I removed my boys from the BSA last week. There are two events left in June that I promised the boys would attend, the Rain Gutter Regatta and for my eldest, an awards ceremony to mark all that he has achieved. It is a good closure to this chapter in our lives.
This wasn't an easy decision for us, either. Ever since the BSA mentioned the change back in February, my wife and I have spent time praying about it and talking bout it. Of course, then in April, the BSA announced a “compromise” by staying with the ban on homosexual leaders, but they would allow openly gay scouts in the program. Was this enough? Again, my wife and I continued to pray and talk about what this means. No, it was not enough.
Making this decision public was knee-jerk in the way that I handled it. I should have called my son's troop master, who is of the same mind that I am, as well as my boys' cub master BEFORE I made the announcement on facebook. I apologized to them for not telling them personally first. I have no hard feelings with them, and they have assured me the same friendship.
But with this announcement on my part, I have had several objections raised to me, as well as a couple of accusations. So I will address each one, word for word quote, and in the hopes of addressing each objection and accusation, I will then answer to everyone's satisfaction why we left the BSA. I ask that you read my reasons with an open mind.
1. “You don't want your son to learn that everyone deserves to be treated with respect and dignity?”
Here is assumption being made by the person who asked this question. If it was meant as humorous, since this question is something that supporters of the lifting of the ban ask, then the humor was lost on me. Now for those who have stumbled across this blog, I am a preacher of a conservative, independent church. This question assumes that I do not teach that we should treat all people with dignity and respect because I am a preacher, or perhaps because I follow the Bible.
The Bible teaches that we are to respect those around us. We should even go the extra step when ministering to someone who is apart from the Gospel. So yes, I make sure that I teach my children to respect everyone. I try to make sure that I do not disparage anyone even as my peeves are tested as I drive down the road so that my boys will always be considerate and respectful to others.
The BSA does teach this, yes. But in the accepting of the homosexual boys, they are also teaching a lifestyle that I teach as being wrong. But then the Bible teaches that this lifestyle is wrong. I do not wish to have my children associated with any organization that would countermand my teachings, which I strive to base on the Word of God, the Bible. (This is also why we've chosen to homeschool our children.)
Of course this also brings the question, does your church teach respect and dignity of others? If you are in a church that is NOT teaching these manners, then you need to change the church you belong. But by the same token, though I am accepting of those who choose to live their lives differently, that God accepts them just as they are, when they are clothed in Christ, God starts changing them. He takes us where and as we are, and then makes us what we are meant to become.
2. “Are you afraid that your boys associating with gays will make them gay?”
Not at all. I have gay friends. My wife has gay friends. We do not agree with their life choices, but we do respect them. Again, this goes back to being part of an institution that would countermand my instructions. It isn't about who they are associating with. It is about what the organization will teach them.
3. “Judge not, lest ye be judged!”
OK, this is one really misapplied verse here. The whole sermon on the mount, where this quote comes from, is found in the Gospel of Matthew, chapters 5-7. This quote is from Matthew 7, verse 1. The whole sermon deals with the attitude that followers of Jesus should have. There should be no snobbery with a believer. Second application here is that we have no business deciding where another's eternal destination is. That is God's job.
However, we still make judgments. We see a person and decide whether or not to strike up a conversation with him or her. We may be open minded enough to see that after a brief conversation, that person would not make a good friend. But we don't hear anything about that, do we? Be honest here. There are some political people and some church leaders out there that I would not be friends with, just as there are those in your circles that you would not be friends with.
Now to something else here. There is a time that as a Christian, I am to judge. The Apostle Paul wrote in his first letter to the church of Corinth (1 Corinthians 5.9-12) that though we are not to judge outsiders (non-believers of Jesus), we are to hold one another to account. Here Paul was addressing an issue of a man in a physical relationship with his father's wife. The very first verse of chapter 5 states that not even non-believers do this sin, and the church was PROUD?!
The BSA once did claim to train boys in Christian living and morals. Back when the BSA was first incorporated 100 years ago, when someone mentioned God, it was widely assumed and accepted as being God, the Father of Jesus. There is a whole time line that I will share if you email me and it is based on several different websites, many are in direct opposition to my view, so it's a fair time line. Suffice it to say, it's in 1978 that the National Council declared that as long as you believe that there is a “higher power”, then you are welcomed into the BSA. But the BSA has not disavowed “Christian heritage” nor their “faith-based” tax exemption standing.
4. “You just don't like gays because their sin is different than yours!”
Of course, there is the axiom, people who live in glass houses should not throw stones. Another way of looking at this is again taking a verse from Matthew chapter 7. “Make sure you pull the plank out of your own eye before trying to remove the speck of dust in your neighbor's eye.” (Matthew 7.5)
My answer dovetails with the previous answer. I do not object to how someone lives apart from a relationship with God in Christ Jesus. My objections are with those who know better. Yet let me return to point. Yes, I am not a perfect person. I have my sins. We all have our sins. But I am not happy with my sins, and I've repented of my sinful living. Sins I've committed in the past are put away now. I am forgiven. I am not repeating those sins. I strive to live for Christ. I strive to live as holy, and as humbly as I can. I will still screw up and fall flat on my face, but I still try.
That said, Jesus forgives us all sin when we turn to him. The only sin not forgivable in the Bible is that which is called, “blasphemy of the Holy Spirit”, which in short, means not living for Jesus. You die apart from Christ, you are, we all are unforgiven. That is the grace of God. If we but accept His gift to forgive us, to restore our fellowship with Him, then all is forgiven.
5. “What a person does in his bedroom shouldn't matter.”
Back in the beginning of the pornography industry, this was a common battle cry for acceptance by the mainstream. Years later, Dr. James Dobson in the 1980s, under President Ronald Reagan's direction, made it his mission to show us how damaging the pornography is to not only a person, but also to the person's family and even to society. Someone addicted to porn starts objectifying women. There are countless studies to this end. Even today, “Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage” international speaker, Mark Gungor, often cites on his daily while what people do behind closed doors in THIS area of life does affect in ever facet of life.
Let's consider another angle. In 20 years of ministry, I have also noted that when a person comes to me with depression issues, I am able to help them out by prescribing to them a period of “feel goods” such as old Gilligan's Island shows, 3 Stooges, something that is wholesome but funny. I prescribe comfort foods that appeal to the person I am talking with. Some have found ice cream to be that comfort food, where as another has found it in left-over pizza. Have at it. And I especially stress the importance of reading the Psalms and Proverbs. When followed to the letter, I have seen depression cycles break within 48 hours at the latest. (Now mind you, I am not advising against medical care for those who are dealing with chemical imbalances. If you are under the care of a doctor for clinical depression, then stay your course. But also add levity as I've described above, to your daily routine.)
I have seen myself almost immediately implement advice I've read in preaching books. As a parent, I've seen how certain influence change my children. I have seen them become surly because of certain shows, such as Annoying Orange. I've seen them become disrespectful because of Spongebob Squarepants. (Yes, seems the only cartoons that pass our test are Phineas & Ferb as well as some superhero shows.) I've seen their demeanor slip listening to either the pop or country stations (so they listen to Christian radio.)
My point is that we are all easily influenced by what we expose ourselves to, whether we like it or not. So though on the surface one might think that what a person does in the privacy of his home should not matter, the truth is that it does. Besides, one of the attributes of morality is not how one acts when around others, but it is how one acts when no one is watching. This applies to any area, any and every action.
6. “It doesn't really matter what the National Council says. I would not pull them because local is more important than some national policy.”
When I worked for the State, a new policy was put into place with regards to children who chose to be gay. We workers therefore had to have workshops to learn how to be inclusive and accepting kids as such, and even parents for that matter. These workshops were not just for the social workers. There were workshops for those who would be foster parents, and for those who would be foster siblings.
I cannot imagine that the change in national policy of the BSA would not therefore trickle down to the local level. Already the beginning of the special pack meetings, I hear the words, “please prepare yourselves in the manner you are accustomed to for prayer” followed by a pretty generic, non-offensive prayer. Yes I do expect more to come from National than what we are lead to believe here. They will accomplish this through classes and perhaps even their magazine, Boy's Life.
Also there is what I have seen from the LGBT community since Thursday's announcement from the BSA. “This is a great victory, but it is only the beginning.” So we have a battle brewing. The simple volley and ground gained is not enough? There are more important matters than this battle. This is a battle that I do not have the heart, nor the stomach, to continue. I do not believe that my boys need to be part of it either.
8. “What alternatives are there to the BSA that will help you raise your boys into the men you hope they become?”
There has been quick talk of a new program to launch this fall called “Faith Based Boys”. I understand that this is only a preliminary title, and that the official title will come soon. As this is new, I hope that perhaps I shall also be part of its shaping and planning.
But even if there were no alternatives, it is short sighted to believe that there is no way that the boys could grow to be godly men who follow Jesus. They have their parents, my wife and myself. They have their Church and the Word of God. They also have their homeschool network. There are plenty of godly adults who didn't grow up in scouting. I do not believe that my boys shall be at a loss for it.
Here's the bottom line: The BSA is ever changing and “evolving”. It was once something I was proud to belong to, but in that, they have taken too many wrong turns. I do not see that this can be brought back to an acceptable place where I could trust that my sons will be taught to embrace the same core values that I hold. As for loving and learning of God's creation, the great outdoors, I know enough to even teach them to respect is as much as they do strangers and even each other.
This is a choice that my wife and I have made. It was not an easy one, and we did not consult our sons about it. We did keep them informed that this may happen, and they are real troopers in accepting this outcome. I am proud to be their papa.
But for other parents of scouts? Do I think you should follow suit? How you respond to the changes from National is entirely between yourselves as a family, and your faith in Christ. I cannot, nor will not answer this question for you. If you disagree with me and keep your son(s) in the BSA, I will respect your decision, as I hope you respect mine.
Now for some shout-outs that I promised:
John Henson: You are a great pack leader. I love how the boys look up to you as you lead them. Again, my apologies for not calling you before I posted my response on Thursday.
Karen Bagley & Ray Vestor: My eldest has enjoyed your taking the time to teach him the skills he's acquired while in scouting. I truly appreciate sacrifices you both have made to help make Troop 90 thrive.
Pastor Glenn Larsen and the Brethren at Emanuel Lutheran Church: Thank you for sponsoring Clan ap Harvey into Pack 90 and then into Troop 90. I pray with you as you consider the response to the news. May our Father guide your actions.
Pastor David Bush and the Brethren at First United Methodist Church of Stuttgart: My deepest gratitude to you for the uniforms that my boys have so enjoyed wearing each Sunday afternoon. I, as well, have enjoyed watching them grow and learn and wear with pride those uniforms.
Both churches have touched our lives and we love you all.
Reader: This has been my longest blog post, with three standard pages full at a Calibri 10 pt font. Thank you for the time YOU have invested reading this. I hope that I have answered your questions and concerns regarding our departure from the BSA. Again, ONLY the announcement on Thursday was knee-jerk. The decision has been some time coming.
May the Father in Heaven richly bless you in Christ Jesus, our Savior, Brother, and Friend.