Duty to God
Michael F. Bowman (mfbowman@CAPACCESS.ORG)
Mon, 3 Nov 1997 23:08:10 -0500
In lieu of trying my own hand at expressing a few thoughts on this
thread, I would like instead to share with you the words of one of the
World's most esteamed Scouters, speaking from Gilwell Park.
The following are excerpts from a speech given to the 18th International
Conference of the Boy Scouts World Bureau in September 1961. The speaker
was John Thurman, Camp Chief of Gilwell Park, England. It was printed in
the May 1962 issue of The Scout Leader [Canada].
The Spiritual Training of Scouts
B.-P. said: "An Organisation of this kind would fail in its purpose
unless it brought its members to a knowledge of religion."
In 1957 the 16th International Conference passed a Resolution which came
to be known as the "Faith and Endeavour Resolution", in which it
reaffirmed its faith in the fundamental principles of Scouting, putting
duty to God as the first of these principles. . . .
It is vital to remember that entry into Scouting is entirely voluntary
but that the making of the Promise is a condition of membership for each
individual boy or man . . .
If we believe and accept these Conference Resolutions, . . . then it
seems to me obvious that we can admit and use only those adults who are
prepared to accept the principles, including the religious principles,
upon which Scouting is based. . . .
I have always welcomed the spiritually active young seeker who in the
process of running a Scout Troop finds the right spiritual road for
himself. The genuine seeker I know we can use, and I believe we should
use him, but deliberately to allow into contact with boys the militant
agnostic, the declared atheist, or the middle-aged spiritual lay-about
is, I suggest, unwarranted, unfair to boys and their parents, and a
betrayal of Scout principles. . . .
I conceive it possible that if we abandoned all our principles we might
recruit more leaders and consequently could handle more boys and perhaps
-- although I doubt it -- in ten years we might double the number of
registered Scouts, but we would have lessened a hundredfold the true
strength of Scouting for we would end with something that had betrayed
its past and in so doing had betrayed its purpose. . . .
My overriding fear in regard to Scouting is that it will die of
respectability, having lost the urge to attempt the difficult and ending
as a rather nice middle-class Movement. It is more important to be proud
of what Scouting does for the boyhood of the world than to be proud of
. . . I want to appeal too that we strengthen our tolerance towards other
faiths. "None has a monopoly of truth." Tolerance does not mean
weakness or a weakening of your own faith, for it says in effect, "This
is what I believe but I respect your right to be different," but that is
not the same thing as tolerating the right to be spiritually lazy or to
believe nothing. . . .
Why should a Movement like this set out to please an agnostic or an
atheist adult? Why should we allow him to contaminate (and I use the
word deliberately) the efforts of tens of thousands of adults who accept
the principles of Scouting without question and who try to carry them
effectively into the lives, the hearts, and the spirits of their boys?
Don't tell me that it is brotherly to countenance evil. I believe that
Scouting must be militant in its approach to fundamentals, and the
fundamentals of Scouting without duty to God are worthless.
Our Founder gave us a Promise couched in no uncertain terms and presented
in an order of descending loyalties: God, country, other people. That
order remains vital. Our efforts should be aimed at its maintenance.
I have not attempted to define God. I know what I mean; You know what
you mean -- and unless I am very much mistaken we know what each other
means, but our predecessors in Scouting, at the International Conference
in 1949, had this to say, and I commend it to you:
It does imply the acceptance of the highest that we know as a guide to
life and the recognition that behind all life lies a spiritual reality
which provides the purpose and direction. It carries with it also the
duty of service to others as part of our duty to God. However impossible
the individual may find it to say precisely what he means by such terms
as spirit, soul, and conscience, the recognition of these in experience
is a step towards fuller knowledge. The man who sincerely finds it
impossible to accept one creed, or to join any one church, yet at the
same time continues his search for the truth, can in all honour take the
. . . I believe we have the faith. Now, personally and -- I pray --
unitedly we must make the endeavour.
Speaking only for myself in the Scouting Spirit, Michael F. Bowman
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