This is not a point-by-point analysis of the Boy Scouts of America decision to permit membership for those young people who profess a same-gender attraction. Roman Catholic canon lawyer Dr. Edward Peters, in his excellent In the Light of the Law blog, has done all the heavy lifting in his essay “Thoughts for Catholics Impacted by the Boy Scouts of America Membership Policies.”
Although he approaches the matter from a Roman Catholic perspective, the principles apply, I think, to all orthodox churches and all thoughtful Christians. It is important to keep in mind that the BSA maintains a position keeping with sexual abstinence for all members. The BSA does not exist to advance particular viewpoints outside the stated goals of the organization which develop well-formed young people. Peters posted a fine follow-up, “A Few Days Into the Boy Scout Membership Controversy.”
I think that there is a good deal of evidence suggesting that abandoning the BSA is a very bad idea. There are some things that need to be said and it is going to demand patience as we go through the steps. Even with the latest adjustment in policy, there are not many large and prominent organizations that maintain what we might call “old fashioned” moral standards. The BSA has not made itself a haven for immorality and is not a mouthpiece for any social movement. Yes, there is reason to speculate about what MIGHT happen someday, but that is someday. Today is today and we are better served by trying to help BSA.
The real core of the matter has not been discussed too much, and that is going to be addressed here and now. How the heck does some empty-headed 12 year-old know anything about his sexual attractions? Those of us who would toss out the BSA without a second thought are condemned by their own obsessive loathing of homosexuals. Many youngsters who profess to be gay do not have any idea at all as to their actual sexual attractions. Our intolerance forces these children into an irrevocable self-identification. Compelling this kind of statement is a grave abuse of authority.
As things are now in the BSA, young people who have said they have a same-sex attraction may remain. It is also implied that they may identify otherwise at some future time. Compassionate and sensible Christians should want to be with them when those types of personal decisions are made, and I am not coercion or intimidation to gain a retraction by force. Just because some kid thinks he is gay does not make it so. The professionals with whom I have spoken tell me that having a homosexual relationship does not necessarily make a young person a homosexual. We have an obligation to let children grow up, and those churches who are already jumping ship are not being good shepherds. Indeed, they hear what sounds like a wolf and head for safety.
Doing real ministry means getting your hands dirty. Christan scout leaders run the risk of encountering young people in many different kinds of situations. As unsettling as it may be for some, youngsters who self-identify with a same-gender attraction are also created in the image of God and the followers of Jesus must stand by them.
UPDATE: Religion News Service files a report on widespread Catholic acceptance of the BSA decision. Read it all here, and this is a highlight.
“Scouting is still the best youth-serving program available to all youth,” Edward P. Martin, chairman of the National Catholic Committee on Scouting, wrote in a May 29 letter addressed to “fellow Catholic Scouters.”
“We should be encouraged that the change in BSA’s youth membership standard is not in conflict with Catholic teaching,” Martin said, asking that “Catholic Scouters and chartered organization heads not rush to judgment.”
Martin said that despite some concerns, the NCCS had taken a neutral stance on a resolution adopted on May 23 by the BSA’s National Council.