Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Potential of Scouting For All

As the Boy Scouts of America revealed the decision to become co-educational, numerous articles have been posted in response. As an Eagle Scout, I can attest to the great impact scouting had on my development as a boy, and the impact of the role modeling provided by my Scoutmasters and the adult volunteers for our troop, Troop 724, all of whom were either Special Forces officers or NCOs, or officers or NCOs in the 82nd Airborne Division. 

The potential for and importance of shaping the moral character of youth cannot be understated, as youth eventually grow to influence others in all aspects of life, even to the highest levels of leadership.  As we consider a deficit in moral leadership on so many levels of public service and private enterprise, I am reminded of President Gerald Ford's response to an accusation that he was too much of a Boy Scout in his leadership approach to the presidency.  He said in retort,

“It has recently been said that I am too much of a Boy Scout in the way I have conducted myself as president, and so I reviewed the Boy Scout laws and Boy Scout oath. They say that a Scout is ‘trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.’ … And the Boy Scout oath is, ‘On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country, to obey the Scout laws, to help other people at all times, to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.’ Well, if these are not the goals of the people of the United States, what they want their president to live up to, then … either you have the wrong man or I have the wrong country.”

While I believe there are strong benefits to having youth development programs that are not co-ed, the decision has been made, with numerous considerations, to make Scouting a shaping opportunity for boys and girls together.  If the moral foundations are not only remembered, but infused to the children who participate in scouting, developing them through rigorous challenge, that comes through growing to respect, love and embrace the power and beauty of nature and nature’s God, Scouting will continue to impact our nation by producing strong potential leaders who will not shy away from responsibility in the face of difficult times. 

Our nation needs dependable leaders, male and female, at every level in every neighborhood, in every state who will live by a code that guides them to consider others beyond and before themselves and who have the moral toughness to stand firm in their convictions, defending the weak, walking in goodness and standing for justice even under pressure to preserve themselves, positions of influence and the perks of power.  If we as a nation, can revive Scouting to be available to all who desire to take on its adventurous challenges and willing to abide by its code, what an accomplishment that would be.  Let us hope that the changes proposed will grow a cadre of strong men and women who are willing to abide by the dictates of this timeless oath:

“On my honor, I will do my best, to do my duty, to God and my country;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.”

Let us “Be Prepared” by seizing this opportunity to develop strong women and men to lead our nation.  The challenges in this world require it.  The future demands it.

Brownsea 22 Camp, BSA, Camp Reeves, NC 1976

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Persuing The Cure For Highlander Syndrome

Black and evangelical. The words may seem incongruous, but have actually been linked for many, many years.  African-Americans evangelicals have been fighting the good fight of bridge building between the racial divides for decades in the United States. Pioneers like Will Pannell was building the foundations for bridges of understanding in the 60’s as was Tom skinner in the 70’s. Countless others have followed since, but few are recognized beyond the limits of their organizations or immediate communities.  Even when Black Evangelicals are recognized on a broader scale, they tend to be viewed from what I call "Highlander Syndrome" - "there can only be one,” as in there can only be one minority voice at a time that the Evangelical base is willing to listen to at one given time, and that one voice had better limit its expressions of opinion to a very tight range of expression, especially on matters of race and social justice.

Such limitations rob the larger spectrum of evangelicalism of the broad tapestry of perspectives and nuances of ideas needed to proclaim Gospel truth and combat error on a day to day basis. These limitations also dishearten those who brave taking the path less trod in their willingness to identify themselves as evangelicals in the face of uncertain acceptance and sometimes withering criticism when an opinion they express falls outside the bounds of political acceptability.

The popular artist Lecrae has made it known that as he has wrestled with the contemporary issues of race and social justice and has sought to bring his evangelical faith to bear on these issues. In his struggle, he has encountered disappointment as he has shared his experiences with other evangelicals who have not welcomed his perspective.  His disappointment has been sufficiently deep, that he is reconsidering his willingness to identify with white evangelicals.  As an evangelical who has experienced the highs and lows of vocational Christian service as a minority serving in an organization of majority origin, I can understand his dilemma.

When his stances have seemed more in line with the standard viewpoints of main evangelicalism, he has been hailed as a hero by the mainstream of that movement, but denigrated as a “mascot” by other minority Christian artists who do not openly identify as evangelical thought they would also identify as “born again.” When his opinions line up more with those of an oppressed minority he is castigated as “compromising” by the evangelical mainstream and yet still viewed with suspicion by others because of his theological perspective.  Being seen as less than faithful by those who supposedly embraced you can cut to the deepest part of a person’s spirit and can lead some to reconsider their faith community alliances, and in some cases, lead others to reconsider their faith.  Lecrae’s faith remains intact, but he is reconsidering his alliances.

If those who claim to be one’s brothers and sisters cannot give enough trust to allow for a divergence of opinion on matters that directly impact one’s life, but that do not impact their lives to the same degree, what is family for?  The challenge is in the Christian family, ultimately, the filial relationship is not determined by opinion, but by blood – the Blood of Jesus.  As the song of old decrees, that Blood “… will never lose its power!”  For his reason above all reasons, call ourselves what we may in terms of labels, all who are called by the Name of Jesus are part of those “peculiar people” who seek the truth, strive to apply it, and hope for the consolation that comes from walking with God.

Nevertheless, the divisions persist and the labels multiply.  At this stage in my own life, if had the opportunity to counsel Lecrae, or anyone else struggling with their Christian label, I would offer this advice:
  • “Do not grow weary in doing good.”
  • “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.”
  • “Forgetting what is behind, strain toward what is ahead … press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called [you] in Christ …”
  • Don’t worry about what others do and say.  When they are mean forgive them.  If they can’t accept you as you are – move on.
  • Find what you have been called to do, and do it.  Whatever you call yourself, or the work of your heart, do it for the Lord, and let the chips fall where they may!
  • Be true to God. It is He to Whom you will answer – and so will everyone else.
Perhaps the ultimate cure for Highlander Syndrome is to embrace courageous obedience. We must know our calling, pursue it with unrelenting focus and embrace the uncertainty and risks that accompany bold obedience as a follower of Jesus. Such efforts may not help us find a home this side of Heaven, or give us a label that helps people understand who we are, but it can multiply the good work that remains to be done and afford us the peace of mind and satisfaction that accompanies doing the Father's will and finding our joy and peace in Him as we press on doing what He has called us to do.