pantheism–I still object.

    Okay, but at some point, you have to acknowledge one of the actual uses of the term, even if you will likely object to my quoting from the dictionary to note as much:

    Worship or tolerance of all or many gods.

    Seems to apply all too well. Anyhow, you continue:

    …even then, this would only apply at the national level.

    You keep pretending that people are joining something other than the national organization. As if they were not, you know, joining the Boy Scouts of America. If they were truly only joining the local troop, and thus only bound by its local rules for membership, then yes, you’d have a point. But you can’t join a local troop without joining the national organization, nor are any of the local troops petitioning to leave the national organization. So let’s stop pretending otherwise.

    It’s up to local troops to elaborate on what that transcendent order means/is.

    I can’t emphasize enough how non-universal this expectation is. No troop I had contact with as a Boy Scout expressed anything like this. Some 40% of troops have no association at all with a church. (And I am sure, from my experience, that many of those so associated still do not put forth moral expectations specifically in keeping with those churches.)

    To that end, local troops can forbid or welcome whatever members they want…

    I’ve looked into this, and can’t actually find any statement from the BSA to this end. Can you support your assertion with an actual official statement? I did find this, which seems to go against what you’re saying:

    In no case where a unit is connected with a church or other distinctively religious organization shall members of other denominations or faith be required, because of their membership in the unit, to take part in or observe a religious ceremony distinctly unique to that organization or church.

    You continued:

    I assure you that the Scouts wouldn’t [openly] welcome troops who worship Moloch or Ra or “nature” or what have you.

    This is, of course, nothing more than conjecture on your part, as neither of us can name a sincere believer in either Moloch or Ra with which to test this theory. I do know that they have religious emblems for the “Unity Church” and “Meher Baba”. But they don’t have them for other, fairly prominent, world religions. Certainly, nothing in their literature would actually preclude a (hypothetical) sincere Ra-worshipper from being a member.

  • tODD

    Cin (@73):

    This is why Scouts in specific religious troops and traditions can earn awards/medals/certifications (“religious emblems” usually called “God and Church” badges–I earned a couple) that are specific to the religious affiliation of the troop.

    This is wrong, by the way. It has nothing to do with the “religious affiliation of the troop”. I could’ve chosen to earn one of those (they were called “God and Country” when I was in Scouts) emblems if I’d wanted, even though my troop met at a public school and had no religious affiliation. Here, read this, particularly noting this sentence:

    Religious instruction should always come from the religious organization, not from the unit leader.

  • tODD

    Saddler (@76), are you just tossing around words without regard for their actual meaning?

    The freedoms of a private organization are at stake

    No, the economic viability of a private organization is at stake. Their freedom to do what they want has not been legally threatened at any point. But failing to receive money from donors is not the same thing as losing freedom. At least, not if the word “freedom” is to have any reasonable meaning.

  • sg

    @85

    Indeed

  • Grace

    Mike @ 82 “Like I said, you aren’t going to get that from a church youth group.”

    WHY NOT?

    Do you think churches are unable to take effective action, rectify and solve a problem with YOUTH GROUPS. Do you think the world can do it better? YOU list a lot of areas of expertise @ 82, do you believe that those who are Christians are unable to do these things, or teach others? Or do you think the secular world is much more able to direct the paths of our young people?

    You underestimate the church, but most of all God, who created and designed all!

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD@83/84:

    Because you insist on violating “language ethics,” I’m not going to debate you any longer on the plain meaning of “pantheism”–it’s not important anyway. Further, I’m not going to suggest that my Scouting experience was normative–as you note, it wasn’t; no scouting experience is (my tiny town had three whole troops, all of them distinct in tone). And, for the life of me, I can’t discern why you would have a problem with the Scouts’ encouraging members to spend time being mentored in their faith by their pastor/religious leader (clarification: religiously-oriented troops often require all members to pursue religious emblems, and organize group classes to that end). Furthermore, SKPeterson has already demonstrated that, indeed, scout troops can accept or reject whatever members they wish; the rule you dug up merely stipulates that a troop as a troop can’t force a member to attend a church service (which makes sense, given that the BSA is not an evangelical organization); it says nothing about whether a troop can control the composition of its own membership–which it can. Finally, if you’re unconvinced that the BSA would turn away certain religions, then feel free to try starting a troop dedicated to Moloch; just try. There’s no use debating hypotheticals, I suppose.

    No, I’m tired of going in circles on these points. Instead, I’m curious about the only substantive point you’ve made so far:

    My position is that Christians ought not be part of any organization that is explicitly religious as to its membership (one must be a believer in something to join the Boy Scouts), and yet accepts all creeds as to its dogma.

    I’ve been pondering this statement for a while, and I simply can’t conceive of a reasonable justification for it. Is there a scriptural basis? Some theological principle I’m ignorant of? Is this a point of specifically Lutheran doctrine? It seems to be an arbitrary notion, and, if interpreted literally, suggests a weirdly legalistic rubric whereby one may associate with atheists and Lutherans/Christians only, but with no one else.

    To clarify, could you/a Lutheran congregation field a softball team for the local church league (that might contain Methodist and Presbyterian teams)? And if not that, could you field a team in the non-sectarian league (that might include teams fielded by the local florist, etc.)? Could a Lutheran alcoholic attend AA meetings? Could he participate in Bible studies with friends from other churches? Can a Lutheran church purchase Bibles from a publisher that isn’t affiliated with a specific denomination?

    I simply can’t get my head around this idea that we can associate with atheists and dogmatically orthodox Christians, but not with one of the host of organizations (formal and informal) in this country that is religious but not dogmatic. Why/why not? I ask sincerely: would you care to explain and, preferably, justify?

  • http://www.caryschwarz.com saddler

    Todd @ 85 Point taken…I was not refering to freedoms in a legal sense, but rather an organization pressured into a choice between two alternatives, neither of which is viable. I must say, your ability to keep with all this banter is remarkable my friend. ‘You have a family, any other hobbies, interests? :)
    Grace @77 I’d agree with you except for one scrap of information that tips the scales…the Mormons have an enormous presence in Scouting and have had for 40 years or so. They are in the cat bird seat.

  • Joe

    Todd – I did research the link between GSA and PP. The best evidence I found of a link was an interview in which the (at the time) national head (president? can’t remember her title) of GSA confirmed the relationship between GSA and that the relationship was very helpful in GSA efforts to build strong independent women. I know they have denied the importance or specific aspects of the relationships at time but I don’t think there is any real doubt that the GSA and PP work together in some fashion. The fact that the relationship was somewhat hard to define or intentionally vague did not offer me or my daughter any comfort.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    tODD, you’re making this thread your hobby! :^) That said, agreed 100% that Scouting’s vague theism is a great reason for Christians to reject it.

  • Cincinnatus

    Why? Why is that a reason to reject it?! Please, someone provide me with some justification for this principle. Until yesterday, I was ignorant of the fact that apparently intelligent people maintain this belief.

    So you would let your child play on a secular club soccer team, but not join the Boy Scouts because they don’t specify that their vision of God conforms to the Augsburg Confession? What if the soccer league was basically a consortium of local private religious schools, including a Muslim school and a Jewish school? Your kid could go to a secular public school, but not a nondenominational Christian school?

    I think my problem is that I don’t understand a) what you’re saying (how far does this principle extend? hence my hypotheticals) and b) what possible theological/philosophical justification there could be for what you’re saying.

  • Cincinnatus

    p.s. Part of my befuddlement with this new principle is that it seems to be rooted in a misunderstanding of what the Scouts are about in their “vague theism.” Being a Scout doesn’t make one a “vague theist” or “religiously indifferent” or “pantheist.” Indeed, as a Scout, one is free to be the most openly rabid Lutheran one wishes to be. In fact, Scouting encourages this sort of thing.

    You–Todd and Bike–seem to be suggesting (or inferring) the opposite: that Scouting encourages or even requires members to bracket their specific dogma to play the part of “vague theists.” This simply isn’t the case. Sure, you can be a vague theist and still participate in Scouting, but it’s not the order of the day.

    Scouting is not a dogmatically religious organization, I think we agree. It has a baseline of faith that is required of its members. But beyond that, the aim is to teach “manly” skills (like camping and canoing; conversely, my first introduction to computer programming was through a merit badge) and good conduct. What am I missing? Where’s the problem here for Christians? Yeah, if your pastor was teaching kids that Jesus just wants us to be good people and good campers regardless of what we believe, you could rightly object. But that’s not what’s happening.

  • tODD

    For all those who marvel at my participation on this thread, I’d like to point out that, prior to the writing of this comment, Cincinnatus had actually written more comments (15) than I had (14), yet nobody is noting his participation. Not sure what’s going on here. But, honestly, sniff around on the blog. You’ll note I’m not the only person who writes multiple comments in a thread.

    Anyhow, Cincinnatus (@88):

    Because you insist on violating “language ethics”…

    I honestly have no idea what that means, but it appears to have something to do with your complaining that I’m not using the word “pantheism” correctly, and then complaining that I pointed to a dictionary to show that I’m not the only one who uses it the way I did here. Apparently this is unethical in some way? I don’t know.

    And, for the life of me, I can’t discern why you would have a problem with the Scouts’ encouraging members to spend time being mentored in their faith by their pastor/religious leader…

    That’s not what my problem is. See below.

    SKPeterson has already demonstrated that, indeed, scout troops can accept or reject whatever members they wish…

    I read his comments, and I don’t think they say what you claim they say. Moreover, the fact that one might find a troop here or there that excludes boys on the basis of religion does not tell us that this is the actual policy. After all, it has also been claimed here that there are troops that welcome gay adults and boys, even though that is explicitly contrary to BSA policy.

  • tODD

    But as to your main question, Cin (@88 ff), you seem to miss the fact that my entire beef with the BSA is their continued insistence on some — any? — sort of religious belief as a membership requirement. Even though, as you yourself note, this requirement has basically nothing to do with what Scouting is about. It’s not why people join, nor does the requirement actually keep out de facto agnostics, as likely any Boy Scout present or past could tell you.

    However, it is that insistence that makes the BSA a religious group. And, as such, they must be treated as one. They are then, perhaps, the equivalent of a Unitarian Universalist church. Nominally, you can believe anything and be a member. In theory, one could be a confessional Lutheran and join either. But all you’ll officially hear from the hierarchy is some vague platitudes about faith and doing good.

    I’m not sure why this is surprising to you. Sure, one could ignore the BSA’s religious requirement and pass many a year thinking of nothing but knots and lashes, compasses and campfires. But it’s clear that this requirement is very important to the BSA, so you’d have to very intentionally pretend it wasn’t there. But then, why not pretend the same about any other religious organization? Sure, the local madrassa teaches some religion, but they also do a lot of good service projects, so can’t we just ignore the religious aspect?

    I don’t know why you’ve never heard of it, but this is known as the doctrine of fellowship. I know that not everyone applies it equally or evenly, but I’ve also never met anyone who doesn’t apply it in some way in their life.

    So I’d have no problem playing sports with someone of a different faith. But I would have a problem joining in an interfaith prayer service with people who are praying to gods I don’t worship. If such a prayer service were a requirement of some sports league, then I would have a problem with the sports league — not because of the sports, obviously, but because of the religious requirement.

    Since this seems new to you, I’ll answer your other questions, though they aren’t really relevant to the nominal topic here:

    Could a Lutheran alcoholic attend AA meetings?

    Off the top of my head, I’d be uncomfortable with this. Because, as I understand it, they require a religious belief, but don’t seem to care what that belief is. I guess I’m surprised you don’t find that troubling. It’s a tacit endorsement of, well, what I call pantheism, but pick your own word, I guess.

    Could he participate in Bible studies with friends from other churches?

    I guess it would depend on what the expectations are for the study. Is it only for members of a certain faith? Would the Lutheran be welcome to ask questions or speak from his own (different) beliefs? Would the Lutheran be expected to participate in a joint prayer (led by someone with different beliefs)? In other words, is the Bible study an expression of unity, or is it something else?

    Can a Lutheran church purchase Bibles from a publisher that isn’t affiliated with a specific denomination?

    That one seems a bit obvious, but I’ve never known someone who thought that a mere financial transaction like that was itself an expression of religious belief. I buy all kinds of books from people (publishers, authors) I don’t agree with. And if you ask me, I’ll tell you. If I’m really motivated, I’ll tell the publisher or author myself. But owning a book is not an expression of unity or membership, is it?

  • Joe

    Cincy asked “So you would let your child play on a secular club soccer team, but not join the Boy Scouts because they don’t specify that their vision of God conforms to the Augsburg Confession?”

    Yes. Because for Lutherans your confession of the faith is specific and important. When you join a secular soccer team you are not confessing anything about your faith. When you join an organization that requires you have some faith but makes no distinctions about which faith is correct, you are (arguably – there is a debate on the parameters of this) making a public confession that you agree that there is no distinctions between faiths and that no faith is more correct than others. Such a confession is pretty much the opposite of being Lutheran.

    How far do we take it? Well that is one of two or three issues that keep WELS and LCMS apart and from the LCMS point of view (if we were to be truthful) our answer would be, “we’ll let you know as soon as we figure it out, but we’re fairly certain our friends in the WELS take it too far.”

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    The reason (I think) that they require religious believe can be found within the Imperialist ethics of fellows like Baden-Powell. Religion was a moral tool, and a cohesive force, that aided the growth and expansion of empire. Of course, in the Scouts today it might be divorced from its Imperialist roots, but the ethos remained.

  • tODD

    Joe (@90), the specific point I was rebutting was your claim about the alleged distribution of the “Healthy Happy and Hot” brochures. The GSUSA site I linked to (@70) explicitly denies that claim. Frankly, the claim doesn’t even make sense (were all the Girl Scouts involved HIV-positive?).

    The GSUSA site also explicitly denies “a relationship with Planned Parenthood”. However, in a Today interview with Kathy Cloninger (CEO of GSUSA), she did note that local chapters have partnered with outside groups, including Planned Parenthood.

    So the degree to which one could claim such a relationship would depend on one’s local Girl Scout chapter. Snopes has more.

    I don’t begrudge you or your daughter making the decision that you/she did, but I do think it’s important not to bandy about false claims (i.e., “Healthy Happy and Hot”) in support of that decision.

  • tODD

    Joe (@96):

    from the LCMS point of view (if we were to be truthful) our answer would be, “we’ll let you know as soon as we figure it out, but we’re fairly certain our friends in the WELS take it too far.”

    Ha! :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    I’m pretty certain that I ought to be doing something useful around the house since I’m not at work today, but this string of comments is too interesting to pull myself away from the computer.

    Todd makes good points, but so do Joe, Cin, KK, SKP and the rest of you!
    Keep it up.

  • Joe

    Todd @ 98 – the Happy, Healthy and Hot issue is one I should not have mentioned (it was not a specific point my daughter focused on when we worked through this) and it is a disputed point. From what I can gather the pamphlet was actually distributed at a conference held at the UN. GSA claims it was not involved but its official spokesman helped to organize it and PP was a sponsor/participant. There is apparently some debate as to whether the GSA spokesman was acting in his official capacity for purposes of the event.

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD and Joe:

    Thanks for explaining and clarifying your position vis-a-vis whether it’s permissible for Christians (or rather, Lutherans) to join Scouting. Allow me to share my conclusions and contentions:

    1) This seems to be a position unique to Lutheranism–actually, certain branches of Lutheranism. In my lifetime, I’ve been a member of United Methodist, fundamentalist Baptist, (briefly) a liberal Lutheran, and Anglican/Episcopal churches. All such churches–with the possible exception of the Lutheran congregation–were doctrinally orthodox. I’ve never heard anything about fellowship in such specific terms, and certainly no indication that the Boy Scouts are a problematic or heretical group with respect to their “vague theism.”

    2) Apparently, even conservative Lutherans disagree on this issue. SKPeterson, for example. I’m not convinced, tODD, that your account of this issue is normative for Lutheranism in general, much less Christianity as a whole.

    3) Let me be frank: I think the distinctions you’re making are legalistic and dubious–dubious because legalistic. I know your stock in trade, Todd, is to make distinctions, and that’s often helpful in debates like this. But I can’t follow you (or the WELS) on this one.

    In short, if I’m understanding you, your concern seems to be that the BSA effectively constitutes a church (or even some sort of pantheistic cult) because they require a minimal level of religious belief. As such, Lutheran dogma stipulates that Lutherans can’t formally affiliate with “heretical” “churches” (scare quotes intentional). Thus, the BSA is out. This is the premise–the only premise–on which your argument hangs. If I don’t buy it, then I can’t buy your argument.

    As it happens, I don’t buy the premise. It seems to me that the distinction between a church (with which one may or may not fellowship) and a “secular” organization is fairly clear–and the BSA is not a church. It doesn’t purport to be a church; it doesn’t claim to be a church; it doesn’t possess any of the requisite features of a church or religious organization. No one mistakes it for a church (except you?). No members or leaders think or pretend that it is a church. It doesn’t evangelize. It doesn’t preach. It doesn’t have “doctrines” (except for a very basic statement about God). It doesn’t hold services. It makes no claims about eternal life, salvation of the soul, etc. As we’ve all agreed so far, it’s primary mission has nothing to do with religious orthodoxy. As an organization, it doesn’t stipulate worship rituals or seek redemption or offer mass. In short, I’m having a hard time figuring out how or why anyone would conclude that the BSA is anything remotely like a church: it doesn’t claim to be a church, and it doesn’t exude any obvious signals that would cause a reasonable observer to suspect that the BSA is a church or religion (as opposed to religiously affiliated organization).

    Thought experiment: Imagine that Chik-fil-a required that its employees be Christians–not any specific kind of Christian, maybe not even sincere, and they even make an exception for Mormons. Does that make Chik-fil-a a church? Could you still eat there in good conscience? Is Veith’s own college, a non-denominational Christian institution that specifies a minimal list of doctrines, holds non-sectarian chapel services, and teaches theology classes, acceptable for Lutheran students? Is PHC a church too?

    I guess I’m just testing the limits of this doctrine of yours. I understand what you’re saying now, but I still can’t really conceive how or why you would be apparently satisfied if the BSA would just drop its requirement for religious faith. This seems to be the sort of legalistic distinction so fine, so casuistic that Aquinas himself would blush.

    Bottom line: the Boy Scouts always have regarded some kind of religious faith as essential for moral conduct. (KK framed it quite succinctly, if critically.) Are they wrong to suggest such an idea (barring critiques that atheists too can be moral)? And since they’re not a church claiming to preach any kind of Gospel, what’s objectionable about this notion, or about participating in an organization that maintains this notion? Maybe I’m just too colored by my own very positive experience in the scouts, but I’m having a hard time putting myself in the shoes of a WELS dogmatist here.

  • Joe

    Cincy – I know that tODD argued (to a degree) from the proposition that the BSA is a religious organization, but I would frame it a bit differently. Confessional Lutheranism has always considered joining lodges and other organizations that required oaths/confessions that conflict with the confession of the Evangelical Lutheran Church as expressed in the Book of Concord a denial or retraction of that person’s confession of the faith and thus the equivalent of self exclusion from the body of the Church. The organization does not have to expressly claim to be a church. Join the Masons and you have excluded yourself from the Church.

    We take our public confession very seriously. Indeed, when my daughter is confirmed later this spring she will publicly vow to hold fast to that confession even unto death.

  • tODD

    Cincinnatus (@102), frankly, I’m not surprised that you would chafe at the doctrine of fellowship, if you are able to conclude that “United Methodist, fundamentalist Baptist, … and Anglican/Episcopal churches” were all “doctrinally orthodox”.

    Even more frankly, as to the word “orthodox”, I do not think that word means what you think it means.

    I’m not convinced, tODD, that your account of this issue is normative for Lutheranism in general…

    Honestly, I don’t know how you could even begin to read the Book of Concord without seeing the doctrine of fellowhip woven throughout it (it’s kind of the whole point; I mean, “the Formula of Concord” kind of gives it away, right?). You are free, of course, to claim that the BoC is not normative for Lutheranism, but, well, … you know?

    As to the Lutheran understanding of fellowship, I won’t insult you by pointing you to some very easily searchable results. I trust you can find them.

    In short, if I’m understanding you, your concern seems to be that the BSA effectively constitutes a church …

    And here you do an odd thing. You basically accuse me of labeling the BSA as a “church”, and then go on to use the word “church” with relation to the BSA some dozen more times, ultimately concluding that “the BSA is not a church”. Which is a lot of wasted typing on your part, because I never said it was a church.

    But they are quite clearly a religious organization. Why else have they so tenaciously defended this particular facet of membership in their organization? And, for that matter, why do you seem equally intent on ignoring said tenacious defense?

    The BSA’s stance is clearly that this facet is not negotiable, that it is not ignorable. Your argument here seems to contradict that. It appears, quite frankly, to be part of the same “a la carte” mentality by which one could declare churches with widely differing theologies to all be “orthodox”. Sure, if you ignore this doctrine and that, and that one too. And, again, if one ignores the BSA’s rabid insistence on religious belief (but, you know, any will do), then sure, what’s the big deal? But that misses the point.

    My entire argument stems from how the BSA has chosen to define itself. Yours appears willing to refashion the BSA after your own personal beliefs, downplaying what the BSA itself will not downplay. My question is: why?

    I will agree that the BSA’s doctrine on religion is almost completely orthogonal to the scouting experience. It certainly was to mine (which, in case it needs to be pointed out, was likely as positive as yours; I did stay in it long enough to earn Eagle, you know). Which makes their insistence on it all the more baffling. Dropping that requirement would not have affected my time in the Boy Scouts at all. And yet they won’t. Lawsuit after lawsuit. Does your argument factor that in, at some point?

    Anyhow, back to more hypotheticals from you:

    Imagine that Chik-fil-a required that its employees be Christians–not any specific kind of Christian, maybe not even sincere, and they even make an exception for Mormons. Does that make Chik-fil-a a church? Could you still eat there in good conscience?

    Could I eat there? Sure. Because, again, I don’t know anybody who thinks that buying fried chicken constitutes a statement of doctrinal unity. Nothing in your hypothetical would make me think it was, either. Could I work in such a place? Likely not, for the same reason: it would clearly be an assent to the notion that all teachings labeled “Christian” are equivalent.

    Is Veith’s own college, a non-denominational Christian institution that specifies a minimal list of doctrines, holds non-sectarian chapel services, and teaches theology classes, acceptable for Lutheran students?

    I have asked myself this question in the past. I remember, at one point, trying to find out what, exactly, PHC required of its students — or, more to the point, its faculty. I don’t remember what I found, nor am I terribly inclined to repeat the search at this time. I would, though, be surprised to hear that Veith himself participated in any “non-sectarian chapel services”.

    But, in the interest of full disclosure, I will note that my wife teaches chemistry at a Catholic high school. Naturally, we’ve had discussions about this doctrine as regards her job. Nothing in her contract specifies that she needs to be a Catholic or agree with that church’s doctrines. Indeed, though Lutheran, she may be one of the more faithful members of the faculty there. But she is not required to participate in any of the masses there, though she has to attend them (her job is merely to keep them respectfully quiet). If she were required to participate in a mass, or if she had to (claim to) be Catholic, I wouldn’t approve of her working there. It’s all about expressions of unity and faith.

  • tODD

    Here, let me try this much more succinct approach. What if a hypothetical BSA were exactly like the current one, with the exception that it required all members to accede to the statement that “there is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger”?

    Again, you could still equally argue that the BSA was not a church, nor did they claim to be. And the BSA experience would still be overwhelmingly about hiking, camping, and all that. You just have to agree to that statement (even if plenty of scouts don’t really believe it).

    Would this hypothetical BSA still be okay with you?

  • Grace

     ‏

    A suggestion – ‘homosexuals start a ‘Homosexual Boy Scout Association – that might settle the issue, without any further ado.

     ‏

  • Cincinnatus

    Todd and Joe:

    Thanks for your additional clarifications. But I quite understand the idea–doctrine?–of fellowship in general. I understand that a Lutheran in particular could not commune at the altar with a Catholic, or that a Christian in general cannot participate in a Muslim worship service. I understand, in short, that a Christian ought not fellowship with unorthodox religious organizations.*

    What I still find problematic is that, by my understanding of fellowship–and by most understandings of fellowship outside the WELS, apparently–is that Scouting doesn’t seem to qualify as a “religious organization” under the rubric of the doctrine of fellowship. By this understanding, neither is Catholic Charities, etc. In other words, the BSA isn’t and doesn’t claim to be an organization that exists for the purpose of religious or Christian fellowship. No one joins Scouting to commune in worship. And I don’t see how the BSA’s requirement for a baseline of faith changes this fact. You can insist that Scouting is a religious organization according to your understanding of fellowship, but Scouting itself at the national, organizational level would disagree with you. It’s simply not the case. In short, I can’t see anything in the basic statements of Scouting–the oath, the law, etc.–contain anything that would be objectionable to any Christians, Lutheran or otherwise. I don’t see anything that preclude participation because the purpose isn’t fellowship in our narrow sense. It’s not freemasonry–a quasi-religious fraternity. It’s not a cult. It’s an organization that practices public service, outdoor activities, and character-building that just happens to require a basic commitment to religion as well.

    Similarly, I have no problems hanging out with my Catholic friends because my purpose in visiting their houses is not “fellowship.” I have no problem donating to interfaith charities. I had no problem attending an officially non-denominational Christian school because, again, the purpose was not “fellowship” in our restricted sense. And, similarly, I would have no problem placing my own son in scouting in a few years. I don’t see how the doctrine of fellowship–even the Lutheran understanding!–precludes any of these choices.

    If, in short, they were the “Boy Scouts of Roman Catholicism” rather than the “Boy Scouts of America,” I would acknowledge your concern–and, indeed, share it. But as it is, we still seem to be falling into this problem of maximal interpretation: because the BSA doesn’t prescribe specifically which God one is to believe in, you suggest, then such ambiguity must be normative for its members. This simply is not the case. I would thus have no problem participating in Scouts (as I did), reciting the part of the oath that says “I will do my duty to God,” knowing that my fellow Scouts aren’t next going to kneel before the altar for Eucharist. Because that’s not the kind of fellowship the Boy Scouts is about.

    There are lots of good reasons for keeping one’s son out of Scouts–maybe you object, like Rod Dreher does, to the militaristic structure. Maybe you don’t like the emphasis on achieving ranks. Maybe you just think uniforms are creepy. But all of these honestly seem more valid than your objection on the grounds of fellowship.

    *Todd: Haven’t we established by now that our understandings of orthodoxy are distinct. Mine, by the way, is closer to that of Patristics and of numerous other Christian luminaries, including Augustine. No, this isn’t a fallacious appeal to authority: these are the folks who actually established our notions of creedal orthodoxy. Let’s stop pressing the issue.

    **For the record, Dr. Veith does (or at least did when I was there) attend daily non-sectarian chapel services on campus.

  • Cincinnatus

    Apologies for the syntactical errors. I really need to edit more conscientiously.

  • kerner

    Cin:

    This thread has taken an interesting turn. An a member of an LCMS congregation, I have to agree with Joe’s assessment of our synod’s understanding of how far to take our doctrine of fellowship @96.

    But to try to get to the heart of this, I think the hard line position runs something like this:

    1. Organization X requires that members have a religious faith, but does not prescribe what that religious belief must be.

    2. But, implicit in that statement is the underlying principle that the particulars of religious belief are insignificant.

    3. As Lutherans, we believe that the particulars of our religious doctrine are very significant.

    4. Therefore, Lutherans should not join organizations that teach, even impicitly, that the particulars of our religious doctrine are insignificant.

    In the interest of full disclosure, I should admit that this line of reasoning was not enough to prompt me to forbid my son from joining the cub scout troop that had been sponsored by his Lutheran School. Not that I was particularly engaged in the administration of that troop (I actually helped the kids earn a Geography belt loop, you couldn’t even get a merit badge for geography, but that was the extent of my engagement), but I don’t recall any interference from BSA as to the religious direction our particular troop took. And of course, it wasn’t enough to prompt our congregation/school from eschewing scouting. But as I said earlier, some LCMS congregations have eschewed BSA, opting instead to create a similar organization for our own kids.

    Klassie, if you are still out there, when you were a kid, did you join Voortrekkers? If so, what was that like?

  • Cincinnatus

    kerner:

    It’s round about premise #2 that I’m having trouble. In the case of the Scouts–and perhaps other organizations–it needs to be qualified a bit. I would say this: “The particulars of religious belief are insignificant with respect to the aims and activities of the BSA.”

    And this is true. The BSA doesn’t exist for the purposes of Christian fellowship. Similarly, the particulars of religious belief are insignificant with respect to the aims and activities of Catholic Charities. I don’t see the problem here for Christians. A(n interpretation of a) doctrine that would apparently forbid participation in the Boy Scouts–by all accounts a “wholesome” organization and a positive influence on kids–but condone participation in the Girl Scouts–which essentially serves as a vector for the mores of the sexual revolution–deserves reconsideration, in my opinion.

  • Joe

    Cincy – The positive wholesomeness of an organization does not override the doctrine of fellowship, it is irrelevant to it. The wholesomelessness of an organization is relevant because it certainly may require you to violate the tenants of your faith to participate.

  • Joe

    Also, why do you desire the approval of Lutherans for you beloved BSA so much that you will try to catechize us on what our doctrine really is or should be? Your unfettered devotion to the organization and desire to have it accepted by a group of people whose rejection of it will not in any way impact you, the organization or your ability to affiliate with the organization strikes me as odd.

  • Cincinnatus

    Joe@111-112:

    1) I realize the “wholesomeness” of an organization doesn’t surmount issues of doctrine. I didn’t suggest as such.

    2) I don’t care whether or not Lutherans “accept” the Boy Scouts, to whom I am now only tangentially devoted. This is an intellectual conversation, not an attempt at “catechesis”: I’m curious as to why the doctrine of fellowship excludes you from endorsing the Boy Scouts. I’m critical of the reasoning so far and–this is important–so are some of your fellow Lutherans.

    As I’ve noted over and over, I still don’t see how the Boy Scouts qualify as a religious organization in a way that would preclude participation by a Lutheran. See my last response to kerner for one of these iterations of my confusion.

  • Grace

    This from CNN at 7:55 AM today:

    “The Boy Scouts of America has decided to delay its vote on a proposal to allow local troops to decide whether to allow openly gay members and leaders. The organization said it needs more time to get input from its members. The vote will now be held in May.

    “After careful consideration and extensive dialogue within the Scouting family, along with comments from those outside the organization, the volunteer officers of the Boy Scouts of America’s National Executive Board concluded that due to the complexity of this issue, the organization needs time for a more deliberate review of its membership policy,” the Scouts said in a statement.

    Until a vote is taken, it appears the organization will continue its ban on gay Scouts and Scout leaders. “

  • tODD

    Cincinnatus (@107), I’d still like to hear an answer from you as to my question about a hypothetical BSA (@105) — let’s call it BSA1.

    Obviously, I expect you to say you would not be okay with Christians joining BSA1. What wouldn’t be clear to me is if you would still argue that BSA1 “doesn’t seem to qualify as a ‘religious organization’.” It seems obvious to me that it would be, but I’m not sure how you’re arriving at your conclusions on the matter. But let’s assume that you would neither think it proper for Christians to join BSA1, because it is obviously a religious organization.

    Okay, so then there’s this other group, BSA2. Like BSA1 and the (real-world) BSA, their schtick is overwhelmingly about being a good citizen, camping, etc. But they do require all members to confess faith either to Allah (according to the Shahada), or to the Christian God (according to the Ecumenical Creeds). Again the questions: would you have any qualms with Christians (yourself or others) joining such a group? Would they qualify as a religious organization?

    And you see how this goes. The real-world BSA, obviously, would either qualify as BSAinfinity in this scheme, or at least somewhere north of BSA100+.

    I’m trying to figure out where you would draw the line. Myself, I have made it clear that they are all religious organizations, from BSA1 on up. And, furthermore, I would only feel comfortable joining the one of these whose list of required and acceptable belief systems consisted solely of my own. Let’s call it BSA1b (WELS).

    In other words, the BSA isn’t and doesn’t claim to be an organization that exists for the purpose of religious or Christian fellowship.

    I know it’s important to you to claim that, but I really think you’re doing your darnedest to soft-pedal the BSA’s actual stance here. Anyhow, do some Googling on the topic. I don’t think the facts are behind you on this one. See this, for example, in which these are official statements from the BSA or its attorneys:

    Although Boy Scouts of America is not a religious sect, it is religious, and, while the local council is not a house of worship like a church or a synagogue, it is a religious organization. (From a 1998 lawsuit)

    Boy Scouts is not a religion. It is not a religious sect. It’s an association of people who believe in God… (2003 statement by their lead attorney)

    There is also the fact that in 2010, as this article notes, the Supreme Court decided to let stand a ruling saying the Boy Scouts cannot lease city-owned parkland in San Diego because the group is a religious organization. The case (Barnes-Wallace) was later overturned on other grounds, but still this latter decision contains this text:

    The Boy Scouts do not require Scouts to affiliate with any outside religious group, and the Boy Scouts style themselves as “absolutely nonsectarian.” According to both parties, the Council itself is “not a house of worship like a church or synagogue, [but] it is a religious organization.”

  • fjsteve

    Seems like a Scouting definition of “duty to God” might be helpful:

    Be it resolved that the following reaffirmation of the position of the Boy Scouts of America relating to the duty to God be, and hereby is, enacted that the bylaws, rules and regulations, and literature of the Corporation reflect this reaffirmation accordingly.

    In 1985, America celebrated the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America. Since 1910, eighty million Americans have subscribed to the Scout Oath and the Scout Law, which have stood the test of time.

    The National Executive Board of the BSA proudly states, through its mission statement, that the values which the organization strives to instill in young people are those based upon the Scout Oath and the Scout Law. A Scout pledges: “On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law….”

    The first Boy Scouts of America *Handbook for Boys*, published in August 1911, declares that “..no boy can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God.” (page 215)

    The latest edition of the Boy Scout Handbook, published in 1990, reads: “A scout is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties. He respects the beliefs of others.” (page 561)

    While not intending to define what constitutes belief in God, the Boy Scouts of America is proud to reaffirm the Scout Oath and its declaration of duty to God.

    The following statements are additional information on the BSA position:

    The Boy Scouts of America has always been committed to the moral, ethical, and spiritual development of our youth. Scouting is not a religion, but duty to God is a basic tenet of the Scout Oath and Law.

    Scouting does not seek to impose its beliefs upon others who do not share them. Virtually every religion is represented in Scouting, and the BSA does not define or interpret God. That is the role of the Scout’s family and religious advisors.

    Scouting respects those who do not share its beliefs and it would not ask others to alter their faith in any fashion in order to become Scouts. They too are free to follow their own beliefs. Rather, the BSA membership believes that the principles set forth in the Scout Oath and Law are central to the BSA goal of teaching the values of self-reliance, courage, integrity, and consideration to others. Scouting may not be for everyone, but for eight decades, Scouting has provided meaningful programs and adventure to more than eighty million young people in the United States.

  • tODD

    Fie. Messed up my blockquotes. The latter part of my comment (@115) should read:

    I know it’s important to you to claim that, but I really think you’re doing your darnedest to soft-pedal the BSA’s actual stance here. Anyhow, do some Googling on the topic. I don’t think the facts are behind you on this one. See this, for example, in which these are official statements from the BSA or its attorneys:

    Although Boy Scouts of America is not a religious sect, it is religious, and, while the local council is not a house of worship like a church or a synagogue, it is a religious organization. (From a 1998 lawsuit)

    Boy Scouts is not a religion. It is not a religious sect. It’s an association of people who believe in God… (2003 statement by their lead attorney)

    There is also the fact that in 2010, as this article notes, the Supreme Court decided to let stand a ruling saying the Boy Scouts cannot lease city-owned parkland in San Diego because the group is a religious organization. The case (Barnes-Wallace) was later overturned on other grounds, but still this latter decision contains this text:

    The Boy Scouts do not require Scouts to affiliate with any outside religious group, and the Boy Scouts style themselves as “absolutely nonsectarian.” According to both parties, the Council itself is “not a house of worship like a church or synagogue, [but] it is a religious organization.”

  • tODD
  • Cincinnatus

    tODD:

    My apologies for neglecting your hypothetical. I think, for obvious reasons, a Christian could not participate in the Boy Scouts of Allah. I would clearly be engaging in apostasy because I would have to swear allegiance to Allah and Muhammad. The Boy Scouts, as they currently exist, merely require that I swear allegiance to God–which God can be specified further at the local level. Again, the national committee is not a pope, and the BSA is not a church or religious organization.

    How do I make that latter claim in light of your overwhelming jurisprudential evidence, pray tell? As it happens, I’m quite familiar with the cases you cite (they’re fairly prominent members in the canon of contemporary First Amendment case law). And what you’ve demonstrated is that the BSA constitutes a “religious organization” for the purposes of constitutional law. For the record, Catholic Charities, my local Catholic hospital, and Catholic colleges are also considered religious organizations under constitutional law.

    I think you’ll agree that the boundaries of the doctrine of fellowship are not demarcated by what the nine people of the Supreme Court say. The constitutional definition has no bearing on whether I could, in good orthodox conscience, donate to Catholic Charities, seek treatment at the local Catholic hospital (I have), or send my child to a Catholic college (I would, since they’re one of the few bastions of quality higher education left in America). If the Supreme Court decided that Hobby Lobby is a “religious organization” in its pending lawsuit–which is a real, if remote, possibility, depending on how the Court decides to apply its (ridiculous) logic in Citizens United–that will have exactly no bearing on whether I continue to shop there (I would).

    Again, as your own quotes assert, the Boy Scouts is a not a religion, a sect, a church, a worship group, a cult, a Bible study, a congregation. Those, I would think, are the sorts of institutions that would trigger the doctrine of fellowship. If the Boy Scouts decided to become the Boy Scouts of Allah, then clearly something fundamental has changed. Then the Scouts would be dictating specific dogma, and I would have to rescind my support. But they don’t, so I don’t.

  • tODD

    Cincinnatus (@107), I find it a little bit irritating that you keep suggesting I stop replying to things you keep bringing up. As long as you keep saying things, I will feel free to respond to what you’ve said.

    So, yes, we have, indeed, established “that our understandings of orthodoxy are distinct” (and yet you complain when I state that we are not in fellowship, which is confusing).

    But, I’m sorry, if you’re going to suggest that Augustine, et al., would agree with you that United Methodists or fundamentalist Baptists are “doctrinally orthodox”, I’m going to have to laugh. You seem to view the Ecumenical Creeds as defining the maximum extent to which anyone may consider the question of orthodoxy, as opposed to merely being directed to the particular heresies of their time (which they clearly were; have you read the Athanasian Creed?)

    If Augustine (for example) really did agree with you as to this minimal understanding of orthodoxy, then on what basis do you explain his reaction against the Donatists on the sacraments? How do you explain his defense of the Real Presence? Or of infant baptism contra the Pelagians? Where are these things in the creeds?

    You also said:

    For the record, Dr. Veith does (or at least did when I was there) attend daily non-sectarian chapel services on campus.

    But you’ll notice that my statement was that:

    I would, though, be surprised to hear that Veith himself participated in any “non-sectarian chapel services”.

    (Emphasis added)

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD,

    1) You have my leave to be as irritated as you wish. First, we’ve discussed our various conceptions of orthodoxy at length on this blog and via email. I don’t think we would break much new ground if we picked up that debate again here. Second, it should be obvious that the question of orthodox isn’t relevant, at least from my side of this discussion. The question of orthodoxy doesn’t pertain to the BSA because it isn’t a religious organization (see above), it doesn’t claim or dictate an orthodoxy, and, if that weren’t enough, there is nothing in the Boy Scout’s office position that could be construed as unorthodox given the purposes of the organization.

    2) This is certainly not the place to gossip about our gracious host. And I’m now unsure of what you mean by the word “participated.” When I was there, he sat in the front row, sang along with (some of) the trite worship songs, and–perhaps most significantly–was partly responsible for enforcing the rule that all students must attend (non-sectarian) chapel every morning, whether they were Lutherans, Anglicans, Baptists, or [fill in the blank]. For whatever that’s worth; I’ll say no more (if there’s even anything more to be said). If anything, this example merely serves to demonstrate that your rigid interpretation of the doctrine of fellowship is not necessarily normative–not even within conservative Lutheranism.

  • Joe

    Cincy – Perhaps you are ignorant (in the correct usage of the word) of the fact that tODD’s position is completely normative for the WELS (the third largest Lutheran body in the US), ELS, ELDoNA and the CLC (well maybe not the CLC as they think the WELS is too lose on fellowship).

    The rest of “conservative” Lutheranism (although we don’t use that word, we use confessional) is the LCMS and we are a house divided on the issue with our Synod stumbling along deciding fellowship issues in externals as we go. My comment at 96 generated a laugh from tODD but it is not a joke.

  • Cincinnatus

    Joe@122:

    Yeah, I gather that the WELS adheres to Todd’s interpretation of fellowship–or rather, Todd seems to be repeating the official statements of WELS. I’m not sure how that fact is relevant, though. I’m not going to stop pressing the issue simply because that’s what WELS believes and that’s that.

    I’m also not sure why it matters that the WELS is the third largest Lutheran body. I could just as well retort that the LCMS is seven times larger than the WELS. The numerical strength of either group has nothing to do with who is right–though I would still be correct in asserting that your position is a minority position even within confessional Lutheranism (merely to avoid any illusion that Todd is speaking for Lutheranism or Christianity generally).

    Speaking from further ignorance here, are there any other Christian denominations in America that forbid association with the BSA? I’m not aware of any. Even my parents’ fundamentalist church–the one that wouldn’t hold bake sales on account of the doctrine of fellowship–applauded scouting. Again, this doesn’t mean you’re right or wrong; it just puts your position in perspective: it’s just a tad extreme for conservative, confessional Christians.

  • SKPeterson

    Here is an email I just received:

    To: The Great Smoky Mountain Council Scouting Family

    The following statement was issued by the Boy Scouts of America this morning. The Great Smoky Mountain Council will continue to update our volunteer leaders, chartered organizations, donors and other supporters as additional information becomes available. Thank you for the great work and support you provide to our youth.

    BSA Statement
    For 103 years, the Boy Scouts of America has been a part of the fabric of this nation, providing its youth program of character development and values-based leadership training. In the past two weeks, Scouting has received an outpouring of feedback from the American public. It reinforces how deeply people care about Scouting and how passionate they are about the organization.

    After careful consideration and extensive dialogue within the Scouting family, along with comments from those outside the organization, the volunteer officers of the Boy Scouts of America’s National Executive Board concluded that due to the complexity of this issue, the organization needs time for a more deliberate review of its membership policy.

    To that end, the executive board directed its committees to further engage representatives of Scouting’s membership and listen to their perspectives and concerns. This will assist the officers’ work on a resolution on membership standards. The approximately 1,400 voting members of the national council will take action on the resolution at the national meeting in May 2013.

    If you would like to express your opinion on the issue to the National Council, you may send an email to feedback@scouting.org or direct them here: http://www.scouting.org/ContactUs.aspx.

  • Joe

    Cincy – I was simply responding to your questioning of whether tODD’s position was normative for conservative/confessional Lutherans. My only point was that it is for 4 out of 5 synods and that the 5th synod quite honestly has no clearly definable position at this point. I’m not seeing how this is irrelevant to a question of whether something is the accepted position.

  • kerner

    Cin:

    For what little it may be worth, I’m going to inject some historical perspective into this discussion. This is my own analysis, and may be subject to some correction from my betters.

    In my opinion, the Lutheran Synods in North America that take the doctrine of fellowship most seriously are those likely to have been formed by ethnic german Lutherans (eg. LCMS, WELS), whereas those likely to be less vigilant are more likely to have been formed by ethnic Scandinavians (ELCA). I believe that part of the explanation for this is that the German Lutherans left Germany in the first place because they were being forced into fellowship with the state reformed Church by the Prussian Government. So, these German Lutherans were particularly wary of (even paranoid about) the prospect of joining any religious organization that would even hint at causing them to compromize their doctrine. These are the same synods that developed elementary and secondary schools for their children much as the Roman Catholic immigrants did, and for the same reasons: to maintain their distinctives in a Calvinist/baptistic American culture.

    The Scandinavians, by contrast, emmigrated for economic reasons, and were pretty used to the idea that everybody in the community was part of the same general religion and were not used to, nor excited about, the idea of maintaining distinctives in a pluralist society. **

    None of this has much bearing on who is right or wrong, but it in my opinion helps explain how we got to where we are today.

    Moving on to my own position, I have already agreed with Joe about the LCMS position being pretty much as he stated it @96. I gather from his tone (forgive me if I am wrong, Joe) that he wishes LCMS were more like WELS in our application of our doctrine of fellowship. But I have to say that my own position is probably more like that of our synod generally, i.e sometimes flexible. As I said, the presence of Cub Scout packs in Lutheran Schools surprised me originally, but that didn’t stop me from letting my son join one, however briefly. And at least partly for the reasons you bring up. Joining the pack didn’t seem to have any negative effect on my son’s understanding of his Catechism, and he did get to learn a few things (including geography) that I thought were beneficial. I have come to believe one should consider the individual circunstances.

    But that doesn’t mean that I reject the underlying principle that Christians in general and Lutherans in particular should avoid associations with organizations that hold, expressly or by implication, that religious distinctives are culturally quaint but not really that important.

    For what it also may be worth, I went attended a Jesuit University (Marquette) and a Churches of Christ Law School (Pepperdine) and I didn’t participate in religious services at either one, and neither seemed to care. On the other hand, I did attend meetings of the Christian Legal Society while in Law School, and I may have been the only Lutheran there for all I know.

    **I realize that the ELS is an exception, and there may be others, but I still think I am generally correct.

  • tODD

    Cincinnatus (@119), thanks, but you didn’t answer all my hypothetical questions. I still don’t understand where you draw the line, and why.

    You clearly state that a Boy Scouts that requires one faith (contrary to the one you personally hold) — which I dubbed BSA1 — would neither be okay with you, and you would consider it a religious organization. You’ve also made it clear that the current BSA, which requires faith in at least one of many possible gods, is okay with you, and is not a religious organization. So where does the line get crossed, and why?

    Again, what about the hypothetical BSA2, which would require faith either according to the Shahada or the Ecumenical Creeds (but no other options). Now it makes room for your personal faith, plus a completely different faith, but no others. Still okay? Still not a religious organization?

    I think you’ll agree that the boundaries of the doctrine of fellowship are not demarcated by what the nine people of the Supreme Court say.

    Come on. I’m not going off an interpretation forced onto the BSA by some judge(s). I intentionally found statements made by the BSA itself. They argued (at least, when it suited them) that they were a religious organization. They are a group in fellowship. It just happens that their definition for membership in that fellowship is even more minimal than your own: one must simply be deist in some way or other.

    But even here, the Boy Scouts are practicing fellowship! They will not allow as members those who reject their theological principles! They will, in fact, kick them out. Just like my church will not allow as members people who do not hold to its confession of faith.

  • P.C.

    I’m not counting by I think it is evident that Eagle Scout tODD has the most entries on this subject.

    I’m very thankful that the boys’ organization that I belonged to growing up…The Boys’ Brigade (one of only two in the United States at the time, popular in Europe) had as its statement:

    “The object of The Boys Brigade shall be the advancement of Christ’s Kingdom among boys and the promotion of habits of Obedience, Reverence, Discipline, Self-Respect, and all that tends toward a true Christian Manliness.”

    Lots of WELsers were leaders and members and still are to this day.

  • Cincinnatus

    Todd@127,

    To begin, I’m probably not the best person to ask about drawing lines regarding fellowship. Anglicanism, of course, is fairly broad in its understanding of the concept. I myself, like the old-fashioned fuddy-duddy I am, have considered joining the Masons. I was in the Boy Scouts, attended a non-denominational Christian school, affiliate with a Catholic academic organization, and probably commit many more transgressions. I have no qualms about any of these choices.

    Second, of course the BSA claimed to be a religious organization by the legal definition. How else were they supposed to articulate their First Amendment claims? And so they join the ranks of Catholic Charities, St. Mary’s Hospital, and Patrick Henry College among official, self-described “religious organizations” that do not gather for the purpose of “fellowship.”

    There are several ways to elaborate on my earlier answer to your hypothetical. But I’m still uncertain as to what you, as a WELS Lutheran, mean by “fellowship.” In fact, I think you’re equivocating between at least three definitions:

    1) Sometimes, fellowship seems to be a technical designation referring to a very specific, intentional purpose for gathering: a group of people gathering together to worship and, in particular, participate in the sacrament/ordinance of communion. A church gathers for this very particular brand of fellowship; the BSA doesn’t. The Catholic Charities doesn’t. Patrick Henry College doesn’t. That these organizations are, legally speaking, “religious organizations” doesn’t answer the question of whether fellowship is the purpose of association.

    2) At other times, you seem to employ an ambiguously broad understanding of fellowship. Apparently, it sometimes seems, any group of people who claim to be even minimally religious are seeking “fellowship” whenever they happen to be together.

    3) And lately, you simply seem to be suggesting that any organization that claims to be a “religious organization” for the purposes of winning a court case are seeking theological fellowship.

    For the record, I gravitate toward the first definition, as does Anglicanism generally (about which I can gladly expound at another time). As I’ve repeated now ad nauseam, the Boy Scouts aren’t practicing religious fellowship in the technical sense. Let’s look at this through a somewhat Anglican lens: I can’t fellowship (in the technical sense) with religious groups/churches that explicitly contravene the Lambeth Quadrilateral (we’ll leave it at that for the purposes of discussion). By this understanding, the BSA is fine, the Unitarian Church is not. But they both suggest a similar minimalism in their approach to the specific quality of God!

    Here’s why the Unitarians are unacceptable:
    1) They exist for the specific purpose of “technical” fellowship: for worship and religious activity.
    2) They explicitly deny essential aspects of the Quadrilateral–for example, the efficacy of the Sacraments and the deity of Christ.

    The Boy Scouts aren’t guilty of either, so I am permitted to affiliate with them.

  • Cincinnatus

    By the way, Todd: at this point, we’re probably just going to go in circles without concluding or learning anything new. So feel free not to respond to my last comment if you wish.

  • tODD

    Cincinnatus, you said (@130):

    So feel free not to respond to my last comment if you wish.

    I choose to waive that right. ;)

    I don’t expect to convince you as such (okay, maybe some tiny hope, but I acknowledge it is tiny), but I do hope to be able to arrive at a fairly mutual understanding of the underlying disagreement.

    To me, one of the issues is quite clearly how one defines orthodoxy. That underlies our differences as to fellowship — both as to our understanding of whether we, as individuals are in fellowship, and as to applications of fellowship in other areas, such as joining groups with religious implications.

    But there’s another aspect to it. You seem to approach it from a “can I get away with this” attitude, in which you tend to favor your own interpretation of what an organization is over its own statements about itself. As such, the questions appear to have more to do with what the organization specifically asks of you. If it doesn’t specifically ask you to contradict your beliefs, you’re okay. If that were my rubric, I would, of course, agree with you on most of your other examples. But it’s not. The question for me is more like, “What does my joining this organization potentially say to others?”

    Because, in theory (at least according to Scientology), one can be both a Scientologist and a Christian. So, in theory, you could do your Anglican thing while also being a Scientologist. But when one considers the official statements of Scientology (though they are difficult to find), it becomes more difficult — in fact, impossible — to defend this kind of syncretism.

    In looking into this, it turns out there’s a name for what I’m talking about, at least from a Roman Catholic stance: indifferentism. This label is largely used by Catholics contra Freemasonry, though the similarities to BSA are notable.

    Anyhow, just so we’re clear (even if this is repetitive), what I disagree with is the BSA’s position that (1) religion is good, but (2) what that religion is doesn’t matter. I doubt you would agree with the combination of those statements, but then, I’m still not sure why you don’t seem to care about them, either. Again, it seems to be because you can work your practice of faith into them, even if you don’t agree with the overall conclusion. I assume you think that’s an unfair characterization, but I’m not sure why.

  • dust

    Cinc….the way it’s been explained to me, fellowship within a Church body is somewhat analogous to a relationship you find in marriage.

    Although it would not be adultery to go out to movies and dinners and lots of other things with someone other than your spouse, perhaps even spend the nite, even sleep in the same bed, as long as you don’t you know what, but what kind of marriage is that? And what would your spouse think of that? No, all those little things are part of the glue to the larger relationship!

    Similarly, go ahead and pray with just anyone, sing a few hymns, and enjoy some bible study and meditation with just anyone, from any denomination, just so long as they throw that label of Christian somewhere on their listing in the yellow pages, but what kind of fellowship is that? Will those things add or subtract from the building up of the body of believers with whom you have chosen as the ones you choose as the ones with whom you will enjoy the fruits of Christian fellowship?

    No, in my minds and the way it’s been explained to me, the Lord your God is a jealous God, and he prefers you to dance with the one who brought you, the Church body with whom you identify yourself and your confession, and not to just throw yourself out to anyone who is handy and available. Spend those valuable and precious hours among those who are like minded and build up that relationship to be strong and solid and true and faithful, just like a God-pleasing marriage!

    To me it makes perfect sense, and have always admired the WELS and other who are faithful to their Church, in spite of those who mock them or question them…the Church, who is after all, the bride of Christ and is worthy to receive honor, and glory forever and ever, amen :)

    cheers!

    ps. please pardon any typos, grammos, etc. am tired and need sleep now, zzzzzz…….

  • kerner

    dust @32:

    “…go ahead and pray with just anyone, sing a few hymns, and enjoy some bible study and meditation with just anyone, from any denomination, just so long as they throw that label of Christian somewhere on their listing in the yellow pages, but what kind of fellowship is that?”

    Or…you could go ahead and spend a lot of time on a blog that is read by, and posts comments by, Anglicans, Calvary Chapelers, unidentified Evangelicals and/or American protestants, and has even the occasional Muslim or Atheist (though they haven’t been around for a long time), as long as it has the name of a Lutheran artist at the top of it, but what kind of fellowship is that?

    In one specific case, not too bad, I say.

  • tODD

    Kerner (@133), can you explain your comment?

    You don’t think that commenting on this blog is an expression of any kind of unity in the faith, do you? I mean, Vieth has repeatedly stated that he hopes it will be read by and commented on by people from a wide swath of religious backgrounds. He doesn’t want it to be Lutheran-only, and nor is it.

    As such, while I enjoy reading the comments of many here (and it has produced a kind of friendship), it’s obviously not an expression of fellowship. Were you claiming otherwise?

  • kerner

    tODD:
    I will try to respond to your questions by way of an explanation:

    1. “You don’t think that commenting on this blog is an expression of any kind of unity in the faith, do you?”
    No.

    2. ” I mean, Vieth has repeatedly stated that he hopes it will be read by and commented on by people from a wide swath of religious backgrounds. He doesn’t want it to be Lutheran-only, and nor is it.”

    True. But Cin’s argument appears to be that the same can be said for the BSA.

    3. “As such, while I enjoy reading the comments of many here (and it has produced a kind of friendship), it’s obviously not an expression of fellowship. Were you claiming otherwise?

    I am not claiming otherwise, but again, I believe that Cin’s argument is that the BSA is likewise intended to produce a kind of friendship and is “obviously” (to Cin, at least) not an expression of fellowship.

    And I suppose the reason I posted my last comment is that I don’t find his arguments completely unpersuasive. As I have been forced to admit, I am kind of on the fence here.

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD@134 et al.:

    See, that’s the thing. Much like this blog, I simply don’t believe that the BSA is “an expression of fellowship” in the technical, doctrinal sense. Similarly, I don’t object to saying the Pledge of Allegiance (“…one nation, under [a non-specific, non-sectarian] God”), singing “[Non-sectarian] God Bless America,” or using currency emblazoned with “In [Non-Sectarian] God We Trust”–at least, I don’t object for reasons of fellowship anyway.

    That’s why, for me (and most Christians)*, it doesn’t matter that the specifics of religion don’t matter for the Scouts. The BSA’s policy doesn’t pose a problem because, as I’ve stated, they’re making a valid (implicit) claim: the specifics of religion don’t, in fact, matter with respect to the aims of the BSA. The BSA doesn’t ask me to affirm or deny anything that conflicts with my faith. Participating in the BSA doesn’t even reasonably give the appearance of minimizing my orthodoxy.

    That, as you probably know by now, is my position.

    *inb4argumentumadpopulum

  • http://www.lambertsonline.net Dave Lambert

    Don’t get me wrong here. I’m learning a lot from the debates over whether or not participation in Boy Scouting is appropriate for Confessional Lutherans. But, I was also hoping to see more discussion/debates on the question of allowing active homosexuals to openly participate in Boy Scouts.

  • Cincinnatus

    Dave Lambert@137:

    Then by all means go ahead. Don’t just stand there and complain that we’re not talking about what you want to talk about.

  • tODD

    Kerner (@135), surely you’ve noticed that this blog welcomes participation by both atheists and gay men. As such, the BSA is not similar to this blog according to these arguments; in fact, the BSA is notably more restrictive.

  • tODD

    Cin (@136), probably repeating myself, possibly to your annoyance.

    I simply don’t believe that the BSA is “an expression of fellowship” in the technical, doctrinal sense.

    But do you agree that it is an association of people who believe in some sort of deity? If so, then why don’t you think that that is an expression of fellowship and shared doctrine? It’s just that their doctrine is minimalist (pointlessly, maddeningly so, in my opinion).

    The BSA’s policy doesn’t pose a problem because, as I’ve stated, they’re making a valid (implicit) claim: the specifics of religion don’t, in fact, matter with respect to the aims of the BSA.

    But they’re incorrect, then, in bothering to insist on any religious belief at all. Because, frankly, the bare minimum they do insist on doesn’t matter with respect either to the day-to-day reality of scouting, or to its aims. It is of no more moral or spiritual benefit, however you calculate it, to be a Baha’i than to be an atheist. And yet they claim that it is better (or at least more effective?) to be a Baha’i. Or Muslim. Or whatever.

    The BSA doesn’t ask me to affirm or deny anything that conflicts with my faith. Participating in the BSA doesn’t even reasonably give the appearance of minimizing my orthodoxy.

    Going back to my hypothetical series of BSAs, then, you would apparently also have no problem with what I termed BSA2, which allowed as members only, say, Wahabbist Muslims and people who subscribe to your understanding of Christian orthodoxy. Furthermore, I have to assume you would not consider such a BSA2 to be a religious group. Assuming you agree, I find that to be curious.

    Anyhow, happy birthday (not sarcastic).

  • kerner

    tODD @139:

    But if Dr. Veith were to declare that atheists and gay men were unwelcome on this blog, how would that change the underlying argument?

  • kerner

    tODD:

    OK. Before I open up myself to an accusation of simply arguing out of sheer contrariness (which may even be true, but I digress) let me say that what I am trying to do is test the arguments of others by arguing against them. It’s something I learned how to do in Law School.

    Anyway, I perceive your argument to be

    1. that by requiring any kind of religious belief of scouts, the BSA becomes a religious organization,even if the BSA requires no participation in any actual religious act (eg. worship, sacraments, Bible study, preyer, etc.) and it is religious fellowship to affiliate with it. And this is true even if all the scouts do is recreational activities or public service activities or educational activities, etc

    Religious fellowship, as opposed to mere friendship.

    2. Whereas, signing up for identical activities at the local community rec department is not religious fellowship, because the rec department does not require any religious belief of any of its youth participants or adult leaders. Because, the relationship between participants in the rec department activities is mere friendship or companionship.

    And 2. is true, even if both organizations behave in exactly the same way (i.e., learn useful things, do public service, and enjoy recreation).

    But Cin’s question is:

    But if I don’t have to participate in any religious activity with any other scout; if in fact ALL that I actually do is go camping, learn to tie knots, help old ladies across the street, learn morse code, play volley ball, and things like that, then how is that effectively different that doing those same things in a totally secular organization? Am I not simply making friends with other people who are similar to me in a very general way, but really pretty different?

    On the one hand, I see your point that by taking the position that religion is important at all, and then taking a position that the individual characteristics of that religion are irrelevant to the BSA, this sends a message to scouts that is mixed and a little confusing. I guess I would be more comfortable with the scouts if they left religion out of their code and oath entirely and became just a club about personal development, public service, and recreation. Who really would care if there were a troop out there somewhere affiliated with the Skeptics Society?

    But on the other hand, there are a lot of organizations that require of their members and affiliates some kind of mutual loyalty and a code of conduct. Everything from your high school class to a college fraternity to a business service club (eg. Lions, Kiwanis, etc.) to a neighborhood watch group to a country club to the military to a volleyball league to goodness knows what else holds its members to some kind of standards.

    And when you come right down to it, I think the only reason the BSA is not totally non religious is that they are about promoting virtue in the sense that virtue can be discerned by human reason, and that back in 1910, practically everybody figured, using what they believed was their reason, that “reverence” was one of the civic virtues.

  • http://www.lambertsonline.net Dave Lambert

    Cincinnatus @138: I’m not complaining. I’m trying to understand and learn about other perspectives on this issue.

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