Against (preposition) 1. in opposition to; contrary to; in resistance to; hostile to
--Random House Dictionary
Decisions, decisions…to buy the thin mints or go for the peanut butter patties, or maybe just indulge and go for several boxes of both? I’m a pushover when it comes to buying Girl Scout cookies from the earnest young girls who knock on my front door or corner me at church with their order forms once a year. Who could be against cookies or one of the oldest youth service organizations in America, the Girl Scouts, who this year celebrate their 100th anniversary? One hundred years of carrying out a noble and simple mission: “Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.”
Found in all 50 states, the Girl Scouts of America (GSA) welcomes girls of all races, religions and backgrounds and boasts 2.3 million girl members and 890,000 adult members. Most well known for those darn tasty cookies, their work is actually much more substantial: to teach girls leadership skills in the hope of helping them grow into better citizens, better neighbors, and better family members, all in service to others.
Who could be against them? Well, the largest Christian church in America, that’s who, at least a handful of its national leaders. According to a recent Associated Press story, that church’s bishops have launched an official inquiry into the Scouts' "possible problematic relationships with other organizations and various problematic program materials.” According to The Huffington Post, the concern is that “...the Scouts associate with other groups espousing stances that conflict with church teaching.” Huh?
Now I’m not going to try and parse what is seemingly so “offensive” about the Girl Scouts in the view of my fellow folks of faith. People of faith in the United States come in all shapes and sizes. Like Girl Scout Cookies, faith in God in the United States boasts a flavor for every theological and social taste, from ultra conservative to uber liberal. America is still one of the most religious nations on earth. That’s good, at least most of the time.
But as a person of faith I just want the wider culture to know faith isn’t always about just being against something, counter, critical, castigating, as in this critique of the Girl Scouts. Or gay marriage. Or any number of hot button issues churning in the culture wars that so wrack our public discourse these days. Name an issue, any issue and guaranteed, some one will drag out God and faith and then declare how this same God is against, against, against, against.
Newsflash. Some people of faith are actually for some things, in favor of things, lots of good things actually, many noble and true and great ideas and ideals. Like love, peace, compassion, mercy, hope, generosity and community. Like watching out for the powerless: the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the stranger. Or fully supporting wonderful groups like the Girl Scouts.
You’d never know this by watching the news, reading the newspaper, surfing the web or perusing a Facebook page. Media and social media often seem to only embrace and showcase the “against” God folks. In fact the press seems incapable of portraying faith in God as anything but cartoonish, freakish, forever handing the microphone to the most radical and mean spirited, even crazy, of so called “religious” folk. Like the Florida “pastor” who burned the Koran in public. Or a North Carolina “pastor” who advocated from the pulpit beating “gayness” out of kids. Yes he actually said that, and then his hateful and stupid words went viral and were all the rage on the Internet just weeks ago.
But not all who follow God are so against. Jesus was once asked to name the most important law in all of scripture, one moral declaration which sums up what it means to have faith in God. Tough question considering that the holy texts he followed contained some 613 commandments, many of them prohibitions, “againsts”. His answer was simple and elegant: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love God. Love neighbor. Love self.
This beautiful ethical notion can be found in every major world religion, and here’s the kicker. It is not negative, but positive. It seeks to build up not tear down. It doesn’t say “NO!” but instead declares “YES!” Maybe this is what it finally might mean both to have faith in God and to do faith with God.
So here’s my enthusiastic faith based shout out to the Girl Scouts! Good job! Keep it up for another hundred years. I’m all for the great things you do and how you make our world such a much better place. Thank you.
Pass the cookies please.