A Sign of the Times

boy-scout-sunday-clip-art-639313I have been in a painfully arduous dialogue for 2 days over a recent change in Scouting to expand achievement requirements for Boy Scout to include one additional step in the early rank achievements. (You can read about the move HERE). Now let me state simply and plainly up front: Scouting has, by design, always required a Scout to have a faith position in god. This view was never mandated as to what god or which god or even which gods. You could be an animist, a Buddhist, a Protestant Christian, a Muslim, Jewish, Native American, Wiccan, or even agnostic (since even this view acknowledges a higher force/power/being…but finds it irrelevant).

Consequently, there is much to be said about this approach to religious beliefs. It is an approach that is consistent with our cultural view of religion and is very American. We, as a nation, actually protect a person’s right to believe in any god he wishes and to practice any religion he wishes. The State cannot affirm any official religion, nor can it deny any citizen the right to worship in any manner he wishes. Our nation has always seen worship as an inalienable right, conferred on a person by his Creator. (Weird right…the right to ignore the Creator was conferred by the Creator).

In Scouting, the value of personal devotion/worship had to be synthesized with our American value stated above. As such, a scout was required to fulfill a duty to God regardless of who the Scout believed God to be. (Now for my Christian militant friends…I know that this seems weird since you might argue that if it did not specifically teach one religion–ours, then it is of no value, or worse–was harmful. I view this differently. I believe it to be a privilege to be part of the conversation. I hsve well-known that I hold a minority position as a faithful “Baptist” but am glad for the opportunity to speak of what I believe to be the ONLY accurate position about God).

So what made the conversation so painful? Simply stated…it is abundantly clear that most people I dialogued with are either IGNORANT of matters of faith, AMBIVALENT to matters of faith…or they are HOSTILE to Christian Faith (the primary image that comes to mind here in the modern Western world). A very small minority in the conversation would hold to a doctrinally faithful view of Christianity as I do.

Painful though? YES! Living in the Southeastern part of the United States, the “Bible-belt” of old, we have a limited view of the nation as a whole. Most people in my city (though it is changing) are at least polite about religion. Most would identify themselves as believing in the Christian God…as long as they could define the term. Few would outright deny the Christian God…or worse, see Jesus as harmful to the world (as MOST people in the world do). LET THAT SETTLE…because I know that last statement stings. 

You can read the comments (which will make you crazy AND, I pray, make you weep as well). They give a picture of a cross-section of our nation and provide perspective on the post-Christian existence that we as a nation are accelerating toward.

All of this reminded me this morning of three biblical truths:

  • None of this Surprises God: 2 Timothy 3:1-5.
  • None of this Conquers God: John 16:33
  • None of this Changes the Mission. It only intensifies it and increases our obvious dependency on God: Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15. 

2 thoughts on “A Sign of the Times

  1. As a former scout I too am troubled by this, but in a different way. Scouting is not about faith but service and learning to live cooperatively and love nature.

    In your “dialogues” you have missed another type of person, like me, who is not ignorant, ambivalent or hostile: a former believer who still has friends, family and scouts who are believers.

    One thing I learned from scouts: people can think and believe in many ways. The important thing is getting along with others. Basic to childhood, and adulthood.


    • Hi Chris! Thanks for dropping by. I stopped over on your page and read your bio.

      As a Troop chaplain with an array of scouts from different backgrounds. This was never a challenge for me. I do not believe there are many paths or question that I am on the “correct” path. I don’t suspect anyone else questions the correctness of their choice.

      Honestly, I lack a reference point for how one goes from “believer” to non-believer and would consider that to be a fruitful dialogue if you ever desired to discuss it.

      As for scouting…i think the life skills and nature training and character building are very good and quite helpful as life skills. I agree with B-P that true character is not divorced from a pursuit of duty to God…so I discount the position that a person can ever fully achieve in this area apart from belief in god. Furthermore, I would argue that the positive position of affirming an atheist faith would necessarily prevent a person from becoming a scout since part of the oath and law, indeed a core value of scouting pertains to “duty to god”, in whatever form the scout can articulate.

      If a scout is to remain “trustworthy” and to earnestly pledge “on MY honor” to do my best to do my duty to god… then he has to be at least willing to acknowledge some higher authority than himself.

      FInally, on a philosophical level…I believe all things are about “faith” to some degree. In my experience, I have found that God has been faithful to Himself as it relates to me and I have found true hope and peace in Him. I do not search for it any longer. I desire for others to know that for themselves experientially.

      Again, any thanks for dropping by and sharing. Best to you! CA


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