Archives For Boys Scouts

LUXEMBOURG ? Boy Scouts from Troop 69 Kaiserslautern, Germany, salute as the Star-Spangled Banner is played during a Veterans Da

In 2005, Matthew Fox, a disaffected Dominican, posted his own, new 95 Theses on the church door in Wittenburg, Germany- the same door Martin Luther famously nailed 95 Theses of his own, an act of defiance against Mother Church which supposedly ignited the Protestant Reformation.

Casting himself in Luther’s role (talk about self-important ego), Fox declared that it was time for ‘a New Reformation.’

And then with his theses in the church door and the media’s eye upon him…

Nothing happened. 

In fact, unless you have a remarkable memory for minor, two-bit media stories, the only Matthew Fox you’ve ever heard of is the dude who played Jack, the hero in Lost.

This is my point. Christians, Protestants at least, imagine the Protestant Reformation happened in a vacuum. We have an Idealist assumption that Great Men and/or Great Ideas change the tide of history. And so, Luther, armed with hammer, nail and his individual conscience made the world something it would not have been without him.

But, as anyone who didn’t sleep through every minute of AP European History in high school knows, that just isn’t the case. The Protestant story was but one component of a much larger cultural shift.

The Reformation wasn’t sparked by Luther’s 95 Theses; Luther’s Theses were a product of the cultural phenomenon of reformation.

During this same period, Western Europe experienced massive political change as it transitioned from feudalism to nation-states. That shift was occasioned by the rise of a new economic system, mercantilism, which was made possible by vastly more efficient means of travel. The period we call ‘the Reformation’ with our in-house church lingo was actually the first Information Age, sparked by the advent of the printing press. What was happening in the church was only a small part of what was happening culturally.

Rather than Luther changing the tide of history, as Protestants like to imagine, Luther was swept up by the tide of history, taking the shifts and discoveries of the culture and applying them to his religious context. 

What’s this have to do with Emergence Christianity? Or the Boys Scouts’ policy on homosexuality?

Last week, in response to a post I wrote about the Boy Scouts’ possible change in policy, in which I noted that the culture is rapidly moving away from the Church and BSA on this issue, a friend pushed back that perhaps the Church should be wary of accommodating to the culture.

I understand that caution. As a post-liberal, I have an affinity for the argument that the Church should be a distinct, alternative to the culture. And yet, I think that profoundly misunderstands (or at least misstates) how culture functions.

Culture isn’t an ‘other’ to which the Church or Christians can determine to be set apart from or independent of. It doesn’t work that way, even if we wish it did. As James Davidson Hunter puts it, culture is a thick web of structures and networks that shape all of us. It’s unavoidable. You can’t retreat from culture or out of culture; you can only contribute more culture.

So, when it comes to issues like the BSA’s looming decision, we can talk about how the Church should be an alternative to the culture and not accommodate changing trends but to do so is to live in a fantasy world. ‘Church’ isn’t an institution. It’s a movement of people and, like it or not, those people have been shaped as much- if not more- by the culture of Will and Grace as they have been by the culture of traditional (whatever that really is in the end) Christianity.

We can’t pretend to be independent of and an alternative to culture. We can only contribute more culture (Christian culture) and choose the spots, topics, issues and idols from which we call people to repentance. And, as I mentioned in a previous post, I personally don’t see homosexuality as the most urgent Kingdom witness Christians can offer our culture.

And that brings me to Emergence Christianity.

In case you’ve been living in a cave (or just aren’t a pastor or youth director) Emergence Christianity names a movement/trend/shift in the traditional Church as it reacts to postmodernity. As with the seismic cultural shift that marked the Reformation, Emergence Christians see postmodernity as an analogous paradigm shift that’s only just begun and will be long-lasting.

In mainline seminaries all across the country, in typical late-to-the-party fashion professors are breathlessly trying to inculcate future pastors in the “techniques” and “aesthetic sensibilities” of Emergence. But rendering Emergence Christianity into a technique that can be taught, I think is a mistake akin to crediting Luther the author of what we call the Reformation.

The real offering Emergence Christianity has made the larger Church isn’t in techniques, aesthetics, fads or rebellious counter-theology.

It’s in their recognition that the Church finds herself in a new cultural situation. As was so with Luther, our challenge is to determine how best to incarnate the Gospel in our time and place.

LUXEMBOURG ? Boy Scouts from Troop 69 Kaiserslautern, Germany, salute as the Star-Spangled Banner is played during a Veterans Da

The husband of a friend recently asked me these questions in response to my post about the Boy Scout’s possibly changing their policy on gay leaders. Here are his questions, abridged, and then my reply. I thought they were questions others might have too so I decided I’d open up my thoughts to everyone.

“So if the Boy Scouts of America (which includes many youth and adult females too) were to allow “… chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting” to “accept membership and select leaders consistent with each organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs” would you:

  1. Register your sons in Scouting (if not why not)?

If the BSA changed their position and that was adopted locally, I wouldn’t disallow their participation in scouts. We’d consider it if they expressed an interest. On a simple parenting level, they probably don’t have time in their schedules to do another activity with the swimming they do.
2) Not only accept, but advocate for Scouting, since it’s mission “to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath(a) and Law(b).” If you find it so abhorrent that BSA does not presently allow openly homosexual members such that you won’t allow your children or yourself to associate with them, don’t you find that you are living in personal conflict since the United Methodist Church also does not permit homosexual leaders (The UMC officially will not ordain self-avowed practicing homosexuals, nor does it condone same sex marriages. Ref: The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church – 2012)? I find it odd that you won’t associate with one group, but are a leader in another group with similar stance. 

I guess I should’ve been more clear in my original post, in which I tried to make the distinction between homosexuality as theological category and a political category. Issues of gay marriage and ordination are different matters to me because they’re in-house Christian issues for the Church in how we interpret scripture. Excluding gay people from an extracurricular activity isn’t a religious question, it’s a matter of discrimination in my view. It’s true that the UMC does not ordain gay Christians nor does it perform same sex marriage. However, the Book of Discipline also stipulates:

“all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God,” and that United Methodists are to be “welcoming, forgiving and loving one another, as Christ has loved and accepted us.” The Book of Discipline also condemns homophobia and heterosexism, saying the church opposes “all forms of violence or discrimination based on gender, gender identity, sexual practice or sexual orientation.”

Again, my own view, which I think is reflected in the Discipline is that homosexuality may preclude people from certain theological status in the Church but that it should not warrant discrimination. For example, our previous bishop broke bad on a pastor who had refused to accept a gay Christian into church membership.

My own view, as I said, is in flux on the question of marriage. I think the Church has the right to define marriage in a way distinct from the country or culture. However, I personally believe gay Christians should be allowed to seek ordination. I have a theological problem with the Church baptizing people into the ministry of Christ but not allowing them access to all forms that ministry takes. I also have many classmates from seminary and friends who had a legitimate call and obvious gifts for ministry but were not able to pursue what I believe God had called them to do.

3. Knowing the UMC’s position on homosexuality, how would you advocate regarding the acceptance of homosexuals in the Scout unit that Aldersgate charters and is legally the “owner of?”

Well, that’s not really my decision to make. Or rather it’s a decision that would be shared with the lay leadership of the church but I would be honest- as I have been in this venue- about my own view. Incidentally, I got an enormous amount of emails about the original post and only one of them was to express disagreement with the post. When it comes to this issue, the demographics are moving much faster than the Church or the BSA.

 

LUXEMBOURG ? Boy Scouts from Troop 69 Kaiserslautern, Germany, salute as the Star-Spangled Banner is played during a Veterans DaI saw this headline in my inbox today.

I’m sure someone will ask what I think about this, and I’m sure someone else, assuming I agree with them, will complain about the possibility of gay scout leaders or gay scouts (News Flash:  there have already been plenty of both, I personally know that for a fact).

Just to be up front, I was a Cub Scout for about 3 weeks. Not having a Dad in my life, my pinewood derby car was basically a log with tacky paint and wheels that wouldn’t roll. Everyone else’s cars (I’m sure it’s still the same today) were obviously made by their Bob Villa fathers. They were awesome, and I was shamed and angry and never went back.

So I’ve never been a scout, but I’ve known people for whom the scouts did wonderful things and I hope that continues.

Back to the question (and if my answer bothers you and makes you think I’m some over the top liberal, please go back and reread it again because I’m not).

If the headline turns out to be true, I think it’s a good thing. In fact, I’ve had a big problem in the past with the scouts excluding gay people- often on the nasty, inaccurate insinuation that all gay people are pedophiles. I’ve always been bothered that my denomination, by sponsoring scout troops, has condoned- or at least never challenged- what I think is discrimination, and this policy has been the primary reason my wife and I won’t allow my own children to join the scouts- to be fair, my wife, whose character is 100% better than mine, has made sure we didn’t buckle.

It’s not that the scouts wouldn’t be good for them; it’s that opting my kids out is the only means we have to express our family’s disapproval.

Back to the ‘I’m not a liberal’ point.

We’re talking about the scouts. We’re not talking about church, marriage, ordination, scripture or theology.

The scouts (despite what some presume) are not a Christian or even religious organization. Just as it seems ludicrous and discriminatory that a gay man or woman would be excluded from coaching my sons’ swim team, it seems prejudicial to exclude them from leading a scout troop, den, pack or what have you. I mean, why don’t we just make them drink from separate water fountains too?

Sincere, faithful people can argue about what the bible teaches about homosexuality.

Sincere and faithful people can debate what should constitute Christian marriage.

And every church tradition must sort out its understanding of calling and ordination. I get that, and my own position is always in flux as I listen to friends on both sides. 

But the scouts is a different issue entirely.

For me, it comes down to two questions:

Are all gay people predators from whom we must protect our children? Only a monster who knows only a caricature of ‘gay people’ would argue in the affirmative.

Can children learn from gay people as mentors, leaders, and role models in their lives? Since I have myself benefited from the wisdom and friendship of such people, my conscience requires me to answer yes.

And back to my experience as a Cub Scout. This was me: misfit kid with a gossiped about Dad from an unconventional family who slipped through the cracks of the scout masters’ attention and concern. I’ve got to wonder. Had the ban been lifted decades ago might there have been a leader who also knew what it was like to be a misfit, gossiped about, or from an unconventional family? And might he or she have noticed me?