Stand up, Stand up for Symbolism

The Scout Monument in Washington, DC. depicts a scout with two adults and symbolizes “American Manhood and Womanhood and the ideals they will pass onto the youth.”

I had the privilege of hearing the Rev. Fred Luter preach last weekend. Rev. Luter is the current head of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and was a guest speaker at the Gridiron Men’s Conference in Birmingham.  In his sermon, he told of a time when he was seeking to get men to attend church and hosted a pay-per-view boxing event at his home for men in his community. He told how men arrived at his home with beer flowing and swear words flying and he told how they all got invited to church the next Sunday.

That’s Grace with a capital “G.” God meets people where they are. He doesn’t ask you to change and then come to church. John 1:14 tells us that “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” In The Message translation, it says He moved into the neighborhood. I’m not normally a fan of that translation, but I like that line. God does come to you while you are in sin and lifts you up with the same Grace he shows to us all.

This week, Rev. Luter presided as the SBC voted to sever ties with the Boy Scouts for allowing openly gay members to participate in scouting. In the resolution, approved in the annual meeting in Houston, it said “RESOLVED, That we encourage churches that choose to sever ties with the Boy Scouts not to abandon their ministry to boys but consider expanding their Royal Ambassadors ministry, a distinctively Southern Baptist missions organization to develop godly young men.”

I am not surprised that the SBC made the decision. I was baptized in the denomination and spent the vast majority of my life in its congregations. Homosexuality is a sin and, like all other sins, cannot be endorsed by a church. However, I am a little torn on this decision because I see this as a missed opportunity for evangelism. That concerns me and I wonder if Rev. Luter feels the same way? When a guest yelled an expletive at his home during the viewing of the boxing match, he didn’t throw him out, he embraced him. In his words, “sinners sin.”

The starting age for Boy Scouts is 10. I have never seen an actively gay 10-year-old. In the context of “sinners sinning,” the stance against actively gay scouts at that age is a straw man argument. The SBC, in actuality, is taking a stand against the principles of the scouting organization that caved to social pressure. They are calling for reform in the organization and, as long time supporters of scouting, they should express their opinions. I understand it, but I wonder if Grace was the proper prescription. It usually is.

Jesus said “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17). In the resolution, the SBC also stated “RESOLVED, That we declare our love in Christ for all young people regardless of their perceived sexual orientation, praying that God will bring all youth into a saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The key word here is “perceived.” There are no openly, actively gay 10-year-olds out there. Are they afraid that these hypothetically gay children are going to turn a scout jamboree into Big Gay Al’s Big Gay Boat Ride?

In defense of the SBC, my Libertarian ideal supports the concept of free association. Baptist churches, or any denomination, should not feel compelled to play host to any organization that goes against their values. They are right to take a stand on principle. However, since the early 20th century, the scouts have allowed members from other religions. Indeed, there are Muslim scouts, Hindu scouts, Buddhist scouts, Jewish scouts and pantheistic scouts. The scout oath requires the member to declare a belief in a “supreme being,” but many Buddhists do not even do that. Are hypothetically gay 10-year-olds somehow less Christian than non-Christians? Everyone needs Jesus. While I agree with the statement in the resolution praying that God will bring all children into knowledge of Him, I wonder how we can be the hands and feet of God while closing the door on a ministry opportunity.

Other denominations will likely see a chance to be a real witness for Christ and ignore the straw man argument against the “perceived” orientation of impressionable children. The position of the SBC is a stance against an organization that caved to social pressure. It’s not a stance I believe they take lightly and it is not an attack on children. It makes me wonder if the scouts, as an organization, are still relevant in our society. Will parents continue to embrace scouting?

In the debate of nature versus nurture, it is argued that environment is a factor in the embrace of a gay lifestyle. So, if Christians believe that boys choose to be gay because of weak male role models and bad parenting decisions, isn’t in hypocritical to refuse to provide a positive environment? Then again, hypocrisy is nothing new either. We live in a society that expects us to make bad decisions and that is the bigger problem we face.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14

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