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  • An experiment involving Atheists, Buddhists, Christians, Jews, etc.

    This is an experiment to see if we can have a civil discussion about things pertaining to religion. The experiment will consist of a normal question that we've probably seen on this forum but there will be standards for what is an acceptable posting that are much more stringent than what is usually tolerated. The moderators will enforce this (and I'm not a moderator).

    It is my hypothesis that A) The purpose of the 12th point of the Scout Law is to encourage selfless behavior in our youth at a much deeper level than just following the first 11 points, B) that religion and politics don't mix well, and C) we have to start from a common place if we are to be Courteous. These items suggest some ground rules the moderators will enforce: 1) There will be no mention of anything political or legal, including anything from national. Nothing about Dale or the Constitution. Nothing about polls. Nothing about anything the BSA has written about religion or the meaning of Reverent. No nuanced legalese meanings of some phrase buried in some declaration of religious principles. 2) You must accept the fact that different people are moved to be selfless in different ways. What works for you might not work for others and what works for others is to be respected. 3) Do not belittle the religious beliefs of anyone. If someone says they're Catholic and are fine with abortion then accept it. 4) People get easily offended about these things. Rather than strike back when you're offended, explain what happened, accept any apology, and move on. 5) No complaining about the rules. If you don't like the rules, start another thread and suggest your own common framework.

    So, what's left to talk about? You can talk about what moves your heart. You can talk about your faith tradition. You can try and talk about that of others but don't cross the line defined in 3) above. You can ask questions. The point is not to win an argument, the point is to come to an agreement.

    If you can't accept these rules then at least accept my apologies. I'm not trying to keep anyone out of the discussion. I'm just trying to find some common ground. I like the term fishing for souls. We won't catch anything if we aren't Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, towards those we wish to “catch.” There are lots of scouts that could be caught and those are the ones I'm thinking about.

    So, the subject is: How do I have an invocation at a troop meeting that isn't painfully generic on the one hand and completely exclusionary of minorities on the other? This is compounded by the fact that the prayers I do see at scouting events, even those that are “non denominational,” tend to be completely foreign to me. That's because they are usually ad-hoc and I can't join in. Is there a Philmont Grace style of prayers? Dcsimmons suggested taking turns doing it right among the different faiths. Has anyone gotten that to work?

  • #2
    Pack18alex had a post awhile back I can't find that was very interesting. Something along the lines that Jewish prayer is structured completely different than Christian prayer so that even when Christians try to be non-sectarian it is still very Christian. I hope he can chime in here with more details.


    • #3
      Here are some non-denom prayers the Rotary Clubs use that are adapted for Scouts. What do you think?
      1. Creator and sustainer of all that is or will ever be, accept our thanks for this day and all its blessings. We ask that you guide and direct our Troop, its leaders and our actions. Grant that each of us may feel our responsibility to the Scouts, to our community, to our country, and indeed to all countries and peoples. Bless our fellowship today, and bless this food to the nourishment of our bodies, in your service. Amen.

      2. As we gather here today as members of the Scouts we pray that we are ever mindful of opportunities to render our service to fellow citizens and to our community. Keeping in mind always the enduring values of life, exerting our efforts in those areas and on those things upon which future generations can build with confidence. Let us continue to strive to make a better world. Amen.
      3. We are thankful for this day that you have given us, for its blessings, its opportunities, its challenges. May we appreciate and use each day that comes to us. We pray for strength and guidance for each day as it comes, for each day’s duties, for each day’s problems. May we be challenged to give our best always, and may we be assured of your presence with us. Amen.

      Let us bow our heads:
      Lord of the Universe, you have given most of mankind a strong desire to do good, to be honest, to serve others, and to faithfully fulfill their obligations to their neighbors.
      Help us, as Scouts, to do good.
      Help us, as Scouts, to be honest and ethical in all our dealings.
      Help us, as Scouts, to serve others.
      And help us, as Scouts, to faithfully fulfill our obligations as neighbors to our community, our nation, and the world. Amen.

      Will you please bow your head with me.
      Let us pray silently together, each one of us, according to our individual beliefs.
      Let us offer thanks for our food, blessings for one another.
      Let us be a source of hope for those in need,
      and contentment for those who are lonely.
      Let us give gratitude for our opportunity to serve Scouting.
      Let the feelings of love, kindness, and a well directed, yet gentle spirit always be reflected in our actions.

      (30 seconds of silence) Amen.

      13. Blessed are you, Lord, God of Creation. You feed the whole world with your goodness, your grace, your kindness and your mercy. You nourish and sustain us and do good to all. Bless this food to our use and us to your service. Amen.

      15. Let My Eyes Be Opened
      Let me awake and see the beauty that surrounds me all around.
      Let me hear the singing birds make their wonderful sound.
      Let me thank God for my health that has been good to me so far. Let all my dreams come true when wishing upon a star.
      Let me be thankful for friendship that was lovingly given me.
      Let me never forget the caring that was made for me to see.

      Adapted from prayers in


      • #4
        Originally posted by MattR View Post
        So, the subject is: How do I have an invocation at a troop meeting that isn't painfully generic on the one hand and completely exclusionary of minorities on the other? This is compounded by the fact that the prayers I do see at scouting events, even those that are “non denominational,” tend to be completely foreign to me. That's because they are usually ad-hoc and I can't join in. Is there a Philmont Grace style of prayers? Dcsimmons suggested taking turns doing it right among the different faiths. Has anyone gotten that to work?
        A great question, but one that isn’t easy to answer. Here are some issues to consider.

        - What is the scout actually doing when he leads an invocation (which by definition is a prayer)? Is he speaking for the group? Is he giving a demonstration of how his faith tradition does it? What are the expectations that are being set? Is “joining him in prayer” presented as optional or expected?

        - What does it means to “pray” in different faith traditions? In many traditions, prayers are not free form like most Protestant prayers. There are specific prayers, often at specific times. Some faith traditions have restrictions on who can lead or offer a prayer, or under what circumstances. In some faiths what looks like prayer may not technically be prayer. Do Buddhists pray?

        - In some faiths, participating in an act of worship from another faith is a form of blasphemy (deep water alert), or is otherwise forbidden or discouraged. I believe there are Christian denominations that forbid their members from participating in interfaith activities (am I correct)?

        - Is what is going on clearly communicated to people? For example, if the invocation is started in a somewhat generic way, and then suddenly ends with “in Jesus’ name” , that can be unexpected and make some people feel ambushed. Especially if they were expecting something generic.

        - Most people assume that prayer in other faiths is a lot like prayer in their own faith, just with a different “addressee”. “If I lead a prayer, all I have to do is leave off any mention of Jesus, then it’s completely generic right?”

        - Is it possible to do a truly non-sectarian (not simply non-denominational Christian) prayer? I think the answer is no. So what is the alternative? Replace the invocation with a moment of silent contemplation? Perhaps a short poem?

        I like Dcsimmons idea of taking turns with different faiths and doing them right. It could be a great way to teach the scouts about how prayer fits into other faith traditions. Include a short discussion in addition to offering the prayer. Like anything, there are good and bad ways to do it. I haven’t seen it done in a scouting context, but I think it could be done well.
        Last edited by Rick_in_CA; 05-22-2014, 12:59 AM.


        • #5
          Here is something I wanted to add, a post from the past. It was a discussion about Scout's Own, not simply prayer, but it brings in a bit of perspective on some of the problems that can be encountered.


          Originally posted by John-in-KC View Post
          Bando nails my position. The Scouts' Own as published by the National Council is ANATHEMA


          I've no problem with protestant Christians gathering together as one family, and I have no problem with protestants and Catholics (in most cases) gathering together, as long as the priest doesn't offer a closed Mass (meaning Roman only).

          AS A SCOUTER... I have no problems with assorted other faith families going off and worshipping as their way is.

          I'll sit at the campfire with you, share with you, learn about your faith from you (as I hope you will learn from me). I will even come to your worship service (as I take kids in God and Church to see a service in synagogue) as long as I am in learning mode, vice worshipping mode. Just do not ask me to worship with you. My God draws a very bright line at that limit.

          Many of you have seen me say this before. There's nothing new in my position, but I wanted to espouse it clearly.

          Peace be with you.


          • #6
            Originally posted by AZMike View Post
            Here are some non-denom prayers the Rotary Clubs use that are adapted for Scouts. What do you think?
            Actually, I really like these. They are still rather Christian in mode, but they are still really nice. Thank you for sharing them!


            • #7
              I do not mind rotate other faith prayers though usually if done by an adherent. A protestant believer to me doing a Sikh prayer always seems patronizing to me. I think a lot of it depends on the spirit it is given. I was at one event when one person did the invocation said something to the effect of "recognizing that scouts are of different faiths I respectfully invoke the lord in the way of my faith" and went on to a standard 'Jesus Lord' Baptist style prayer. I was standing with some of our Hindu and Jewish folks and they said it was nicely done.

              But sometimes folks are just waiting to be offended no matter what.


              • #8
                Well....sometimes you get what you ask for. Thanks MattR, for following through. I think you did a nice job of setting the 'ground rules'. The only potential problem would be if several other threads were started each with different rule sets. First thing you know, the moderators would practically have to have legal training, lol. But this looks great and I'm looking forward to your complete success here.


                • #9
                  I am unsure of how some of the religions "name" their god, but there's a real hang up on the convention. Jews, Christians, and Muslims pretty much just use a made up name and get all bent out of shape when that made up name is challenged. God is not his name, Allah is not his name. Jehovah is not his name. When Moses asked God what his name was, he said, "I am", or in other words, I am who I am and it's none of your business to know my name.

                  So when people invoke the "name" of their god in the Judeo-Christian-Islam tradition, they are basically trying to call upon a god with no name.

                  However, by Jewish standards (being precursor and basis for Christian and Islamic traditions) the word name is not defined as meaning identifier, but by the alternative meaning which means the person's power. My name speaks for itself, referring to one's honor and strength of personality, not your name used to identify you. In the Judeo-Christian tradition it makes more sense to use the word power instead of name when translating scripture, but not many people know this.

                  When we "pray in the name of Jesus" it could just as easily be said, "pray in the power of Jesus".

                  "Thou shall not take the name of the Lord in vain" is not the scout that uses the expletive "Jesus!" when he "swears", but the SM rattles his cage about it. But when the scout says "damn you" he is implying God's wrath be upon you, which is indeed using God's name/power in vain/improperly, and he never used the phrase "God damn you", so he gets a pass by the SM. Dang is the politically correct substitute word for damn. Every time your scout says, "Dang it" they are in actuality breaking the commandment, but they will vehemently deny it.

                  Therefore if anyone wishes to do an invocation, (to invoke the presence of one's god) all they need to is pray for the presence of .... well, any word would do seeing how we don't actually know god's name anyway. However, that doesn't really help those who get all bent out of shape based on some obscure tradition they seem to be hooked up with.



                  • #10
                    I'm liking the tenor of the conversation so far!


                    • #11
                      Rick, yes some denominations forbid interfaith activities. My wife was raised CLC Lutheran. She was not allowed to sing certain songs in high school choir because because the church pastor viewed it as worshiping with other faiths. Her younger sister was told to resign from Girl Scouts because they prayed together (25 years ago). This edict was to much for the family to handle and caused them to leave the church.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by jblake47 View Post
                        ... Therefore if anyone wishes to do an invocation, (to invoke the presence of one's god) all they need to is pray for the presence of .... well, any word would do seeing how we don't actually know god's name anyway. However, that doesn't really help those who get all bent out of shape based on some obscure tradition they seem to be hooked up with....
                        Here's my take along these lines: if a fella is on death's door I would try to accommodate his wishes as best I could guess them. This is because I believe he's about to meet his maker, and it would not be genuine to have him do so on any terms other than his own. If the conclusions he's made over the length of his life bother me, that's between me and God. And, I'm leaving it to the Almighty to sort out any mess we all've made of leading him wrongly.

                        But, as long as we have a little time in this world ... I would be insulted if someone called upon a deity on my behalf in a way that they feel would be compromising and ineffective. If my Muslim friend believes that the best prayer would start with "B'ism Allah...", how terrible an insult would it be if he offered an invocation of lesser value? Likewise if I have a Jewish friend who feels compelled to mutter "mashugana" when he hears what he's been taught is a blasphemy uttered in prayer, I would rather him do that than have him compromise his interaction with the Almighty. If an atheist just wants to take a moment to think on this world and out place in it, because he or she thinks that would be the best use of our time during the invocation. I'd rather that than some despicable act of unloving conformity.

                        Now I personally believe that every invocation I may offer is "for Jesus' sake" regardless of what I say out loud. But not everyone agrees. Like KDD mentions, I've had Christians criticize me for that, and I question if I'm doing the right thing by God and my country. On the other hand, I feel I have been of help to more non-Christians in a year than they have in decades. (And yes, FWIW, sometimes I even quote you all!)


                        • #13
                          The nice thing about a God with no name, whatever the speaker uses for an identifier, it works for me. I know who he/she's talking about.

                          Like Paul indicated to the people of Athens as he walked around looking at all their idols. There was one there dedicated to the "unknown god". They identified all they could, but had the one extra to make sure all their bases were covered. Paul seemed to know who this unnamed god really was.



                          • #14
                            I've always enjoyed this prayer: ~~Native American Prayer
                            Oh, Great Spirit
                            Whose voice I hear in the winds,
                            And whose breath gives life to all the world,
                            hear me, I am small and weak,
                            I need your strength and wisdom.
                            Let me walk in beauty and make my eyes ever behold
                            the red and purple sunset.
                            Make my hands respect the things you have
                            made and my ears sharp to hear your voice.
                            Make me wise so that I may understand the things
                            you have taught my people.
                            Let me learn the lessons you have
                            hidden in every leaf and rock.
                            I seek strength, not to be greater than my brother,
                            but to fight my greatest enemy - myself.
                            Make me always ready to come to you
                            with clean hands and straight eyes.
                            So when life fades, as the fading sunset,
                            my Spirit may come to you without shame.

                            (translated by Lakota Sioux Chief Yellow Lark in 1887)

                            It has Christian overtones but still sends a nice message. As I was looking for this prayer online I found this site which has a number of nice prayers (not a fan of translated 10-commandments but that's me). I can't speak for the accuracy of the attributions. Now, these almost all assume the idea of a Great Spirit but some give language to walking in the beauty of the Universe, etc. I'd be interested in hearing opinions on those in relation to non-theists belief systems.
                            Last edited by dcsimmons; 05-22-2014, 10:10 AM. Reason: expanded last sentence after reading a few more prayers on the site.


                            • #15
                              I always feel like I am patronizing Indians and play acting a bit when I use a 'traditional indian prayer' (which for all I know someone just made up). That is just how I feel. If I was to say this too much someone will no doubt tell me "well I am part indian" though I doubt most folks have not been near a reservation for decades. (I too have an indian ancestor -a Delaware Choptank--they had the distinction of surviving my assimilation with the colonists as fast as possible. So I don't feel a get a vote on authenticity)

                              I was struggling with some of the issues and one of our Methodist pastors who was an ex-army chaplain for 30 years gave me an inter-faith book which I have used for Chaplin's Aide training.

                              The more secure I get in my faith the less threatened I get with other faiths BUT I do feel the 'all are equal' argument is a bit of a cop out. But I always have lived in very multi-cultural areas and have been a religious minority a couple of times, I also enjoy discussing theology.

                              I think what 'ol BP was getting at was respect for God as expressed by individuals.

                              I do lean on my scouts to explore their faith, push their families boundaries a bit if need be, and be reasonably active. If there are really not believers I encourage them to be open to the possibility and hope and pray God helps them find a way. I really smack down disrespect to others--I would not tolerate the 'Jesus' remark because that would be offensive to other scouts. But I think we have a relatively diverse Troop for our part of town.

                              The biggest problem I have is religious bigotry with the middle school age boys--they seem to see things so black and white. The muslim and hindu boys get called 'terrorist' -- that sort of thing. The elementary age newbies are pretty nice and the high schoolers are starting to get more tolerant again. Getting boys to get up and discuss their faith is usually pretty effective--especially if combined with an appropriate holiday treat.