This news article on the Boy Scouts and homosexuality prompted a knee-jerk reaction in me, as I think it probably will do for many. That’s not helpful, and I admit it. It seems at first glance there’s bullying going on here, but what we need is clear thinking instead of emotional reflex.
SAN FRANCISCO – California lawmakers are considering taking some tax exemptions away from youth groups that do not accept gay, transgender or atheist members — a move intended to pressure the Boy Scouts of America to lift its ban on gay Scouts and troop leaders. . . .
Churches that sponsor Boy Scouts troops would not lose their underlying tax-exempt status, but an array of nonprofits, ranging from the Young Men’s Christian Association and Pop Warner football to the American Youth Soccer Association and 4-H clubs would have their tax returns and membership policies scrutinized by the state Franchise Tax Board if the bill becomes law, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Analysts Office.
My first impression was that this was sheer bullying on California’s part, or it would be if it were made law. It’s unconscionable that YMCAs and 4-H Clubs would be pushed around in such a heavy-handed manner. I get that homosexuals are bullied way too often (any bullying at all is too often), but this is aggression at the highest level, enforceable by law. It’s wrong.
That was my first quick thought. On further reflection I still believe that, but not for the first reasons that jumped into mind. You see, I don’t think it’s morally wrong to feel a same-sex attraction. It’s certainly not sin, any more than it’s sin to feel a desire for more money than one earns, or to think about having sex with someone to whom one is not married. It’s wrong only insofar as it leads to wrong actions. (Update 4/15: See this comment and the following one.) Speaking from a biblical perspective, intimate sexual contact outside of marriage is always wrong, and since same-sex persons cannot be married (notwithstanding some erroneously conceived state laws), intimate same-sex contact is always wrong.
In short, same-sex attraction is not necessarily sin, but homosexual intimacy is.
Any temptation can lead to wrong actions. We have to think carefully before we decide there’s something intrinsically worse about homosexual temptation; otherwise the Boy Scouts would have to exclude everyone who ever gets tempted by anything — which would make it the smallest voluntary organization in all history.
So then, is there anything different about homosexuality? I think so.
First, one of the most glorious things about Scouting is that it’s a sex-free zone. It’s even a sexual- and romantic-weirdness-free zone. Where there are special relationships, there are not-special relationships. Where one hopes for romance or desire, one’s life is complicated by that hope. Teenagers’ lives are complicated enough without that.
Second, we don’t usually condone women sleeping with teenaged boys, for obvious sexual reasons. Why would those reasons be any different for homosexual men with teenaged boys?
Third, if homosexual intimacy is wrong, then it is also wrong to endorse, support, encourage or condone it. In the current climate, to allow homosexual leadership in the Boy Scouts would be to give approval to homosexuality, which cannot be separated from giving tacit endorsement to homosexual practice. That would be wrong.
Let me re-emphasize: there’s nothing sinful in having homosexual orientation per se. If the Scouts could admit that orientation without the rest that accompanies it, I’d be at least moderately in favor of this proposed California law (although with reservations about what the law should tell organizations to be or to do). But that’s impossible in the nature of things. To apply legal power to force the Scouts or their sponsors to accept homosexuality is to be no better than any other obnoxious bully.