Thursday, March 14, 2013

They Want Me to Succeed in My Faith

Local Boy Scout leaders meet once a month at roundtable meetings to share ideas, ask questions, and find solutions to the problems and concerns they are facing in their units. These meetings are a good way to use the collective experience of multiple programs to gain insight and understanding of how to build better programs.

Given the current excitement over the proposed change in membership policy, it was felt that roundtable would be a good venue to discuss how we felt about the membership policy, proposed change, and try to understand the differing viewpoints within our group.  After reviewing some norms and guidelines to maintain respect, we opened the discussion be reviewing a couple of questions from the current "Voice of the Scout" survey.  We then established that, ultimately, there are three possible outcomes for this policy.

  1. The policy remains as it is, in which homosexuals are barred from membership
  2. The policy is amended to allow chartering organizations to choose their own membership policies with respect to homosexuality (The middle-of-the-road policy).
  3. The policy is reversed and requires all units to accept homosexual applicants (The all-inclusive policy).

The meat of our discussion began when we circled back to the following question:
If the Boy Scouts of America makes a decision on this policy that disagrees with your own view, will you continue to participate in the Boy Scouts, or will you leave the organization?
One scoutmaster stated that yes, he could participate in Boy Scouts, but he would continue to feel like a hypocrite.  He described the discomfort he felt when considering whether to sign his boys up, as he really didn't like the current membership policy.  Ultimately, he decided that he wanted his sons to have the benefits of scouting--since there was no program that could match Scouting, he signed up even though it made him feel like a hypocrite to do so.

Most of the other people in the room agreed that they hoped for a policy change, but would not give up on Scouting if  no change was made.  At this point I pointed out that I am a Mormon, and although I support homosexual membership, the all-inclusive policy would very much go against my religious beliefs.  If the BSA were to implement the all-inclusive policy, I probably would not quit Scouting, but it would give me pause and make me wonder if the BSA respected my religious beliefs.

At this point, I think it's important to point out that, as far as I know, most people in that room do not believe that homosexuality is immoral.  I'm pretty sure that my statement of faith that it is against God's commandments was a minority opinion, and rather unpopular in this group.  What do you think happened next?  The gentleman to my left said, "And that is why I support the middle-of-the-road policy."  There was no judgement or criticism.  I'm pretty sure he disagreed with me, but he understood that my religious beliefs were deeply and honestly felt and he was willing to respect that as I was willing to respect his belief.

Later in the meeting, another person asked the question, "Why is it wrong?  I don't understand why some people believe homosexuality is wrong."  I got the impression that this was a question that troubled this man, and he couldn't relate to the notion.  In what was perhaps a dodge of the question, I answered that understanding why someone believes homosexuality is wrong requires a much broader discussion.  The short answer is that he couldn't possibly evaluate the validity of my belief in the immorality of homosexuality without first understanding the assumption my faith makes of family and marriage; just as I could not evalute the validity of his beliefs concerning homosexuality without first understanding the assumptions of his faith.  He seemed to think that was a fair answer and replied, "So again, that would indicate we need the middle-of-the-road policy, wouldn't it?"

When I started writing this, I didn't really have a point I was trying to make, but now I think I do.  I went into a room of people knowing that most of them would disagree with some of the foundational views of my faith on this topic.  In an open discussion, those views were presented, examined, and openly respected.  Even the people in the room who deep inside themselves wanted an all-inclusive policy voiced support for a middle-of-the-road policy.  I felt no criticism or judgement   Quite the contrary, I felt the support and encouragement of a group of men and women who want me to succeed in my faith and who knew that I wanted them to succeed in theirs.

The world needs more these conversations.

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