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Appropriate Questions at BOR

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If a Scout answered "no", I would ask why. What happens after that depends on the remaining discussion.

 

Ed Mori

Troop 1

1 Peter 4:10

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Do you ask him if he's a boy? After all, he could be a girl masquerading as a boy. He (or rather she) may not have read that part of the membership application either.

 

OGE, I think there's a wide area between offensively challenging questions and creampuff questions. I don't consider, "Tell us how you do your duty to God" a creampuff question.

 

I guess what bugs me about this is the idea that the BOR is supposed to be used to root out boys that are ineligible or unworthy. That's not what a BOR is for--it's supposed to review the boy's achievements for rank, find out how he's doing in Scouting, and encourage him to continue to grow and advance. This attitude that a BOR is an inquisition leads to this kind of offensively challenging question, as well as leaders who "fail" boys who can't perform some minor skill on command. I'm not saying there shouldn't be some tough questions--if it's a troop-level BOR, the tough questions should probably arise from the BOR members' knowlege about the scout--what his weaknesses are, what he hasn't done so well since his last BOR, etc. We've had some VERY tough BORs. For an Eagle BOR, you might want to know (for example) why a senior Scout was never SPL of his troop, and you might want to probe deeply into the quality of some of his activities and his Eagle project.

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Trevorum,

 

I really hope I am just misinterpreting what Rooster said - it sure seemed that he implied that Buddhists were not qualified to be members of the BSA. I'll let Kahuna or another Buddhist member of our forum answer that charge.

 

I have no intimate knowledge of Kahunas faith. I presume since he is a member of the BSA that he believes in God. As you said, he can comment on that if he so wishes. I never made a charge against Buddhistsyou did. You informed us that the Buddhist faith does not require one to believe in God. For membership, Scout and Scouters are required to believe in God. Given your revelation and the BSA membership standards, I have to presume that Kahuna and other Buddhist in Scouting, are of a subset of Buddhists that do believe in God.

 

It seems to me as if Rooster disagrees with the BSA position statement that says "BSA does not define what constitutes belief in God", preferring to use his own, rather narrow definition.

 

If your statement about the Buddhist faith is correct (no belief in God is required), then the BSA membership standards need to be clarified so to remain consistent with the Scout Oath. If any Buddhist is allowed to join (belief in God or not, which per your claim is acceptable by the Buddhist faith), then I see a glaring inconsistency. Either the BSA membership standard or the Scout Oath should be altered. I like the Scout Oath as it stands. If you feel that is too narrow, then I will have to live with your disapproval.

 

Hunt,

 

Can you say strawman? You should, because youre making some extraordinary efforts to build one.

 

Do you ask him if he's a boy? After all, he could be a girl masquerading as a boy. He (or rather she) may not have read that part of the membership application either.

 

This question doesnt exactly solicit a Scout-like response. Lets just say, a 10- or 11- year old boy doesnt need to read the application to understand that the Boy Scouts is for boys only. The same is not necessarily true for other aspects of the organization and its expectations for its members.

 

OGE, I think there's a wide area between offensively challenging questions and creampuff questions. I don't consider, "Tell us how you do your duty to God" a creampuff question.

 

Its a creampuff question if - any reference to a higher power suffices as a definition for God, and/or duty to God becomes so personalized that no one is qualified to challenge the answer.

 

This attitude that a BOR is an inquisition leads to this kind of offensively challenging question, as well as leaders who "fail" boys who can't perform some minor skill on command.

 

Youre presuming that those folks who ask a direct question are somehow hoping to fail a boy. This is not only presumptuous, its pretty insulting.

 

I'm not saying there shouldn't be some tough questions--if it's a troop-level BOR, the tough questions should probably arise from the BOR members' knowledge about the scout--what his weaknesses are, what he hasn't done so well since his last BOR, etc. We've had some VERY tough BORs.

 

Okay, so lets say youre on a BOR for little Johnny. You have never seen Johnny display anything remotely considered as reverence towards God. He goofs around during prayers. Hes never referenced God in any conversation that you can recall. In fact, you have never even overheard him make mention of a church, a synagogue, or any other place of worship. Given this background, and frankly its not untypical, I see nothing wrong with the common sense approach i.e. asking the direct question. Were supposed to be mentoring boys to become men. Hopefully, when we think of what a man is: Its not a timid unapproachable creature that caves when the slightest amount of pressure is applied. I see no agreeable rationale to treat an Eagle Scout candidate as such.

 

For an Eagle BOR, you might want to know (for example) why a senior Scout was never SPL of his troop, and you might want to probe deeply into the quality of some of his activities and his Eagle project.

 

Or you might want to know if hes committed to his family and how hes shown that commitment. Likewise, you might want to ask how he has shown the same commitment to God and country. No matter how we make inquiries, direct or indirect, the Scouts character should be examined. I dont see that as an inquisition. I see it as confirming that the boy has met good standards for all areas of his life, making him worthy of the Eagle rank.

 

We DO want this achievement to mean something - right? We DO want the boy to feel as if the rank was an honor that he's worthy of - right? So, let's stop treating these boys as babies. If we've done a good job of mentoring them into becoming young men, then they will understand why certain questions are asked and respond with a thoughtful and respectful answer.

 

That's not what a BOR is for--it's supposed to review the boy's achievements for rank, find out how he's doing in Scouting, and encourage him to continue to grow and advance.

 

Arent you conveniently forgetting a few things, such as: the Ideas of Scouting, or the Scouts attitude, or his demonstration of Scout spirit, or whether or not standards have been met in all phases of the Scouts life?

(This message has been edited by Rooster7)

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Rooster, I can only conclude that you either do not understand the BSA policy statement about belief in God or you choose to ignore it.

 

"BSA does not define what constitutes belief in God or the practice of religion"

 

Bluntly, this means that BSA does NOT define God as you do - as a specific supernatural being with special powers who created the universe and who is concerned with what humans do and will punish or reward us. Rather, members are free to define belief in God according to their own faith. If this makes you uncomfortable with BSA membership, you are free to lobby National for a tightening of membership policies.

 

 

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Trevorum,

 

Apparently, you either do not understand the Scout Oath or you choose to ignore it.

 

If a Buddhist Scout says, God does not exist (which you claim is a valid view for the Buddhist faith), he cannot fulfill his duty to God. Regardless of how you define God, you cannot fulfill your duty to God if you dont even believe that God exists. Its that simple.

 

Assuming your understanding of the Buddhist faith is correct, then I think the BSA needs to modify their membership standards or the Scout Oath. As I stated, I prefer that they leave the Scout Oath intact.

 

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Let's debate how many angels can sit on a pin, OK? ;)

 

Although I am not Buddhist, I doubt one would baldly say, as you suggest, "God does not exist." Rather, the Buddhists I know are much more apt to say, "I do not believe in your God". Do you see the difference? (It's important.) Your God exists for you, certainly, but not for him. That is not a scientific possibility of course, but we are talking about belief systems, not empirical reality.

 

Importantly, BSA has NEVER insisted upon any narrow definition of God, even while the majority of members have always be Judeo-Christian. Historically, many unit scouters have assumed this to be the case, as you do, and have created more restrictive membership policies on the unit level, but they have been, and are, wrong in this.

 

I assure you that if you deny an Eagle candidate (or any rank for that matter) his BoR because he does not believe in your God or he does not concieve of god in the same way that you do, his protest will be upheld by National and he will be awarded the rank.

 

Again, if you are uncomfortable with BSA policy on this, you are free to lobby National for a tightening of membership policies.

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"Its a creampuff question if - any reference to a higher power suffices as a definition for God, and/or duty to God becomes so personalized that no one is qualified to challenge the answer."

 

Well, then, BSA supports the creampuff approach because any reference to a higher power DOES suffice, and BSA does not define what constitutes the practice of religion. I'm sorry if you don't like that, but there are sectarian organizations you can join if you prefer something more definite. In other words, if a boy says, "I don't know what God is exactly, but I believe that there is a higher power behind the universe, and I see doing my duty to that power as appreciating the beauty of the world," that's really the end of the discussion. He's met the requirement, even if you don't like it. You can't tell him that his conception of God is too vague, or that his conception of duty to God is wrong or inadequate.

 

I'm really sorry that some folks can't see that the blunt question "Do you believe in God?" is rude and unfriendly at a BOR. And you know, it really isn't a direct way to get the information you really want, which is whether the boy is living up to the Scout Oath and Law, which requires that he do his duty to God. Why not ask him that?

 

Note: I don't know too much about Buddhism, but I note that the requirements for the Buddhist religious emblem--approved for wear on the BSA uniform--do not refer to God or to gods at all. I think it's pretty clear that BSA recognizes "religions" that do not feature a single God (or perhaps any God). What the dividing line is that makes something a religion in BSA's opinion, I don't know. Maybe there has to be some belief in the supernatural, which appears to be true of much of Buddhism.

 

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Trevorum,

 

Although I am not Buddhist, I doubt one would baldly say, as you suggest, "God does not exist." Rather, the Buddhists I know are much more apt to say, "I do not believe in your God". Do you see the difference? (It's important.) Your God exists for you, certainly, but not for him. That is not a scientific possibility of course, but we are talking about belief systems, not empirical reality.

 

Youre proving one thing. If you continually modify your argument, eventually it will either appear as if you were right all along, or youll unwittingly agree with the person with whom you chose to debate.

 

I never said that a Scout had to believe in my God. That was a recent modification of your argument whereas you chose to put words in my mouth that I never said or ever intended to imply. I simply said he had to believe in God. If a Scout refuses to acknowledge God then he cannot fulfill his duty.

 

From one of your earlier posts:

 

But what of the 13 year old Buddhist? By even asking the question, do you think you would be "respecting the convictions and beliefs of others in matters of custom and religion"?

 

When you said the above, I took it to mean that you understood and agreed with a previous poster (fgoodwin) who said if one was to ask, "Do you believe in God?" A Hindu or Buddhist Scout might very well answer "no"!

 

I see that as an unacceptable answer for a Scout. Pertaining to the original point of the thread, I see the question as being very unbiased and practical.

 

 

Hunt,

 

The more authoritative and patronizing you present your argument, the more your words ring hallow to me. Try this on for size and let me know if youre more incline to see my point of view. I wrote it in the same style that you chose:

 

I'm sorry if you don't like that, but there are other organizations you can join if you prefer a more confusing approach. In other words, if a boy says, "I don't know what God is exactly, but I believe that the Martians are in control of the Earths destiny, and I see doing my duty to that higher power as clearing a landing path in my uncles cornfields. That's really just the beginning of the discussion. He's has not proven to me that he understands who or what God is, or why he should be committed to serving God. Hes simply embraced some non-sense in a poor attempt to comply with the letter of the policy, which clearly falls short.

 

AND

 

I'm really sorry that some folks can't see the value in a simple, straightforward question.

 

I think it's pretty clear that BSA recognizes "religions" that do not feature a single God (or perhaps any God).

 

As Ive said repeatedly, while this may be true, its not consistent with the Scout Oath, which clearly requires every Scout to recognize God (or at least, a god).

 

You have an opinion (although you and some others like to state their opinions as fact) and I have mine. I dont see my views as being inconsistent with BSA policy. Until you can produce the document with the same vague, meaningless gibberish that you offered as a definition for belief and duty to God, I will stick with my interpretation. In meantime, I accept the possibility that I might be wrong. I would be saddened by such a revelation because Ive always given the BSA credit for having values that are tangible and significant. As opposed to some political drivel that gives the pretence of morality, but really offers nothing than a placebo for those who want to appear to be moral. Regardless, I seriously doubt you will produce the BSA documentation that contradicts my interpretation.

 

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"... I believe that the Martians are in control of the Earths destiny, and I see doing my duty to that higher power as clearing a landing path in my uncles cornfields"

 

uh-oh! NOW you've done it! You've gone and insulted the Scientologists. Now we'll be deluged with sporgeries ;)

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No doubt, I did. But these days, not much surprises me.

 

Basic words like IS, SEX, and now GOD (even in the most generic sense) are all relative terms and subject to debate. No wonder this country grows increasingly divided, it appears we don't even have a common language.

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"Its a creampuff question if - any reference to a higher power suffices as a definition for God, and/or duty to God becomes so personalized that no one is qualified to challenge the answer."

 

The Scout Oath DOES personalize "Duty to God" - and as long as a scout has an answer that works for him you really can't challenge the answer. Lets look at what the Scout Oath says - the most important part that qualifies all that follows: "On my honor, I will do my best, to do my duty" - Its all about "I" and "my" - MY best, MY duty - who is anyone else to stand up and tell a Scout what there duty is, or should be (other than perhaps the parents) - its all about how the individual sees his duty, to whatever god he may believe in. The Scout is responsible for defining what his duty is, no one else - and his idea of what his duty is may be completely foreign to his BOR questioners - but the BOR must still accept that the Scout is doing HIS duty. The BOR's idea of what a Scout's Duty to God is has no bearing on whether the Scout is doing his Duty to God.

 

As an example, let me pose an answer to the following post:

"Okay, so lets say youre on a BOR for little Johnny. You have never seen Johnny display anything remotely considered as reverence towards God. He goofs around during prayers. Hes never referenced God in any conversation that you can recall. In fact, you have never even overheard him make mention of a church, a synagogue, or any other place of worship."

 

The above seems to assume that one's Duty to God is to reference God in conversations, or to go to church, or to pray (granted, the Scout isn't being reverent if he's goofing around during prayers - he isn't respecting others expression of religion - but that can be handled in a discussion of the Scout Law - which, by the way, the Oath tells us we must do our BEST to obey the Scout Law - not follow it letter perfect). I submit that this is a shallow representation of ones Duty to God.

 

First - can't a Scout believe in God without belonging to a church, or praying, or referencing God? Second, isn't a Scout who doesn't go to church services on Sunday (or whatever day) but spends time working on prairie restorations, volunteering at an animal shelter, teaching younger kids how to play sports (in an organized program), (etc. etc. etc. - you get the idea) also doing a Duty to God?

 

 

The question "Do you believe in God", whether we want to admit it or not, is a question of intimidation - and its a question of intimidation because of the way it can be perceived by the person who is asked - not by the way it is perceived by the person asking the question. The questioner may have no motives behind the question at all other than just as a general question, but the person being asked such a question is more likely than not to fill in certain unstated (whether they are meant to be there or not) blanks. The question may be asked as "Do you believe in God" but may very well be perceived as "Do you believe in MY God".

 

Would you ask a Scout "Did you really earn that swimming merit badge?" - no, probably not - you would likely ask "what was the most challenging part of earning the swimming merit badge for you and how did you overcome that challenge" Same holds true for this question - rather than ask "Do you believe in God" (and as one poster said, if the boy answers yes, he moves on - which suggests that no more questions about duty to god or a scout is reverent is asked, a better question - one that is open ended is "How do you define your duty to god and what do you do to live up to your duty.

 

It seems to me the problem really comes down to what are the best kinds of questions for a board or review - and it really doesn't matter what the subject is - a merit badge, a duty to god, a leadership position. The best kind of questions, in my opinion are open ended questions - "How do you..., What was your... - questions that require more than one word answers. A question that can be answered with just one or two words, like "do you believe in god", are closed questions - and really don't lead one to any true knowledge.

 

CalicoPenn

 

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Okay. I'm spent. I disagree with a number of presumptions and conclusions made in the last post by CalicoPenn. But alas, I only see a scenario in which, in the end, I wind up pounding my head against a wall. So have it your way...It's a horribly offensive question. AND, because one's faith is soooooooo personal, if a Scout wants to cover his body with peanut butter and streak through the streets at high noon in order to serve his God, who am I to judge him? Gee I can't wait to see how you wonderful folks explain duty to country.(This message has been edited by Rooster7)

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Any question asked can be perceived many ways. Should that stop us from asking questions? No.

 

As Advancement Chair of my Troop, it is my responsibility to ensure each Scout that comes before me for a BOR meets the requirements for rank. One of those requirements is "duty to God". If one doesn't believe in God, how can one due their duty to God?

 

I will continue to ask "Do you believe in God"? Is this an offensive question? No. Is it a tough question? Yes.

 

Is our relationship with God personal? Yes, but personal doesn't mean it must be private.

 

Ed Mori

Troop 1

1 Peter 4:10

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No, asking "do you believe in God" is not an offensive question it is simply an innapropriate one for the purpose of a Board of review. There is no advancement requirement related to the question.

 

The advancement requirement is that the Scout does his duty to God and is Reverent toward God. You should ask about those requirements if you are to conduct the board correctly.

 

The BoR is not responsible for determining membership requirements, only advancement.

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