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 —
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.
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!”