Moral Compromise

Moral Compromise January 29, 2013

I’ve seen two news items today that made me really happy. How often can you say such a thing?

Here they are: thing 1 being, a tiny little coal town in Eastern Kentucky (holla!) passed a city ordinance to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation. Thus far, Vicco is “the smallest municipality in Kentucky, and possibly the country, to enact such an ordinance.”  If you haven’t read this piece yet, take the link over. You’ll be glad you did. I mean, mullets are involved. Seriously. And somehow, tolerance seems all the more worth singing about when it emerges from the holler.

My other good news involved this Maryland Cub Scout pack that posted an anti-discrimination statement on its website. While the area council made the pack remove the post, there continues to be discussion (again) within the organization regarding possible repeal of the group’s notorious, rigid stance on homosexuality.

Which is cool–because scouts are awesome. My church hosts scout meetings. I’ve participated in interfaith scout services, scouting Sunday, and presided over Eagle ceremonies. Little known fact–i used to work at the Bluegrass Council office (for about five minutes). And i’ve personally known many a sharp, talented, and respectful young man who has moved up through those ranks. For all this, i’ve become more and more disturbed by how desperately they cling to this bit of ‘old boys club’mentality. Yes, i realize they ARE a boy’s club, in the most literal sense of the word. Still… you know what i mean.

Unsurprisingly, the Family Values folks are saying that, if the Scouts abandon their exclusive values statement, they will be another casualty of “moral compromise.”

I’ve heard this kind of wording thrown around in religious circles. Churches that adopt inclusive welcome statements are accused of ‘selling out’ to secular values; or ‘caving’ to pressure from popular culture; and yes, compromising morals and values (two of my FAVORITE words) in order to be more ‘of the moment.’

First of all, if churches truly wanted to be ‘of the moment,’ wouldn’t we be a little more willing to give up the organ music and the passing of the plate?

Furthermore, one could argue that it’s the voices of intolerance who let a popular and comfortable worldview shape their values. Meanwhile,the Viccos and the Pack 442’s of the world challenge that which is easy and popular. They say, ‘enough; we are moving on.’

Vicco certainly didn’t cave to popular opinion. Lest we forget–this is Appalachia. Popular opinion is NOT especially friendly toward LGBT folks. What happened in Vicco was, a real live gay person became part of their story. And that changed everything. It was no longer an ‘issue’ or an ‘opinion.’ It was a small town looking out for one of their own, and what we have now is history.

I’d imagine that something similar happened with Pack 442. I would love to know the story of why this one small group of voices decided they were going to be more welcoming and open. Was there a boy with two dads who needed a place around the camp fire?

Newsflash: there is ALWAYS a boy with two dads who needs a place around the campfire. And once it gets personal, it is no longer about popular opinion, or anybody’s opinion. Once a real live person becomes part of the story, that story shifts dramatically.

What happened in Vicco–and what probably happened in Pack 442, and what happened in my church, and, thanks be to God, is happening in churches all over the world–is that real live people became part of the story, and a lot of things became beautifully simple and clear.

Slowly, over time, we come to realize that we are all just a roomful of people with a gay child or sibling, a lesbian best friend or neighbor, a bi- or transgendered ex-spouse or hair-dresser–and damned if we don’t love them anway.

You’ve heard it said that prejudice rarely survives experience… that may be true on an individual level. And yet, our organizations and social structures can hang onto prejudice for a long dang time. Even as each and every one of us starts to realize, in our own personal relationships, that who we love and how we’re wired is not such a dang big deal. I’m thankful for every little church, every little Cub Scout pack, and every little mining town that is learning to embrace its own, in spite of whatever belief might be ‘popular.’ Rise up singing, people.

Looking back, much of our history–that of our country, and that of Christendom in general–seems pretty bereft of justice. It is not ‘moral compromise’ to insist on a better kind of future. For our friends, siblings, neighbors, hair dressers, and yes, for that little boy around the camp fire. Welcoming he and his two dads into the circle will make us anything but popular. And yet, once they’re in our midst, it somehow becomes a really great story.

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  • Bob

    As a Senior in HS I moved from Laurel County KY to Leslie County KY, Where I played in the basketball final regional game at Vicco against Vicco HS where we lost and did not go to the finals of the 16 regionals at UK. unhappy memories at Vicco.

  • Bob

    Great blog

  • How about thing 3: a community athletic club in a relatively conservative suburb of Memphis (Germantown) altered its definition of family after it found itself turning away a family based on its earlier more rigid definition. A week after the incident, their reg forms are updated and the family was extended a sincere invitation AND the councilman making the announcement acknowledged that it was overdue for reviewing and updating that policy.