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Church has it wrong on Boy Scout issue

Feb. 22, 2013 @ 07:05 AM

The Boy Scouts of America is reconsidering its stance on gay Boy Scouts and Scout leaders, while Southern Baptist leaders are “furious about the possible change and [say] its approval might encourage Southern Baptists churches to support other boys’ organizations instead of the BSA.”

Do they think “other boys’ organizations” will have no gay youngsters? According to a report from the BSA headquarters in New York, Southern Baptists “consider homosexuality a sin.” What are they thinking?

The primary implication is that Southern Baptists have no sin among their followers. The secondary implication is that they have no homosexuals in their youth organizations. When I was a Southern Baptist pastor, my wife was the de facto youth leader. With absolute certainty we know we had gay and lesbian young people in every one of our youth groups.

P—, a 15-year-old boy, was deeply disturbed about his natural feelings. He was having promiscuous sexual encounters with male friends in his neighborhood and at school. He was active in our youth group and continued to be a dedicated Christian. Later, he married … but never happily. Recently, his wife found him dead from a heart attack in a living room chair. I wonder what role the constant strain of dealing with his natural sexual orientation played in his early demise.

A talented, clearly tomboyish girl in one of our youth groups later joined the military service. Her same-sex orientation from the time she was a little girl has kept M— in a closely-confined closet her entire life. Another “closeted” young man in one of our youth groups went on to earn the rank of Eagle Scout.

There were many others, but these examples of fine Southern Baptist youngsters who suffered deeply because their church cast them in the role of outcasts will suffice. Now, as the Boy Scouts of America is coming to understand the error of its ways, Southern Baptists are buckling down to a hard line —  opposing any movement toward civil rights and societal acceptance for gays, because, as they assert, “homosexuality is a sin!”

Let me be especially clear: homosexuality is NOT a sin! Homosexuality is NOT even deviant behavior. Homosexuality is (and has been for centuries) the natural sexual orientation for a significant number of men and women in all cultures and societies. Modern studies of same-gender issues have clearly demonstrated “that homosexuals are born, not made.”

The presence of homosexual boys and girls in scouting groups or church youth groups pose absolutely no threat to other participants in these groups. A young, straight man once told me, “P— was the best Scout leader we ever had!” P— is a homosexual, and was relieved from his post by scouting officials. He lives with an unnecessary and unwarranted stigma every day of his life.

Southern Baptists must wake up to the authenticity of biological diversity and a new enlightenment in religious and societal mores. For Southern Baptists wondering where their youth have gone, they have fled this rigid dogmatism of self-righteousness and non-acceptance of reality.

Milt Hankins of Ashland, Ky., is a retired minister, theologian and freelance writer.



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