Matt Evans: Leadership In Scouting Is About Ideas Not People


Yesterday, Rob reported that the current leader of the Boy Scouts stated that he wanted to lift the ban on openly gay adults serving in positions of leadership within the organization.  Rob’s larger point was that it was great that the BSA was looking at doing this, even though the government wasn’t forcing them.

I agree it’s nice when the government doesn’t force you to do things.

I disagree quite a bit with Rob’s characterization of the BSA’s announcement as “good”.

There’s a lot of disagreement both inside and outside of Scouting about what the right thing to do is.  A common argument from someone who wants the ban lifted could be summarized as “gay men can teach kids to tie knots and build fires just as well as straight men”.  This is probably true, but this isn’t a compelling argument.

A common argument to keep the current BSA policy is along the lines of “no one would ever let a grown man sleep in a tent with a girl scout, so why would you allow a gay man to be an adult leader of young boys?”  While I actually don’t know what the GSUSA policy is on adult male leadership, this argument isn’t really compelling either.

The second argument is bad because of how Scouting has had to adapt to our modern world.  Scouting already requires a “2 deep leadership” concept.  That is, a solitary adult can never be alone with scouts, ever.  There must always be two adults present.  This policy is to protect the boys from actual abuse, and to protect the adult leaders from accusations of abuse.  You cannot rely on a label like gay or straight to rule out the possibility of an adult being sexually abusive with a boy, and so I personally don’t think that admitting openly gay leaders into scouting will fundamentally change the abuse situation.  In some regards, Scouting is already setup to try and deal with that potentiality.

The first argument – that gay men can tie knots just fine – is bad because it fundamentally misunderstands the purpose of Boy Scouts.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#000000″ txt_color=”#ffffff”]I don’t think a man (or woman) who proclaims that homosexuality is morally acceptable and Biblically correct can teach my boys about character.[/mks_pullquote]

The purpose of Boy Scouts isn’t to teach kids to tie knots and to build fires.  The purpose of Boy Scouts is to develop the character of boys and young men.

Most Americans live in places with smothering cell phone coverage, excellent ambulance services, and all sharp objects safely removed or locked away.  Increasingly, kids grow up in places where pointing a finger gun at another kid involves a disciplinary response.  Strictly speaking, knowing how to build a fire, tie a boat up to a dock, build a shelter, provide wilderness first aid, and many of the Boy Scout skills, are ridiculous anachronisms in today’s world of coddled sloths.  To a large extent, these skills were already anachronisms 100 years ago, when the Boy Scouts was founded.

These skills are not the purpose of scouting.  Rather, it was thought that by having young men do the things that men in past times had done, in places and situations that past men had done them, that a new generation of boys might have a better chance of turning into men that had the previous generations qualities and character.

It is currently my opinion that homosexuals can be friendly, productive, contributing members of society who can improve our communities. I also think that they can be great at teaching any of the merit badges or practical skills that are taught in Scouting. I don’t think there is a trustworthyness difference between gay and straight people at saving drowning kids, helping old ladies cross the street, or anything of that nature. And I think that the gay scouts who want to transition into adult leadership are probably great kids and have a genuine desire to be helpful to future scouts.

My difficulty is this: I don’t think a man (or woman) who proclaims that homosexuality is morally acceptable and Biblically correct can teach my boys about character.

I have no problem conducting commerce with gay people; no problem being a good neighbor to them, or wanting them treated fairly by our legal system.  I have no problem working for or with gay people, nor with hiring them.  There are gay people in my life who have made me wiser and better off.

In most of the things I do in my day to day life, especially here in North Dakota, the nature of someone’s sexuality is typically both irrelevant and unknowable to me.

On the other hand, if, at church, my (straight) pastor stood up and started talking about how the Bible was incorrect or otherwise untrustworthy on the topic of the sinfulness of say, adultery, or, more topically, homosexuality, I’d have a problem.

Why?  Because to me, it is important that I am comfortable with the religious teachings of my church.  I’ve internalized those teachings.  If the doctrine changes, either I need to change too, or I need to find a new church.

Some people have permissive churches that don’t make doctrinal pronouncements.  “Be nice” is about as rigorous as some theology gets.

That’s not how I understand Christianity.  In my understanding, Christianity is not an inclusive religion.  Jesus says he is the ONLY way.  That’s not inclusive.  Any person can be saved by Jesus, but not every idea is acceptable to Him.  A man who commits adultery can be saved.  A man who professes that adultery is not sinful is condemned.  The former is a sin – and Jesus has the power to forgive sin.  The latter – claiming that adultery is not sinful – is a false teaching.  Jesus doesn’t like false teaching.

I don’t have a problem with gay individuals in my life.  I would have a problem with false doctrine in my church.

And so my discomfort with openly gay leaders in scouting is not because of excessive worry about their behavior as individuals, but because their role is to help build the values and character of my boys, and I maintain that their values and character are heartbreakingly deficient.  The worldview they have is not acceptable to me.

That’s fine if they’re selling me tires.

It’s a problem if they’re teaching my children about values.

My aversion to false teachings from others is a consistent factor in how I live my life.  We homeschool our kids, we audit and limit the media we consume, and we make intentional decisions about which kids (and adults) we hang out with as a family.

Since I want my son to work hard, be loyal, have integrity, be wise, and stand up for what he believes, more than I want him to know how to tie a bowline knot blindfolded, I think of Scouting as more like church than buying tires.  So I care about the values of the Scouting organization, and its leaders.  I don’t have the unrealistic expectation that they are sinless paragons.  On the contrary, I expect that they are struggling with things just like I am.  What I do expect is that they and I agree on right and wrong; on what is good and what is not.  They don’t have to always do good, but they have to always teach it.

Not everyone thinks like me, and not everyone is so intense about what they expect out of the Scouting program.  That’s fine.  Each person should make the best decision for themselves and their family.

Hopefully, most of us agree that it’s wonderful that the government isn’t involving itself in these decisions.

(For now).


If you’re concerned about the shifting values of the Boy Scouts, and decide your family should leave the organization, you might want to look at “Trail Life USA”, which is explicitly Christian.

If you’re concerned about the problematic values, messages, and affiliations of Girl Scouts USA, you can look at “American Heritage Girls”, which was created as an explicitly Christian alternative to the GSUSA.

Both organizations are looking for new chapters, and like Boy Scouts / GSUSA, depend on volunteers in each town to get the program off the ground and keep it running.