Thursday, January 31, 2013

From the gay son of a Southern Baptist Eagle Scout

Very few people who know me, especially ones I've met in the past four years during college, know I was raised by Southern Baptist parents and grew up going to a Southern Baptist church—one in which I was heavily involved. Even fewer (read Nobody) know that my dad is an Eagle Scout, the highest ranking one can earn from the Boy Scouts of America. Well, I am neither a Southern Baptist or an Eagle Scout. I won't get into the details of my current religious identity—you're welcome, mom and dad—and I was never in scouts. Until now, I never thought I'd be writing about these two organizations, nor did I think I'd be writing about them together.

Throughout the past couple of days, there has been talk that Boy Scouts of America is considering to rid of the their national policy that bans gay scouts and leaders to join troops. The BSA board will be meeting sometime early next week to make a decision, despite their upholding of the ban only seven months ago. The removal of the ban would allow individual troops to determine on their own if they want to continue banning gay people or to follow suit with the national board. Troops are usually overseen by faith-based, civic, or educational organizations, and interestingly enough, about 70 percent of the units are sponsored by religious organizations, according to Fox News. (Wow. I can't believe my first source is Fox News.) It just so happens that the Southern Baptist Convention—one the largest Protestant denominations, if not the largest—gives funds to Boy Scouts of America, and they're a little upset. Rumor has it, the SBC is even threatening to break their relationship with BSA if the ban on gays is struck down.

President of the Southern Baptist Convention, Fred Luter tells Baptist Press why he is upset with Boy Scouts of America:
"If that is what the leadership is doing, then I think it will be a sad day in the life of the Boy Scouts of America. This is a tradition that so many of us across the country grew up in. We were in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts in elementary school, and this organization has always stood for biblical principles—all the things that grounded our lives as a young kid growing up. To now see this organization that I thought stood on biblical principles about to give in to the politically correct thing is very disappointing."
"Give in to the politically correct thing." Is it really giving in if you're choosing what's right? Sure, maybe some large corporate sponsors are pressuring BSA to do this, or maybe they're protecting themselves for a future court case. But why do these corporations believe what they do? Why are they pressuring this type of agenda? Why would BSA fear scrutiny for banning gay people? It's because there's a movement happening, and as LGBT rights activist Urvashi Vaid would call it, an irresistible movement. SBC's president to the executive committee, Frank Page told NPR, "We understand that we are now a minority, that it is not popular to have biblical values, not popular to take stands that seem intolerant." Besides saying the world is falling to sin, why do you think this is happening? Because our nation is no longer a Christian nation. It is now one of many faiths. One where equality will prevail, eventually, and those who are intolerant will be pushed aside.

And when I learned of this potential debacle between the Southern Baptist Convention and Boy Scouts of America, I asked my dad if he had heard of it. He said he hadn't. And even though you can never get him to talk about controversial things, or anything sensitive, I thought I'd try give it a try sense the issue encompassed two of proudest identities. He told me it wouldn't surprise him if the convention stopped funding BSA, and when I asked, Well, what do you think of it? he responded, "I think they are doing what they believe is right." Of course they think they're right, and it's unfortunate they think that way.

According to Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, "the SBC views homosexuality as sinful based on [biblical] scripture and not acceptable as normal behavior," which is to no surprise. More striking is his next sentence: "Ending a national policy on gays would raise a question in the mind of every scout's parent"– stop right there. What? What question? Is this guy really trying to sneak in his misconstrued ideas of gays being equated to child molesters? Homophobia at its best (read with as much sarcasm as you desire). Regardless of his intentions in that phrasing—I mean, parents will probably ask, Oh, is this a gay troop?—the idea is still sickening that parents will turn away from letting their child join a troop because they allow gays. There will always be gays, there will probably always be child molesters, and, well, there may even be gay child molesters. But to conflate the two and/or presume they're causal is absurd. I know conservative parents would ask terrible questions about their local troop if an end came to BSA's national policy. And you know what? I wish a question would raise in their minds. Because do you know what that would mean? It would mean we're moving forward. It would mean that Boy Scouts of America made not a politically correct decision, but a humanely correct one. I wish they would.

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