Last week, the Boy Scouts of America bowed to public pressure and made the mistaken decision to allow openly gay scouts to join, while keeping in place the ban on gay scoutmasters, atheists, and agnostics.
One of my Facebook friends, a person I respect, took the position that this was a good thing. His explanation, if I took it correctly, is (1) The BSA is and always has been a secular organization, (2) Excluding gay scouts is “judgemental”, and “Judging isn’t for us”, and (3) These boys deserve the opportunity to become the young men that scouting can help mold them into.
I’ll take these points, in order, as I explain why this decision is a mistake.
1. The BSA is and always has been a secular organization.
Given the fact that the Boy Scout Oath itself requires the affiant to do his “duty to God and his country”, this is a remarkable proposition. It becomes more remarkable when you open a dictionary and start reading.
Secular. Adj.1. of or pertaining to worldly things or to things that are not regarded as religious, spiritual, or sacred; temporal: secular interests.
2. not pertaining to or connected with religion ( opposed to sacred ): secular music.
3. (of education, a school, etc.) concerned with nonreligious subjects.
4. (of members of the clergy) not belonging to a religious order; not bound by monastic vows ( opposed to regular ).
5. occurring or celebrated once in an age or century: the secular games of Rome.
6. going on from age to age; continuing through long ages.
Secularism. Noun.1. secular spirit or tendency, especially a system of political or social philosophy that rejects all forms of religious faith and worship.
2. the view that public education and other matters of civil policy should be conducted without the introduction of a religious element.
Secularize. Verb.1. to make secular; separate from religious or spiritual connection or influences; make worldly or unspiritual; imbue with secularism.
2. to change (clergy) from regular to secular.
3. to transfer (property) from ecclesiastical to civil possession or use.
These definitions hardly comport with the Scout Oath, or The Scout Law.
The 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.
The Scout Law:
A Scout is:
Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean,and Reverent.
Nor do they comport with the institution’s past, as demonstrated in the following pages from the 1942 printing of the Handbook for Scoutmasters.
I think that’s enough on this point for now, but I’ll return to it at the end.
2. Excluding gay scouts is “judgemental”, and “judging isn’t for us”.
This is where things have gotten out of hand with too much of Christendom today, because of a conscious decision to embrace the ignorance of non-believers. We let those who do not walk in the faith and who are not filled with the Holy Spirit selectively read our scripture, and stop before they reach the part that changes the meaning of the point they want to make. Consequently, when we dare to call sin by its name and mark it for what it is, we often have Matthew 7:1-5 tossed back in our faces.
“Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. 3 And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
But this leaves off the final verse of the passage, verse 6.
6 “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.
It doesn’t exactly square with the idea that Christians aren’t supposed to judge, does it? But it does imply that there is an expectation of judgement. Still, occasionally I encounter such a person with the presence of mind to avoid this and instead quote Luke 6:37-42.
37 “Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”
39 And He spoke a parable to them: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch? 40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher. 41 And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye? 42 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye.
At first blush, it also apparently forbids judging. But, as with the previous verses, the last one is key, as it clearly contemplates judgment…you couldn’t remove the plank from your brother’s eye without it. But, if you read both passages carefully, what is required is that the judge must first look upon themselves with honest reflection, and address their own foibles before looking upon those of others and addressing them. This is borne out in John 7:24.
“Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”
This was Christ addressing the Pharisees who were condemning him for being about his Father’s work on the sabbath. He didn’t tell them not to judge; he told them to judge with a discerning judgement. This either escapes the notice of, or is purposely omitted by those who believe themselves worthy to preach to us. And either out of ignorance, or fear of not being “liked”, we let them. Because of this failure in ourselves, we fail to meet our calling to be salt, which is both an irritant, and a preservative, and we fail in our calling to be light, because our desire to not offend means that we will not speak the truth to those in bondage to sin, instead opting to let them believe that they are not in an immortal peril, allowing their chains to drag them to a second death when they leave this world.
Like it or not, if we believe that we have to do our duty to God, then we need to come to grips with the fact that this was an occaision that called for judgement, and that the wrong judgement was made.
3. These boys deserve the opportunity to become the young men that scouting can help mold them into.
Certainly, this is the point of strongest emotional appeal, not just to those on the outside of the faith, but to many within. It calls to mind the parable of the Lost Sheep in Matthew 18:12-14 and Luke 15:1-7.
12 “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? 13 And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. 14 Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.
Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. 2 And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.” 3 So He spoke this parable to them, saying:
4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ 7 I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.
So why isn’t this a compelling reason to allow them in? Isn’t it a core tenent of Christianity that we are all sinners? Isn’t this the reason that we need the salvation that Christ brought? Isn’t this why we needed him to pay a price we can never afford? And wasn’t payment of that price what ended the separation between God and his people? Yes, this is all true, but the distinction is that it isn’t about a sinner struggling with his sin, and trying to better himself by drawing closer to God; it is about a sinner who is unrepentant in his sin, and continuing to blatantly and openly remain in a state of sin. This distinction is best demonstrated in John 5:10-14.
10 The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, “It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.”
11 He answered them, “He who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your bed and walk.’”
12 Then they asked him, “Who is the Man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 13 But the one who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, a multitude being in that place. 14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.” [Emphasis Added.]
Homosexuality isn’t like other sins. It is a sin against the self, and as such, is unique. It is named very clearly in the Old Testament and in the New Testament as a sin. The NIV calls it “detestible”. The NKJV calls it an “abomination”. These aren’t categorizations; they are bywords. They are warnings. In the New Testament, it is seen as a sin for which the consequence is separation from God. Romans 1:18-32 puts this into a select group of people who are given over to a debased mind. Possessing a debased mind, they cannot, by their nature, know God, let alone do their “duty to God” any more than I could chose to sprout wings and fly.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 also describes homosexuality as being separated from God, as they are once again listed in the select group who will not receive the Kingdom of God.
9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals,[a] nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
So why does it matter? Why wouldn’t we admit them so they can know the truth and be saved? Certainly no believer wants to see someone suffer in bondage, without even the knowledge that they are in bondage, right? And clearly, Paul is acknowledging that some of whom to which he was writing were once among these. Once, but not anymore. This is the hope for deliverance in the salvation that we each have to come to accept in order to receive. In the case of these Corinthians in the early church, that salvation didn’t happen because they were welcomed and encouraged to remain in their state of sin. And those who felt entitled to do so were those Paul warned us to keep separate from in 1 Corinthians 5:9-12.
9 I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. 10 Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person.
12 For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside?
Once again, we are told in the Bible to judge (with discernment), this time, in chosing the company we keep. And it isn’t the only place you find such warnings in the Bible. Paul expounds on the reason in 1 Corinthians 15:33-34.
33 Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.” 34 Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.
This is in addition to other verses and passages such as the wisdom in Proverbs, and “knowing them by their fruit.”
If we extrapolate this, then we see that the danger isn’t that the lost boy will stay lost; it is that the lost boy will confuse and mislead others until they too are lost. This, more than anything, is why this decision is wrong, and why it creates a conundrum which cannot be resolved. Either “duty to God” means something, or it means nothing, and is simply a vestigial appendage that is no different from the “ceremonial deism” described by the Supreme Court in decisions where they impose a “freedom” from religion, rather than recognizing the sovereign invoked in the Nation’s Charter, while it justifies maintaining such occurrences as prayers to open Congress, by a Congressional Chaplin, or the plea “God Save This Honorable Court!” which opens its own proceedings.
If we say a homosexual scout can fulfill a “Duty to God”, then we ignore what is set forth in the scriptures of the three major religions of the world; if we say it is “ceremonial deism”, then we are asking them to violate the points of the Scout Law requiring them to be trustworthy, as they are swearing an oath that they do not believe, nor are they being honest, as they swear to an obligation that they have no intention of understanding or fulfilling. Either way, we are setting them up to fail, as we remove one of the last institutions that once instilled its members with virtues and integrity, and sought to instill succeeding generations with the same, and either way, it does not bode well for the future of an organization that failed to heed the instruction in Romans 12:2
2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
and instead chose to conform to that which is inconsistent with its own stated first duty.