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SMT224

God?

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We had 7 Webelos crossover last month. I am having Scoutmaster conferences with each so they can earn their Scout patch. It's the "Boy Scout Joining Requirements", but we make kind of a big deal out of it, and have them tie the square knot, do the Pledge, Scout sign, salute, and handshake, & describe the Scout badge. I then discuss the Scout Oath, Law, motto, & slogan with them. I sign off on their book, and then we immediately do a patch ceremony in front of the Troop with lots of clapping and cheering.

 

During a SMC with one of the new Scouts, as I went through the Scout Law, this kid said absolutely and definitively that there was no God. I was a bit stunned, as this is a kid who goes to church every Sunday with his parents. I asked him how he could be so sure, and he said he just knew it. I challenged him on his assertion, and we discussed it for a while, but I don't think I changed his mind. I suggested he discuss this with his parents as this was a very important and serious issue, and something that he needs to think about very carefully.

 

Then I had a SMC with another new Scout whose parents do not go to church, and do not provide him with any kind of religious activities. This kid was very spiritual and professed a deep and profound belief in God and a significant desire to go to church and become religious. He said he just wished his parents would let him go to church.

 

What a contrast!

 

But the reason for this post is this question... what do we do with a kid (here a 10 year old) who professes not to believe in God? Or in this case to firmly believe there is no God. I'm not inclined to toss him out immediately, but rather to give him a chance to think more about it and discuss with his parents, Adult Leaders (specifically our Chaplin) and the Scouts (especially the Scout Chaplin Aid). But is there a point that you say - "Sorry non-believer, you're out!"

 

What say ye?

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Good luck in the coming fight. I would pull his parents to the side and have a private discussion with them. Get some feed back from them, I am going to guess they don't have any idea of his beliefs.

 

I would not award any rank advancement to the young man based on his violating the scout law every time he took it.

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I would be slow on the hook, I mean this kid os 10.5 tp 11 years old or so and if someone has asked me then about the people of the feminine persuasion, I may have used words like "Cooties", "Nasty", "Gross" and other unsavory descriptions. My attitudes did change.

 

I would talk to his parents and get some background, they may be atheist as well, thats why the young man was so adamant in his beleifs so then you know where its coming from and you have an explanation to give. You could give a timeline, explain whats at stake and see what happens.

 

I am not in favor of a removal from the program just yet

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I know that it has been established that the BSA can discriminate based on belief in God when selecting adult leaders, but is there any basis for removing an 11 year old youth from the program for claiming to be an athiest?

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Right now, you have a Scout that is going to church every week - which, on the face of it, satisifies the requirements to show a reverence to God and an obligation to God. He's meeting the requirements despite his statement that "there is no God". I wouldn't consider these words to mean that he doesn't believe in God - not at this age, not when his family goes to church.

 

When someone expresses these particular words - that there is no God - more often than not something else is going on and the person is lashing out at the thing that he's been told is an all-powerful, all-knowing, being. Talk to the parents first - but not in any confrontational way - do not go to them and bluntly state that their son doesn't believe in God. Instead, suggest that based on your conference discussion, the lad may be having a crisis of faith and ask if something has happened recently to make him wonder if there is a God or not. Maybe a beloved pet died, or a very good friend, or a grandparent, or teacher - someone close. Or maybe the family is now dealing with an illness.

 

Do not stop his trail of advancement - as I mentioned, by going to church, he is being reverent to God, even if he is having his own personal issues with God. It's not up to you to gauge whether he believes in God - only if he's meeting an obligation to God and showing reverence to God.

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Yep. You're coming up against an Eastern vs. Western definition of "belief."

 

The Western is all intelectuall. So you give props to the unchurched kid who confesses this inward spiritual life.

 

The Eastern is more (not all) behavioral. So the guy who acts the faith ("goes through the motions" as we judgementally call it) in the face of profound doubts gets credited as a believer.

 

Obviously you should let the parents know as mentioned above. Right now, his actions are lining up with the oath and law, so you can count that. You don't have to bring this up with him right now, but at each SMC, counsel the boy that his thoughts are going to eventually have to line up with his actions and his words. And if he concludes he has no duty to God, advise him that he'd won't want to be in the position of taking an oath in vain. No badge of rank is worth that.

 

I think this kind of diversity is good for the troop. It gives kids who think their religion is a slam-dunk a chance to think through the tenants of their faith. For that reason alone I wouldn't toss the kid out. Besides SM224, if you are of Christian inclination, it gives you one more thing to pray for!

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I would have a second SMC with the boy and find out how he is going to fulfill the advancement requirement when it comes to the 12th point of the Scout Law. That should open the dialogue as to whether or not he is intending on being honest about his Scout career. Leave the ball in his court and if he cannot justify his beliefs against those of the BSA he will make the choice on his own as to whether or not he stays with the program. I would assume every SMC from this point onward would pay particular attention to this issue.

 

When you get to TF advancement have him cite examples how he took on the challenge of each of the 12 points. He he says he did nothing towards the 12th point, ask HIM what you as SM should do about honestly signing off on that requirement. If he has no answer, you have your answer right there. He will have to face that decision and deal with it on his own. As SM you need to help him work through his issue, you're not there to just judge and arbitrarily write him off. Listen to what he has to say and then help walk him through what the 12th point means and how honestly dealing with it is in his best interest, not only in Scouting but in his everyday life, just like any of the other 11 points.

 

Your mileage may vary,

 

Stosh

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Calico......

 

so you believe that because his parents make him go to church he full fills the requirement???? Despite his stating he does not believe in god.

 

Isn't that a cub scout way of advancement????? Participation equals completion.(This message has been edited by Basementdweller)

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Not to make light of it, but lets keep in mind that for the majority of a 10 to 11 year old's life, he has believed in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy only to find out that these never seen characters were fabrications. That disillusionment could be extended to a benevolent God in Heaven he can't see. While he doesn't discuss it with his parents and he does go to church with them, he may just think in his own mind that the same could apply to God and isn't getting his hopes up and is waiting for the other show to drop. There may be some trust issues at play here. I remember a Council Cub camping event where one of our Den Leaders organized a snipe hunt. Everyone had a blast, except for his son who refused to come out of the tent when he learned the truth. He was angry with his father for LYING to him. Give him time.

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Talk with the parents. Talk with his Pastor.

 

The boy is not even 11. He may be rebelling. He may be trying to get a reaction. He may also be serious. You'll have to do the legwork to determine what's going on.

 

If this is serious, then the next step for you is a long talk with your COR. Find out how the Chartered Partner will react to this. If the boy is serious, sooner or later he bumps up against hard walls of the ADVANCEMENT and IDEALS methods of Scouting.

 

I'd ask about this at every Board of Review, but as open-ended, probing questions. When he gets to the point of a BOR for Star, in a couple years, that's when the questions become tough. By then, if he's still believing this, it's time to bring the District Advancement Chairman into it. If it were me, I'd probably advance him to Star, but I think it'd be time to bring the train to a halt at Life.

 

Document your conversations. You may someday have to deal with a rank denied appeal. Your position carries water if you've kept book.

 

For now, though ... it's time for him to have fun, learn skills, and discover himself. Keep him in Scouting ... it will help.

 

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SMT

 

It could also mean this boy has had some bad experiences at his church, with a minister, church staff, etc, and that the boy equates God and this church as one in the same. I agree at his age he is still grasping with his own spirituality and vision of God, and needs time to mature and explore these things more fully.

 

As a SM I once had boy in my troop who never went to church, neither did his parents, or professed any belief in "God". He went on his first ever camping trip with the troop and the next morning at breakfast came up to me and told me how he had gotten up before sunrise went down to the river and watched the sun come up and how "really cool" it was.

Then he told me that he saw God in the sunrise and now it all made sense to him. I just smiled at him and told him that was terrific. So give that boy in your troop a chance to experience God in his own way and time.

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Maybe you could lighten up on the guy for a few years. I've worked with youth in the church long enough to know that belief systems change over time. Maybe if he can see others live by the Oath and Law he might catch a little himself.

 

I heard a great sermon yesterday from some high school seniors on doubt:

http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=171354517

 

-R

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BD - not to speak for CP, but ...

 

This all hinges on what the SM's idea of duty to God is.

 

Some people think if you don't have your "head in the game" the rest is all fluff. They accord a lot of respect to the kid who says "I pray in my own way."

 

Others think that if you are showing due respect while harbouring profound doubts, you are at the very least giving God a chance to believe in you (even though the feeling's not mutual).

 

There is no litmus test to hand to an SM and say these are "in" and those are "out". The best you can do is help a kid discover if he can be honest with himself regading an oath he makes every week. Part of that is letting the parents know what you're learning about their son. Part of it is reviewing the issue as a boy reaches an "age of accountability" (which very few 11 year olds have).

 

Every rank advancement is a chance to bring up the issue and see if the boy is moving toward a direction where his beliefs and actions match his words. At this point (just crossing over, 1st conversation with the adult responsible for modelling behaviour according to conviction) it's too early to tell.

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