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Drawing Circles in the Sand

This week the Boy Scouts of America voted to no longer exclude Scouts from their ranks “on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.”

In the circles of Christianity that I often frequent, the defining mantra for interaction with the LGBT community is “Love the sinner, hate the sin.”

We talk of how sex outside of marriage violates God’s will as revealed in the Bible, and how God intends marriage to be “one man, one woman, for life.” We are quick to emphasize that we are sinners too, no different from gay people. We often remind each other that while homosexual activity is sinful according to Scripture, so is fornication, divorce and remarriage, pride, anger, greed, and gluttony.

Those on the other side of the issue often accuse the many of our churches of hating both the sin and the sinner. They suggest that our attempts to “hate the sin” are inseparable from our attitude toward “the sinner”. Many within the church maintain that opposition to “the gay agenda” is not personal, but rather is based only on a commitment to Biblical standards of morality and a Biblical definition of marriage.

I sit here with friends that I deeply love and respect on both sides of the issue. As much as I can, I try to really understand the beliefs and experiences that inform our interactions. I know that most of my gay friends do not hate God, and I know that most of my Evangelical friends do not hate gay people.

But hard as I try, I simply cannot wrap my head around the way that many Christians are responding to the inclusion of gay Boy Scouts. It seems to reinforce all the hypocrisy and discrimination that we so strongly deny.

The Huffington Post reports:

“Assemblies of God and many other churches can no longer support groups that are part of an organization allowing members who are openly homosexual.”

“Our family are evangelical Christians,” said Mari LaCom, who attends a congregation of the Evangelical Free Church near Chatsworth, Calif., and expects her son will no longer pursue the rank of Eagle Scout. “This is the reason our church will no longer be chartering our troop or have Scout Sundays.”

According to Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission:

“Frankly, I can’t imagine a Southern Baptist pastor who would continue to allow his church to sponsor a Boy Scout troop under these new rules. I predict there will be a mass exodus of Southern Baptists and other conservative Christians from the Boy Scouts.”

The American Family Association, whose mission statement includes “encouraging Christians to bear witness to the love of Jesus”, responded this way:

AFA Response to BSA[source]

I simply cannot understand how anyone who attempts to live by the teachings of Jesus could think this is an appropriate response to the Boy Scouts’ inclusion of gay members.

Many churches who support the Boy Scouts seem to imagine a moral conundrum, wherein their continued support of the Scouts somehow conflicts with their Biblical belief that homosexuality is a sin. As if the support of an organization that refuses to exclude sinners is somehow an endorsement of sin. But this is an artificial conundrum. The Boy Scouts of America are not promoting, condoning, or endorsing homosexuality. They’ve made this abundantly clear, stating:

“We’re absolutely not telling them you have to endorse homosexuality. You may not deny that membership based on that one characteristic.”

If we disagree with this decision and want to continue to exclude sinners, we must be consistent. We must demand that the Boy Scouts turn away every teenage boy who looks at pornography or sleeps with his girlfriend too. No, this goes far beyond a Biblical standard of sin. This is saying “If you’re gay, I don’t want to be around you. You are not welcome in our church, and we will actively disassociate from those who welcome you.”

My gay friends say that the Evangelical church often doesn’t really differentiate the person from their behavior. They feel judged and condemned based on their orientation, regardless of whether or not they act upon their sexual attractions. They often feel that the church hates who they are.

My church friends say that they really do love the sinner; they just need to hold people to the Biblical standard regardless of orientation. They say that same-sex attraction is not sinful, only acting upon it is. If this is true, then churches should have no problem with continued support of the Boy Scouts. In their statement announcing the inclusion of gay scouts the BSA explicitly clarified this:

“The resolution also reinforces that Scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting.”

This is where our words meet reality.

The Boy Scouts’ decision isn’t about endorsing sin or about defending Biblical marriage. It’s about whether or not we’re going to draw circles in the sand with “us” on the inside and “them” on the outside. I want out. I can’t keep talking about “loving the sinner” as if I’m not a sinner too, desperately in need of God’s love every day.

So if we’re drawing circles in the sand, you’ll find me on the other side. Maybe that’s where we’ll find Jesus too.

[ image: HuffingtonPost ]

published May 25, 2013

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