scouts-l Mail Archive for November of 1999: To Do My Duty to God
Edward W. Hammitt (ehammitt@IX.NETCOM.COM
Mon Nov 22 1999 - 23:27:17 CST
Finally I was able to retype the article and have better half do the proof
To Do My Duty to God
by John Thurman, Camp Chief, Gilwell Park International Training Center,
At the beginning of organized World Scouting, the international conference
in 1924 said: "the Scout movement has no tendency to weaken but on the
contrary to strengthen individual religious beliefs. The Scout Law requires
that a Scout shall truly and sincerely practice his religion."
In the 1957 the 16th International Conference passed a resolution that
reaffirmed its faith in the fundamental principles of Scouting, putting duty
to God as the first of these principles.
Entry into Scouting is entirely voluntary but the making of the Scout Oath
or Promise is a condition to membership for each individual boy or man.
If we believe and accept all that has gone before in the development of
Scouting, then it seems 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. Every leader has to exhibit a
faith himself, encourage the carrying out of the religious obligations on
the part of the boy, and guide the boy who has no religious training or
opportunity from any other quarter.
It is hypocrisy to encourage boys to accept and fulfill obligations if the
adult is not prepared to accept and fulfill his own. It is impossible to
instill a faith into others unless you have a faith to instill.
I have sympathy and understanding for the young man who believes in Scouting
but in his personal religion is still groping. I have always welcomed the
spiritually active seeker who in the process of helping to run 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-age spiritual lay-about is unwarranted, unfair to boys and to their
parents, and a betrayal to Scout principles.
Religious belief is our foremost rule, and if you cannot accept it then you
are not eligible to take part. We are a voluntary movement, but if by
voluntary we mean freedom to do and to believe according to our personal
selfish desires then I want no part of it. Surely though, that is not what
is meant, but freedom to join and freedom to leave, freedom to accept the
principles and come in, freedom to reject them and stay out.
What can we do to train the boy? I am going to give you some suggestions,
but first consider the heartfelt prayer of the small girl who said, "O God,
make the nice people good and the good people nice." The thinking behind
this prayer is tremendously important because unless boys see in their
leaders good people who are nice (and the boy's definition of nice will not
necessarily compare with your own) we are not likely to get boys to follow
1. Give the boy a leader who genuinely accepts the principles of Scouting.
2. Train that leader so that he has the courage of his convictions -
religious and others. Advise him in the ways he can help the help the boy
in his troop to achieve a growing understanding of his religious
3. Respect the authority of the religions of the world.
4. Use the Scout Law in the way it is designed - as a positive call to
5. Imbue through training a missionary spirit in our leaders that will
support them in their efforts to carry Scouting to the boys who need it
most. Half of the boys at the Brownsea Island Camp came out of the slums
and back streets of London.
6. Show that we support the efforts of men who try to do this difficult
thing, that we support them when they fall as well as applaud them when they
succeed. My overriding fear is that Scouting will die of respectability,
having loss 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 d
oes for boyhood than to be proud of Scouting.
7. Try to show Scouters how to relate the program to the Scout Oath. Do
you teach first aid in order that a boy can gain a badge, or do you teach so
that the boy may be equipped so help other people and, through that service
to others, fulfill part of his religious obligation? Every badge a boy
wears should indicate that he is better able to fulfill his promise and
should not indicate how clever he is or how clever we are to have helped him
gain the badge.
8. Is the Good Turn a reality or part of a legend, and is it undertaken
from a religious motive or a secular one?
9. Use the patrol leaders' council as the custodian of standards in all
things, including the spiritual honor of the troop.
10. Try to bring boys into contact with the best that is in life, and at
the same time, protect the boys from unnecessary temptation and contact with
11. Use camping, woodcraft, and nature - and the out of doors generally -
as a lead to an understanding of the wonders of the Creator.
12. Be prepared and willing to discuss with Scouts their attitude and
problems in relation to God.
13. Be ready to help the seeker to find and the doubter to resolve his
14. Where it is appropriate to use prayers at troop meetings and in camp,
carefully chose prayers that are capable of being understood by boys.
15. If it is appropriate, use a "Scouts' own" service as a bridge between
spiritual ignorance and ultimate conviction.
16. Make positive efforts to relate Scouting activities to the Scout Oath.
17. Bring into the life of the troop such men (Scouters and others) who are
genuinely religious and who, by their actions and presence, will draw a
response from the boys.
18. Keep the Scout Oath as the basis of all practical Scouting and keep it
progressive, commensurate with the age and development of each boy. The boy
premises, "To do his best", not "to do", making the promise a reasonable
undertaking and also a considerable challenge to try to do better today than
he managed to do yesterday.
There remains one other thing that needs to be worked into everything else.
This is to show a boy how to enjoy his religion, how to enjoy his
relationship with God. Don't let him regard duty to God as a sort of pull
that adults insist he take in order to be in Scouting. We can lead a boy to
enjoyment of his religion if we show that we enjoy ours.
I have said that we must strengthen our beliefs, but I want to appeal too,
that we strengthen our tolerance toward other faiths. "None has a monopoly
on truth". Tolerance does not mean weakness or weakening of your own faith,
for it says in affect "This is what I believe, but I respect your right to
believe something different." That is not the same as tolerating the right
to be spiritually lazy or to believe in nothing.
There is now a poverty of spirituality possibly greater than at any other
time in Scouting's history. No nation can afford to live on the spiritual
capital garnered by its forbears.
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.
Reproduced from "Scouting"