The Boy Scouts of America: What’s in a Name?

There has been a great deal of hand wringing and accusations of being overly politically correct in response to the recent change within the Boy Scouts to include girls and young women. Soon after the decision was made, and the announcement that the organization would change its name to a more gender inclusive “Scouts BSA,” the Mormon Church broke with the Scouts to start their own program, more specific to their own beliefs. Although denials were made that it was because girls were now included, knowing something of the history of the conservative church makes that claim somewhat incredulous.

Mind you, I respect any religious organization to have their own “scouting” program, I just wish conservative religious organizations were a tad bit more open minded. Organizations like Scouts BSA are often depicted as having “liberal agendas,” and subversive to “Biblical teaching” of distinct male and female “roles.” Yes, more inclusive programs do have agendas, as do more exclusive conservative programs. We all have agendas, get over it. The accusations by conservatives that the Girl Scouts have a feminist agenda and the Scouts BSA pushes gay “lifestyle,” are examples of questionable “facts” that are raised by fringe religious right groups, then picked up by conservative Christians in general and assumed to be true.

But the reaction by the Mormon Church is illuminating as it illustrates a widening gap between conservative Christianity and society as a whole. While society is clearly postmodern, the church behaves as though it is still modernist. The conservative church is giving answers to questions society is not asking, as though the gender roles are still best represented by Ward and June Cleaver.

Wading through a popular blog post by a young woman who bemoaned the merger and (supposed) blurring of gender roles that will result, I was struck by how many women responded that the Girl Scouts were not as fun or adventurous as the Boy Scouts. There are conservative minded assumptions about what girls find fun, and what boys find fun that, frankly, ignore the fact that those assumptions are based on outdated ideas of gender roles.

Herein lies the problem with attempting to have clearly defined gender roles, and organizations that segregate the two: many children simply don’t fit. It mirrors the problems within conservative orthodoxy as a whole: some individuals needs will not be met, and their unique giftedness will not be used or nurtured. Worse still, the message some will receive is that they are not wanted or valued. The church has for eons been trying to operate under the “separate but equal” paradigm. It just doesn’t work. Honestly, if you are equal why are you treated separately?

Maybe I am being a bit of a maverick, but I just don’t see conformity as a virtue to teach our children. I am more of a “be the best version of yourself” type of a guy. After all, Jesus seemed to spend most of his time with non-conformists, rejecting the religious conformists when they tried to correct him. It might be a good idea.

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