Friday, May 27, 2005

Everyone-Is-Like-Me Syndrome

In the 1970s the headquarters for the Boy Scouts of America moved from New Brunswick, New Jersey -- near New York City -- to Irving, Texas -- between Dallas and Fort Worth. Scouting later became a captive of the religious right over issues such as Scouts who didn't believe in God and Scouts and leaders who were not heterosexual. For decades, while the Scouts were in cosmopolitan metro-New York City, issues like religious litmus tests and sexual orientation were not high on the organization's list of focus items. But with the headquarters in less diverse Texas, these issues became major, divisive problems.

An excerpt of On My Honor -- Boy Scouts and the Making of American Youth by Jay Mechling explains a lot of the details of the evolution of Scouting in America and makes the same observation.

It's ironic that here in greater Atlanta recent Scout leaders were discovered to be lying about the percentage of minority boys they serve in order to ensure their share of revenue from the United Way.

I think that part of the challenge we face in America -- part of what makes the divide between red and blue -- is the reactive desire for conservatives to return to the time when their part of society was more homogenous, back when everyone was like me, while the blues have a better understanding that diversity can be a benefit, not a threat.

Unitarian Universalist congregations -- especially those in red states -- have an important mission to fulfill in demonstrating that diversity of people and ways of viewing the world can be more vital than continuing to hold out for a society where everyone is like me.


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