Jerry Prevo is the Christian even some Christians love to hate. His decision to no longer host a Boy Scout troop at the Anchorage Baptist Temple (ABT), where he is head pastor, was just the most recent opportunity.
In reality the decision wasn't easy, even though it was clear. Severing the tie distressed some members of his congregation. There is real value in Scouting. Yet, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) now welcomes avowed homosexuals, changing a Supreme Court sanctioned, 103-year-old policy, which prevented openly homosexual boys and young men from joining, a decision anathema to Dr. Prevo.
The BSA decision came after gay-rights groups threatened entities such as UPS, Merck, Intel, the United Way, HP, etc., with backlash unless they dropped their support of the Boy Scouts. These organizations and others capitulated, turning on the Scouts. The loss of funding was more than the BSA leadership felt they could withstand.
Not just here but across the nation entities and individuals are reconsidering ties to Scouting. This is not because they are haters but because they take the teachings of their faith seriously. The Bible teaches homosexuality -- both the act and advocacy for it -- is a sin. There is no desire to hurt anyone. It would be easier to focus on the good Scouting can do, and the compassion one must feel toward homosexuals. Yet, adherence to faith and love for others demands a strong, unambiguous stand against sinful behavior. It is a terrible decision forced on the head of any church, temple, mosque or sponsoring organization whose tenets prohibit support for homosexuality.
Ironically, people who demand so much tolerance for themselves and for behaviors they support are the most intolerant of those like Dr. Prevo. Some criticize him as unnecessarily confrontational, others as unloving. Certainly he does not pull his punches; of course he has never asked others to pull theirs. And he and the ABT demonstrably have helped build a strong, vibrant community here in Anchorage.
Each year the ABT's Anchorage Christian Schools (ACS) educates nearly 700 students. The $18,000 worth of tax revenues earmarked for each child is still contributed to the Anchorage School District's (ASD) budget. In essence the ABT is making a $12.6 million "in kind" donation to the public schools by educating these children.
The "Recovery Ministry" at ABT councils about 50 individuals, dealing with nearly every form of addiction, free of charge. Most don't even attend ABT. It is estimated that Alaska loses about $1.2 billion in revenue every year to addiction (McDowell Group, 2010), so while long-term success is hard to prove, even a small dent reaps large monetary rewards for the state.
Each week, free of charge, ABT buses in 350 children to attend Sunday School. During the summer its Vacation Bible School hosts 750. Both provide healthy, safe environments for children. They learn biblical values, such as faith, fidelity, duty, honor and respect. These are values our secular schools and institutions have failed miserably at passing along. Yet children who are taught them are far less likely to commit crime, engage in premarital sex or use drugs. They are far more likely to graduate from school and become vibrant, contributing members of society.
Dr. Prevo frequently offers his church to the community free of charge. There are regular voter forums, where candidates interact with the public. They hosted memorials for both Ted Stevens and Katie John. National religious leaders are invited up to speak, with the doors open to the public without charge. This past week the ABT hosted Fusion Alaska. Fifteen hundred teens and young adults from Anchorage and across the state discussed citizenship, respect for authority, safely navigating the Internet and doing their best in life.
It's easy to cast stones. Individuals, such as Dr. Prevo, who speak out make inviting targets. But an honest appraisal of his work would demand the occasional thank you tossed his way as well.
Dave Bronson is chairman of the board of the Alaska Family Council and a member of Anchorage Baptist Temple.