On Monday, I got a comment at the blog site asking “what do we do if the resolution to change membership qualifications passes?”
My initial response was “I’m not able to answer for everyone else, just me and my family” and that I’m not qualified to answer for anyone else.
However, I thought more about it during the day as I got my “day job” activities completed. I realized that was a little bit of what we might call a “cop-out” response.
Where to start?
There is so much “background noise” today — the media, activists and people who are naturally passionate tend to distort the facts by using specially charged and emotional words to paint a picture in our mind’s eye. Some do this without planning to manipulate, but others are very crafty and downright deceitful.
Look at what Paul wrote to Timothy:
(2 Tim 3:8-16 — NKJV) But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
So, if you hear something or want to say something, check it against scriptures.
So who is Eliab?
Before “David Versus Goliath”, there was a confrontation between the shepherd boy and his older brother, Eliab. In 1 Samuel 17, we see that Jesse sent his older sons to do battle with the Philistines. David, as the youngest was kept home to tend the animals. In this service, David developed bravery as he had a big responsibility and was challenged to defend the sheep against wild predators.
When Jesse told David to take supplies to his brothers, David was amazed at Goliath’s scornful challenging of King Saul’s collected army of men. David was most amazed that no one was chomping at the bit to go knock down this bully by relying on the might and power of God. In asking the question “why won’t anyone go out to fight”? David angered his older brother Eliab. Was Eliab afraid to fight? Was he embarrassed that David’s reminder that the army’s only power to win ANY battle comes from God and they had doubted/lost their faith footing? Perhaps Eliab was just tired of the relentless, daily scorn being hurled at their army with no response from either the soldiers or Saul.
Indeed, upon hearing that David was ready to go defeat Goliath, even Saul doubted that it was a fair match without equipping David with enormous armor and a sword that he could barely lift let alone swing.
Here’s the difference: David knew in his heart that God is the source of everything that is “good” and valuable — only by trusting Him can we do anything worthwhile. The army and Saul kept sizing up the situation in their own terms — seeing the problem through “earthly eyes” and forgetting all the times God had delivered them (and their ancestors) from all sorts of seemingly impossible situations.
David clung to his faith, the others were afraid to trust for fear of what seemed to be assured failure (Goliath as a warrior was, and would be, impressive by today’s standards and his ability to get inside the “hearts and minds” of Saul and the army through scorn and threats was highly effective.) Fear is a great weapon of our enemy — when he gets us to doubt, we’re effectively buying his lies as though they were truth.
When there’s a lot on the line and the odds are seemingly (or actually) stacked against us, it is time to trust all the more.
We know how the story turns out, but remember the words David used:
David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. Then all this assembly shall know that the Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands.”
So What’s the Point?
The vote about the resolution to change membership standards isn’t until roughly May 23rd. Do we stand by and cower at the threats and bullying? Do we go find smooth stones in the brook and put our whole-hearted trust in God and defeat the enemy?
Are we praying consistently, daily for a victory? Or are we urgently making plans for our next retreat, and the retreat after that one as well? We’ve given ground in a number of areas when do we stop and turn to God and cry out? Are you afraid to cry out to God and have the vote to change the membership pass? Would that prove God isn’t listening or isn’t real or doesn’t care? Of course not!
Our call is found in James 3:7-10 — to submit to God; to resist the devil; to draw near to God; to cleanse our hands; purify our own hearts and be humble (not defeated).
7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.
One pastor called for a boycott of scouting by Christians! This is silly — we’re not called to flee, we’re called to resist (after submitting ourselves to God and cleaning our own house/heart). Boycotting gives ground to the enemy without a fight. It’s like suggesting Eliab and Saul’s strategy should have been a tactical retreat from the Philistines.
If anything, we need Christian fathers and mothers to enroll their children in troops that are faith-based and chartered to partner churches that “own the ministry” and not simply loan space in the basement once a week. Scouting has a rich history of building character in young men through service, self-reliance, embrace of faith and bonding with like-minded individuals. To preserve this program, we must embrace it, pray for it, and stand up to be heard if we have an opinion on membership standards, expressive message about morality, and so on.
That’s all the “other side” has done — stand up and scornfully shouted at us. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but why do we let scornful speech affect us?
But What IF Things DO Change?
This is the inescapable question. I’ve asked others, so what would your church do at it’s co-ed, high school aged, youth group if a friend of a friend started coming to meetings and then announced that they’re (pick one — gay, on drugs, stealing to support themselves, cheating on tests, lying to their parents, has a police record including multiple misdemeanors, etc.) Do you cancel your youth group meetings and fire your youth pastor? That’s what a lot of Christians are suggesting should happen to boy scout troops at their churches if BSA (National) opens the door for homosexuals to become members of the organization. Hmmmm. Double standard? The youth pastor would probably either A) ask the youth to leave (shock/surprise) or B) get to keep “witnessing” to lead the lost soul to repentance; HOWEVER, the scout unit get’s the proverbial “boot” because a youth with an “unforgivable sin” has shown up at the door.
Regardless of the “youth group” test, I can foresee that if things change, then we pray, listen and move on under God’s leading.
Within our own troop, we have a range of opinions about what next. Some families will separate from scouts on the day that membership standards are changed, and others will hang on until their membership renewal date to see what happens locally. Some would stay involved in scouts until they feel that the curriculum has changed, the oath is meaningless, or they feel bullied to accept teaching that contradicts scripture.
In short, each family has had it’s own response to the situation and that’s not surprising.
I respect their decisions — they have to do what they feel is best for their own situation. After all, I encouraged them to join a program in 2010 whose marketing slogan was “Timeless Values” and now we’re being told (by the very organization that developed that marketing buzz) that it’s time to change those values because of social conformist pressure.
These families also asked me what options or alternatives exist for their sons. As a leader, I feel its my responsibility to be aware of the alternatives so that I can help guide these families to a situation that they’re more comfortable with for their son(s).
I’ve met with the regional director of Christian Service Brigade (CSB) and learned a lot about their program:
- it offers flexibility in its curriculum to accommodate the inclusion of scoutcraft topics,
- there’s a transition path from scouting ranks to CSB ranks of advancement,
- there’s an emphasis on personal responsibility and leadership development (boy led unit)
- there’s an emphasis on scriptural references for ideals and personal growth,
- the program runs a parallel age range to the scouting spectrum,
- they have a robust summer camp experience,
- there are other units in our area which would welcome new members
- it’s easy to start a new unit within a sponsoring church as an extension of their youth programming,
- it encompasses more than just camping, hiking and backpacking — enabling boys to pursue all that scouting offers and more.
The people I’ve met online at CSB units are genuine (sincere) and welcoming to scouting families. Their focus is on reaching boys for Christ and it is a blend of outreach (Matthew 24:14) and discipling (Titus 2:6-8). Additionally, they have a men-to-men program to help dads be strong dads, too (Proverbs 27:17). I like that.
I’ve done online research for Royal Rangers and Calvinist Cadet Corp, but they each seem to be representative of specific Christian doctrines that aren’t shared explicitly by my family. These are strong, scout-like youth programs that could offer a great home to other families so I’m not trying to down-play them as alternatives for others who are fine with their doctrinal statements.
So what exactly is going to happen on May 23rd?
There will be a vote on open resolutions. Many argue that they will not pass due to the results of the surveys and listening sessions (arguably a 60-40 split on keeping membership as-is versus changing membership practices). Of course, many also expect that a resolution of some sort will now become an expected part of each annual meeting until such a resolution has enough votes to pass.
Still, this is a fight for our own organization and people have the right and duty to speak up on either side of the argument. Even boy scout’s own critics acknowledge that BSA has the full weight of law on its side to hold an expressive message that homosexuality is inconsistent with the ideals of scouting. Conversely, members of BSA also struggle with exclusionary tactics where the program could benefit a youth by giving them access to an alternative world view and an environment to grow into the man who exemplifies scouting’s ideals. NOTE: it’s not my intent to give full air to the issue in this article, but merely to acknowledge that it’s a sticky, emotional topic for people on both sides of the fence. Additionally, the fight won’t stop at BSA, it will keep going to any organization that has any opinion that differs from the activist’s agenda (that all will consider homosexuality normal and open in all social conventions).
My disappointment in people who grandstand about this issue comes from two sources:
- those who are using the boy scout issue to make political hay and don’t really care about the boys in the program at all (i.e. commentators trying to gain ratings share, activists for activism sake, people grinding axes out of spite instead of caring, etc.) and
- those who won’t stand up to ‘cast their vote’ (or otherwise get involved), but feel empowered to criticize those who do pick their side.
It’s easy to sit on the sidelines and throw rocks (or cower). It’s another thing to take a stand.
Again, I’m reminded of the reaction of the assembled armies of King Saul cowering at Goliath’s insults (threats, not actions) and when the young shepherd’s frustration with the army embarrassed them further. David demonstrated real faith in God to overcome the enemy. Where is our faith? Do we trust God to prevail, or to direct us to where we will go next? Since February, I’ve heard from many Christians who sound defeated already — as though there’s no point in trying to be heard. Has your salt lost it’s saltiness? (Matthew 5:13-16) Are you focused on being “in the middle, not at extremes”? (Revelation 3:15-16)
Remember Gideon’s Valiant 300
Maybe this must be for God to receive glory. Look at Gideon in Judges chapter 7. God told Gideon, you’ve got too many people in your army — a victory could be interpreted that you and your men earned the victory — send some home. 22,000 people went home leaving 10,000 men to fight. God again said, too many! Through a simple test, God showed Gideon who should remain to fight the battle — 300 valiant men of faith. Who amongst us would qualify as valiant in this fight — I fear many have already given up, and indeed, a victory’s glory should belong to God, not man.
Consider King Asa, who faced a million men and 300 chariots (battle tanks of their time). By trusting God fully, his outnumbered army not only won the battle, but chased the enemies all the way to their home country — obliterating their ability to wage further war for years.
2 Chronicles 14:11 (NIV) — Then Asa called to the Lord his God and said, “Lord, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, Lord our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this vast army. Lord, you are our God; do not let mere mortals prevail against you.”
Unfortunately, over time (following that victory) Asa got complacent and started to think ‘he was the man’ who could save his country again (instead of trusting God). Asa had a minor victory by man’s standards, but sacrificed much in the process of turning his back to God. The admonition delivered to Asa included this statement: (2 Chronicles 16:9) “For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” I’m not perfect, but I’m trying hard to be completely His, how about you?
How about Joshua chapter 6 (Jericho)? Are you willing to walk, march and shout? Or would you feel silly and stay at home, ridiculing your friends for taking a stand?
Are we praying for a victory, or are we preparing the retreat? Do we trust God or are we afraid to trust Him in case we’re unhappy with the outcome? Where is your faith, Christian?
I have to admit that I’ve struggled with this situation. I’ve been angry at the leadership of BSA and I’ve been saddened by the prospect that I may need to sacrifice scouting (but would do so to honor God in a heartbeat). That’s honesty. For me there’s two sides to the coin:
- I see the value in helping ALL young men who would benefit from scouting. I don’t think a church would shut down their youth program and fire their youth pastor IF a teen showed up and announced that they’re (fill in the blank with scary sinful behavior).
- I also see the frank directives in the scriptures that acknowledge we’re not perfect, but called to struggle to repent and change from our old ways of living as slaves to sin — empowered to turn towards God in obedience and holiness by His grace and mercy, not empowered to become libertine and wallow in sin, rejoicing that we can debase ourselves continually by His grace. To accept that libertine behavior should be called “morally straight” (unbending from a defined standard) removes all compunction to try to improve our own behavior through God’s grace and mercy. That’s not cool.
We are a handful of days away from the vote. Please take the following steps (as applicable):
- Pray in faith. Trust God to make it work out the way He desires it, and be prepared to thank Him for His faithfulness to us regardless of the outcome (leave it in His hands). You might consider young King Asa’s prayer as a model — “Lord, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, Lord our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this vast army. Lord, you are our God; do not let mere mortals prevail against you.”
- If you’ve never sent a letter to BSA expressing your concern, do so now. Be polite, be clear, keep it to the point, but do it.
- If confronted over the issue by friends/family, be polite but speak the truth (Acts 18:9-10).
Between now and then, scouts should keep working on their advancement, take hikes, and have fun. After the vote, we’ll figure out what comes next.