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  • Christian Objection to OA

    Being both a Lutheran and Brotherhood member of the Order of the Arrow, I found the recent discussions about whether or not Christianity and the OA were compatible to be very interesting. In fact, my mother is a recently-retired pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and she found the discussion just as interesting, if not more than I did.

    As we who are members know, the OA is a service organization that aims to help others in a very selfless way. It's about being a better person, both as a leader and as a servant. From my many years in a pew at church beside my mom or on the organ bench with my dad, I have learned that Christianity is about just these things.

    Nevertheless, there are still those out there who will denounce the Order of the Arrow as either evil or not compatible with the teachings of "the church". Please see this blog I came across in my research:

    Just a few weekends ago, I went to my lodge's fall conference with two veteran Arrowmen and an Ordeal candidate. One of the Arrowman explained to the candidate that his times with the OA were the best years of his Scouting experience. ArrowCorps5, service projects and fellowship are good for the soul and for the community. So I can't figure out why membership in the OA would be contradictory to the teachings of Jesus Christ.




  • #2
    I certainly can't give you a definitive answer, but having been an Evangelical Christian for the last 47 years of my 54, I think I know the mindset of the kind of folks who are against it. You have those folks who are literalist and fundamentalists who see thinga like the Masons and the OA as competing for loyalties within a person. Not too long ago I remember nosing around on the internet over a Catholic apologist who was dead set against any Catholic chartered units from allowing boys to be part of the OA. He had gotten his hands on the ceremonies and disected each one with hand written notes in the margins about how it was worshiping false gods. He took exception to the use of a fire ring in the ceremonies as well as other odds and ends. To him, the OA was taking away from God and trying to win people over to the other side. I won't go into any other details as I want to maintain the element of mystery within the OA.

    This goes along with the evangelists I would run across growing up that preached against things like having owl symbols or artwork in your house because owls represented evil. Or how the old kitchen witch dolls some people used to have hanging in their kitchen invited demons and evil in your house. Then there are the preachers who had rallies to burn records, cassettes and later CD's of that devilsh rock music. There are even some who preached that movies like ET were designed to desensitize children to the demons who would eventually physically inhabit the earth. I've also heard preachers speak on casting demons out of washing machines and other inantimate objects. Often, these are the folks that see evil in service oriented organizations like the OA. I honestly did experience all the things I just mentioned. I heard it, but I never understood or agreed with it. Some folks do.


    • #3
      If somebody's got an issue with it, let's talk. If it's all speculative, let's drop it.
      I've never heard (up close and personal) any of this stuff. If somebody doesn't like it, they don't need to participate, and they can pick up their balls and go home ... but leave mine alone.


      • #4
        Sorry, I was a bit out of line.
        I'm easily annoyed when people say that they heard that somebody somewhere thought they heard somebody say something. Then a reason needs to be assigned to it, and off we go.


        • #5
          Folks who criticize OA ceremonies as being un-christian must first understand that they are a highly symbolic,and completely theatrical presentation designed to inspire service in the context of Scouting. They are not designed to impart scriptural truth as such, nor do they suggest allegiance to a particular deity or religion.

          Now, as a Christian one needs to avoid the notion that service alone puts you in a right standing with God or His Son Jesus Christ as far as that right standing is communicated in Scripture. That's very clear in your Lutheran Confessions and in the faith statements of many other Christian groups: that is, salvation is only by grace alone and through faith in Christ and his atoning work.

          As SR540Beaver points out, there are some believers more interested in finding demons than in proclaiming the Gospel.


          • #6
            Clearly, I have ruffled somes feathers, so to speak, with this topic. As with most of my posts, I intend to invite discussion rather than to seek personal answers to my questions. So I apologize if my intentions weren't appreciated.

            As for grace and faith alone, it wasn't my intention to say that being in the OA was going to set me right with my creator. Service and cheerfulness are just good things to do and very Christ-like, in my opinion.

            Again, I only wanted to spark a discussion.


            • #7
              I was raised in, and still am, an ELCA Lutheran (and a proud recipient of the rare and extinct Pro Deo Et Patria award), and have never heard any objections, or even discussions over OA membership. I understand that other Lutheran denominations may feel differently. I think the contention is over certain elements of the ceremonies, not so much in the purpose and aims of the Order.


              • #8
                Doing "Good Works" does not bring one to God. But it is complicated, because doing the good works MIGHT make one THINK about God, or "his Son" or the Creator or the Universality or Allah or the "sum total of all the rules of the Universe".

                Coming to God, however, often necessitates DOING the Good Works.

                One CAN do Good Works, and not be a Christian (or Jewish, or Buddhist, or Wiccan...), but if one IS a Christian, one SHOULD be INTERNALLY required to do the Good Works. Ya just gotta. One can not do anything else. It ends up feeling like a debt is being repaid. I've heard/read many stories about seeing God/Christ in the eyes of the folks one is helping (read Mother Theresa and Ghandi). It is often like that.
                Now, how is it that people join together to do these Good Works? Lions Club, Rotary, Ladies' Auxiliary, Parks Volunteer Corps, OA, all know that more can be accomplished if we all "hold hands". And, inevitably, there is some ceremony , some celebration involved in the doing and the accomplishing. "Here's why we do it, here's how we do it, glad we could do it, la la la..."
                OA is, to some extent, a bit childish, but hey, we are having some fun. When I was in the OA, the chapter had a bit of ceremony that reminded us that we should not revel in the public acclaim of our Good Works, but in the private knowledge that it had been done. The "anonymous" Good Turn" (where have I heard that before?) was the ideal.
                Yes, we borrowed from some American Indian traditions. I came to realize that the important stuff we were ceremonializing was pretty universal, but that we did not want to make it "particular" to any one faith or belief, so we did it "Indian Style", and a made up Indian style at that. It was fictional indian, even tho the names were Lenni Lanape.
                What's important is the MESSAGE , not the MEANS. If the ceremony becomes more important than the idea it is meant to impart, than we are in serious trouble. To be historical about that idea, here is alot of what the religious revival and reformation of the 15 and 16th centuries was about: ceremony with out the celebrants believing or living the ideas celebrated.
                That is often why folks decide "there is no God" , due to the hypocritical view and actions (or lack of) of some publically professed believers (pick a faith). Such examples show to the nascent agnostic or athiest that such faith is truly a false basis for action. If one can DO Good Works all by themselves, why bother with a religion?
                There is a Toyota Automobile Company, I do so believe, because I have seen the multitudinous results of it's mighty works. I have never seen the Toyota Automobile Company, but rest assured, I have met several people that have, and they have testified to my satisfaction as to it's existance. So from my own experience (bless the Prius) and their testimony, I do believe in the existance of the TAC.
                So too, the "whys" of the universe I live in stretch back and back toward the beginning of everything. The ultimate "why" may never be answered. I really don't require that it be answered. The world I see and know (both thru my own experience and that of countless others) demands that there be something BIGGER than me. An ultimate authority.
                Oh well, enough for now. The electricity is back on (Thanks be to Baltimore Gas and Electric, and all the hardworking crews from Indiana and West Virginia I've seen along the roads here in Murlin) and I had to get caught up in email and Scouter.

                We really do need a "Chaplaincy and Faith" forum category.
                All in favor say "aye..."?


                • #9
                  Yah, LeCastor, I've certainly known parents and scouters who objected to the OA.

                  I think if we're honest, we have to admit that da OA's ritual trappings spring from da "secret society" stuff popularized by the Masons that was very popular in da world for a while. There've been all kinds of spinoffs in various men's groups and such, from Bush's Skull & Bones at Yale to da Catholic Knights movement to da honor society Phi Beta Kappa.

                  Yeh have to admit, they're all a bit weird, eh? But there's no disputing that OA in particular is really odd, made-up jumble of da secret society thing coupled with a caricatured white man's version of Native American spirituality.

                  Now, we can all say that's mostly just harmless oddity, except that I think we also recognize that there's a certain emotional power to being selected to a secret society and inducted with various rituals. So da question is whether it's right to do that, eh? To create a fundamentally non-Christian, animistic, pseudo-religious experience for youth who feel "special" to participate in? Does that detract from genuine religious experience, or mislead those who have not yet had genuine religious experience? Does it cause confusion in young, impressionable minds?

                  I think we have to admit they've got a point, eh? I've seen adults who are more "into" their practice of da silly OA rituals and membership than they are of their supposedly "genuine" faith, and they are the worse for it.

                  So I can understand families being uncomfortable with it.

                  Now, on the other hand, I think most kids are pretty robust in da face of adult silliness, they understand make-believe, and they are able to take the ritual in stride in a good way and just learn da fun of cheerful service with like-minded "brothers". So personally, I don't think it's a big deal, but I reckon we can all be understandin' of those who do.



                  • #10

                    I have to assume from your opinions that you are not an Arrowman.


                    • #11
                      Brotherhood, but haven't really been active for years. OA is a fine thing for many lads, and especially for da honored campers of troops that don't offer as many opportunities for older boys. Also helps strengthen many troops, probably better than NYLT because it's ongoing.

                      I just think we always have to be honest with ourselves.



                      • #12
                        I've seen adults who are more "into" their practice of da silly OA rituals and membership than they are of their supposedly "genuine" faith...

                        Interesting observation. The vast majority of the adults I've met in the Order are into the friendship and fellowship aspects, rather than the ceremonies and rituals. They're there to drink coffee, buy patches, hobnob with friends they haven't seen in a while. Along the way, they'll dig fenceposts, re-shingle roofs, bang in some nails, etc. - service is seen as the price of admission. In fact, I can't really recall ever meeting adults who were "into" the rituals over all else.

                        The ceremonies and symbolism are really a way to catch a young Scout's attention. We use ceremonies in Scouting for other things that aren't objectionable - presenting awards, honoring our country, recognizing leadership, etc. The only thing different about OA ceremonies is that they're more or less restricted, and they involve American Indian symbology.


                        • #13
                          The only thing different about OA ceremonies is that they're more or less restricted, and they involve American Indian symbology.

                          And they echo da Masonic thing, and they echo a pseudo-native spiritualism. Both of which might be objectionable to some folks, eh? Masonic stuff used to earn yeh an excommunication from da Catholic church.

                          I think it's similar to the "non-denominational" services. For some, usually whose beliefs and traditions are closer to whatever form the service takes, these are just fine. For others, they're a go-along-to-get-along thing. For still others, they're mildly objectionable, a bit like feeding kids nothing but cotton candy instead of a real meal, and for yet another group they're morally unsound and anathema.

                          I'm in da cotton candy camp for both. I think they're cheatin' kids out of the real meal and substituting some bizarre man-made fluff. Stuff that's only tolerable in small doses at a carnival.



                          • #14

                            It is always a few radical splinter groups or radical individuals claiming to be Christian and not the mainstream religions that have objections to the OA. In other words they are self important groups seeking recognition among mainstream Christians who have already rejected them and their philosophy.


                            • #15
                              BP, I don't thinks it's always groups. I think some well-meaning individuals who find solace in a certain form of piety will raise concerns.
                              Some of them, you could almost figure out their favorite radio show, but others just call things at face value and don't realize that snap judgements are often the wrong ones.

                              Usually if you point out that ceremonies were chosen in a way not to offend Native Americans (e.g. they avoid calling on gods an actor might not believe in) they can meet you halfway. That means inviting them to observe how things are done and explaining why things are the way they are.