Gay Boy Scouts—So What?
According to news reports (Associated Press, byline David Crary, June 8, 2013) the Southern Baptist Convention is likely to vote a resolution encouraging SBC-related churches to phase out sponsorship of the Boy Scouts. Russell Moore, new president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, is quoted as saying “I do think most Southern Baptists see the Boy Scouts moving in a direction that’s not going to be consistent with our beliefs.” The Associated Press report mentions several Christian groups that are considering phasing out Scout troops from their churches. Interestingly, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is not planning to do that.
What’s all the hubbub about? The Boy Scout organization has not changed its rules excluding gay leaders. Gays are still not permitted to lead troops. The recent change in policy affects only Scouts and, to the best of my knowledge, applies only to their sexual orientation. The rule against sexual activity is still in place. In other words, all that has changed is that now a Boy Scout can be open about his sexual preference. He still can’t engage in any kind of sexual activity—with fellow males or with females.
What will the Southern Baptist Convention be saying if it encourages SBC affiliated churches to phase out their Scout troops? That being homosexual is in itself something bad, sinful, shameful? Probably no pre-teen or teen boy chooses to be homosexual. Very few are going to tell anyone—especially in a social environment as testosterone rich as a Boy Scout troop! Or will the SBC be saying that homosexual boys and young men, should they discover their sexual orientation, keep it hidden—even from their trusted Scout leaders? What if one tells his youth pastor or pastor? Should he then be expelled from Scouting? From the church?
To the best of my knowledge, nobody in Scouting is suggesting that sodomy or any other homosexual practice is okay or to be tolerated among Scouts. So what’s the problem?
I think this controversy is typical of much of the debate about homosexuality and “gayness” going on in America and especially in religious circles these days. A problem is that the debate rarely gets specific. Are we talking about a sexual preference or a sexual practice? Many, perhaps most, thinking people recognize a difference and acknowledge that there are many “objectively disordered” tendencies that are not in and of themselves evil or sinful. The sin arises only when they are acted out. That is pretty much the consensus among moderate Christian folks.
So my first thought when I read anything about how sinful and awful and horrible and evil homosexuality is is “What is being referred to? Homosexual orientation or homosexual behavior or both?” Since I make a clear distinction between them, I must know which is being discussed before I can enter into the discussion or make any sense of it.
I assume SBC leaders know the Boy Scout organization is not condoning sodomy. So why are they so opposed to the new policy which simply makes it possible for a Boy Scout to admit his homosexual orientation without fear of being expelled from his troop? What would they suggest a Baptist church do with a teenage boy who confesses to his pastor or other church leader his budding sexual desires focused on people of the same sex? Excommunicate him? If not, why do they want the Boy Scouts to do that to him if he’s a Scout?
This whole controversy and debate about “homosexuality” in America is so muddy, so murky, so surrounded with clouds of ambiguity, that it’s nearly impossible to sort it all out. And seldom does the discussion get clear even about what is being debated—homosexual orientation or homosexual behavior (sodomy)?
We all know people who have a homosexual or bisexual orientation but choose not to act on it. Many of us pretend not to know them, but if we simply sit back and survey all the people we know, we know them. And some are in our churches. And we do nothing about it. They are kind, good, loving Christian men and women. We may feel sorry for them, but we don’t expel them. Is it just possible the Boy Scouts are simply saying that such Scouts may now talk about their sexual orientation with their Scout leaders, in some cases the only men they trust with such confidences, without fear of expulsion? Is it possible they are now simply saying “We acknowledge there are Boy Scouts with homosexual orientations and we haven’t known what to do with them and, when we didn’t expel them we knew we were violating policy and we don’t want to be doing that anymore? We wanted to bring our policy into line with our compassionate, caring practice?” Maybe so. Would that change the minds of some, perhaps many, SBCers?
I am here and now calling on the SBC leaders, Russell Moore included, to make clear to SBC messengers (delegates) to this year’s convention, before voting on any resolution, that the Boy Scout organization is not endorsing or condoning sodomy but only allowing boys who know they have a sexual preference for males to remain Scouts and talk about their struggles with their leaders. Then vote. Otherwise, without that clarification, surely many messengers will vote against continuing churches’ affiliations with Scouting based on confusion and possible total misconception.