Terrified by the prospect that a gay 14-year-old might walk through their doors and ask to be treated like any other child of God, megachurches in Marietta and East Cobb have announced that they are ending their sponsorship of Boy Scout troops. Other, smaller churches may be doing likewise with less public notice.
Of course, they have every right to make such decisions. But as a parent and as someone who spent much of his boyhood in Scouting, I have to wonder about the conversations that must be taking place in the families affected by those decisions.
How do mothers and fathers sit down with their sons and explain that their Scout troop is being disbanded by adults over this issue? How do you tell your child that there will be no more jamborees or merit badges or troop camping trips because, well, there might be a gay child or two involved and that can’t be risked?
The boys who hear such explanations will have little choice at the time but to accept it. However, I suspect that for many it will encourage the notion already festering in their rebellious little heads that gee, sometimes grownups really don’t know what they’re talking about. Sometimes, they can really screw things up.
As they mature, those boys will go to schools and colleges in which discrimination against gays is socially unacceptable. Upon adulthood, they will enter workplaces where anti-gay rhetoric and job discrimination are not just frowned upon, but are grounds for outright dismissal. They will move in social circles in which gay friends and their partners are simply part of the landscape. And most of them — even those raised in conservative families and churches — will find none of this remarkable, because this is already the world in which they have grown up.
And I’m willing to bet that as adults, they will look back in embarrassment and wonder at the adults and institutions that tried to teach them otherwise, that tried to protect them from a “threat” that in reality is no threat at all. After all, the notion that gay boys haven’t been part of Scouting through its century of service in this country is ridiculous. The recent decision not to expel those who acknowledge their sexual orientation simply means that they can participate openly, rather than furtively.
I’m a big fan of Scouting. It taught me a love for and understanding of the outdoors, a sense of both leadership and membership, the necessity of self-reliance and also the importance of acceptance. The experience of others may have been different, but in the two troops in which I participated, boys of various races, economic classes and understandings interacted under the Scouting umbrella in ways that simply did not happen in school or other activities. You learned things about each other and about yourself that would have gone unnoticed in most other circumstances.
However, the most profound gift I received from Scouting was the notion that you always leave the campsite better than you found it. Naive as I was, I had no idea that as our Scoutmasters drilled that into our heads, we were actually internalizing a philosophy that would stand each of us in good stead in every aspect of our adult lives.
The decision to open the organization to gay boys was a tough one for those in Scouting leadership, and the divisions it has created are deeply regrettable. I hope they heal in time. But by taking it on, those leaders have left the campsite better than they found it, and in time I trust they will make it better still.
A Lawrenceville pastor wants his congregation to know the good news about the Gospel of Mark. Dean Sweetman, senior pastor of the C3 Church, has challenged his members and anyone else interested to read the New Testament book in its entirety over the next year and post Instagram photos of their notes.