I haven’t met too many Eagle Scouts in my life. Statistically speaking, you shouldn’t meet too many Eagle Scouts in your life. The title’s only bestowed upon the best the Boy Scouts of America has to offer. The first Eagle Scout I met was a pal of mine in college. He was exactly the kind of person you’d envision being an Eagle Scout. He fit the Scout Law to a tee; he was trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obiedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.
He was also gay.
He came out in college after already becoming an Eagle Scout. He knew that by identifying as gay, he was no longer a member of the organization, but he was still proud of being an Eagle Scout. How could he not be? He had committed years of his life to an organization that he loved and he didn’t want to denounce being a Boy Scout. He also didn’t want to lie about his sexual orientation. He wasn’t a deviant. He wasn’t evil. He wasn’t a pervert. He was just a really awesome young man who happened to be biologically built to fall in love with other really awesome young men.
Since the creation of the Boy Scouts of America in 1910, the organization has sought to give young men in America a moral backbone and comprehensive education in stuff like reading compasses and taking care of campfires and other mysterious “boy things” that Boy Scouts do (but that Girl Scouts could also easily do if they ever had the progressive idea to integrate the two groups as in the Pawnee Goddess episode of Parks and Recreation).
The Boy Scouts of America is also a staunchly “Christian”* organization. Its first major financial backer was the Church of Latter-Day Saints and it prides itself on including G-d in its teachings. So much so that athiests, agnostics and homosexuals, like my friend, are banned from participating in the Boy Scouts.
Just this week, the Boy Scouts reaffirmed their ban on homosexuals, creating a national firestorm. Many feel the decision shows a lack of modernity, as the Girl Scouts of America not only allow gays, but also transsexuals into their ranks. Others argue that the decision is protecting boys from pedophiles and conserving traditional values. To me, the Boy Scouts of America’s decision says, whom a person falls in love with is more important than the content of their character. Whether you’re gay or straight, that’s a terrible way to judge a person’s worth. I mean, I’m a nice, upstanding member of society, but if I was judged on the men I’ve fallen in love with…well, let’s just say people would think I’m insanely stupid.**
The most important thing about the Boy Scouts, is that they teach young men to “be prepared”. What will happen in ten years when a Cub Scout goes to college and has a gay roommate? What happens when he has a gay coworker? What happens if it turns out, as in the case of my friend, that he is actually gay? Will he be prepared to deal with these quandaries? In today’s world, you have to be able to accept people who are different than you because that’s what the world is: a place where everyone is different from you. In my life, I’ve had to use tolerance to thrive, far more than I’ve needed to build a fire to survive.
That said, the Boy Scouts of America is a private organization and in the United States of America that means that they have the freedom to be exclusive with their membership if they so desire. It also means that if I so desire, I could start the Elephant Scouts of America wherein only people who have ridden an elephant can join. The Elephant Scouts would soon be the coolest, smartest, most fun organization and it would cruelly ban people who have never ridden an elephant due to personal circumstance. It would also suggest that because of that circumstance, the universe hates them and that they pose a threat to the livelihood of all elephant riders.***
So, yes, the Boy Scouts of America have the right to exclude homosexuals (and athiests)(and agnostics) in their bid to promote traditional Christian values. However, one of the many reasons that I so passionately support gay rights, is because of the teachings of Christ. I know everyone reads different versions of the Bible, but in the version I read, Jesus Christ was this person who hung out with lepers, prostitutes and other people whom society liked to judge. When some more clean-cut folks in his group pointed out that lepers were gross and prostitutes sinful, he was all like, “Yeah, that’s why they need my love more than you do.” He wouldn’t judge anyone. He would just offer love to people. He’d be hanging out with everyone. But of course, at the risk of inciting some crazy theological debate (which is not my hope nor intent), this was just my innocent, naive, nine-year old interpretation of the Bible. Everyone is free to have their own.
It just seems to me that it’s never better to hate, it’s just easier.
I would just like to live in a world where, if I meet a Boy Scout, I can trust that he’s a nice guy and not someone who potentially–and hatefully–judges those who are different from him. For the most part, I think that’s the case, but this decision makes me wonder.
Featured image via LAtimes.com (Karen Bleier / AFP / Getty Images / July 17, 2012)
* There are a lot of different kinds of Christianity. I’m not going to assume the Boy Scouts represent all of them.
** If you are charming and witty, yet emotionally and spiritually vacant inside, call me!
*** By the way, I have ridden an elephant. Twice. I was four and Busch Gardens Tampa used to let kids ride one of their elephants. One time, about eight tykes–including myself–were on the elephant’s back and instead of waddling around in a circle, it slowly backed up and relieved itself into a dumpster–while I was still on it waving to my parents. I have photographic proof. Not of the elephant pooping. Just me on the elephant. I’m telling you this story because it would be the cornerstone origin story of the Elephant Scouts of America, much like the crazy story of how W.D. Boyce was saved from being lost in London by a “Boy Scout” started the Boy Scouts of America. I like my story better. It involves a pooping elephant and that’s just funnier.