Ecclesiastes 3:1 “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven.”
Many have argued that at 103 years, Boy Scouts of America has lost its moral compass and has died (or is dying) a death by corrupted conscience. Others argue that at 103 years, BSA has finally decided to embrace social justice in a post-modern, post-Christian world where church membership is graying (as youth fail to return to pews following advanced education) and new baptisms have been trending down, statistically. Either of these groups could be guilty of using an organization as a pawn in a larger rhetorical battle and not really caring about the day-to-day volunteer or the children he or she actually serves.
You see, we volunteers are not the same thing as the National Board or the National Council or even the group of “professional scouters” who earn a living off of increased membership, not the quality of the delivery of the program – as measured in youth’s understanding, acceptance and imitation of the scouting ideals.
We’re the ones left to deal with the aftermath of policy changes – standing before boards of Elders, Trustees or Deacons to explain why we should or should not continue to use the BSA branded curriculum to reach children for Christ through our local churches in our local communities. Further, we’re often the ones caught in the crossfire for whichever choice is settled upon — branded as secularist, uncaring or faithless for staying put with BSA, or religiously bigoted if we adopt a faith-based alternative such as Brigades, Cadets, Rangers or Trail Life, et.al.
All we’re really guilty of is being the ones to step up, volunteer our time (i.e. sacrifice our own family time for the benefit of other families) and deliver program content to benefit the enrolled youth members.
We’re also struggling with two “camps” among our volunteers:
- those who see and define their scout unit (primarily) as an “outreach ministry” to tap the unchurched or under-churched youth who are at an age where the gospel can affect their lives positively and eternally (aka “Salt & Lighters”); or
- those who see and define their unit (primarily) as a “father-son discipleship program” for those families who are already grounded in the gospel and seeking to develop those godly behaviors and leadership qualities for their boys (aka “Holy Huddlers”).
In very broad and overly simplistic terms, one group may be more comfortable continuing with BSA curriculum under BSA’s “Declaration of Religious Principle” and the other may be under pressure from the families or their Charter Organization (CO) to move to a new “Christian-Only” curriculum that is clear on hot topics like definition of marriage or the inappropriate, libertine (unrepentant) lifestyle choices of LBGT communities.
Regardless of the immediate choice made, there are three things that remain clear:
- BSA will continue to move towards liberalizing their membership policies over time (the activist pressure/criticism has not ceased, the lost funding has not been restored, the financial debt continues increase as additional united way chapters and similar sponsors cease their funding of BSA)
- As BSA moves further down this path, more pressure will build within faith-focused troops to determine what’s really acceptable to their leadership and their Charter Organization
- Both the “Salt & Lighters” and the “Holy Huddlers” can be fully satisfied with any youth curriculum that provides an outdoor adventure focus and provides the flexibility to tailor the message being delivered (so as BSA “bends” its morals to conform to societal “norms”, alternative programs will become more appealing to some units who are currently sticking with BSA – especially as early adopters provide reports on the ease of transition and the success of the alternate programs at replacing BSA proficiently)
What does the Bible say to Christian Scouters?
1) We have a duty to our own families and the local community of believer’s children, too:
- We are called to protect the children who are put in our care, to raise them in the word (Dt 4:10, Dt 6:1-9, Dt 11:19, Ps 78:4-6, Ps 127:3-5, Pr 22:6, Eph 6:4, Col. 3:21, Heb 12:9-10).
- We also have a responsibility to counsel youth based on scriptures (Isaiah 1:16-17, 2 Timothy 2:22-26, 2 Timothy 3 and Titus 2:6-8, et.al.) whether the issue is lying, cheating, stealing, extra-marital sex exploration, or substance abuse, et.al. The goal is to help them maintain purity, increase wisdom and stature (Ps 1:1-3, Jeremiah 17:5-8) and therefore, to be prepared for their ultimate vocational calling.
In reality, we can accomplish these goals with almost any youth development program (i.e Trail Life, Rangers, Cadets, Brigade, et.al.).
While BSA has, in the past, provided flexibility to local units to pursue these goals, they’ve stepped across a line by gagging local leaders in their ability to comment and counsel on issues related to homosexual proclivity. Whereas in the past, homosexuality could be viewed as a moral deviation from what is considered by most (but, admittedly, not all) Christians as sinful behavior (along with a long litany of other moral issues), now homosexuality must be treated as acceptable and normal within the context of scouting — superseding Christian beliefs. The BSA has asked (required) Christian troops to change their viewpoint on this issue to accommodate the BSA’s policy for contractual membership in the program. (http://www.scouting.org/filestore/training/membership/pdf/Unit_Implementation_FAQ.pdf)
2) As Scouters, we pledge to help other people at all times. Are we doing that in conjunction with our expressed duty to God, also?
Luke 10 (the account of “Who is my neighbor?” and “the good Samaritan”) gives us a direct command and a lesson. The directive was to love God with all of our heart, soul, strength and mind, then also love our neighbor(s) as ourselves. This was followed by Jesus’ explanation of who our neighbor(s) may be.
A traveler was beaten, robbed and left for dead on the side of the highway. Others passed by on the other side of the road for superficial reasons that seemed important, but the Samaritan stopped and rescued the traveler. The Samaritan did not think so highly of his own station (pride, vanity, assumed holiness and cleanliness) that he was unwilling to act out of genuine love and kindness. The Samaritan didn’t check the credentials of the traveler before acting. The Samaritan didn’t apply a false test of godliness to decide who he could help and who he would shun out of fear what others would say or that the injured traveler’s sins would “rub off on the Samaritan”. So who are we to look at the pink triangle earring in the bleeding traveler’s ear and pass by on the other side of the road?
- How does that equate us to the commandment in Luke 10:37 “Go and do the same”?
- We are clearly commanded to care and get involved in other peoples lives. We are not asked to pre-judge those who are hurt and dying in order to ignore some and care for others whose sins seem less heinous.
- Have we been empowered to unilaterally decide who we don’t want to talk to or serve? Is there scripture that directs us to cut off contact from any group who is eligible to be drawn to God for any righteous purpose?
- The sower in Matthew 13, Mark 4, and Luke 8 isn’t directed towards one group or another — his job is to simply sow — the rest is out of our hands.
- (Consider the Four Chaplains on the USAT Dorchester on that cold February night in 1943 – they didn’t pick and choose who got life jackets, either — http://www.fourchaplains.org/story.html)
Isn’t our calling to help “SAVE” those who are “LOST”, not tell the “UNSAVED” to “GET LOST”?
Have you ever sung the hymn “Rescue the Perishing”?
Rescue the perishing, care for the dying, snatch them in pity from sin and the grave; weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen, tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save.
Though they are slighting him, still he is waiting, waiting the penitent child to receive; plead with them earnestly, plead with them gently; he will forgive if they only believe.
Down in the human heart, crushed by the tempter, feelings lie buried that grace can restore; touched by a loving heart, wakened by kindness, chords that were broken will vibrate once more.
Rescue the perishing, duty demands it; strength for thy labor the Lord will provide; back to the narrow way patiently win them; tell the poor wanderer a Savior has died.
Look at verse two, “though they are slighting him, still he is waiting”. This isn’t scripture, but it is interesting that the hymn writer recognized that the unsaved are unregenerate (stubborn, unsanctified, godless, obstinate, self-willed, unholy, dead in trespasses, et.al.) The unregenerate are utterly unable to reconcile with God until God saves them. So then, do we minister to the unsaved (messy, ugly, stained) or the already saved?
Must attendees of Vacation Bible School, Youth Groups, Sunday Schools, Church services already be in a personal relationship with Jesus as Savior before showing up at the door? Must those who walk into a mission’s kitchen be “saved Christians, leading a repentant life” or is the mission to reach those who don’t already know God, need God and should be rescued if they’re willing to hold onto the lifeline?
It seems a double standard to claim that all scouts must be leading a “saved, repentant life, dedicated to serving our Lord” before becoming members of the BSA, but our other missions (especially global missions like those who dared take the Word of God to cannibals or prison ministries who take the Word to convicted murderers, et.al.) do not have such a requirement.
Some commentators and pastors have said that the membership change is in conflict with a scout’s Duty to God – my Duty to God includes rescuing the perishing. Yes, I don’t like the idea of a gay youth claiming to be “morally straight” — as in unbending from my morals derived from Scripture, but to the unregenerate heart, a slave to sin, that scout is powerless to be morally straight based on Scripture unless he hears, receives and believes the good news of Christ’s substitutionary death and subsequent resurrection. In the past, many units had children of many faith backgrounds participate – not all of them held the Bible as source for their morals. There have been unregenerate scouts before now, too. What’s changed? The political stain of the sin is darker in people’s minds.
3) We have a calling to make the best of our moment here on Earth for there is no lasting good in the things of Earth. Consider Ecclesiastes 3:11-17 (NASB):
He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end. I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one’s lifetime; moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor—it is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will remain forever; there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it, for God has so worked that men should fear Him. That which is has been already and that which will be has already been, for God seeks what has passed by. Furthermore, I have seen under the sun that in the place of justice there is wickedness and in the place of righteousness there is wickedness. I said to myself, “God will judge both the righteous man and the wicked man,” for a time for every matter and for every deed is there.
The world we live in and the experiences we deal with are part of a picture still being drawn. We can rest assured that the world has always been plagued (since the fall) with terrible evils, temptations, lies and threats – and will continue to be that way until the end (and we rejoice to know how the story ends – with God’s complete victory).
So we’re here to do God’s will for the good of those we find surrounding us: our families; churches; neighbors; the poor; the lost; and any strangers we encounter (think of the preceding story of the good Samaritan). How do we accomplish this on day to day terms as Christians and Scouters?
4) While some Christians dispute the sin “status” of sexual impurity or argue that hypocrites allow for some forms of sexual sin, but not others, I see verses like Leviticus 18:22; Leviticus 20:13; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 1 Timothy 1:8–11; et.al. as providing ample clarity that homosexuality, and, indeed, other forms of sexual impurity are sinful. However, I also recognize that those with unregenerate hearts are slaves to sin and don’t fathom the Word since the Holy Spirit does not indwell them. Unsaved people can be slaves to any number of sins, but we still need to reach them (out of compassion) if we truly believe that the penalty for sin is eternal death and condemnation (Matthew 25:41; Rom 6:23; Rev 20:10; Rev 21:8; Rev. 20:15; etc.)
A couple years ago, I met a newly hired employee. I had seen her around the office and my team praised her customer service performance highly. I was surprised when she introduced me to her “partner” at the end of the day several weeks later. I had no clue she was lesbian, and, frankly, in the work place it didn’t matter to me – we’re each paid to be there to accomplish the mission of the employer regardless of the diversity of the employees.
Over time, this young woman began to question my faith since I didn’t act like other Christians she had met during her life (i.e. I must not be a real Christian since I hadn’t trash talked about her). I quickly responded that she wasn’t like all the other lesbians I knew, which got the hearty laugh I was hoping for (in my office, my persona is well established as a stereotypical “do-gooder, eagle scout, church-goer” kind of fellow who wouldn’t know “such folk”).
In talking with her (whenever she initiated such a conversation) and inviting her to talk with my wife, she began to realize that she genuinely wanted to reconnect with God (having been raised in the church, but turning towards a myriad of goddesses and such later in life). Unfortunately, without any prior announcement, she and her partner picked a church out of the phone book and went one Sunday. They were treated horribly and were embarrassed by the experience. They went trying to discover the truth, not to make trouble in any way (these are not “activists” but just “people” who curiously sought God). She swore to never try reconnecting with a church ever again. What a testimony for that church in the end times – turning people away that need God.
I suppose that church never sang “Rescue the Perishing”.
If a church is going to treat sinners like sinners (i.e. without the same love that God demonstrated towards US while WE were yet sinners – Rom 5:8), they’re not going to get anyone to listen. To be clear, I never condoned my co-workers behavior nor excused it (nor should a church, but they can be gracious in the delivery of that message). I was always clear that sin is sin and that ultimately, my co-worker would need to abandon that behavior (and under freedom from sin, through salvation, she’d be able to do so). However, the unsaved, lacking the insights provided by the Holy Spirit, struggle to understand the Word and often become belligerent out of fear or anger (not surprising as they recognize they are being judged by a Holy God and are coming up short as we all did prior to accepting His gift of redemption). We must recognize that they are LOST and without truthful spiritual guidance. They’re often afraid and insecure, unwilling to trust others easily (especially when they reach out to a church and get punched in the stomach).
So we can kick people out or welcome them in with a clear, uncompromising, but loving message. What’s the bible tell us to do? Offer hospitality like the “good Samaritan?” Or have faith as shallow as Eliab, David’s older brother who stood on the line out of obedience, but wouldn’t fight Goliath out of a lack of faith? It’s easy to be Eliab – standing on the line with the other saints while being mocked by the enemy, and thinking that we’re actually accomplishing a brave act by standing there each day. It’s hard to really be like the good Samaritan when confronted with the mess, ugliness and depth of commitment required to “step up”.
Maybe the secret advantage of the Samaritan is that he didn’t care about what other men thought of him, that his commitment to “help other people at all times” wasn’t dependent on anyone else’s approval.
How about you, Scout? Does your commitment to scouting ideals (including acting out the declaration of religious principles) depend on what other people think? What about you, Christian? Do you care more about what other people say or what God has already said?
Consider Matthew 15:1-20. We don’t excuse sin, but we don’t use law to behave as tyrants over the consciences of men, either. Dealing with the heart is the issue at hand – do we blame the ignorant, unregenerate scout for his ignorance and unregenerate state (and cast him away), or do educate and minister so that God can do the saving and changing? Or is it more important to proclaim to the world that “we don’t eat with sinners” in contradiction of Matthew 9:11-13?
At the end of Matthew Chapter 9, verses 36-38 state “Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”
Naturally, we have a clear call to raise our own children in the Word. That’s “part one” of our calling, but “part two” is a call to be ready to be the Good Samaritan when called upon (or if you prefer to be compared to the sower in Matthew 13, Mark 4 or Luke 8, that works, too)
The questions before charter organizations and scout leaders alike remains:
In addition to raising our own children properly, will we:
- respond to the call to rescue the perishing, or
- refuse to eat with sinners to preserve our outward cleanliness?
It’s a call only you can make, and it’s between you and God. My intent is to open up dialog about our duty to God (as Scouters who are also Christian), our opportunities to step up our commitment to the “next level” and to really encourage Christian scouters to read the scriptures and pray for His perfect guidance in your life (proverbs 16:1-3 and Proverbs 19:21).
We can do a little or a lot with the “talents” that have been entrusted to us so remember that our oath starts with “doing our very best” not simply settling for “showing up” 1.5 hours per week.
We could respond to these issues within BSA or within an Christian-based, youth program like rangers, cadets, brigade or Trail Life USA.
How are you acting out your duty to God, and helping all other people at all times? Do you ever wish you could do more, celebrate more, connect more?