CULTURE DIGEST: Huckabee weighs another presidential bid; Salvation Army counters LBGT rumors; ...
"When people ask me, 'Are you open to the possibilities?' the honest answer is yes. Does that mean I'm running? I don't honestly know," Huckabee, said on "Fox News Sunday" Dec. 22. "I think there is a lot of time between now and then and, frankly, the Republicans have a strong stable of possible candidates.
"What I'm looking [to do] is to find out whether it's the right thing for me to do, and I'm not ready to make that decision," Huckabee told Chris Wallace. "But I just don't want to tell people, 'Oh, no, I wouldn't open my mind to it' because that would be, frankly, dishonest at this point."
Huckabee, who was a candidate for the Republican nomination for president in 2008, went on to say there is a 50/50 chance he'll run, and while he has other projects to focus on in the meantime, he'll "just keep that option open and make a decision after the 2014 elections."
Huckabee, currently hosting his weekend "Huckabee" show on the Fox network, is a former pastor and president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.
Wallace noted that part of Huckabee's appeal is that he's a "populist who is concerned about reaching out to minorities, to working class folks who don't typically or certainly in the last election didn't vote Republican."
Also during his appearance, Huckabee discussed the controversy surrounding comments made by Phil Robertson of "Duck Dynasty" regarding homosexuality. Huckabee launched a Facebook page called "I Stand with Phil."
"I think it has come to a point in our culture where political correctness has made it so that if you want to take a point of view that is traditional, that holds to steadfast, old-fashioned biblical Christian values, which are also, by the way, values of traditional Judaism and even Islam, that somehow you're supposed to just shut up and keep that to yourself," Huckabee said.
SALVATION ARMY DENIES LGBT DISCRIMINATION -- To dispel rumors, the Salvation Army has developed a page on its website called "Debunking the Myth of LGBT Discrimination," which is leading some to conclude the nation's second-largest charity now approves of homosexual behavior.
The issue, though, may be more nuanced than the gay lobby realizes.
"For years, Facebook posts, forwarded emails and rumors have been leading some people to believe that The Salvation Army does not serve members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community," the website states. "These accusations simply aren't true."
In a report Dec. 23, the San Diego Gay & Lesbian News said the Salvation Army's reputation within the gay community has been "greatly damaged" because of several "half-truths."
"It's sad to say that in this fight for equality the gay community has sometimes not stayed ethical in the fight," SDGLN said, adding that comments by a Salvation Army employee in Australia in 2012 have "turned into a tabloid lie of 2013."
The Salvation Army USA, SDGLN said, removed from its website the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman. "This was after many in the LBGT community called out the organization for stating this on the website," SDGLN said.
On its "debunking the myth" page, the Salvation Army says people who come to them for assistance will be served according to their need, "regardless of race, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation."
The charity, which serves nearly 30 million Americans each year, also "embraces employees of many different faiths and orientations" and provides domestic partner benefits.
"Many people -- including those in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community -- support us with time and financial resources because of a common cause and commitment: To serve people in need," the website states.
Fortune magazine, in a blog post Dec. 20, said the Salvation Army still doesn't permit its clergy to conduct same-sex marriages.
"According to a spokesperson, 'as a Christian church, the Salvation Army holds theological beliefs that direct the actions of our officers and church members. Our beliefs are based on our interpretation of the Bible. As a result, our officers officiate traditional marriage ceremonies between men and women who are in committed relationships,'" Fortune reported.
The Salvation Army's website explains that the charity "is an evangelical part of the universal Christian church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination."
Though the Salvation Army's recent actions could be construed as embracing the homosexual lifestyle, being willing to serve people from the LGBT community does not necessarily equal celebrating their behavior, a view also held by Southern Baptists and numerous other evangelical denominations.
BOY SCOUTS ALTERNATIVE LAUNCHES WITH 500 TROOPS -- Trail Life USA, a new scouting organization that developed as an alternative to Boy Scouts of America, launched Jan. 1 with nearly 500 troops.
"We have a very excited group of churches and Christian organizations that are joining us," Mark Hancock, Trail Life USA's chief operating officer, told Religion News Service. "They're ready to go."
The new organization, created by OnMyHonor.net after the Boy Scouts changed their membership policy to allow homosexuals, has hundreds of volunteers across the country and employs a staff of six, Hancock told RNS.
Trail Life USA's statement of faith and values, which all adult leaders are required to sign, says in a section on purity that "God calls us to lives of holiness, being pure of heart, mind, word and deed. We are to reserve sexual activity for the sanctity of marriage, a lifelong commitment before God between a man and a woman."
"[Our vision is] to become the premier national character development organization for young men which produces godly and responsible husbands, fathers and citizens," said John Stembergeer, chairman of the Trail Life USA board. "Parents are going love the new outdoor adventure program and we are very excited to be part of this next chapter in the history of scouting in America."
The Southern Baptist Convention at its 2013 annual meeting passed a resolution suggesting that a longstanding missions program, Royal Ambassadors, also is an alternative to Boy Scouts. RA immerses boys in fun activities that are age- and gender-appropriate, with curriculum to nurture their mental, social, physical and spiritual development.
At the time, about 3,000 churches in the United States operated RA groups, with some churches operating multiple groups, and RA leaders totaled 6,300. More than 30,000 people subscribe to RA World magazine for RA members, indicating at least that many boys participate in the ministry.
Free sample materials and information to help start an RA group is available from WMU, the SBC missions auxiliary, at wmu.com/getstarted. Subscriptions for RA Leader, RA World and the RA Leader Kit may be ordered from WMU Customer Service (1-800-968-7301) or online at wmustore.com.
Erin Roach is Baptist Press' assistant editor. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).