As a closer look at the Boy Scouts' debate shows, God doesn't
wear tidy political labels.
As the Boy Scouts of America reassesses its ban on gay scouts and
leaders, we're hearing a lot about the organization's need to remain
sensitive to people whose religions condemn homosexual behavior.
Their morals must be properly respected, their God aptly revered.
But what about the morals and the God of people whose religions
exhort them to be inclusive and to treat gays and lesbians with the
same dignity as anyone else? There are many Americans in this camp,
and their opposition to the Scouts' ban is as faith-based as the
stance of those who want it maintained.
Take Scott Ward, 48, a public relations executive and married
father of three in Takoma Park, Maryland. He's a scout leader, with
a 10-year-old son who's a scout. He's also an elder in his
Presbyterian church. And for him, the ban must go not in spite of
what Christianity says about homosexuality (or what selective
literalists have decided it says), but because of what it says about
"From my faith perspective, singling people out for exclusion
from the life of the church or the life of the community cannot
possibly be part of God's plan," Ward told me on the phone recently.
He added, "If you look at the people Jesus tended to be most
suspicious of, they were people who sat in positions of authority to
say that they had the unique ability to judge others."
We refer incessantly in America to the "religious right," a
phrase routinely presented as if it's some sort of syllogism: to be
devoutly religious is to gravitate to a certain side of the
political spectrum, one set of values dictating the other.
"Christian conservatives" is an almost equally ubiquitous bit of
But there's a religious center. A religious left. There are
Christian moderates and Christian liberals: less alliterative and
less dogmatic, but perhaps no less concerned with acting in ways
that reflect moral ideals. We should better acknowledge that and
And we should stop equating conventional piety with certain
issues only and sexual morality above other kinds.
Our tendency to do that was illustrated by the hullabaloo last
year over the Nuns on the Bus. The Vatican officials who wanted them
to be more assertively anti-abortion and anti-birth control were
portrayed as the dutiful guardians of tradition, while the nuns,
focused on matters of economic justice, were the rebels.
Why? It's as fundamentally Catholic and Christian to care about
the underprivileged as to safeguard the unborn (or to combat