Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Pennsylvania Pastors Network Criticizes Boy Scouts Decision on Gay Youth

As mentioned in a prior post, the Boy Scouts of America recently decided to allow gay youth (but not gay adult leaders) as members of the organization. The decision drew fire from several Religious Right organizations, including a conservative pastors group in Pennsylvania.

The Pennsylvania Pastors Network, a project of Let Freedom Ring, describes itself as "a network of Biblically-faithful clergy and church liaisons whose objective is to build a permanent infrastructure of like-minded clergy." The groups' events and programs are co-sponsored by the anti-abortion Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation, the right-wing Pennsylvania Family Institute, and the Urban Family Council.

The organization's website encourages clergy to affirm scriptural authority, engage social issues, and examine policy matters "without politicizing  their pulpits." The PPN "About" page outlines church leaders' views of society and pastoral duties.
"As you are well aware, in today’s cultural climate, it is a daunting task to be that church leader, and to maintain the resources to assist families struggling against such issues as deteriorating traditional marriage, pornography, rampant sexual permissiveness, the undermining of a Biblical worldview in our public schools, abortion and other evils that seek to destroy the core teachings of our Christian faith."

The PPN recently came out against the Boy Scout's decision on gay youth as members. In an article at WGAL 8, Dale Armstrong of Church of the Word in Landisvile, PA spoke for the PPN, claiming that the Boy Scouts of America was "flaunting their beliefs in the face of the Christian biblical worldview." The article states that the PPN is encouraging Christian parents to pull their sons out of Boy Scouts following its decision to include gay youth.

A June 4th press release at the PPN website alleges that the Boy Scouts "capitulated to strong-arm tactics from special-interest groups" in their decision. PPN complains that the decision will expose scouts to "an opposing view of morality and masculinity" while putting "innocent young boy" in danger of "sexual experimentation" with "openly confused" youth. As with other anti-LGBTQ voices, the statement associates gays with immorality, sexual confusion, and predation. (See www[dot]papastors[dot]net/news/read/1471)
"The Pennsylvania Pastor’s Network ... has condemned this decision as irresponsible and damaging to the innocence of youth and the Scout’s long-standing tradition of teaching boys to embrace the principles of God, Country, Flag, and Morality. Boys, instead of being offered a view of morality consistent with a biblical worldview that honors marriage and masculinity, will now be exposed to an opposing view of morality and masculinity. In addition, it will introduce innocent young boys to possible sexual experimentation by other boys who are openly confused and struggling with cultural messages regarding their sexual identity. Parents who would never dream of forcing young boys and girls to share a tent together, will now be forced to allow boys with sexual attractions to other boys to share sleeping accommodations, as well as locker rooms and other close quarters."

The statement strongly suggests that identifying as gay or bisexual is somehow incompatible with real masculinity.
"As a result of this policy change of the Boy Scouts, boys will be taught that there is no absolute when it comes to masculine identity. Instead of being encouraged to embrace the time-honored principles of strength, leadership, protector, and provider, boys will instead be confronted with a message that abandons traditional moral norms."

For starters, there is no absolute when it comes to masculinity and femininity, which are social constructs that vary according to culture and era. We should strive to construct models of masculinity that encourage wholeness and humanity in young men. Second, why should teaching healthy masculinity be somehow incompatible with treating gay and bisexual youth as human beings? Inclusion and respect for others should be a component of healthy masculinity, and the Boy Scouts have taken a small step toward this goal. Accepting gay and bisexual leaders in the organization would be a bigger, more comprehensive step, but accepting gay youth is a step in the right direction.

Once again, anti-LGBTQ voices conflate acceptance of LGBTQ people with immorality, threats to "masculinity", and sexual danger. The Pennsylvania Pastors Network not only does a disservice to LGBTQ youth, but it embraces a narrow vision of masculinity that limits all boys.

For more information on the Pennsylvania Pastors Network, visit www[dot]papastors[dot]net

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