After the Boy Scouts of America decided to open their ranks to (openly) gay members last May, the American Conservatives noted blogger Rod Dreher confidently predicted a schism in scouting ranks of biblical — well, of Mainline Protestant — proportions.
I have nothing new to say about any of this, except to note the bloody obvious: that the symbolism of this event can hardly be overestimated. As traditionalist and conservative churches withdraw troop sponsorship, and parents pull their sons, this will split the Boy Scouts Of America just like the homosexuality issue has split mainline Protestant churches.
But, as one of his readers pointed out to him, this does not seem to have happened. Thus far, the BSA has lost a mere six percent of its membership, and some of that decline may well be due to other causes.
To his credit, Dreher admits that his prophecy missed the mark: “This really does surprise me. I was wrong, and have to own up to it.” So how could the Sage of St. Francisville gotten it so wrong?
Well, a lot of those traditionalist and conservative churches didn’t withdraw troop sponsorship. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which sponsors a disproportionately large number of troops, backed the decision as a reaffirmation of the BSA’s founding principles. And while the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, took a dim view, it left the decision to sponsor or not to sponsor up to individual congregations.
Why was there little withdrawal of sponsorship? Symbolism be damned, it’s not easy to deny membership in a church-based organization to kids who go to your church — or, to be precise in this case, to do so by switching over to a group like Trail Life USA. More than that, we have reached the point when the vast majority of Americans just don’t think it’s right to exclude gays and lesbians from organizations.