More thoughts on the Boy Scouts decision and where we go from here

Yesterday, I posted my initial thoughts on BSA’s decision to allow openly homosexual scouts. The feedback I received fell basically into two groups. One group was supportive of our decision not to continue in scouts. The other group said something along the lines of, “Would your church kick out people who struggle with homosexuality or same-sex attraction?” or “Since people in churches struggle with all types of sins, will you pull your family out of church too?”

I appreciate the sentiment behind the questions, but I think there is a considerable misunderstanding of why our family (and many others) will not be part of BSA anymore. This is not a question of whether there are scouts who struggle with same-sex attraction. I’m sure there are now and have always been people in scouting who struggle in that way. The policy change by BSA says that being openly homosexual is not inconsistent with being “morally straight.”

A number of people have pointed out that the BSA decision maintains that no scout, regardless of orientation, should be participating in any sexual activities. Therefore, the policy change just means that boys who admit to struggling with same-sex attraction will not be kicked out of scouting. This understanding of the policy change is what leads to the types of questions above.

However, I don’t believe that this is the best understanding of the new BSA policy. A person can be openly homosexual without having sex. A boy who dates girls, or expresses his desire to date girls, is openly heterosexual. A boy who dates boys, or expresses his desire to date boys, is openly homosexual. The result of the change in the BSA policy is that being openly homosexual is now acceptable, and packs and troops cannot refuse membership to any boy because of his sexual preference.

So, to answer the questions: no, I would not want my church to kick out those who struggle with same-sex attraction, anymore than I’d want to be kicked out for my own struggles with sin (controlling my tongue, anger, worry, etc.). No, I would not pull my family out of church because there are sinners struggling with same-sex attraction. All sinners saved by grace will continue to struggle against his or her sins until the day Christ returns or calls us home.

I would, however, expect my church to say that being openly homosexual is sin and not consistent with Christian behavior. This would also be the case with adultery, lying, stealing, and a whole host of other sins laid out in Scripture. I would expect my church to call all sinners to repentance. And, if my church changed its stance and declared homosexuality to be acceptable behavior and not sin, then, yes, I would leave that church.

The BSA decision is not about allowing struggling sinners to remain in the organization. It is about acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle as merely another way of living, and it is a capitulation to the spirit of this age. We are called to stand firm in the face of adversity. I believe that the best way to do that in this case is to leave BSA and move on to something else.

Along those lines, there is one new alternative that I’m particularly interested in. Several years ago, a group formed as an alternative to Girl Scouts. American Heritage Girls is a Christian organization and was, until the recent BSA decision, the official sister organization to the Boy Scouts. They are in the process of putting together a boys group as an alternative to Boy Scouts. You can find information about the new group here:

Faith Based Boys is a leadership and character development program serving boys 5-18 years old. The name of this new organization, its logo, along with its program elements will be developed by a coalition of interested parents and stakeholders who believe that a Christ centered, skills based opportunity is necessary for young men “to be raised in the way they should go”. This coalition, with assistance from American Heritage Girls, is working to provide an interdenominational program that will be available across the nation. It is set to launch in Fall 2013.

The website has feedback forms to fill out for parents, leaders, churches, and interested individuals. I’m pleased to see that they hope to launch by this fall.

5 thoughts on “More thoughts on the Boy Scouts decision and where we go from here

  1. Eric says:

    Rachel,

    Thank you for your post, so far (though I haven’t read everything on this subject) your post gets closer than anyone at distinguishing between a particular desire, and the moral approval/promotion of a behavior for oneself or for others.

    However, I still think your language is off-putting to a Christian who desires romance/sex with those of the same gender, but who submits those desires to the clear teaching of Scripture that such behaviors do not honor God.

    You say, “A boy who dates boys, or expresses his desire to date boys, is openly homosexual.” There we have your definition of what it means to be “openly homosexual.”

    Later you say, “I would, however, expect my church to say that being openly homosexual is sin and not consistent with Christian behavior.”

    The problem is that because your definition of “openly homosexual” includes “expressing desire to date [people of the same sex],” your statement of expectation that your church would say that “being openly homosexual is sin” equates to wanting your church to say that the desire is sin, which I firmly believe it is not.

    In my flesh I have a desire that the two sisters that live across the street would walk over and tell me that nothing would make them happier than for me to come over and “entertain” them for the evening. But I follow Christ, and would never (I pray) do such a thing. But such things are my desire–likely a result of years of unrepentant patronage of online pornography. (Though of course in another sense, they are entirely NOT my desire. Thank God for Romans 7 to help us figure these things out!)

    Do you see what I’m getting at? In your language I would be labeled an “open adulterer,” because your language includes having the desire. And I assume you would want your pastor to say “being an open adulterer is sin.” But if this is true what I would hear from your pulpit is that I will always be displeasing God so long as I have any desire whatsoever to commit adultery.

    This is what my many “openly homosexual” Christian friends/students tell me they hear when most conservative Christians speak about homosexuality. By openly homosexual I mean they will openly confess whenever asked that they are sexually/romantically attracted to people of the same sex AND they have vowed not to act on those desires because they believe the Lord forbids it.

    All in all I am simply asking you to go a step further in distinguishing desire from behavior, particularly in how we label people, and what kinds of things we attach the phrase “-is a sin” to. This is why I refuse to say “homosexuality is a sin.” It’s not because I’m a liberal, but rather because “homosexuality” is such a loose and ambiguous term.

    In the end I want to thank you for your post, it’s one of the better/clearer I’ve seen. It’s only because you’re “so close” (forgive that sounding condescending–it is not meant at all) that I’ve taken the time to comment.

    Jealous for your thoughts,

    • Rachel Miller says:

      Eric~ thank you for your comments. Let me first clarify what I meant when I said someone “expresses a desire to date.” What I meant was someone who, given the opportunity, will date boys. They might not currently be dating, but they intend to. Again, I’m not talking about those who struggle with their indwelling sin. Those you describe who confess same-sex attraction, but would never act upon it, are not what I was talking about. We all sin in myriad ways, and all of our sins, as believers, are covered by Christ’s blood.

      Second, I do believe that our desires can be, and all too often are, sin. I don’t believe that we can say that only our actions are sinful. In Matthew 5, Jesus addressed that very issue:

      “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.- Matthew 5:27-28 (ESV)

      So the lust or desire in my heart is sin. Given that we all sin, and it would be a rare person who has never lusted, I don’t believe that a lust for someone of the same sex is more sinful than a lust for someone of the opposite sex. Both are sin. Both should not be acted upon. Both should be struggled against. And both can be forgiven.

      So to answer your question, according to Jesus in Matthew 5, yes, it is adultery to want the girls across the street to invite you to entertain them. These are not my definitions, but Scriptures.

      This is also covered well with the Westminster Larger Catechism:

      Question 138: What are the duties required in the seventh commandment?

      Answer: The duties required in the seventh commandment are, chastity in body, mind, affections, words, and behavior; and the preservation of it in ourselves and others; watchfulness over the eyes and all the senses; temperance, keeping of chaste company, modesty in apparel; marriage by those that have not the gift of continency, conjugal love, and cohabitation; diligent labor in our callings; shunning all occasions of uncleanness, and resisting temptations thereunto.

      Question 139: What are the sins forbidden in the seventh commandment?

      Answer: The sins forbidden in the seventh commandment, besides the neglect of the duties required, are, adultery, fornication, rape, incest, sodomy, and all unnatural lusts; all unclean imaginations, thoughts, purposes, and affections;all corrupt or filthy communications, or listening thereunto; wanton looks, impudent or light behavior, immodest apparel; prohibiting of lawful, and dispensing with unlawful marriages; allowing, tolerating, keeping of stews, and resorting to them; entangling vows of single life, undue delay of marriage; having more wives or husbands than one at the same time; unjust divorce, or desertion; idleness, gluttony, drunkenness, unchaste company; lascivious songs, books, pictures, dancings, stage plays; and all other provocations to, or acts of uncleanness, either in ourselves or others.

      So yes, I do believe that homosexual desires are sinful, just as many heterosexual desires are. I also believe that anger, fear, worry, doubt, anxiety, and many others can be sin even if no one ever knows you struggle with it.

      Scripture says that the heart is deceitful above all things. Our hearts are full of sin, and by God’s grace, we are forgiven.

      • Eric Gambardella says:

        Thank you for your response. In short I agree with nearly every word in your gracious response.

        I suppose the next (hopefully last?) step is then to distinguish between two different types of desires. I would never deny that lust is a sin. But “to lust”–that is to engage in an action of the mind willingly and unrepentingly is different from, say, “to have an appetite for romantic escapades with beautiful women.” Hopefully that makes sense. It is always a sin to covet, but is it always a sin to want?

        Again what my same-sex-attracted Christian friends tell me is that even as “homosexual desire” is called sin, they hear “you’re stuck in sin because you have this desire,” which I don’t believe is true. If there is a distinction between acting lustfully in one’s mind heterosexually, and simply having a desire for intimacy with someone of the opposite sex, mustn’t we also distinguish this for homosexual attractions?

        All that said, in your second to last paragraph you say “I do believe that homosexual desires are sinful,” which I would not say. At least not without distinguishing between “active desire”–like lust, which must be rebuked, and it’s non-sinning cousin which we might think of like an “appetite.”

        All in all–and I should have made this more explicitly clear in my first response–I don’t really think we have much (if any) philosophical/theological disagreement. My comments are purely semantics. Some would say petty semantics aren’t worth this much time and effort. My wounded and grieving Christian friends/students who have “appetites” for the same sex would disagree.

        Yours,

  2. Samuel says:

    Just curious — does it bother you that the Boy Scouts have admitted Latter Day Saints, Jehvoah’s Witnesses, Muslims, Jews (non-trinitarian), and a whole slew of other idolators into membership?

    • Rachel Miller says:

      Not as much. Each troop or pack is able to restrict membership by faith. This is probably why the Mormons are not too worried about the decision. You have to be Mormon to be in a Mormon troop.

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