Monday, February 08, 2010

Happy Birthday Boy Scouts!

It's Monday, February 8th, 2010, and the Boy Scouts of America is officially 100 years old! I somehow almost missed this, even though I had a really interesting conversation about the BSA with an old, old friend last summer. Well, let me back up a step or three...

I'm not going to name him here, unless he gives me permission later to do so—I wasn't able to ask him about this entry at the time of its writing. For now, let's just say that I've known him since he and his family moved to my hometown when we were both in 3rd Grade. For those of you who are counting, I'm pretty sure that I'm in 26th Grade now. In any case, he and I have a lot of birthday parties, school projects, youth group meetings, movies, sleep-overs, and your basic running around in the woods and having fun under our belts together.

And Scout meetings. We were Cub Scouts together for years, and we transitioned into Boy Scouts together, too. Once in Boy Scouts we took different paths, though. I kind of petered out. I don't know if I just wasn't able to incorporate myself into the existing group of older boys, or if I randomly lost interest, or if I was just that disappointed that growing up meant leaving behind the Pinewood Derby. My friend, however, went on to become an Eagle Scout!!

So, if we took such divergent paths concerning Boy Scouts, why were talking about it over fish 'n' chips at the Sea Swirl? I'm glad you asked! We were at the Sea Swirl because it's nearby our hometown and he was there to visit his folks—I was home because I was unemployed! Boy Scouts came up because I was telling him about someone close to me who had just come out of the closet. I think he could tell that I was a little nervous telling him about it, because I was clearly fine with my LGBT brothers and sisters—and I didn't really know where he currently stood on the subject. He immediately put my fears to rest when he confided that he had gay friends and that he was perfectly ok with it all, too. And that's when he brought up the Boy Scouts.

My friend told me that he'd been thinking a lot about them, how much he had gotten out of being a Scout and how he would like to give back to them as an adult leader. He told me that the reason he hadn't been volunteering with the Scouts was that he disagreed with their policy on homosexuals. For those of you who have missed the whole controversy, the BSA officially does not allow "avowed homosexuals" to acquire or maintain leadership roles or even membership in the Scouts.

I could see that my friend felt strongly about the good things that the BSA does for boys and young men in general, and had done for my friend personally. I could also see that he felt strongly about the social justice issues surrounding their leadership and membership policy. Legally, the BSA are a private organization, so unless they're getting funding from the government, they can be as discriminatory in their leadership and membership policy as they like. Perhaps the greater issue for the Boy Scouts is the possibility of losing the support of people like my friend—an Eagle Scout who loves the BSA in all other respects.

For what it's worth, seeing how strongly he felt about both things, I suggested to my friend that the time may have come for him to become involved with the Scouts again—and that if he feels that strongly about the one policy, that maybe he could affect change from within.

I hope that if I've made no other point here today, that it is this: I think the Boy Scouts of America is a good thing—but they could be a great thing. I hope it doesn't take another 100 years to get there.

Be good to each other,
Rev. Josh

No comments: