Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A Tribute to the Boy Scouts

With recent events Boy Scouts have come again in the news - but in a good way. At the Virginia Tech shootings, one victim by the name of Kevin Sterne, who was described as an "Eagle Scout," was credited with helping to save his own life by improvising a tourniquet for his bullet riddled leg (see story here.) In another story a bit before, scouts ended up calling authorities to save a couple of people whose fishing trip went awry ("Scouts Return to Scene of River Rescue".") There are an amazing number of accounts of Boy Scouts as exemplary citizens doing extraordinary deeds of charity and service.

My son is in Boy Scouts and I am honored to be able to serve on the troop as a parent volunteer. With each activity and camp out I see additional examples of character and skill building that are helping to make him into a solid citizen and a responsible man. For some of the boys in my troop we have become a secondary family, and many a male leader becomes the mentor a young boy cannot find at home.

Some will criticize the scouts on a religious level, pointing to the pluralistic nature of the organization. Admittedly I did encounter one awkward situation since my involvement began when the cub master asked me to do a table prayer, but to keep it "generic," that is, without the name of Jesus. I told her I could not. Just before crossing over from cub scouting to boy scouting, I was asked one last time, and of course, refused. Another parent was recruited at the last minute. A smile crosses my face every time I remember that prayer and the cub master's restrictions on me. As we bowed our heads I heard: "Come Lord Jesus....." God got the last laugh.

Now in Boy Scouts I have been called on to offer a prayer at courts of honor and have done so gladly, always praying in our Lord and Savior's name, and never once being asked to do otherwise. One boy early on made a cross out of lead with a leather cord and gave it to me, which I proudly wore at my first Eagle Court of Honor as I offered the opening prayer. Stamped in the cross was the profound title: Emmanuel. Our troop is by no means solidly churched, but I have noticed an openness to reach out in Christian love to people who live on the fringes of the church, as well as those who work and live within its walls.

In the Scout Law a boy is called on to be "reverent." It is, of course, understood to be reverence to a rather ill-defined deity that encompasses many religious understandings. Scouts, interestingly enough, have been criticized from the other side as well, since they will not allow openly atheistic boys to be part of the organization. In the end they are no more pluralistic than the nation they serve, and their reference to "God" no more generic than our own Pledge of Allegiance. But a discussion of American Civil Religion will have to occupy a different post.

The bottom line, though, is that they are not a specifically "religious organization." They are a group that endeavors to promote and instill the highest ideals of our country, and they work to build up useful skills and knowledge much needed in our society. In many ways they assist in helping boys to be good citizens, which is a godly vocational call for all who live within a country and serve their fellow man.

So a salute to the young promising citizens of Boy Scouts!

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