Last week, the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America ended the ban on homosexual youth members. The issue has been dividing Scouts – and attracting nosy, self-righteous ridicule – for some years.
Reactions outside Scouting have varied. Frankly, I don’t care.
The reactions from my brothers and sisters in Scouting have varied.
I have not heard much exultation. No one in their right mind can believe that this whole episode has been a uniformly positive experience for American Scouting.
I have heard a good deal of relief. This is both practical and a reflection of the gratification that we are being true to Scouting principles. At least this part of the dispute is OVER. (We still have to keep implementation going smoothly. We still have to deal with the gay adult issue.) More importantly, the decision shows that Scouting again has looked at our values and decided what we stand for.
Another school of reaction is one of horror and betrayal. Some say that they will abandon Scouting. Others will send their awards and badges back to the organization. A few talk about founding some sort of “Scouting” which conforms to their Scouting weltanschauung.
I really doubt that there are any more homosexuals in society than there were 50 years ago. I also doubt if there are many more gay Scouts than there were 50 years ago. Then, homosexuality was so frowned upon that concealment was integral to the lifestyle. So, it’s not as if the concept of gay folks is new to Scouting. Only the acceptance of openness is new.
Around 1980, National Scouting began an ill-fated journey into political swamps, a journey for which Scouts were ill-prepared. The Movement attempted to engage in political discussions. It tried to hammer-weld politics onto the traditional Scouting program of self-reliance, loyalty, citizenship, friendship and honor.
This was an attempt to weld lead onto steel. Something heavy, malleable and dull did nothing but weaken a strong, sharp program.
My brothers and sisters, my message today is this:
Keep your eye on the ball.
Scouting is needed now more than ever. The moral deterioration of such great concern to most of us has been misidentified with the gay thing. Maybe that’s because some self-identified gay “activists” spout social/political blather which has little or nothing to do with rights or citizenship. Wow, what a shock.
Just so, self-identified religious “activists” want to impose sharia law (or a Christian equivalent). Lots and lots of self-identified moralists of every stripe rail against all drugs – except for themselves. It is foolish of us to believe that they speak for anybody but themselves.
To my brothers and sisters who say, hey, I’m outta here because gay kids can join, I say: You are still my brother and my sister. I cannot respect what you are doing. You are playing into the hands of those who destroy, not those who build.
The Biblical notion about the “house divided” remains true today. Or, let’s use a Scouting metaphor. In the Order of the Arrow Ordeal “Tapout” ceremony at Camp Mountaineer, a single candidate is asked to surround a huge old oak tree beside the council fire. This tree is more than 100 years old and 6 feet in diameter. Of course a single person cannot stretch his arms around such a tree. Then, all the candidates are directed to join hands and surrounding the tree is done easily.
When one person leaves, that’s one less person to surround the tree, one less person to serve.
I say once again that sexuality has zero part in Scouting. ‘Round the campfire, kids are not going to hear about the advantages of getting it on with Steve OR with Eve. This is not a part of life that we deal with. This is not a part of life we are designed to address.
Scouting is about self-reliance and self-confidence.. Kids achieve/advance to a fixed standard. Every kid can be a winner – not just by showing up, but by demonstrating skills that they have to work to gain and which will stand them in good stead for their entire lives.
When a kid knows that he can be dropped anywhere in nearly any weather and walk out healthy, that kid has a power which no school can give. When a kid finds herself part of a huge force for good deeds, she has a part of her lifetime identity.
These things are imparted to a few kids at a time and often to one kid at the time. Much of the teaching is done by older kids in the program. Much is done by adults who embrace service above self. Not one of my Scout leaders taught me a thing about romantic love. But they taught me most of what I know about love of humanity and comradeship. Those men – guys like Chris Gore, John Pitcher, B. I. Wixey, Junior Parks, Bob Elliott - gave me gifts that I cannot repay. I can only “pay forward.” I have and can only continue to try to promote Scouting and Scouting skills to – you guessed it – one kid at a time.
Where we going with the gay ban and adult leaders? We need to keep talking. We need to keep thinking. We need to keep applying OUR values.
A note to activists of every description who are not from within the Movement: You have your First Amendment rights. Use them. Don’t use them. I don’t care. We won’t be listening. You’re not a part of the solution – you’re part of the problem.
“A Scout is a friend to all and a brother to every other Scout.”