Boy Scouts’ Compromise Happened Long Ago

Boy Scout's Compromise Happened Long Ago

There has been a lot of hand-wringing lately among social conservatives and evangelical Christian groups over the possible (I think highly likely) capitulation of the Boy Scouts of America to the the homosexual lobby and their allies. In very short order, something the Scouts had stood firm on for years has become negotiable.

The recent trial balloon floated by the Boy Scouts to appease these groups is to allow local Scouting organizations to decide whether or not openly homosexual leaders and scouts should be admitted. In other words, abandon having a national policy on the matter and make it a local issue. This, of course, will not be enough. The homosexual lobby is never satisfied with half-measures. Any compromise will be seen as only the first step toward proactive endorsement of homosexuality by the organization – which will begin to be demanded before the ink is dry on any new policy.

How did it get to this point? As with most things, there are a number of contributing factors, not the least of which is the Scouts’ dependence upon corporate sponsors. Most of these corporations decided years ago it was easier (and cheaper) to give in to the homosexual lobby than risk their harassment as aided and abetted by the national media. In addition to monetary sponsorship, some of the board members of these companies are also board members of the BSA and are facing pressure to terminate their relationship with the Scouts or face a down-grade of their company’s “non-discrimination rating” by the self-appointed creators of such things. It’s the usual shake down scenario. Nice company you got there – be a shame if something happened to it.

But the root cause is much deeper. At some point in their history the Scouts decided to make who God  is a local decision. When my sons and I were involved in Scouts several years back, I attended leadership training on the religious achievements portion of the Cub Scout handbook. Though held at an ostensibly Christian church, the training made it clear god could be whoever the boys and their families thought he, she or it was. The god of Scouting is much like the god of Alcoholics Anonymous, a “higher power” that is whatever one wants it to be. Sure, you have to believe in god to be a Scout, you just don’t have to be too specific about it.

This brings us to the basis for morals. How can an organization that will not take a stand on the identity of God be expected to take a stand on specific moral issues? There is a direct connection between the law and the Law Giver. If you’re not really sure who the Law Giver is, how can you be sure whether a specific behavior is “morally straight” or not? I mean, maybe one of those obscure Norse gods is cool with homosexuality. Who knows?

In addition, why have Christians chosen this issue as the flash-point causing them to rethink involvement with the Scouts? Was it not already a bridge too far that the Scouts allow local groups to decide for themselves who god is? Is standing firm on homosexuality really more important than standing firm on God’s identity? It reminds me of all these Episcopal congregations trying to get the heck out of dodge over homosexual priests when they stuck around as the denomination systematically dismantled the authority of the Bible and the exclusivity of Christ for years on end. This is the last straw? One would think gutting the gospel message might have been a contender for that honor.

This May at their annual meeting, the BSA will make it’s decision. My prediction is they will cave. This will be bad news for the once venerable organization but perhaps good news for the gospel. Removing Jesus Christ from a cocktail of gods unified only by American Civil Religion and holding Him up in stark contrast to all other belief systems will have a far greater impact for the Kingdom than if the Scouts win this battle in service to a pantheon of lesser gods.

5 Replies to “Boy Scouts’ Compromise Happened Long Ago”

  1. Larry, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I think you make some great points. Would you allow me to offer some feedback from my perspective as an active scoutmaster in a faith-based, Christ-centered boy scout troop chartered to a Baptist church, attended by mostly homeschoolers? Your comment ” Was it not already a bridge too far that the Scouts allow local groups to decide for themselves who god is? ” is really behind my motivation to provide a reply.

    I think there’s a big difference between pluralism (tolerance of many faiths coexisting — aka freedom of religious expression) and “xtreme-ecumenism” (all ways lead equally to God, all religions are equally true and valid) in scouting.

    Scouting, since its founding has held that we live in a pluralistic society — when I walk into a school, hospital, mall or simply stroll down my block, I will encounter many people with very different beliefs. To each one of those people, they individually believe that they are pursuing the right path — this doesn’t mean that they are on the one true path (John 14:6), but they may participate in society productively while they pursue their own exploration of faith practice. This works because not any one group can force me to walk in lock step with them. We can exchange ideas, opinions and share our worldviews to influence a voluntary change. The activists who are attacking scouting would like to force all of us to accept their viewpoint and will not likely stop at scouting — churches, college faith groups, youth groups will eventually be attacked, too.

    Further, scouting doesn’t say “there’s one murky god for all” or “our purpose in scouting is to identify the one true God/god for all of our members” — they say learn more about YOUR OWN faith, practice it to your best ability. “On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God….” (aka pluralistic tolerance of many viewpoints).

    There was a purpose behind this approach — it enables a local Baptist church, or a Jewish synagogue, or an RC church, or a Muslim mosque to offer an educational curriculum focused on scoutcraft as a mechanism to develop positive character and leadership (which was clearly influenced by early YMCA leaders,, but isn’t intended to be part of any religious indoctrination). The pursuit of faith is a personal activity led by the scout’s family and perhaps religious leaders — scouting merely encourages the youth to take that activity seriously and with urgency. When our unit goes to summer camp, my sons witness to other scouts and share worldview discussions. We hold our own devotionals in the evening around the campfire instead of participating in interfaith (aka – “no faith”) services and scouting says that’s fine (I think the interfaith concept came about out of scoutmaster laziness more than anything).

    Your question “Is standing firm on homosexuality really more important than standing firm on God’s identity?” is clearly answered, NO; however, it’s not (in my opinion) a fair question since the reason to stand firm on homosexuality is to preserve pluralistic freedom of association within local units, not to define BSA as a religious organization whose intent, aim, goal or mission is to define God’s/god’s identity for its members! It is merely one who’s expressive message includes personal pursuit of truth in faith practice, not imposition of groupthink and social conformity. As a “baptist unit” we pursue Jesus because it makes sense for us, we’re allowed to, and we’re encouraged to. The unit down at the local firehouse is, doubtlessly, more secular in it’s approach to knot tying.

    By (potentially) allowing the homosexual agenda to invade scouting would be to shut down this openness and flexibility since units chartered to bible-based churches would ultimately be forced to become unequally yoked in leadership. As we saw in the 2009 Miss California contest (where the finalist provided a non-PC response on the definition of marriage) homosexuals will be in positions to block the advancement of Eagle scouts for holding contradicting beliefs, This is why scouting should continue the ban — to assure pluralistic freedom continues, not because “some” religions now condone unrepentant, libertine behaviors and therefore have a vote in the matter.

    I submit that the scout oath, law, motto and slogan are not specific religious tenets from any particular faith, but they’re also not in direct contradiction of major faith practices, either. The aim of scouting is to run in parallel with (but also in submission to) what’s happening at home, in church and perhaps at school (homeschool for my family), etc. not to direct individuals to a metro-cultural (social conformist) “god” — especially one that we might label “anti-christ”!

    I just choose to stand up and applaud scouts for trying to encourage young men to seek out God, to ask questions of a spiritual nature, to dialog with their religious leaders and parents. Sports teams rarely do that much. Co-ed youth groups and Sunday schools are great places for bible study (and we need them!), but the challenge of teen boys leading peers through the wilderness on a multi-day backpacking trek or a 50 mile canoe float develops a certain sense of responsibility that can’t be easily duplicated elsewhere. Titus 2:6-8 is a challenge to adult scout leaders to be an example while stepping back and letting the boys lead each other — my goal is to rid my little corner of the world of 14 year old characters/minds in 30-something year old bodies and replace them with mature minds in teen bodies — all with a sincere, urgent love of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Rev 16:19). I am an Eagle scout (not a position or title of privilege, but one of commitment to service to others) and I am most certainly not in “…service to a pantheon of lesser gods.”

    I apologize if I misunderstood your perspective, of if I’ve stated my opinion in any sort of offensive way. I like to dialog with brothers in Christ and I hope you’re smiling. Please pray for my unit, Troop 113 (whose number comes from Psalm 1:1-3 — the verses which describe the type of men we pray our sons will become) that we will receive God’s guidance on what to do if the membership policy changes. Please consider checking out our troop blog to see what we’re all about, too.

  2. Thanks so much for your thoughtful reply. It was not offensive at all. I always enjoy engaging with other brothers in Christ on matters like this as well.

    I know there are many local troops specifically founded as Christian organizations and I’m sure they do fine work with and for the boys and do so in a context that is biblically sound. My comments were primarily concerned about Scouting as a national organization, especially what I said about being “in service to a pantheon of lesser gods.” My desire was not to imply that all who are engaged in Scouting are in that space but that the national organization with its unwillingness to be specific about who god is really is not in a position to then be specific about what it means to be “morally straight.” As I pointed out, the law is inexorably tied to the Law Giver.

    However, I do find it odd for churches to have programs chartered by a group that is not Christian. There’s nothing wrong with individual Christians participating in and being a light in the darkness for groups such as the Rotary Club, the YMCA or many others – in fact we should do so. However, you don’t find such groups (usually) operating under the auspices of a local church. We can claim that by leaving it up to local organizations the Scouts don’t take a position with regard to God and are just allowing pluralism – but not to decide is to decide. And in truth it is no more virtuous to acknowledge God in the abstract than to outright deny Him. Christ is clear that not to be for Him is to oppose Him (Matthew 12:30) – there is no middle position. I know you believe this as well so I’m not questioning that. However, perhaps you and I differ on what that truth means for the local church’s involvement with an organization like the BSA. In my mind, the question is should a local church partner with an organization that is opposed to Christ, even if that organization does a great amount of “good” in other areas? My answer would be they should not.

    I will not be glad if the Scouts decide to cave in to the culture on this issue. If I implied that in my post please forgive me. It will be a tragedy. But it will be a tragedy whose roots go back to the position they’ve (the national organization) taken with regard to God. There’s no way around that. To ask a straightforward question: why has the BSA at a national level opposed homosexuality thus far? Christians oppose homosexuality not primarily because we find it distasteful or because it will prevent our sons being safe on camp outs, as true as those may be, but because the God of the universe calls it sin – and that position can’t be taken apart from an acknowledgment of who God is. Something scouting as an organization does not do.

    Whatever happens, I’m thankful for men like yourself who take the time to invest in young men and teach them of Christ and I pray that regardless of the outcome in May, your ministry will continue.

    In Christ,


  3. Larry, I spent a good deal of time thinking, praying and searching scriptures this weekend in light of your additional commentary — which I really appreciate. I understand your perspective much better now and I think your comment –“However, I do find it odd for churches to have programs chartered by a group that is not Christian.”– really helped me to see BSA in a different light than I had before.

    I agree that to yoke ourselves (organizationally) to a curriculum built off of an organization that can, along the ranging spectrum of thoughts/policies/, represent belial as opposed to Christ. I find myself more resolved to separate from BSA and move to an organization that is truly Christ-centered.

    Over the weekend, I met with a dad I met along the scouting way who is a Christian Service Brigade Stockade leader. He and I shared a lot of dialog over this issue and it helped me realize that while I’m doing my best to make God the focus of a program for the boys benefit, I wouldn’t be running on a treadmill if I merely put my energy into a curriculum that is already built on God’s principles and practices.

    Thanks for the additional dialog — it really made a difference in my heart and mind.

    1. Thanks so much for the follow up. If what I said has helped you think through this difficult issue, to God be the glory my friend. I pray that He will continue to guide you as you serve him by serving young men for Christ.

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