by Barton Gingerich (@bjgingerich)
Last week, I analyzed the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) National Council’s foolish decision to change membership standards, lifting bans on open avowed homosexual youth. I foresee four scenarios of fallout due to the national leadership’s betrayal of the majority of its supporters and participants.
1. Someway, somehow, the BSA pulls an about-face before January 1, 2014 rolls around (that is the date set for implementation of the new policy). I could see the cohort down at OnMyHonor.net pulling something together at the last minute. The Scouting community at large definitely would want to finesse the language in order to bring the program back into the protective walls of Dale, at the very least. Indeed, many level-headed church leaders currently advise congregations and parents to wait out the controversy to see if things can be turned around in time. This is the ideal situation.
2. The BSA—an organization already in decline—will suffer a hemorrhage of otherwise loyal members, hastening its extinction. Many boys will be cut off from Scouting altogether. Whether or not the new standards would somehow stave off homosexual practices within troops and crews, parents—especially of a religious persuasion—will vote with their feet and funds. Unlike their more petulant and childish opposition, they realize the BSA is voluntary and free. They think there would be little use to protest such a key policy within the organization itself. Since Scout leadership caved into cultural pressure due to moral cowardice on this one decision, what else will they compromise on in the coming years? This is a very individualistic response, and thus the most American—expect to see such membership shifts in the coming months.
3. Religious parents, the largest of the wronged parties, will retreat to their denominational ghettos. They will participate in inferior camping programs like Royal Rangers, Royal Ambassadors, and the Calvinist Cadet Corps. To put it bluntly, these institutions lack the facilities, resources, history, masculine ethos, requisite skillsets, and healthful diversity that have made the BSA such an approachable-yet-powerful force for good in the United States. The “healthful diversity” comment may sound off alarms for some people. Allow me to explain with a different organization: the Rotary Club is no church; on the other hand, the Church is no Rotary Club. In a world of religious plurality (part of what Tocqueville saw in American democracy), it is most helpful to interact with others in nondenominational civic societies outside the state.
4. A robust, nonsectarian alternative gets formed, and quickly enough to catch up disenfranchised Scouters from groups 2 and 3. This is an option of last resort. Most of the structure and practice could remain as the current BSA. Nevertheless, it seems as if there will need to be more philosophical structure to bolster boys’ moral framework. That is no easy task for the average Scouter. They may need help in drafting the handbook and other materials—natural law thinkers like Robert P. George come to mind.
Option 4 brings us to an important question: “How did we, the Boy Scouts of America, get here in the first place?” I do not refer to cultural shifts in the society at large—I mean how leaders in the organization thought it was a prudent idea to throw away years of court battle victories, tradition, and member beliefs for vacuous promises of ceased social slander. We’ll look at that in my next post.