Friday, July 20, 2012

Leadership, Gays and Eagles

My dad and my two brothers were Eagle Scouts; so was I.  So were some of my nephews although my son decided not to become a scout and thus never had the chance to become an Eagle.   Recently on twitter and then in the Huff Post, an Eagle turned in his Eagle regalia as a protest against the BSA (Boy Scouts of America) stand against allowing homosexuals to become leaders in the program.   

I have a nephew who is a deacon in the Episcopal Church who then posted the following:  "As an Eagle Scout, I'm embarrassed by the BSA's continuing discrimination against gays; while I deeply value the time I spent as a Scout, I simply can't support an organization that discriminates so wantonly and senselessly. I would love to volunteer with them, to mentor and lead, but I won't until they're open to all. What's most frustrating is that sexuality is such an ancillary part of Scouting; in fact, I learned absolutely nothing about sex or sexuality as a Scout, and a thousand things about almost everything else. If it's not a central tenant of Scouting, why has the BSA driven such a hard line about it? Martin Cizmar is doing the right thing here, and I hope that it brings a new, open discussion, and eventually change."

I believe my nephew will be a good priest when he assumes those responsibilities but I think his Facebook post was a nonsensical gesture.  Let's start with my own position on the commonly understood BSA position which seems to, at a minimum discourage, known homosexuals from participating in scouting.  I believe an outright prohibition based on sexual orientation is at best outdated.  At the same time since this program is focused on boys who are just beginning to understand their sexuality, the program should actively discourage using the program for almost anything sexual.   I believe that the incidence of that problem is very small.   The the BSA needs to rethink its requirements.    But CIzmar's and my nephew's actions are not an example of leadership but rather a politically correct statement that is unlikely to effect change in the organization.

Cizmar's alternative would have been to enlist a lot of other Eagles to protest the current BSA policy.  But instead he made an idle comment and sends back some trinkets.  If Cizmar really cared about this issue - he would have tried to figure out how to enlist the elite group of Eagles from generations of scouting, who disagree with what seems to be a pretty rigid policy.   A lot of this crap reminds me of the idiots who disagreed with the Vietnam War and said "if we just sing loud enough, they will end the war."   I suspect a lot of generations of Eagles would be quite willing to express opposition to the current policy.  Perhaps many would be willing to draft an alternative which recognized the issue in a better light.

My nephew is a deacon in the Episcopal Church.  A few years ago when the national convention chose to make a couple of decisions which seemed to avoid the normal processes of discernment that the Canons of the church require, I had a long discussion with the then seminarian who argued with me that I should stay in the church and work to change the things I disagreed with from within.  The role of an Eagle in the scouting movement is important - between 2 and 5% of the boys in the program reach that rank (depending on your sources).  About 2 million young men have received the award in the last 100 years.  Some where north of 100 Eagles have returned their medals to the BSA in protest of the current policy on homosexuals.

But from my perspective a better approach would be to identify the living Eagles in the country who disagree with the policy and then enlist them to question the policy.  The symbolic dropping off of medals reminds me of the work by John Kerry during the Vietnam War (who threw his medals over the fence at the White House).  Ultimately, if you want to do something more than a symbol - you need to actually engage.

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