Duty to God
The BSA is making a concerted effort to re-inforce “A Scout is . . . reverent” (Scout Law.) and “On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God . . . .” (Scout Oath.) “A Scout is revent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties. He respects the beliefs of others.” Boy Scout Handbook, 13th ed., pg. 16 (BSA 2016).
Part of this commitment is to make Duty to God a more prominent part of rank advancement. For example, boy scouts have new Duty to God requirements from the January 1, 2016 revisions (required for all scouts’ advancement in 2017 since the 12-month grandfathering has expired). Each scout will have to explain how he has lived his Duty to God. For example, Tenderfoot Requirement No. 9 says, “Demonstrate Scout spirit by living the Scout Oath and Scout Law. Tell how you have done your duty to God and how you have lived four different points of the Scout Law in your everyday life.” (Emphasis added.)
One of the biggest problems is defining the Duty to God. We are an ecumencial program. In my home troop, we have members of Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and Hindu houses of worship. We have had others in the past, too. Doing your Duty to God means something different for each faith.
Luckily, there is a sraightforward solution to this problem: the religious emblem program, sponsored by P.R.A.Y. This organization works with the BSA, Girl Scouts, 4-H, Camp Fire, and other youth community service organizations and non-affiliated youth to provide published, age-appropriate, denomination specific curricula. All faiths (other than the Church of Steve formerly known as the Church of the Holy George) participate. Each faith has a committee that has drafted and approved several curricula for youth to learn about their family’s faith. Each curriculum is focused on the level of detail appropriate to the child’s age.
Many of the protestant and independent churches have coordinated their curricula to have one set for all denominations.
This can be followed on an individual or a small group basis. PRAY has put together an introductory flyer that can be sent to parents introducing the program. The unit can offer a parent orientation, using their PowerPoint presentation, so that you have a live presentation. It includes a script. There are summary and detailed handouts. There are FAQ’s. And so much more.
Troop 56 and the new Crew 56 is beginning their new religious emblem program in the next few weeks. If your unit is interested in joining us, please contact Jeff Heck. We would delight in the opportunities to work together within faiths and inter-faith opportunities, too.
We are considering visiting different houses of worship as an optional supplement to the curriculum. It is hard to “respect the beliefs of others,” as suggested in the Scout Handbook, if you don’t understand those beliefs.
Talk to your unit committee about your religious emblem program. Talk to your chartered organization about how its pastoral staff or laymen can contribute. Watch the miracles occur.
The Crossroads of America Council’s Chaplain Corps is sponsoring a “Ten Commandments Hike” at Fort Benjamin Harrison on Saturday, May 7, 2016.
This event is for Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. The hike serves to meet several advancement requirements, especially the new Duty to God requirements and 5-mile hike.
Please Ten Commandment hike benefits.
This Sunday is Scout Sunday. Hopefully your unit has made some plans to participate. If not, it is not too late. Simply
having your boys agreed to attend one service together in uniform, regardless of denomination is a major contribution. A small contingent in uniform is usually The desirable enough target that any minister would want to recognize the group from the pulpit.
Another alternative is to work hand in hand with the pastor to become an integral part of the service. It may be a simple matter of greeting attendees. It may be helping the ushers. In any case, the idea is to be a participant in the service.Similar ideas can be done for Scout Shabbat for members of synagogues.
To learn more, see the link to Bryan on Scouting.
As many scoutmasters have learned, January 1, 2016 brings new boy scout rank advancement requirements. The moving of requirements among the ranks is not getting much attention. Neither is the specificity of the type of service hours now required: specific conservation requirements.
The scout’s demonstration of observing his religious duties is getting attention.
The great Bobwhite Blather blog addresses the question of whether this demonstrates that the BSA is or is not a “religious organization.” His analysis is well worth a considered read.
Scoutmastercg.com’s Clarke Green contributed to this analysis, last June, when he took a look at how Baden Powell thought a Scout’s Own service should be managed. Clarke goes further in critiquing some of the current interpretations and inconsistencies in the current BSA definitions of Duty to God.
Clarke’s analysis clearly in another article demonstrates that encouraging a scout to examine his religious beliefs within the religious emblem program gives a scoutmaster the ability to avoid entering a debate on the subject of “what constitutes an acceptable religion” and still upholds the principles of Duty to God.
No matter how a scout answers the question for himself, the most important part is for his scoutmaster to encourage the scout to enter the realm of seeking answers to questions about his own beliefs. This seeking process can be either through his own self-study or with his own house of worship.
Scouting is an active process of learning. We put scouts in the position of making moral and ethical choices on a campout by deciding how to treat his patrol well, especially when things don’t always go smoothly. The Duty to God is supposed to put these questions into a realm of questions that rise about the current moment. A momentary conflict between patrol members can and should turn into a moment of learning about life outside of the patrol.
Having a working mental vocabulary of his own beliefs creates a tool for self-improvement. His actions and self-reflections within a larger context cause those self-discoveries to come faster and to have a greater impact.
These new requirements encourage religious self-exploration and not any mandatory conclusions, other than the scout is part of a larger world than just himself. He needs to figure out how he is a small part of a larger world.