All teens need to be taught by their parents, teachers, pastors and mentors that their sexual desires are not their identity, nor do they need to be controlled by them. Who we are is so much greater than our appetites, sexual or otherwise. And all of us can learn, by God’s grace, to master and subdue our desires.
So, the Boy Scouts of America have decided to welcome openly homosexual scouts, something the Girl Scouts have done for years. What’s the big deal? Why would we want scouting to discriminate against teenage boys based on their sexual orientation? This is no different than accepting racial minorities or physically challenged children, right? At least, that’s the politically correct line we’re all supposed to repeat.
The problem is that reality is not quite so politically correct.
I’m now going to risk being labeled a hateful bigot because I cannot help but think about the practical realities of the new world the gay rights movement has given us. I want to make a disclaimer first: No one should hate anyone ever. No one should call other people names, bully them, ridicule them, intimidate them, etc. That is wrong. Period. Christians who bully and intimidate others- whether they are homosexuals or Muslims, atheists or Wiccans- are dishonoring Christ and disobeying Scripture, which commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves.
But let’s think about reality: Boy Scout troops now have to welcome openly homosexual scouts as members. This means that openly homosexual scouts will be going on camping trips with other boys, sleeping in the same tents, showering together, etc. How is this fundamentally different from allowing a boy to go on a Girl Scout camping trip?
I can already hear people screaming at me: “You’re being absurd! That’s so narrow-minded! Homosexuals are not perverts!” Here’s what I know from years of experience: Teenagers with hormones are teenagers with hormones, homosexual or heterosexual.
Imagine the uproar if an overnight high school field trip allowed boys and girls to sleep together in the same hotel room. Imagine the uproar if high schools started allowing the boys and girls basketball teams to share the same locker room and shower and dress together. Heads would roll and rightly so. It would be insane.
Now someone might object and say, “Just because the homosexual scout may be sexually attracted to some of the other males in the troop doesn’t mean they’re going to be attracted to him. So it is different.” Maybe, as long as the scout troop has only one homosexual member, but what about when it has two or three or four? Would they be allowed to share the same tent? Again, I’m not accusing them of being any more sexually promiscuous than any other teen, but if we wouldn’t think of allowing a heterosexual male and female scout to share a tent on a camping trip, then why would we allow two homosexual males to share a tent?
I was a Boy Scout. I played team sports in high school. I was a high school teacher. I have been and am going to soon be again a school administrator. I have been a church youth group leader on retreats. From my personal experience, these issues are real and practical questions, not made-up straw-men hypotheticals.
Then, another question: What about all of the evangelical churches that host Boy Scout troops? Several years ago, when the Boy Scouts stood by their decision to ban homosexual scout leaders, many churches opened their doors to scout troops who were dislodged from public spaces. Now what are those churches to do? Can they continue, in good conscience, to sponsor Boy Scout troops, sending off openly homosexual scouts on overnight camping trips together?
Again, I am not trying to be hateful, but I am trying to think through practical realities. This new world of openly homosexual teens is complicated and the problems are real.
What would my solution be? I’m not sure we have any good options open to us, given the realities of our society. We cannot tell homosexual teens that they are ineligible for team sports or gym class. If they insist on being “open” about their sexuality, it creates problems for everyone, including them.
Personally, I think all teens should be sexually abstinent and should be encouraged to discuss their sexual desires and struggles privately with their parents, pastor and perhaps a counselor. As teens struggle with desires they do not understand and cannot control (all teens do, not just homosexual-oriented teens), they should be encouraged to keep these struggles private, between them and those they can trust. I’m not saying they should keep everything bottled up inside and tell no one. Parents have a responsibility to so love their children and provide them with security that their children will feel comfortable opening up about their struggles and desires. But these do not need to be broadcast to the world.
I also think that all teens need to be taught by their parents, teachers, pastors and mentors that their sexual desires are not their identity, nor do they need to be controlled by them. Who we are is so much greater than our appetites, sexual or otherwise. And all of us can learn, by God’s grace, to master and subdue our desires.
I know those are radical thoughts in our time, so “backward” and “hateful.” I suppose I should be ashamed of myself for wanting teens to rise above their sexual desires and see themselves not as fundamentally homosexual or heterosexual but as created in God’s image and made for a life of loving fellowship with Him. Still, my heart breaks for the teens who have been sold a lie – that if they feel same-gender attraction, then these feelings define who they are and must be allowed to control their lives. God wants so much more for all of us.
Jason A. Van Bemmel is a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America and is Pastor of Faith PCA in Cheraw, S.C. This article appeared on his blog Ponderings of a Pilgrim Pastor and is used with permission.