WWJD and Thin Mints

We bought only one box of Girl Scout Thin Mints cookies this year and, at first, I was glad. You see, Girl Scout cookies pose all sorts of dilemmas, such as 1. how many boxes should I buy or 2. how many cookies should I eat in one sitting to 3. how can I be a good supporter of enterprising young girls while 4.watching my weight and 5. trying to figure out how much exercise it takes to alleviate numbers one, two, and four? You know the temptation. “Let’s support the kids,” we say, knowing we secretly satisfy our craving, to then calculate what it will take to burn off the extra calories.

Now it seems my wife’s purchase of these cookies and my complicit consumption have landed us both in hot water with the Church. Or, it seems, with one bishop.

Robert Carlson, the Catholic Archbishop of St. Louis, has taken direct aim at my beloved Thin Mints.

In a recent pastoral letter to his diocese, Rev. Carlson raised concern about Girl Scouts and Catholic ideology. Carlson wrote that he is troubled, for the “Girls Scouts USA and their position on and inclusion of transgender and homosexual issues are proving problematic.” While Carlson acknowledges that Girl Scouts USA have done well to inculcate leadership skills and raise leaders, he believes Girl Scouts USA is “exhibiting a troubling pattern of behavior and it is clear to me … that as they move in the ways of the world it is becoming increasingly incompatible with our Catholic values.”

I am not Catholic and so truthfully, I cannot take issue with the Archbishop about his position vis-a’-vis Catholic values. I don’t know the Archbishop, and I assume he is a fine man. I really don’t mean to demean him and some of his points. I do commend his forthrightness and willingness to raise questions about how a secular culture sets both moral and ethical buoys; we do live in a secular culture. Good for him to point that out.

I am discouraged, however, that once again we are engaging in the ever-popular, yet difficult question, and seeking the always-elusive answer to: “What would Jesus do?” This from the Archbishop: “in ‘Renewing the Vision,’ the US Bishops’ framework for Youth Ministry, … all ministry with adolescents must be directed toward presenting young people with the Good news of Jesus Christ and inviting and challenging them to become disciples. While I am certain that many dedicated leaders are fulfilling this mandate within their troops, I continue to be concerned of messages at odds with our faith.”

What would Jesus do? A great question to be sure, but one often loaded with political and theological portents. I rarely ask this question because it is generally raised when we want Jesus to agree with our opinion – and that makes me nervous. We ask that infamous question with our minds already made up, don’t we?

Jesus never said anything about people who identify themselves as “transgendered,” whatever that means to mainstream media and pundits. Jesus had nothing to say about homosexuality, however you take his paucity of words about sex. Jesus had nothing to say about forming a church, however you take his paucity of words about that.

Jesus did invite people to be part of God’s kingdom, initially called “the way.” He demanded people to treat the “other” person as you wish to be treated. He talked a whole lot about our attachment to money. He talked about our arrogance when it comes to piety and what we think we know about God. He talked a lot about things we never really talk about.

I am glad that Archbishop Carlson’s letter does not call for a boycott of cookie sales; for while I can entertain the questions raised by Archbishop Carlson, I will continue to buy Girl Scout cookies. And I will continue to support those who struggle with questions about sexual identity. I will continue to love my gay brothers and sisters in Christ — and all my gay brothers and sisters in Christ or not. I will reach out to all, not just those who might know what Jesus would do.

Thin Mints are good. That’s all I can say. And don’t get me started on Breyer’s Thin Mint ice cream and religion – the ice cream is wonderful!