The Boy Scouts of America's decision last week to strike the restriction denying membership to youths on the basis of sexual orientation presents a tremendous opportunity for parents of young men.
Regardless your family’s position on the hot-button issue, the change in policy gives parents and sons at least three fantastic discussion topics.
First, young men must understand that with regards to sexual behavior, absolutely nothing has changed. The BSA’s official statement is clear: “The resolution also reinforces that Scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting.”
We live in a pulsating world where our children are bombarded with blatant sexuality and subtle innuendo years before sexual conduct belongs on their radar. If your son is a Scout, why not use the news to have a frank discussion about abstinence? Remind them of the expectations of Scouting, of your faith and of you.
Second, this is a golden opportunity for parents to teach sons how important it is to treat others with respect. Perhaps you’re among those who disagree with the change or who would have preferred an even greater pivot in the direction to include adult leaders. If so, consider using this moment to demonstrate to your children how you can voice disapproval calmly through the proper channels with dignity and honor.
It’s critical that our sons see that we respect all young men no matter their Scout rank, race, religion or sexual orientation. This approach is central to Scouting’s mission. Parents and boys should always remember that among other things, the Scout Law defines these young men as loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind and cheerful. Those attitudes and behaviors are not optional, even when we disagree with one another over such critical matters.
Third, the resolution regarding sexual orientation should be a clarion call that God loves us all. Any parent ought to divorce himself from the poisonous attitude that his son is any better than another because he happens to be a star football player, or a member of the National Honor Society, or because he isn’t experiencing same-sex attraction and someone else in the troop is.
Talk to your sons — and daughters, for that matter — about the incomprehensible love that our literal creator has for each and every one of us. We do not have to agree on sexual politics, policy or preference, but we do have to care for one another, because God commands it.
Let's show love. Model a caring attitude. Teach compassion.
The controversy surrounding this new policy isn’t likely to be fueled by the young men learning to tie knots, fold flags and be good citizens. If negativity and distrust catches fire and spreads, it will come from adult leaders and parents who perhaps lose sight that it’s not about press conferences, boycotts and bullying. It’s about the boys.
What does the Boy Scouts of America decision mean for your son? It means a chance to sit down with dad, mom or both over their favorite treat and have an honest talk about sexuality, respect for others and God’s unwavering love for all his children.
If you’ve got a young man in Scouting, go seize the moment — and the conversation.
Ice cream is optional. Talking is not.
Jason F. Wright is a New York Times best-selling author of 10 books, including "Christmas Jars," "The Wednesday Letters," and "The 96th Annual Apple Valley Barn Dance." He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or jasonfwright.com.