I wasn’t a Boy Scout for long, but the memories have stayed with me for years. While my family was stationed in Heidelberg, Germany, our troop traveled to France and Belgium, where we scampered around the battlements guarding the shores of Normandy and dove in and out of craters at Pont du Hoc. I saw the spot where General Anthony McAuliffe responded to the Nazi commander “Nuts” when he demanded the surrender of the 101st Airborne surrounded outside Bastogne in the “Battle of the Bulge.” We planted flags at St. Laurent Cemetery in honor of the 9,000 American servicemen laid to rest at the site.
Because my dad was in the Army and I had these incredible experiences I see the similarities between scouting and military life. Both ask young men to prepare themselves to do their duty, to offer themselves in service to others, and to uphold high standards of personal conduct. My friend Andrew McConnell personified these values. He served as Senior Patrol Leader of Troop 366 at Fort Leavenworth, KS, before enlisting in the Infantry. Andrew was killed by an IED in Afghanistan in 2009.
He, like so many scouts-turned-soldiers, took the Scout Oath seriously:
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.
Next week, the board of the Boy Scouts of America will decide whether to overturn its longstanding policy prohibiting homosexual leaders and participants. The Scouts are a private, not-for-profit organization dependent on the support of philanthropic partners. They face the threat of rescinded support from major corporations like UPS, Merck, and Intel unless they change this policy.
It’s a tough spot. Tolerance for diversity of opinion on the morality of homosexual sex has reached a low-water mark and seems still to be declining. The Boy Scouts are just one organization facing the threats and condemnation of an uncompromising and increasingly powerful gay activist clique. Soon, colleges and universities like my alma mater, Wheaton College (IL), will be forced to choose between access to federal loans and accreditation and the sexual ethics prescribed by orthodox Christian theology at the core of its mission. Religiously-affiliated hospitals, adoption agencies, and charities will face similar dilemmas.
Some will comply, others will choose the more difficult path of conviction and its consequences.
Among the things a Boy Scout is are trustworthy, loyal, and brave. Those are the markers of a men prepared for a difficult hike through hazardous terrain, whether in places like Afghanistan or at home. Of men who will, on their honor, do their duty to God. Here’s hoping the board of the Boy Scouts of America will uphold their oath, too.