FIRST-PERSON: An open letter to the Boy Scouts (from an Eagle Scout)
WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP) -- To the National Executive Board, the Boy Scouts of America.
For as long as I can remember I have loved the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). I was fundamentally shaped by the decade I spent as a Scout. Many of my closest friends and my younger brother were fellow Scouts. My father, who will always be my first and most influential role model, served for many years as our assistant scoutmaster. Besides my father, three of the men I most admired during my high school years were two scoutmasters and a district executive. Outside of my parents and my local church, Scouting taught me almost everything I learned as a young man about honor, virtue and leadership. To this day, I can recite from memory the Scout Oath and the Scout Law. I became an Eagle Scout on April 7, 1994.
Now in my mid-30s, I have continued to appreciate the Scouts and have looked forward to the day when my own sons are old enough to become Tiger Cubs. As our nation has changed over the years, in many ways for the worse, Scouting has remained a beacon pointing to a better way. The BSA is one of the few non-sectarian mediating institutions in our society that instills traditional morality, promotes reverence toward God, champions an integrity-driven understanding of character development, and cultivates an honorable patriotism. Scouting has always been a decisively conservative organization, in the best sense of that term, emphasizing abiding principles over passing trends.
In recent weeks, I have been troubled by the news that you are proposing lifting the membership restriction on open homosexuals. This after many years of arguing, I think correctly, that the homosexual lifestyle is inconsistent with the Scout Oath and Scout Law, particularly the admonition for Scouts to be "morally straight" and "clean" in their thoughts and actions. As recently as last summer, you concluded that the present membership policy is adequate. I quite agree. So it was with a heavy heart that I learned you have reversed course and are now seeking to revise your policy. While your new proposal does not lift the ban on homosexuals serving in leadership, many observers perceive it would render that further change all but inevitable. Now that you have proposed this particular accommodation to political correctness, it will become increasingly difficult for you to justify your present leadership policy; the latter is self-evidently inconsistent with the new course you are charting.
I think I understand why you are considering reversing your longstanding membership policy concerning homosexuality. It is probably tempting for you to try and avoid receiving the same treatment that Chic-fil-A received last year from many cultural progressives, including the mainstream media. If you maintain your current membership policy, you will no doubt be criticized by those who disdain the values you promote. You may also want to avoid the accusation that you are on the "wrong side" of history. There is little doubt that homosexuality has become far more acceptable in American culture than it was when you first began receiving criticism on this issue in the 1980s and 1990s. In the past generation, LGBT activists have been very successful in "mainstreaming" their views in the public square, despite the fact that they likely comprise only about four percent of the American population. The evidence is all around us.
Homosexuality is now prevalent in movies and television programs, and homosexuals are often portrayed as the most humorous, virtuous or winsome characters. Young adults seem to be far more willing to affirm the acceptability of homosexuality than their parents, a trend that is confirmed by polls concerning attitudes toward so-called gay marriage. Several states have legalized gay marriage over the past decade, and the current president of the United States has become a public cheerleader for the cause as his public views have "evolved" on the matter. In recent weeks, the Supreme Court has concluded a couple of days hearing oral arguments on two cases that could go a long way toward determining the future of marriage in this country. As you probably know, virtually anyone who views the increasing normalization of homosexuality as anything except progress is immediately castigated as homophobic or bigoted by LGBT activists, leftwing bloggers, and even many voices among the mainstream media.
While homosexuality has become increasingly acceptable since the sexual revolution of the 1960s, the case can be made it remains irreconcilable with the Scout Oath and Scout Law. As philosophers such as J. Budziszewski and Robert George have argued, homosexuality is inherently incompatible with natural procreation, undermines monogamous marriage (traditionally defined), and opens the door for more universally condemned forms of sexuality such as pedophilia, bestiality and necrophilia. Ryan Anderson has more recently argued for some of the unintended consequences of redefining marriage to allow for same-sex marriage. And, of course, tens of millions of Americans object to homosexuality for religious reasons. While all Americans are free to embrace some form of LGBT sexuality if they so desire, private organizations such as the BSA should be free to expect members and especially leaders to affirm traditional sexuality.
Though pressure will no doubt continue to come from the broader culture, I want to urge you to stay the course and maintain your present membership policy. Do not be afraid to swim upstream and take a stand for moral positions that are rooted in the natural law and the sacred texts of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Press on, continuing to promote the older virtues that have been redefined, rejected or simply ignored by so many modern Americans. Though taking this principled stand will almost certainly open you up to further criticism, and it might even negatively impact your membership statistics, at least in the near future, I believe standing firm is the best "good turn" that the BSA can do for our nation today and in the coming days. As you rightly note in your elaboration of the Scout Law's call to bravery, "A Scout ... has the courage to stand for what he thinks is right even if others laugh at or threaten him." May it be said of you.
Please know that this Eagle Scout will be praying for you in these coming weeks as you prepare to vote on your membership proposal. I will pray you do the right thing and rescind your new proposal. Should you choose to move forward with this vote, I will pray the National Council rejects this unfortunate change in your membership policies.
Thanks for considering this open letter from an Eagle Scout. I remain hopeful that the Boy Scouts of America will continue to be the type of organization that will shape young boys to become men of honor and integrity -- including, I hope, my own sons one day.
Nathan A. Finn
Eagle Scout class of 1994
This column first appeared at the The Imaginative Conservative website (www.TheImaginativeConservative.org). Nathan Finn is associate professor of historical theology and Baptist studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.