Boy Scouts, and Why Exclusivity Isn’t Always a Bad Thing

January 30, 2013

Have you ever been left out of a group?ComeToSecretClub

You know, like not invited to a birthday party?  Or the mean kids at school made a “No (Your Name) Club.”

That’s what I thought.  At one time or another, we’ve all felt left out.

This week, it’s being reported that an announcement may be imminent: that the Boy Scouts will begin to allow gay scouts and leaders (at the discretion of the individual troops, it appears.)

Of course, opinions fall all over the spectrum.  Who should be “in” and who should be “out.”  Ahem…

Plenty of people have been simultaneously praising and insulting the Scouts for a great first step away from “bigotry.”  And there are others who think it will ruin the spirit of Scouting.  For some unfathomable reason, USA Today asked SBC President Albert Mohler what he thinks of the pending announcement, as if his opinion has any bearing whatsoever and is not already thoroughly predictable.

You know what I think?

I think exclusivity – leaving some people out – is not always such a bad thing…

…but probably not in the way you’re thinking.

Don’t Be a Tourist

You remember the movie Fight Club?

Our protagonist, Jack, meets Marla at a support group…a support group for men…with testicular cancer.  Of course, it’s obvious what is wrong with this picture.  A woman (and a healthy man) have no place in that group.  The group is supposed to be exclusive.  Healthy men (and all women) are supposed to be left out.

We just need to admit this: by definition, every group is exclusive.  They leave some people out, sometimes for reasons that seem very arbitrary to people who aren’t in the group.  Every church, for example, has a statement of faith.  You are welcome to show up if you are an atheist, but to be a full fledged member, you have to believe what the church does.

Many clubs, such as a support group or a men’s or women’s club discriminate on things that people can’t even help.  When we single out the Boy Scouts and pretend they are the only ones who discriminate, they look pretty bad.  When we acknowledge that we all do it, how does that change the discussion?

Let Me In Your Crappy Club, Or Else

Why do we try to bust down the doors on clubs that don’t want them?

Maybe you agree that the Boy Scouts should be wide open to gays (and atheists.)  Maybe you don’t.  But there seems to be a general attitude in our culture that every group should be open to everyone.  Maybe that would make the world better, but before you go trying to forcibly open up someone else’s secret club to everyone, think about the little groups you belong to.  Are you telling me that you’d let anyone crash your party?

My wife had a ladies’ prayer group for years.  I was not welcome, because I am a man.  I don’t consider that sexist at all.  It’s their group.

I doubt I’d ever be able to join Mensa, because I wouldn’t pass their test.  Isn’t that prejudiced against stupid people like me?

I have never tried to join the Black Panthers, and I don’t know if they’d let me in or not.  If they didn’t, that would be their business, even if it would be just because I’m white and not black.  Is that racist?

Like it or not, people enjoy gathering with people who are like them.  What happens when a group, either willingly or by coercion, loses its sense of exclusivity?

Why You Should Be Exclusive

Whether you think the Scouts are right or wrong (as that’s not really the topic), here’s some practical advice:

You don’t need to be in every group or belong to every club.

If a club is excluding you, you might not want to be there in the first place.  Those people just might not be the type of people you should spend time with.

In fact, as a rule, you should be rather exclusive with what groups you participate with.  Your own life is the most exclusive club you have, and you shouldn’t let just anyone in your club.  The more you spread yourself out, the less exclusively and indiscriminately you let people access you, the less valuable you are.  It’s simple economics, or the reason a girl plays hard to get.  If there is a sense that you are somewhat unavailable, it makes you all the more valuable.

See?  Exclusivity isn’t such a bad thing, is it?

What do you think?  Should every club be open to anyone?  Or does that somehow destroy what made the club to begin with?  You can even comment on the Scouts, and what you think of their choices.

31 responses to Boy Scouts, and Why Exclusivity Isn’t Always a Bad Thing

  1. I agree and disagree.

    Scouts in the UK have started letting in girls, which I think is sad because it’s taking girls from our organisation and actually Guides and Scouts have always worked together. They were founded by the same guy and they are the equivalents of each other.

    I was appalled to hear of the discrimination that the American Scouts have had against gay boys and men. What the heck? Does being gay affect your gender? Uh, NO. I’m a Guide leader, and we have girls and women of all faiths, no faiths, all abilities, ages, social backgrounds, colours and sexual orientation in our organisation in the UK. It’s a wonderful thing.

    Actually I do think we need to be all inclusive for the most part. It’s exclusivity that has let narrow mindedness take hold and brought disunity to the church.

    And our communities.

    • You may be right. It’s definitely a tough subject. I have been disappointed with how the Scouts have handled situations, especially with gay scouts. (Being an Eagle Scout myself.) But I have to defend their right to exclusivity, as the Supreme Court has, whether I agree or disagree. They feel that sexual orientation and faith in God are fundamental to the Scouting message.

      As for what has caused disunity in churches, we probably can’t determine it in one sentence, since it’s being happening since the Great Schism. It’s kind of a chicken and egg problem. Which came first – exclusivity or narrow mindedness. I find it interesting that even in your call for inclusion, you (perhaps rather unconsciously) included a caveat – “for the most part.” That is where exclusion lies, isn’t it. Scouts are inclusive, save for girls, gays and atheists. That’s inclusive…for the most part. :)

      Another thing – I’m glad you mentioned the Boy Scouts siphoning off girls in the UK. Doesn’t the fact that girls are trying to bust into the Boy’s club somehow imply that their girls’ club isn’t “equivalent?”

  2. I don’t equate the anti-gay and anti-atheist policies of BSA to the exclusivity mentioned in most of the other adult clubs in your post. Most parents and 6 years are pretty much unaware and unconcerned with their hetrosexualness and godliness at the time of joining Tiger Cubs. They are pretty well aware of their gender, skin-color, and left- vs right-handedness. Being exclusive on gender is something that 99.999% of all parents and children can adapt to at the early age of 6. We are reasonably sure that the boy will still be a boy during and after puberty.

    To have a policy to expels boys between the ages of 12 and 18, for violating the clubs “morally straight” clause is reprehensible. Telling a child that they are immoral for simply being attracted to the same gender and excommunicating them from the group they’ve become socially/emotionally attached to for over 6+ years is reprehensible.

    Clubs that cater to adults can have their own membership rules. I’ll never meet the membership requirements for many clubs. That’s fine. Some of those clubs might even think I’m morally corrupt. That’s fine too. I’m a big boy. (e.g., I don’t really care what the KKK or the flat-earth society thinks of me.)

    The BSA policy that labels and expels a child as morally corrupt is morally corrupt.

  3. Wow…God is the most exclusive of all. Jesus says he is building “his” church and that the only way in is confession that he is the Son of God, and baptism and so on. So exclusive is that small club / church – Jesus admitted that the narrow way is less traveled – that in the end he is coming to take them to be with him leaving everyone else out. Seems everyone is trying to get into His club by a back door…which doesn’t exist!

    • Tough words, Brian. They kind of fly in the face of the gospel of acceptance that everyone is preaching, don’t they? :)

      • Fly in the face of a Gospel of Acceptance. Grin. I’m thinking of Jesus’ final words on earth: “Go and preach the gospel of full-on acceptance–let everybody know they can quit being so uptight about this religion stuff, K?”

        Brian had mentioned “only way in” and this is an area that I’ve spent some time thinking about. In the scriptures there’s not much in the way of answers as to “who gets in.” Jesus told the thief on the cross that he was in. He kept up a refrain that faith was important in the kingdom. He likened himself to the bronze snake (Jn 3:14) that people would need to look to. When I read those things I never do get the feeling that he was much into formulas–am I missing something or am I on the right track?

        I know the Romans road and the formula that is found in Romans 10. Roger that! I know that it’s only through him that we find the Way, Truth, and Life. I know that the way is narrow and the door small on path that leads to Life. I still am unconvinced that it’s as clear-cut IN and OUT as confession/baptism etc.

        I just finished reading The Great Divorce and The Last Battle . . . I find that my theology has been corrupted by that Lewis fellow, and my heart resonates with Emmeth’s experience with Aslan. Emmeth, a lifelong and devout follower of Tash, meets Aslan for the first time after his death and discovers that it’s Aslan that his heart has been longing for all along.

        It’s not universalism. Not all roads lead to God. But I do think it’s not as formulaic as we think, this relationship with a Saving God.

        • I agree…no formulas! BUT…it is still exclusive and Jesus is the one writing the rules. I gladly bow to all his rules if I can just have him. There will be many surprises on THAT day – who is there and who is not. Jesus won’t be surprised, He knows who are his.

  4. There is always an option to start another group.

  5. in the end…even the little rascles let the women in thier He-Man women haters club! lol…i kid, i kid…

    but brings up another topic on exclusiveness… women in the army in COMBAT. hmmm….

    • Not to hijack the thread or anything, but I’m going to take this time to give the “women in combat” thing a big “Hell Yeah” for a couple of reasons–

      1) Women in the military have been seeing combat for years already, just not in any official capacity–now they’ll just get be able to “benefit” from it in terms of being able to move up in the ranks. And considering the rampant sexual abuse that’s happened over the years, having some female higher-ups in there would definitely be a Good Thing.

      2) As long as physical requirements don’t get lightened (and there’s been no indication that they will be), what’s the big deal?

      3) Here’s where the “men’s rights” dweebs chime in with “Oooh maybe this means those free loading feminists will have to register for selective service like I do hurr hurr hurr”–to which I say again–hell yes! Maybe some of the guys declaring war for ridiculous reasons would be less likely to do so if a bunch of wives and mothers have a good likelihood of being blown up like all the other draftees.

      Something to think about, anyway.

  6. When the BSA cheaters an organization (think a church, a temple, the Lions Club) to include a Boy Scout Unit as part of their programs for boys, they ask the organization to abide by BOTH the BSA’s policies AND the organization’s policies. Some churches have policies of welcome and inclusion of lgbt people. Such policies are in conflict with the (up to now) BSA policy of exclusion of lgbt boys and adult leaders. Should a local BSA unit be allowed to exclude some people? Maybe. Should such exclusion be required of ALL BSA units? No. That’s why I’m getting ready to celebrate the required nation-wide ban.

  7. Well, just for snicks and giggles, I’m going to say that the big difference between the BSA and some of the other organizations you mention is its legitimacy (for lack of a better word) and cultural cache.

    Unlike the KKK or the Black Panthers (or women’s prayer groups for that matter), the BSA is seen as this major symbol of red-blooded, flag-waving Americanism. I mean, heck, getting Eagle Scout has traditionally been this major thing that a guy can put on his college applications. “Boy Scout” has been pretty much synonymous for “legitimate American stuff” for years–right up there with Mom, apple pie, and Monday Night Football.

    As I see it, *that’s* the reason why gays are wanting to be included–to be thought of as “legitimate Americans”. If the BSA can’t handle this notion, then maybe they need to reinvent their image–as a little organization of select individuals, instead of this major symbol of American identity.

    In other words, “Eagle Scout” on a college app would have to carry as much weight as, say, “Dungeon Master.”

  8. Exclusion is maybe the wrong word… it has been too often abused. Or I dunno, I just don’t like it. Even though I agree with the premise. Maybe what is needed is a reminder of why we exclude… shudder… why we choose some people and not others.

    Every group has boundaries and codes of behavior. They are different for every group but each group has ’em. We Christian’s have our doctrine and while some hold others higher and there’s different understandings of these doctrines… they’re still there.

    However, ask a Muslim or Jew about how their communities have been harmed by these doctrines.

    Doctrines aren’t to divide… Doctrine originally means “A healing teaching.” And the roots of word “religion” are Religare= meaning “to bind together and connect” and relegere meaning “repeatedly observing something/examining over and over again.”

    We aren’t doing a good job of these things, we’re too busy wielding these things like swords and harming people.

    Same with the BSA. They are for BOYS. They excluded certain boys because they like boys… and thus wouldn’t be able to control themselves or whatever awful stereotype they were using. That’s wrong. That’s harmful. That’s not proper doctrine.

  9. I do see your point, because like many, I have been guilty of chasing after people whose opinions weren’t actually worth chasing, and in the process, I lost sight of some important, valuable things about myself. So on that point, I agree.

    However, as this pertains to the Boy Scouts, I agree with the point made earlier in the comments about the Boy Scouts’ cultural relevance and the impression that Eagle Scout status has on people. Simply telling people not to join a prestigious group if they don’t want “your kind” seems a little naive to me. People who have never been told no because of gender, skin color or sexual orientation, and I include myself in that group, need to take a moment to consider with humility that one lesson we learned about “separate but equal” schools in the 50’s & 60’s was that they were sure enough separate, but not so much equal. Ditto on prestigious, public, old-boy network universities. Women couldn’t just make a girls’ version of military academies, for example.

    I have to check myself often as I consider these topics. No, I do not want to squander my precious life chasing what isn’t worth it. And I need to stand up on behalf of those who are still sometimes silenced.

    Thank you for this thought-provoking piece! Blessings on you.

  10. The ‘left’ always wishes to destroy established institutions and create anew.

    Let them start their own, but leave the rest of us alone.

  11. Physically I am a tolerant person. In my heart of hearts I am intolerant of gays, druggies, domestic violence, Islam. In short being a Christian, I am intolerant of labels, I love people though, but have very few friends and lots of acquaintances. I believe in quality, not quantity. I am what I am. A leopard cannot change it’s spots. My choice, your choice. We all have to be accountable one day. I am comfortable with who I am: Christian soldier.

    • ” I am what I am. A leopard cannot change it’s spots. My choice, your choice.” -John Lewis

      What the hell is this?! Christian’s can’t change? This needs more explaining. Did you know that repentance means to change? What about Romans 12:2 “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”? Tribalism is the way of the world: my group over here, you’re group over there. John, you’re language doesn’t sound Christian at all, but just like every other group in the world. How are you any different?

      • It’s part of the “God loves you just the way you are” false gospel. If it were true, God would not promise to make us a new creation.

        • Hey, try this on and see if it fits:
          God does love you just the way you are. That doesn’t mean He doesn’t desire you to be a new creation to enjoy proper intimacy with Himself. I love my pre-teen kid just the way he is. I really do. Really. But when I said just now that I loved him just the way he is (and meant it!), that didn’t mean that I didn’t see glaring faults in the choices he makes with his attitude, time, money, etc. In short, I want him to change in those areas. And I love him the way he is. No logical inconsistency.

          To love me “just as I am” does not equate to “He prefers me to remain just as I am.”

  12. “God loves you just the way you are” false gospel.
    -Ummm.. that is the gospel. “While we were yet sinners…” sorta thing. Like Tim said, it doesn’t mean we stay the way we are. We must step out and risk transformation.

    • I stand corrected – an excellent verse. I’m a big believer in God’s grace, unearned by us. If God’s love were because we were godly, then it would not be grace, but works based righteousness. However, once we are exposed to the gospel, it seems that transformation is essential.

      It seems to me that God loves us unconditionally, because he separates his love from the condition we are in.

      • “It seems to me that God loves us unconditionally, because he separates his love from the condition we are in.”
        -OOOoohhh.. that’s theologically meaty. I like that… To riff on it, maybe God loves us unconditionally because he once WAS in the condition we’re in. Or because he perfectly understands the condition we’re in and unconditionally loves us and believes that we can transcend where we’re at to what we can be..? I dunno. I like what you had to say though, really inspired me this morning.

  13. Any grouping necessarily implies some kind of discrimination, any belonging some kind of not belonging. It’s a little ironic that in the midst of all our loud celebration of diversity, there’s so much complaining about the lack of equality. Are we still trying to be separate but equal?

  14. The truth is that all of this nonsense about discrimination and bigotry, political correctness etc. Is a strategy of the socialist left to undermine our faiths, our schools, and our institutions. Including marriage. The shocker for the gays, the blacks and the other “offended,” groups is that those they have thrown in with, h those they see a their saviors….hate them with a passion! The moment that either socialists out Islam take control they will likely kill them all……
    As for God, they hate him the most of all. He represents what they despise the most and hide from at every opportunity….the truth!

  15. Matt, a women’s group that excludes men is by definition sexist. A group that excludes of a different race is by definition racist. I appreciate what you’re trying to do here, but attempting to redefine words isn’t the way forward.

    The right question is “Is this particular exclusivity appropriate/useful/helpful?” In a women’s prayer group, it is probably defensible, though it would have its dangers (just as a men-only group would). In such a broad-based organisation as the Boy Scouts, I’m going to say it’s not defensible.

    It strikes me that exclusivity is related to privacy. This is why it doesn’t bother me that a local church’s membership must declare allegiance to a statement of faith (even though its statement of faith might concern me greatly!) — most churches will not impact me or my community directly. In light of privacy, a social club that’s off the grid will not attract joiners by virtue of the fact that no-one will have heard of it — if I don’t want new members, I won’t share about it on Facebook. :-)

    In fact, I think your fear of unwanted people joining a social group is almost entirely unfounded: most social groups benefit from having more like-minded participants (esp. volunteers and donors), and they simply do not attract people who aren’t.

    There is a *massive* difference between allowing self-selection, and imposing exclusion!

    So then, the more public an entity is, the bigger a say the public gets about it. When any highly public organisation is on-record about who it does not welcome, especially along lines that do not concern choice (so now I reveal my opinion on sexual orientation), then it begins to abrade its broader cultural values, which in turn attracts greater social and legal attention.

    Finally, the only way it would be justified to use Christianity as an excuse to exclude anyone is if Jesus Christ’s invitation was/is restrictive. Seeing as it clearly is *not*, it’s abhorrent to me that Christians have to be yanked kicking and screaming to an inclusive posture by the world, while we attempt to justify our resistance by claiming religious freedom! It is particularly troubling when it is directed at bodies that are at *best* tangentially related to our religion.