Re: A Scout's Duty to God and Country
Michael F. Bowman (mfbowman@CAP.GWU.EDU)
Wed, 6 Jul 1994 04:37:45 -0400
On Sun, 3 Jul 1994, Rick Busdiecker wrote:
> Date: Sun, 3 Jul 1994 00:49:05 -0400
> From: "Michael F. Bowman" <email@example.com>
> The book provides general information on the relationships between BSA and
> religions and BSA policies; sample ceremonies for presentations, universal
> or non-denominational prayers, graces, songs, etc.;
> Sorry to nitpick here, but as I'm in the process of informally
> counseling an athiest friend in dealing with a day care organization
> that is considering initiating grace at lunch, the use of the word
> `universal' in this context hit a nerve. I would respectfully suggest
> that if you were to stick with the term `non-denominational' and avoid
> `universal' you would be being more respectful of those have
> consciously chosen to believe that there are no supreme beings>
. . . the status
> Despite the official positions which some of the Scouting
> organizations have taken, I can assure you that there are many people
> who have a firm belief, that can reasonably be characterized as a
> faith, that there are no gods. These are not simply
> Don't-Know-Don't-Care agnostics, nor are they people who have no moral
> system or code.
The faux pas is mine in enthusiastically describing the book. The book
itself actually only uses the term "non-denominational". The point is
well taken that we need not be too presumptive. One of the premises of
the book is to demonstrate and explain how to promote religious emblem
programs without showing disrespect to anyone's beliefs.
The thing that concerns me though is the terrible situation where the
child promises to do his duty to God and Country at every meeting where he
says the Cub Scout Promise or Boy Scout Oath, while the parents
steadfastly maintain that it is improper for the Scouts to have any kind
of recognition of any supreme being. What this is teaching the Scout is
up for grabs, but sure looks like he's being taught to be deceitful and
A basic premise of Scouting starting with Baden Powell himself has always
been that a Scout must have some religious belief. Let me borrow from
something that I picked up of Compuserve:
"The following is from _Rovering to Success_, revised edition, 1930, by
Lord Baden-Powell, p. 175. Sorry this is not a little more complete, but
I had limited time to transcribe it.
There are a good many men who have no religion, who don't believe in
God; they are known as atheists.
In Great Britain alone there are nine societies of these. They are
welcome to have their own opinions in this line, but when they try, as
they are always doing, to force these ideas on other people, they become
enemies of the worst sort.
Some of these sects directly attack the religious belief of others in
a very offensive way, . . .
[an example is given]
This to every Christian who believed in his religion is an indecent
insult. At the same time it is a direct call to him to action. But I am
not going into that here.
Apart from the anti-religious there are lots of fellows who, though
not violently opposed to religion, are not particularly interested in it.
In some cases they have never been shown what it is; in others it has not
proved very attractive or inspiring and they have let it slide. . . .
Religion is essential to happiness.
If you are really out to make your way to success -- i.e. happiness --
you must not only avoid being sucked in by irreligious humbugs, but you
must have a religious basis to your life.
This is not a mere matter of going to church, of knowing Bible
history, or understanding theology. Many men are sincerely religious
almost without knowing it and without having studied it. Religion very
briefly stated means:
Firstly: recognising who and what is God.
Secondly: making the best of the life that He has given one and doing
what He wants of us. This is mainly doing something for other people.
. . ."
The Boy Scouts of America does not require any specific religious belief
or require membership in any religious organization as a condition for
membership, but does require a Scout to have a belief in a supreme being.
In that sense I agree that the word "non-denominational" is more
appropriate than universal and will review the book in the next edit to
make sure we haven't slipped.
What I don't want to do is to needlessly offend anyone's beliefs.
However, again there is an equal concern that we in Scouting should have
the right as a non-public private organization to set our own standards of
membership. If those who do not acknowledge a supreme being go so far as
to argue that we shouldn't have a "non-denominational" grace or
recognition of the devine in a closing; e.g. May the Great Scoutmaster of
all Scouts be with us until we meet again, then I wonder whether in this
private setting a few are trying to impose restraints of their own
beliefs, itself a form of intolerance. The idea in Scouting is to promote
tolerance of many cultures, beliefs, etc.
The bottomline for us is that we want to promote the opportunity for
Scouts, who chose to do so, to grow spiritually in whatever faith they,
their parents and religious advisors have chosen. Rick, I appreciate the
comment and apologize, if I've gotten on the soapbox - I think a nerve was
hit here to.
Michael F. Bowman, a/k/a Professor Beaver
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City