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It’s been a heckuva month. At long last, my son shall be enrolling in Cub Scouts, but it wasn’t a decision taken lightly, and I am worn after the effort.
When I was informed by my son’s father that Daniel had expressed an interest in Cub Scouts rather than soccer this fall, I braced myself for the inevitable back and forth that would ensue.
Disclaimer: Having been a pastor at a congregation that prided itself in its Boy Scout troop going back 20 years, I am more than well-acquainted with the benefits of scouting. Indeed, I have attended many an Eagle Scout service and eaten many a spaghetti dinner. But I was on the fringe. And now I was being asked to support my son’s desire to participate in their adventures.
And see, this just might be the reason why the pastorate didn’t work out so well for me. Because when my righteous indignation gets going, it’s pretty hard for me to take my blinders off and change direction.
Aside: For example, the singing of national hymns during a Sunday worship service. I get this isn’t a big deal for most people, but I’m a staunch believer in the separation of church and state – especially when it comes to acts of worship. The Service of the Lord’s Day should revolve strictly around that, with no nationalism on the fringe: no country’s flag in the sanctuary, no nationalistic hymns sung during the service…and yes, no Scout Sunday either. (eeek).
Aside cont’d: After my encouragement for alternative hymn selections and service options on the Sunday closest to July 4th fell on deaf ears three years in a row, I finally had enough. At the end of the service, there I stood, front and center, my hymnal and mouth both closed tightly as my colleague and congregation sang “America the Beautiful.” Woof.
Aside cont’d: This is one of many moments when I realized what a pain in the ass I am for those around me. It’s ok. I know you mutter the first line of the Serenity Prayer when you see me coming.
Back to Cub Scouts. My dilemma here was magnified: not only is there a blend of monotheistic nationalism that I’m allergic to, and not only do I find disheartening the exclusion of atheists and agnostics from membership (when, one could argue, the scouting organization could easily swing their position as an evangelical one, feeling compelled to witness to said non-believers by way of welcoming), but worse than all of this is the homophobia.
Granted, yes, they changed their position recently regarding participants who identify themselves as gay. But the national stance against gay leaders stands, with the footnote that exceptions may vary from troop to troop.
Let us remember for a second where I live: the Bible belt. I am in the land of “God & Country.” The rebel flag flies boldly across the street from my home. There are Trump signs all over the neighborhood.
What, then, is a likelihood that I will find a troop whose agenda matches my own…not with passivity, but with a resounding and indignant repulse against such bigotry? Moreover, just dig a little deeper and we delve into questionable indoctrination: the blind acceptance of authority, the mindless recitation of oaths and pledges, the promotion of group-think that is so pervasive we encourage not just uniformity but uniforms.
It was argued to me that our son is only 8, and that this is not the time nor the place for a debate on gay rights, nor are these other concerns pertinent.
I get that the likelihood my son will become homophobic because his den leader is homophobic is slim-to-none. I get that all Daniel cares about is learning to build a fire, go hiking and camping, participate in a pinewood derby, and be “a boy among boys.” I get that, at his age, a uniform is exciting. I get that institutional changes come slowly.
For the love of all that is holy, I get it.
But never should we be afraid to stand on our principles and ask questions, when we know we stand on the right side of the issue. Never should we allow ourselves to be silenced or our concerns minimized because it is beyond the comprehension of a child or causes discomfort for others. Change will never come if we keep our concerns to ourselves.
So I called around. And I called around. And I called around.
And get this: our son will enroll next week in the troop that meets at my ex-husband’s first church, which brought us to the Bible belt in the first place.
How’s that for coming full circle?