Jesus and Paul on the Hermeneutics of Sexuality: The Recent Boy Scouts Decision, Part 2

I’m on break, you know — chilling to gospel music and enjoying the comments — as in, you know, letting someone else do most of the writing. At least, that was the idea.

You see, I thought this was an easy question — obvious as could be. And judging from the comments on Part 1, I was just as wrong as could be.

Here’s where I think the problem is: We are far too caught up in the politics of the gay rights movements to truly step back and think of the question from a Christian perspective. We just blithely assume that the right-wing, politically conservative viewpoint is also the Christian viewpoint. And sometimes it’s true; and sometimes it’s not.

In particular, we Christians need to be aware that there’s an industry that makes money by selling anger over mistreatment of Christians. I came to realize this when I noticed that the rightwing press reported the outrages but not the reversals of the outrages. There’s 20 times as much press over a loss by a church or Christian in court than a victory. No one tunes in or buys a subscription to read about the courts’ protecting the First Amendment rights of Christians.

I say that to point out that the Boy Scouts story has been seriously misunderstood and — to some extent — misreported. Most people I’ve recently asked about the Boy Scout’s decision assumed that the Scouts were allowing homosexual Scout leaders. Why? Not because the reporting was dishonest but because people fill in blanks in their knowledge with their fears — and because the reporting nearly always mentioned the totally different controversy over Scout leaders — and people hear what they fear.

And because we tend to fill blanks in with our fears, many readers utterly misread the report I quoted: “no youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.”

This obviously refers only to a “youth” — not a leader — and only to his “sexual orientation or preference” and not his promiscuous (non-chaste) lifestyle. It says nothing about the youth advocating for gay rights. It merely says that a Boy Scout who discovers that he is gay may remain a member.

Implicit is the ability of each troop to enforce the Boy Scout oath —

Scout Oath

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.

“Morally straight” is a bit antiquarian, but it clearly bans both heterosexual and homosexual sexual activity with a non-spouse. Right?

If a Boy Scout were to be non-chaste — with girls or boys — he would not be morally straight and he would not be doing his best “to do [his] duty to God.” He would be in violation of his oath and could be removed.

You see, the Biblical principle is that it is not a sin to be homosexual. For most, it’s not even a choice. What is a choice is to act on homosexual desires by engaging in homosexual sex. And that’s sin. (And so is heterosexual premarital and extramarital sex.)

Now, let’s take a couple of truly practical — real, even — examples.

I grew up in a conservative Church of Christ in North Alabama. We had a teen group. We did church stuff together. We did our church stuff together in the church building. And yet I’m confident that at least two of our teens were gay. (Of course, “gay” did not mean homosexual back then. We had other words.)

These were kids I’d grown up with from preschool on up to the teen years. And I know that the elders were aware of the homosexuality of at least one of the kids.

So what should the elders’ attitude have been toward our teen group? Should the kid who was known to have “homosexual tendencies” be barred from the teen group? Should the teen group be barred from the building because we did our Christian activities in the church building with known gay kids? (At least one was widely considered to be gay by the kids in high school.)

Now, I’ve made very clear my view that homosexual activity is sinful. I think the Bible is quite clear on the subject. But I don’t think I’ve ever thought that merely being homosexual is in and of itself sinful. It’s not as though it’s a choice to feel those feelings. And I’m sure one reason is that I grew up in church with kids who were devoted Christians, who were gay, and who tried to live lives pleasing to Jesus even though they had homosexual feelings.

How could I judge them damned — unworthy of even being in the building — just because of temptations they had to wrestle with that I was not burdened with? (And the heterosexual temptations I had to wrestle with were plenty difficult enough to deal with in those teen years.)

And in my current church, we’ve had teens and college students who felt homosexual temptations. We did not kick them out of the church. We did not expel any club they were in from the building. We loved them — we loved them enough to share our understanding of God’s will regarding sexuality with them.

We prayed and cried and worked to help them draw close to Jesus by committing their sexuality to his will. But it never crossed our minds to expel gay Christians from the church even though they were endeavoring to follow Jesus to the best of their abilities.

So I entirely understand why the LDS (Mormon) church has endorsed the Boy Scouts’ decision — even though the LDS are very conservative on sexual and family value questions. They’ve rightly distinguished between being gay and being sexually active outside of marriage. Those are two very different things.

Unless, of course, you see the world through the rightwing angry-Christian prism, and therefore feel compelled to worry about slippery slopes and the outrage of it all — outrageous because some radio guy gets ratings from screaming about outrage.

Questions

How do you know the Boy Scouts are only inviting chaste homosexual boys?

According to a Fox News report

The proposal approved Thursday was seen as a compromise, and the Scouts stressed  that they would not condone sexual conduct by any Scout — gay or straight.

(I had to read the report three times to find this quotation. The assumption in almost all reporting — including the balance of this report — and from the left and the right — is that gay teens are promiscuous and can only be that way. This is an example of the right buying the left’s arguments.)

The Boy Scouts in the USA do not allow atheists to join. A member must take an oath to “do his duty to God,” which an atheist cannot do.

Virtually all churches that sponsor a Boy Scout troop would consider promiscuity — hetero- or homosexual — to violate the oath. Of course, most churches would deal with promiscuity through counseling and teaching rather than exclusion. Just as is true of gay boys in teen groups, most churches recognize the value of inclusion and love in preference to judgment and condemnation as a means of bringing children closer to Jesus. And Boy Scouts troops will generally do the same — especially if they are associated with a church.

Of course, if they’re not associated with a church — because the church has excluded them — they will have less reason to reflect the church’s values. And I really don’t understand why a church would make such a decision.

Isn’t there a slippery slope?

Well, every move of any kind is in the direction of error. Every. Single. Move. There is error on both the right and the left. Both should be avoided — and yet every possible move is either to the right or the left, even though you might really, really need to make a move.

If you kick the Boy Scouts out of your church because they allow chaste, Christian gays to be members, then why not kick out the Chamber of Commerce and the garden club and book club — unless they have strictly enforced anti-gay policies. And why stop at gay sex? Shouldn’t we kick out anyone that tolerates those improperly divorced? And those who commit adultery? And certainly the prostitutes and tax collectors?

If can can’t tolerate a club that allows chaste gay members, what about an organization that accepts alcoholics? Or addicts? Or criminals? Like Celebrate Recovery?

If you let the Boy Scouts remain, what if they become much more accepting — even of young men who promote the gay lifestyle? What if they allow gay Scout masters?

Well, we obviously can change our policies if, in the future, we need to. But to change policies because we fear a change that, not only hasn’t happened, but is being stoutly resisted, is to act on fear rather than fairness.

And, so, yes, moving either left or right could lead to absurd results. We could go so far to the right that we join with the “God Hates Fags!” Westboro Baptists. We could go so far to the left that we tolerate teaching that gay sex is acceptable to God. Both would be wrong. And we need to stay away from both extremes.

But, to borrow from Alexander Campbell, we shouldn’t be so afraid of Babylon that we go clear past Jerusalem and all the way to Rome! We don’t avoid extremes by going to extremes. Rather, we follow Jesus. Period.

What would Jesus do?

(Mat 9:11-13 ESV) 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

But how might sponsoring a Boy Scout troop affect our reputation in these polarized times?

Our goal is not to have a good reputation among the Pharisees. Jesus’ reputation among the Pharisees was so bad that they killed him.

The goal is to reach those in need of a Physician, and that requires that the sick see you as a place of healing.

But what kind of message do we send when we sponsor a Boy Scout troop?

Excluding from the church teenage boys who are struggling with their sexual identities sends but one message: the church has no answer for your struggles. And that’s a dreadfully sad message to send.

Including teenage boys who discover themselves to be gay tells them that they are loved, accepted, and have a place. It creates opportunities for teaching and for setting holy examples. It allows the church to bring the young men to the throne of Jesus.

And that is worth putting up with a little criticism from the fearful.

(Rom 8:15 ESV)  15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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27 Responses to Jesus and Paul on the Hermeneutics of Sexuality: The Recent Boy Scouts Decision, Part 2

  1. Grace says:

    I read every article you write, and the comments. I never comment myself until now. Not that other pieces don’t merit it, but because I generally feel like I don’t have much to contribute. I just wanted to say, bravo, Jay. Beautifully-put. As a Conservative and a Christian (CoC since the dawn of time), I struggle with my response to these issues. I’m the mom of two lovely Christian teenagers who have some gay friends, as do my husband and I. It is entirely possible, and important, for those folks to know they’re loved and welcome in our home and in our church, and we do so without compromising or soft-pedaling our beliefs and Biblical truths. We play right into Satan’s hands when we project, or are seen as projecting, attitudes of hatred and exclusivity — the deceiver has light work in this area when he has Christians doing the heavy lifting for him.

  2. I will never forget the time 50 years ago a young man admitted to me and the older preacher who was with me that he was homosexual. This was the first time I was in the company of a known homosexual in my life. Later the older preacher told me that my face had revealed revulsion. IF it did, it was completely involuntary, for even then I knew the teaching of 1 Corinthians 6:9ff – that it is not the temptation, but the practice, of homosexuality that God forbids. What I remember of what I felt was compassion, not revulsion.

    Thank you for a well-balanced approach on this sensitive matter.

    As I’ve observed before, if the church were as incensed about illicit heterosexual conduct, of which Paul wrote “Let it not once be named among you!,” as it is about illicit homosexual conduct – while still loving all those sinners as Jesus does – our teaching on homosexual purity of conduct would be more readily received.

  3. Gary says:

    Jay, thank you for a reasoned, responsible and compassionate conservative stance. The extremist statements, actions and attitudes of so many conservatives do far more to advance the complete acceptance of homosexuality in our society than all the gay activists combined. I am a gay man who loves Churches of Christ and I cringe for this fellowship when I hear what amounts to ignorance from so many CoC conservatives.

  4. Monty says:

    I think most of us would be fine if our son was in a Boy Scout troup with say a dozen other kids and there was only one or two token gay oriented young men. We’re perhaps comfortable while in the majority, beit Scouts, Youth Group, Church Assembly, Civic Group. But let those number be reversed, say your child is 11 or 12 and you take him to his first scout meeting and it would seem to you the parent that the majority of the other boys are gay(just hypothetical of course that you could discern that) and a few are more toward 17 than 11 or 12. I think we all(I know I would) would second guess whether our child needed to be a member of that particular troup. In other words it’s easy to be accepting of others(or maybe not) if we are in the vast majority. But switch the numbers and maybe we’re not such free thinkers.

  5. Alabama John says:

    Sounds good until you see the other side not mentioned in our being good Christians.
    Like last summer while vacationing with my sons, their wives and small children in Panama City Florida and while there, unbeknownst to us there was a homosexual convention of some kind going on there.
    Sure bothered us and confused the children hearing the cat calls and signing invitations coming from groups of them for my sons in their 30’s and early 40’s. Sure had to keep a tight rein to stop a gay being stomped in front of our grandchildren.
    What we fail to mention is its not like a drug addict or alcoholic that can do their sin alone, it takes two to commit gay sin activity so they are constantly looking for a partner and your child will do just fine.
    Keeping it nice and clean and innocent is not their word for the day as seen by the numbers dying with AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. Visit your local hospital AIDS clinic and hear their life stories when they are facing death and see if they sound like those innocents presented on here. They don’t!
    Remember Sodom and Gomorrah and how God felt about their homosexual sin. God could of told the angels, Lot and his family to stay and accept, but, didn’t did He.

  6. laymond says:

    It is a problem , that no parent wants to experiment with, using their own children as the test case.
    It is a problem that was let get out of control back before we understood what the problem was.
    We see “gay pride” marches on TV or in person on the streets of our major cities, and yes most of them go to extremes, with their demonstrations, it is like any crowd becoming unruly when they are freed to give their own opinions, especially when they have been held down to the lowest standards of humanization. Take the Black Man’s struggles in this country especially, but not entirely, (there are ignorant people in every country) as an example. Ignorance is the cause of most struggles, even those that end in wars. We just can not accept the fact that God does not favor one man over another. We say lord “we are trying to do as you ask that we do, and this other man is not why are we not favored over him?” No we see only what we call defiance of God’s rules, the very same thing we all do, but it is never the same in out trained mind, or brainwashed.

  7. Gary says:

    AJ, would the men of Sodom have been sinning less if they had sought to rape women instead of men?

  8. Alabama John says:

    Gary,
    Ask God, He made the call not me. All I am certain of is He called it right.

  9. Gary says:

    AJ, God calls all things right but not always in the way we might think. There is not one iota of evidence in scripture that commited, voluntary, exclusive adult homosexual unions even existed in Sodom much less were the reason for its destruction. Rape is wrong and a culture of rape along with general injustice and neglect of the poor were most likely the reasons God destroyed Sodom. It’s time to stop misapplying the Sodom narrative to what is never mentioned in it. The Church of Christ already has a long history of misapplication of supposed proof texts for cherished manmade doctrines.

  10. Gary says:

    For someone in the Bible belt, AJ, you have a lot of contact with gays. I live in a liberal city and I’ve never seen anything remotely resembling your Florida experience. Most gays shy away from people they don’t know unless otherwise encouraged. Very strange.

  11. Alabama John says:

    Gary,
    There is equally not one ioda that all of them were not in committed relationships either. Having the male with male relationships you propose as OK might of been what God destroyed them for.
    We just don’t know and to suppose either is self serving and justifying. Only God knows.
    Only thing we know for sure is gays (sodomites) were destroyed by God.

  12. Gary says:

    So if you don’t know, AJ, why God destroyed Sodom why keep bringing it up as an argument against gays today who are not trying to rape anyone? Why try to build a doctrine around what you admit can not be known? If we base our beliefs upon what might have happened we could just as easily all be Mormons or Scientologists.

  13. Gary says:

    While we can’t know, AJ, exactly why God destroyed Sodom let’s weigh the sex related possibilities putting aside the unjust treatment of the poor. On the one hand we have a group of men trying to gang rape angels. On the other hand we might have, gasp! the presence of some commited adult homosexual couples who never tried to rape anyone. (These are, after all, the ones you said that we can’t say for sure weren’t there.). Let’s see. Gangraping angels versus commited adult gay couples minding their own business. Which possibility is the most likely one for God destroying Sodom? Any guesses AJ?

  14. Alabama John says:

    Gary,
    Lets say there were some gays living as you think is OK. In a city as big as that surely there were some, huh.
    God said finally after coming down from 50 to 40 to 30 to 20 to 10 if that number could be found righteous He would save the city.
    That 10 was not found, only 4 Lot, his wife and their two daughters, so those you think were living OK in loving relationships couldn’t be counted in the 10 but were counted with the bad right along with the rapist and were killed by God.
    That ought to be a warning from God to you for thinking some sodomites are OK.
    It seems you will continue justifying no matter what any of us say and that is why some sites have banned you. I understand why.
    I’m through trying.
    30-30

  15. Gary says:

    AJ, surely there had to be at least a few heterosexuals in Sodom beside Lot, his wife, and his two daughters, huh? Yet they were destroyed right along with the rapists and the evil homosexuals. So could we conclude that God found something severely lacking in all the people of Sodom save for Lot and his family? Why pick on the hypothetical commited, adult gay couples of Sodom as the reason for its destruction? I mean once we start hypothesizing about what is not mentioned in the text really one theory is as good as another isn’t it? Maybe Sodom was destroyed because of the mimes who lived there. Can you prove there were no mimes in Sodom?

  16. Charles McLean says:

    It’s deja vu all over again, as they say. I annoy one brother because I don’t accept either his homosexual actions or his arguments. Then I start antagonizing my conservative brothers because I disapprove of their approach to the Boy Scouts. Stand in the middle and you’ll catch arrows from both sides, I guess.

    If God asks me, “What have you done for my little ones?” I would not like to answer, “I got my religion club to kick out the ones in scout uniforms because someday a gay kid might come in with them.” I have done enough foolish things without intentionally adding to my resume…

  17. Monty says:

    Gary said,

    “AJ, surely there had to be at least a few heterosexuals in Sodom beside Lot, his wife, and his two daughters, huh? Yet they were destroyed right along with the rapists and the evil homosexuals. So could we conclude that God found something severely lacking in all the people of Sodom save for Lot and his family? Why pick on the hypothetical commited, adult gay couples of Sodom as the reason for its destruction?”

    Gary, I suggest you re-read the account again of what happened. Allow me to supply part of the account for you: Genesis 19:4- ” Before they had gone to bed, all men from every part of the city of Sodom-both young and old-surrounded the house.”

    That is both chilling and descriptive at the same time. “All” the men were there except Lot’s daughter’s fiances. Perhaps even they were there, hiding in the shadows. The scripture says that Lot “went out to talk with them.” If they were there too calling for the angels to come out, that truly is astounding. Surely in that throng of all the men in that location there were heterosexual married men, single straight and uncommitted gay men, and even gay men who were in as you say “a committed” relationship. “All” were there. From “young to old.”

    This was one messed up place. Obviously the sexual “norms” as presented in the Law later on and as generally accepted in most pagan societies were blurred beyond distinction. How could God hold them accountable if there were no standard given? Every man, save for Lot, was guilty of this repeated molestation against the unsuspecting and weary traveler. I believe even the women of the town were complicit in this too, they had to have known what the repeated pattern of their men was. The men didn’t want Lot’s daughters when offered, they wanted men.

    Now I know you will try to turn this into a “would it had been better if they had raped women instead.” The answer is, of course not, there is no lessor of two evils here. However, the refusing of the normal use of a woman, instead choosing, even preferring same sex , burning in their lust for the same sex illustrates for us the depth of their depravity and the whole town aspect(men) shows us the pervasiveness of the evil. Not only were they sinful, they were depraved through and through, all of them. Married and not married, gay or bi. And God was just in their destruction.

  18. Gary says:

    Monty, then all the men were would be rapists. Whatever else they might have been, heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual, is beside the point. The only clear lesson about sex from the Sodom narrative is: don’t rape and especially don’t try to rape angels. With the “angels unaware” concept of Hebrews that means to try to rape anyone is dangerous behavior before God.

  19. Chris says:

    Jay, your follow up information is very helpful and provides an opportunity to give a more reasoned and informed response to the BSA issue.

  20. Terry says:

    Gary, Chapter 18 explains why Sodom was being judged and destroyed. Their sin was grave and there were not 10 righteous people in the city. Sodomy is an example of their unrighteousness.
    I’ve read enough of your posts to know you know the scriptures well and depend on man’s writings to justify homosexual behavior and belief in no judgment (Hell) at the end of time.
    We are saved by grace though our Lord Jesus Christ and at the end of time my hope and assurance is in Jesus. I urge you to not base your faith and salvation on the writings of men and what you want for your life on earth.
    My godly and loving mother didn’t accept my excuses of someone said it was ok and our loving righteous Father will not accept the words of men over His word and faith in his Son.
    The wonderful joy of full submission and service to Glorify God is more than enough for our brief journey to eternity.

  21. Gary says:

    Terry, where in the text does it say that sodomy was an example of the unrighteousness of Sodom? Where in scripture does it say that homosexuals in commited, adult unions were even present in Sodom much less the reason for its destruction? You are mixing up your assumptions with scripture.

  22. Gary says:

    The understanding of the Sodom narrative has much to do with myths about the sexually aggressive gay man. The truth is that openly gay men are much more likely to be the victims of sexual assault from supposedly straight men (men who consider themselves to be straight) than to perpetrate sexual assaults against straight men. Anyone familiar with prison dynamics knows that this is true. Sexual assaults by gay men against straight men are rare.

    This myth of the sexually aggressive gay man is hard for many to separate from their understanding of the Sodom narrative. I seriously doubt that Sodom had men in marriage type relationships with other men. It seems much more likely that otherwise straight men had given themselves over to raping or sexually assaulting isolated or vulnerable men as visitors to a city would be. It seems likely to me that the situation in Sodom was analogous to prison situations of coercive sex today. The attempted rape of the angels certainly suggests that analogy. Nothing in the Sodom narrative suggests any similarity to the commited, adult homosexual unions that are the center of controversy in America today.

    This is not a change of subject from the BSA decision. Why is the presence of lesbians in the Girl Scouts for decades now a ho hum subject while the inclusion of young gay males almost a fighting issue for so many? A major factor, I’m convinced, is the myth of the sexually aggressive gay male that has been alluded to in a number of comments. The truth is just the opposite. The young gay male Boy Scout who comes out is far more likely to be picked on, intimidated or worse by other Boy Scouts than to be the aggressor against straight Boy Scouts. For every rare example of the latter there will be a multitude of the former.

    So how we understand the Sodom narrative is closely related to how we view the formal inclusion of young gay men in the BSA today.

  23. Gary says:

    It is surely remarkable that just as the myth of the sexually aggressive black man looking for chances to rape white women was used to keep blacks from being accepted as equals with full civil rights so today the myth of sexually aggressive gay men looking for chances to rape or assault straight men is also being used to deny equal rights to gays. For every gay man who sexually assaults a straight man in America today I would wager that there are ten cases of straight men intimidating and injuring a gay man. It’s ironic and perverse how the victims so often are stereotyped as the aggressors.

  24. Gary says:

    The following is from the website of the National Center For PTSD: “Despite popular belief that only gay men would sexually assault men or boys, most male perpetrators identify themselves as heterosexuals and often have concensual sexual relationships with women.”

  25. Wendy says:

    Bigotry continues to flourish in the comments of some. AJ and some others, Jesus weeps for comments such as yours.

  26. Gary says:

    “Op-Ed My Life As a Gay Boy Scout” by Christopher Bram is available online and is an interesting and heartfelt account of his experiences in Scouts from the ages of 11 to 18. He is thankful for the very positive role Scouting played in his life during his adolescence in the 60’s and 70’s.

  27. Rick Griffis says:

    Amen Wendy. Thanks.

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