Friday, September 13, 2019
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It's Friday, September 13, 2019. I'm Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
The End of the Boy Scouts? The Rise and Fall of an Iconic American Movement
Just this week at The Washington Post, one of those headlines that could not have been imaginable just a generation ago. The headline in the article is, "Lawsuits. Possible bankruptcy. Declining numbers. Is there a future for the Boy Scouts?,” meaning the organization that had been until recently known as the Boy Scouts of America.
The Washington Post story is by Samantha Schmidt and Kayla Epstein and it begins by making the point that it is getting to be more and more difficult to sign up kids to join the scouting movement. Now again, we say kids because when we're talking about Cub Scouts, since 2018, girls have been involved in Cub Scouts. Also since 2018, it has been announced that there will be a separate scouting program within the group now renamed Scouting BSA for girls going all the way up to the rank of Eagle Scout.
But we're getting ahead of our story, we need to go back to the point of the news article, which is that the future of the scouting movement is now very much in question. There are a lot of reasons behind it. The opening issue raised by the newspaper article is just the changing nature of childhood and adolescence in America. Kids and teenagers are now involved in many more activities than were envisioned a generation ago, not to mention going back to the beginning of the scouting movement in the early years of the 20th century. There are all kinds of sporting activities and artistic activities. And furthermore, you have the fact that many of these kids aren't in that many activities at all. The culture that produced the Boy Scouts of America, here's the bottom line, is a culture that is itself disappearing.
But there's a massive story here with expansive worldview implications and that's why we are looking at this story seriously. Of course, there's another part of the story concerning the decline of the Boy Scouts, and it has to do with the bankruptcy and lawsuits language that is found in the headline. This is traceable to the sex abuse crisis that has threatened the very legal and economic existence of the Boy Scouting movement, now again known as Scouts BSA.
The Post's article tells us, "It has been a tumultuous time for the Boy Scouts of America. Youth membership has declined more than 26% in the past decade. Then last year, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints announced it would be cutting ties with the organization. The Mormon church had been the largest participant in the Boy Scouts program in the US, making up nearly 20% of all youth members."
The article goes on, "Over the past decade, victim lawsuits and media investigations have revealed thousands of internal Boy Scouts documents detailing generations of alleged abusers accused of preying on vulnerable scouts. An investigator, hired by the Boy Scouts, revealed in January that her team had identified," and we could simply say here no less than, "12,254 victims and 7,819 perpetrators in internal documents from 1946 to 2016."
Now the organization would likely be threatened by any number of sexual abuse claims, but you are talking here about a massive number. Some will come back and say, "Yes, but this covers the years 1946 to 2016." But one of the points we now know to make is that during most of those years, it is unlikely that the victims would have come forward and even have made the charges or have even aired concerns. The reality is these numbers are probably just the beginning of the total.
A few months ago, Scouts BSA announced that the organization was considering a bankruptcy filing to protect itself from the avalanche of lawsuits that may be virtually endless. That bankruptcy protection would at least draw a line on what suits could be filed and what the economic exposure of the scouting organization might be.
Since then, several state authorities have begun to at least redefine the statute of limitations, meaning that there could be an increased and more urgent number of lawsuits filed against the scouting movement. The point is, we've now reached the point where the financial future, even the future existence, of the scouting movement is very much in question. Thus, The Washington Post headline.
The story then goes to Pennsylvania where we are told that some schools in the area are not now even allowing the local scouting groups to recruit. One person said, "I've heard phrases like, 'If we keep going the way we're going, we'll be gone by 2025.'"
There is an acknowledgement in The Washington Post article that the fall in enrollment in the Boy Scouts, the fall in membership, is rooted long before the sex abuse crisis came to a public consciousness. But the reality is, we need to look closer what's going on here and we need to understand how this fits within the larger context of modern America. And we need to look at the worldview implications, which are massively huge.
First of all, the history of the scouting movement, first in Great Britain but then in the United States. If you go back to the late 19th century, some of the developments that come together include increased urbanization and the industrial revolution. More men, and thus more boys, began to work and to expect to work in factories and in office and to live in cities, rather than to be involved in the kind of physical labor that's so intensive in agriculture. When most people lived in small towns and on farms, men and boys were generally involved in physically strenuous activity.
But then, make the change to the urban context in a newly urbanizing 19th century America, and then move into the industrial revolution and everything begins to change. There were grave concerns by the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries that boys and men in the United States were less masculine, that there was a boy crisis in particular.
And that raises another issue, because when you had the new urbanization in the United States, you had a new concentration and development of urban crime. And thus a problem that has affected and a challenge that has confronted every single human civilization throughout history, began to do so in the United States as in Great Britain, in a far more focused form. That is the problem of what to do sociologically, morally, and otherwise with adolescent males.
Books began to emerge in the United States and furthermore on both sides of the Atlantic with titles such as The Boy Crisis: What is Going on with Young Men? Even back then, there were concerns that boys are not growing into mature manhood on time. There was the argument that this transition from boyhood to manhood was happening more slowly in the urban environment than on the farm. The reason for that presumption was it was true. Marriage began to be delayed in an urban environment from what had taken place in a more agrarian environment.
There were also health concerns and some of them well founded. With urbanization came the opportunity for epidemics, and there also came all kinds of challenges related to, well, once again the industrial revolution plays a part. You had factories belching out smoke and you had a lot of kids, a lot of young people, a lot of boys and teenagers who were inside rather than outside. When they were outside, they were breathing what was perceived to be dirty air.
The concern was that weak boys would grow into weak men, who would produce a weak nation at the very time that, as we can now see, you had cataclysms like two world wars looming before the American consciousness. So by the time you get to the late 19th century, there were concerns that boys weren't getting outside enough, that their lives are not strenuous enough, and that they were growing both physically and morally weak, and they would not lead to a strong nation that needed to take its place amongst the nations in a very strong and concerted way.
So several things began to coalesce and they did so first in the United Kingdom where Lord Baden-Powell gave birth to what became known as the Boy Scouting movement. And he did so in Great Britain back in 1907. By 1910, the Boy Scouts of America had been formed. And just think about the problems that had been identified and look at how scouting was intended as the solution. Boys aren't outside enough? We'll take them outside. They are losing some of the strenuous activities they used to know? We will put those strenuous activities back into their lives. Boys are naturally competitive, they are also naturally involved in teamwork. And so scouting will be arranged in which you will have packs and troops. They will learn once again those outdoor skills that came naturally in a time of agrarian culture. And they will also learn achievement by means of ranks and merit badges.
It was, in both the United Kingdom and the United States, a form of creating a sort of military experience for boys. And you would have them outside, you would have busy, and you would have them growing stronger morally, physically, emotionally, educationally, and in every other way imaginable. That's why you had the Boy Scout oath, which basically addressed that kind of comprehensiveness.
The Civilizational Challenge of Raising Boys to Be Men: Can America Still Meet This Test?
But many Americans, and even many American Christians, failed to understand that there was a distinctive Christian concern and a distinctive Christian contribution to the scouting movement. This came at the very same time that in American theology there emerged what was known as the tradition of muscular Christianity.
Muscular Christianity emerged by the time of the late 19th century, recognizing that many churches were even visibly becoming more feminized. For one thing, there were more women than men attending church. Church and Christian identification in an increasingly urban America had become more of a female preoccupation than a male interest. And one of the accusations was that the reason came down to the fact that the church's message was not significantly vigorous, it was not significantly strong, and that the church's message and its preaching had failed to attract the attention of young men who would grow into church leaders.
That muscular Christianity movement gave birth to the YMCA. Most Americans have forgotten that means the Young Men's Christian Association. Legally, it doesn't mean that anymore because the YMCA now names itself simply the YMCA. As a matter of fact, you had the YMCA and then alongside thereafter you had the YWCA. But the YMCA survives now in a largely, if not exclusively, secularized form simply known in many place as the Y.
But Christians made another distinctive contribution to the scouting movement, and that was that churches became primary sponsors of Boy Scout troops. And this was also seen in the fact that scouting developed a God and country award that also had to be earned by Boy Scouts and there you had a symbiosis between the scouting movement and especially Protestant Christianity. But over the time of the 20th century, this expanded to large scale Catholic involvement. Many Catholic parishes also became the sponsors of troops. And as that Washington Post mentioned, by the time you get to the early years of the 21st century, it is the Mormon movement. They call themselves, of course, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints that became the largest single sponsor of scouting troops in the United States.
So what happened? Well, for one thing, sadly enough, muscular Christianity became a lot less muscular. You had the fact that even the prophecies that had been given back in the 19th century about Christianity losing its doctrinal and moral vigor, that began to show up, especially in liberalizing churches and secularizing communities.
So when Boy Scouting was developed in Britain in 1907 and in the United States in 2010, it did so in a culture that shared a concern about the moral development, the physical development, the health and the educational development of boys. But you'll notice something else, it was a society that even then, still then, knew what a boy was.
It was also a culture that recognized, and remember this is largely the reason why scouting came into existence, it was a culture that recognized that the cultural challenge of raising boys to be men, not just in an individual family, but in the larger society, that that was a far greater and more intensive cultural responsibility than helping girls to transition to becoming women.
That has also largely been a constant throughout human history. We don't know exactly why, but we do know that it's true just about everywhere and at every time. This is why, if you look at the ancient world, there was such concern to get boys involved in the military and in other forms of activity, sporting and athletics. That's why you had so much concern for the fact that you would have books entitled, The Boy Problem. You didn't have books entitled, The Girl Problem.
But if anything, if you fast forward to this headline in The Washington Post, what it points out is not just that we have lost the initial ideal of the Boy Scouts, we've lost the culture in which the Boy Scouts of America made sense.
But it's also very important to recognize that the leadership of the scouting organization deserves a great deal of the blame for the crisis the organization now faces. If you go back to the 1990s, it was clear that then the Boy Scouts of America as an organization was at least trying to hold on to its historic moral commitments, even to its historic definition of honor as found in the Boy Scout oath.
In the year 2000, as a matter of fact, the Boy Scouts won an epic decision from the United States Supreme Court indicating that the group had a right to define its own membership. You had people who were claiming that the Boy Scouts discriminated because they had an oath that required some belief in God. You also had the fact that even then there were those looking at the moral revolution, who looked at the fact that avowed and openly homosexual boys and leaders were not allowed to be involved in scouting.
So that was the 1990s culminating in the Supreme Court decision known as Boy Scouts vs. Dale in the year 2000. But then fast forward, not 50 years, not even 25 years, just go forward a few years until you get to the Boy Scouts of America unilaterally changing the rules in 2014 to allow the participation, and this was the language used at the time, “of avowed and openly homosexual scouts.” That changed the organization hugely. It changed their definition of honor, it changed their definition of morality. That was 2014.
But the organization then facing massive cultural and corporate pressure, and remember they had won the case at the Supreme Court, but they then gave up the case when they faced financial and cultural pressure. But in 2014, they said this rule change will only affect membership, it certainly would not affect adult leaders. That lasted about a year. In 2015, the Boy Scouts of America changed their policy and the moral reason is very clear. If you're going to make the argument that it doesn't matter for membership, it's going to be very hard for you to hold the argument that it doesn't matter for leadership.
But this did totally change the idea of the Boy Scouts of America. Especially when it comes to sexual morality, it meant that the Boy Scouts were effectively switching sides. They changed teams, so to speak, because when you have a rule change like this, it's not a minor footnote, it becomes a constituative identity issue.
But the story isn't limited to 2014 and 2015. In 2017, the organization announced that it would accept as members trans boys. Now you'll notice, not trans girls, but trans boys. Anyone claiming to be a boy on these grounds could be accepted into the membership of the Boy Scouts of America.
But if not the final shoe, the most recent shoe fell just last year. In 2018, when the Boy Scouts of America announced that they were going to be changing the name of the organization to Scouts BSA, allowing girls into the Cub Scouts, and then allowing separate girl's scouting units for older children and teenagers, leading all the way for girls, as for boys, to the elite Eagle rank.
But of course, even when it just comes to the admission of girls in scouting, even in separate units, you are talking about a redefinition of terms. And that was made clear not only in the fact that requirements for progression through the ranks and various other kinds of awards, they would also have to be redefined. But the biggest redefinition is evident in the name. No longer the words Boy Scouts of America, now merely Scouts BSA. The word boy just disappeared. And that's a big problem.
I just wanted to mention that this was made clear, by the way, in that Washington Post article when Mike Magistro, identified as a Scout Master in Pennsylvania — Magistro said that the changes, including the inclusion of girls, was all about the money. As the Post says, a way to grapple with declining membership and looming bankruptcy threats.
The Post then reports, "Magistro, a letter carrier for the US Postal Service, and father of a 15-year-old Eagle Scout, said he was relieved his chartering organization, a local fire department, had not started up a girl's troop yet.” The Scout Master and father of an Eagle Scout said, “I was 15 years old, I know what can happen when girls are around. To me, that's just a bad mixture.”
But, of course, given the logic that the scouting organization is now following, you can probably put a termination date on just how long you can even use words like “girls” and “boys.” As I said, there are huge issues here of worldview implication. One of the most important recognizing that the scouting movement did not come out of a vacuum, that Christianity had a major investment in getting the scouting movement going and then supporting it. And that the transformation of American society has now reached the point that the Boy Scouts of America are no longer even the Boy Scouts of America. And even as the organization is not now what it once was, the same is true, far more importantly of our entire culture.
Gender Absurdity in British Schools: The Logic of the Gender Revolution Can't Hold Up
But then again the stories like this continue to pour in. The Guardian, that's a left wing paper in London, reported this week that pupils and parents have staged a protest outside one British school because of its insistence upon gender neutral uniforms.
As the paper reports, "Police attended the demonstration outside Priory school in Lewes against a new policy instructing all pupils to wear trousers." Now again, this gender non-specific uniform means boys and girls, and anyone defined otherwise, is required to wear trousers, the British word for pants.
"Protesters holding signs reading 'a new uniform for nine months is not sustainable,' and 'fast fashion is the second biggest contributor to climate change,' argued girls should be allowed to wear skirts and that it was both wasteful and expensive to ask parents to buy new clothes."
The kind of nonsense that simply passes so often before us when we fail to recognize the nonsense that it is was made clear in the Guardian article when I read, "A spokesman for Priory school said the uniform was designed to be practical and to encourage students to focus on their school work. 'Our uniform also helps us to dilute the status placed on expensive clothes or labels and challenge the belief that we are defined by what we wear. Instead,'" said the statement, "'we encourage individual beliefs, ideas, passions, and wellbeing and an ethos of camaraderie that is reflected in this shared experience.'" Now remember, the shared experience is wearing pants.
The school just skipped over the obvious fact that the status concern could be alleviated by letting both boys and girls wear uniforms appropriate to, well, boys and girls.
But then next, also looking at developments in Britain, we're being told that a video produced by the BBC, that is the British Broadcasting Corporation, for school children has said there are 100 or more gender identities. Now, the article then goes on to say, "Despite doctors, general practitioners, recognizing six."
Now, let's just step back again, we are looking at a descent into moral insanity that's almost beyond our recognition because we're being told here that the norm, the norm against which this ridiculousness is to be judged, is the understanding that there are six gender identities. That's supposed to be the new foundational norm. But over against that, it is at least insinuated in this article that when the BBC tells school children that there are 100 or more gender identities, that's nonsense.
Just in case you wondered what's going on in British medicine, it turns out that the Royal College of General Practitioners recognizes six genders. And their position statement, "These are male, female, gender neutral, non-binary, gender fluid, and gender queer." There you have it officially from the Royal College of General Practitioners.
But the BBC, addressing itself to the children of Britain, now says that there are 100 or more gender identities. Which leads to the obvious worldview conclusion that if there could be 100, there could 100,000. There are actually something close to eight billion people living on planet earth, evidently there could be eight billion gender identities.
Here you have the utter descent into the nonsense of identity politics in the service of the sexual revolution and its revolutionaries. If you can have six gender identities, then you have 100. But if you can 100, then every single human being alive, now or in the past conceivably, can or could have simply designated a new gender identity.
First “Gay” Penguins, But Now “Genderless” Penguins Too? Doesn’t the Very Existence of Penguins Refute That Claim?
But then as the week comes to an end, following on these theme, we also offer a report from CNN, datelined from London. The headline: "London aquarium to raise genderless penguin."
Now, I'm just going to insert something here, this is really not a genderless penguin, declaring it a genderless penguin does not make the penguin genderless, but it does indicate the insanity, the mindlessness of the society and the leaders of Sea Life London.
The article tells us, "The chick," that is penguin chick, "is being raised by two female penguins, Rocky and Marama, who were given the egg to relieve the penguin's birth mother of the pressure of raising two chicks." According to CNN, citing the officials at Sea Life London, "It will be the world's first penguin to not have its gender assigned."
Again, let's just state the obvious, nonsense. This particular organization doesn't get to assign the gender or the sex to this penguin chick, God did. And there's also not even a denial that this chick is either male or female and will grow up to be male or female, and that the continuance of what we are told is a threatened species depends upon this chick figuring out if the penguin chick is a boy or is a girl.
Nonetheless, General Manager of Sea Life London, Graham McGrath, said, "While the decision may ruffle a few feathers, gender neutrality in humans has only recently become a widespread topic of conversation. However, it is completely natural for penguins to develop genderless identities as they grow into mature adults." Again, nonsense. If that were true, there would be no penguins.
Now, I kid you not, this is in a news report from CNN. In the most memorable paragraph in this news release, I read, "Dr. Gemma Clucas, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, said that male and female penguins displayed little difference beyond biological characteristics, which required close and 'difficult' observation to distinguish." You can thank the Lord you don't have that job.
But the fact is, again, that we have reached a certain, perhaps unrecoverable, point of moral insanity as a society when you have someone say that male and female penguins display "little difference beyond biological characteristics." That's not a little difference. No one's suggesting that boy penguins are supposed to play football and girl penguins are supposed to like ballet.
But I will promise you, because I learned this in the book of Genesis, that if boy penguins don't figure out they're boys, and girls penguins don't figure out they're girls, and then figure out what that means, then you can figure out there will be no more penguins. The fact that there are penguins is a reminder that they have and still do figure that out.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing.
For more information, go to my website at AlbertMohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to boycecollege.com.
I'll meet you again on Monday for The Briefing.