I joined the Boy Scouts when I was 11 years old. My mom let me walk across the alley to my Scoutmaster’s house. I recited the oath and the Scout Law, tied a few knots, and just like that I was a Tenderfoot.
I was a Scout for several years, learned a lot, had fun and made it all the way to the Life rank. I didn’t make Eagle because, like many guys, I got too busy.
But I remember the oath.
“On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country, to obey the Scout law, to help other people at all times, to keep myself physically strong, mentally alert, and morally straight.”
The Scout Law, which we also recited at every meeting, states that a Scout is “trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.”
I know the world is very different now. At 11, I knew nothing about sex and couldn’t have cared less. Pretty girls made me blush.
“Gay” still meant happy.
That word has a different meaning today. But words like honor, duty, loyalty and reverence have not changed – and I don’t think 11-year-olds have changed that much, either.
I think 11-year-olds still need to hear those words.
The current brouhaha about the Boy Scouts of America being an organization that bans gay people is disingenious: it’s a children’s organization. Certainly young men mature while they’re in Scouts. But the idea of a gay 11-year-old being banned from the Scouts is as ridiculous as … the idea of a gay 11-year-old.
This may be news to some Americans, but sex, of any variety, is not OK when you’re 11 years old.
As hormones arrive, boys’ interest in sex skyrockets, and I’m aware that many teenagers become sexually active during those years.
But that doesn’t mean it’s OK. God’s law, which is the basis of Scout law, calls upon us to wait until we get married to have sex.
As far as I can tell, that applies equally to everyone – gay, straight, bisexual, asexual, white, black, brown, green, from Texas, New Jersey or Nevada.
The Boy Scouts of America reinforces those values, and the people who let their kids join the Scouts usually support those values.
Let grownups debate the gay issue all they want, but let’s stop using the kids as a weapon.
I may have had a gay Scoutmaster. Back then, who knew? There were several boys in our troop who I’m pretty sure grew up to live that lifestyle. Were they already gay then? I don’t know – they were kids.
They weren’t there to explore their sexuality; they were there to explore the woods, learn about plants and birds and squirrels and geode rocks. They were there to learn how to make a fire with flint and steel, how to pitch a tent and pack a backpack and cook over a campfire.
I have no problem if a gay man wants to be a Scoutmaster, as long as he keeps his sexuality to himself – exactly what I expect from a heterosexual Scoutmaster, by the way. Any departure from that is not only improper – it’s a felony.
And just for the record, as a Christian, my faith calls upon me to love everyone, including gay people.
God’s love is unconditional – but that does not mean he doesn’t still set standards. God’s standard for our sexual behavior could not be more clear.
Marriage, as ordained by God, is one man, one woman, for life. Sex outside of that is sin – always has been, always will be. The United States of America didn’t make that law and cannot change it.
That’s not about “how you are” – it’s about what you do. Everyone is responsible for their behavior, whatever impulses they may be called upon to restrain.
A “Christian culture” can be an incubator for the worst forms of hypocrisy, and none of us is in a position to throw any stones. We’re all sinners.
Nevertheless, there was a time when having Christian moral standards put a person in the mainstream of American culture.
That time is gone.
The debate in America isn’t really about the Boy Scouts. It’s about whether Christians should change their standards, fight harder to change the culture, or give up. I see Christians doing all of the above right now.
Obviously, I’m still trying to change the culture. But I’m aware that following Jesus, over the past 2,000 years, has and still does put many of my brothers and sisters outside the mainstream.
American Christians are in the process of joining them.
If the faith you profess is real, and the values you advocate are eternal and unchanging, you hold onto them anyway – no matter what your culture does.
The USA used to be a place where Scouts could be Scouts and Christians could be Christians. I hope and pray it remains so.
If it doesn’t, we all have some choices to make.
Bob Buckel is executive editor of the Wise County Messenger.