I am a Girl Scout dropout.
It’s true: back in the second grade, I lasted only a few months in the Girl Scouts troop that met after school in my suburban Chicago neighborhood. I never had the beanie, nor the sash, nor the green outfit; never earned a patch; never sold a cookie. The only meeting I remember was one in which we made cinnamon toast. And it was soggy.
So I’ve not been much of a Girl Scout supporter, beyond buying a box of Tagalongs when I’m guilted into doing so at the grocery store entrance—that is, when my lack of eye contact hasn’t worked and a Girl Scout manages to make me feel like a cheapskate for not coughing up too many dollars for too-small cookies.
Thanks to Robert Morris, though, I’m a Girl Scout supporter now.
You’ve probably read about Bob, the Indiana representative from Fort Wayne who publically denounced the Girl Scouts and refused to acknowledge their 100th anniversary, citing the organization as a den for “feminists, lesbians and Communists,” who exist as a “tactical arm of Planned Parenthood,” and who “encourage sex.”
(I’m wondering now if I quit the Girl Scouts too soon. I mean, making soggy cinnamon toast one week, inspiring us to have sex the next—I can totally see that happening.)
Luckily, plenty of other people have called Morris out, including some in his own party. In Indiana, Republican Speaker of the House Brian Bosma apparently gave 278 boxes of Thin Mints to house members to show his disapproval. Morris has also apologized—kind of—saying that the local Girl Scouts organization is all that, even if the national organization is harboring all the major boogies of the far right: Feminists! Lesbians! Communists! Oh My!
Morris used his apology as an opportunity to promote American Heritage Girls, evangelicalism’s answer to the very scary Girl Scouts. The AHG organization was founded, in fact, as a response to the “secular” influences of other scouting programs. (Ahem, you lesbians over in the Girl Scouts—they’re talking about you.)Their motto is “building women of integrity through service to God, family, community and country,” which sounds a little bit like the Girl Scout motto, the one I never really learned and just looked up on Wikipedia: “To serve God and my country, To help people at all times, And to live by the Girl Scout Law.” Of course, many evangelicals have never been shy about borrowing things: applying a sacred tint to a secular artifact is so much easier. And, you know, the Girl Scout motto doesn’t say anything about serving family, because Girl Scout leaders are probably all home-wreckers and abortionists.
It seems that American Heritage Girls may be doing lots of stuff similar to their secular counterparts. They learn about leadership and life skills and building confidence, which is a good thing: we need more young women willing to truly take leadership roles.They win patches for doing stuff. They have outfits with sashes, though the AHG uniform is red, white, and blue, the colors of a true patriot. (green = lefty.) They move through different levels, aspiring to earn the Dolley Madison award—which I assume is named after the First Lady, not the pastry company.
Where the Girl Scouts might part company with AGH is in their principles. While the Girl Scouts are apparently teaching their members about sex and Planned Parenthood—in between learning how to build a fire and guilting people into buying Tagalongs—AGH members are discovering all the hallmarks of true Christian womanhood, including sexual purity. In fact, it’s interesting that sexual purity is the first principle listed on their web site, a rhetorical strategy suggesting that making sure the girls remain free from sexual activity before marriage is somehow more important than service, stewardship, or integrity. I wonder—are the Girl Scouts focused on sex (even its abstinence) this much?
Don’t get me wrong—I’m not meaning to critique the AGH as a service organization. I imagine it does good work for many of the girls in its membership. What I am critiquing is the repeated impulse by evangelicals, including Rep. Robert Morris, to demonize organizations that also do good work. To castigate said institutions by relying on those code words that let other evangelicals know the organizations are truly evil. To create alternative organizations that seem almost a replica of the original, save they are awash in God language and the chimera of “biblically-sound principles.” To let folks know that if they are part of “secular” institutions, they are not truly Christians, or patriots, or even human.
Such impulses by evangelicals make me absolutely crazy, like I want to kick someone hard. But since I’m a pacifist, I’ll probably just eat some Thin Mints in protest—though even purchasing 278 boxes hardly seems enough.