My memory fails to remind me if I've ever blogged on the topic before now, but I spent seven years of my life in the Boy Scouts. I am an Eagle Scout, and I count becoming such as thus far my greatest accomplishment. A little while back, one of my younger friends was formally awarded the rank. I saw him up there on the stage as others sung the praises of the (by now tired to my ears) of the institution of Scouting, remembering all the time that I was here for him, trying not to feel like a hypocrite, and remembering how I felt like a hypocrite when I was in his seat.
Now don't get me wrong, I still consider joining Scouting to be one of the better decisions I've made in my life, and much like Christianity I agree with nearly all that it stands for, but I have some serious problems with the institution (even beyond those uniforms... I mean they say that a woman loves a man in uniform but I would call into question the taste of whoever applied that to the Scout uniform), and were I completely up-front about my beliefs when I had my Eagle board of review the institution would have had some serious problems with me. But what touches us closest shall be last served (obscure reference; recognize it and earn my favor).
There was a part of me that felt like I was betraying one of my best friends when I accepted that award. He didn't think so, but that's hardly the point. While less intolerant than many organizations, the attitude that Scouting holds in regards to gays is still improper (and while I understand that some of the ink on the subject has been rescinded the attitude remains similar as I have understood it... I may be wrong but whatever. I have another issue to fall back on.)
The other reason I felt like a hypocrite is because of religion. I knew the God question was coming when I was under review for Eagle Scout, and I knew what to say, but I still wasn't entirely honest. I said that it was my belief that God is love and that that to attatch any doctrine to that belief was to risk distracting from that ulitmate truth. They weren't thrilled, but it fell within the lines of belief in a supreme being and they had to pass me. For the record, that wasn't an untrue statement because I never explicitly said that I believed God to be more than a fictional concept, but I will not honor myself to be an equivocator. Had I told them what I really believed, that the only source of divinity in this universe is love and that it has in itself no will and no omnipotence, then I would be short one major life's accomplishment. Or rather, I would be short the recognition for said accomplishment and therein lives the motivation behind my equivocation.
I worked hard to become an Eagle Scout. I'd be damned if I didn't get recognized. And furthermore, positions on religion and homosexuality aside I agree with the teachings of Scouting; that one ought to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, kind, obedient (well, maybe not), cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent (note it does not say religious. I am for a great many things quite reverent. I'm also irreverent at times but that is neither here nor there). I believe in the culture of outdoorsmanship; of survival. I believe that the comradery is healthy, and that the lessons in teamwork and leadership are vital.
And I had some great memories. My first job was working at a Scout camp as an aquatics instructor and a lifegaurd. The only time I've ever been naked in public was during a Scouting trip (it was a foul prank, and there were girls around as it was a coed outing. Also it was November, so... yeah. Not so much a "good memory" as a funny one) It was skits at the campfire that kindled my love of acting, and campfires that kindled my love of fire. The time I spent in the wilderness gave roots to my environmentalism. Were I 11 again, I would certainly join the Boy Scouts. I just don't know what I'd tell the people on the board. And I'd certainly encourage any future son of mine to join. I'm just not sure what I'd say to him about the religious aspect. Hopefully I wouldn't need to talk to him about homophobia, but I won't take odds.
In the end I guess it was better that I made my equivocation. Because despite what they said the day of my ceremony, that day was not for me. It was for my parents. It was for the people who helped me along the way. It was for all those who loved me who wanted to be proud of me. It was for the younglings on the way up who needed an example. It was for the sponsors of our troop, so they could have an oppertunity to feel good about what they helped to create. I made that revelation during the drudgery of the proceedings and that was what made me smile.
So the lesson of this is the lesson of, sadly, just about every institution of which I have been a part. Seize the good, and take it forth with you. Leave the shit behind.