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Boy Scout Troop 294
(Scappoose, Oregon)
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Duty to God

Dear Parents:

As you may or may not know, each Boy Scout must tell how he has done his duty to God at each rank advancement. Your scout leaders support parents in their attempt to instill in scouts a sense of duty, and occasionally we can provide opportunities for scouts to experience God, but in a troop as religiously diverse as ours, the scout leaders are not equipped to instruct scouts as to what their duty to their God might be, and so it falls to parents to prepare scouts for this question in scoutmasters conference.

Religious families have many resources available to help them instruct their children in their faith and their duty to God.  I've been thinking a little about the non-religious families in our troop, and I have some ideas that I hope will help you focus in on how to best help your son through this portion of his scouting experience. 

Who is God? This is a big question, but it is not too big for Scouts. They've probably been thinking about it already. If they are not asking their parents about God, they are probably asking somebody. I remember my son having lots of questions and being very interested in my answers when he was surprisingly small.  As he has grown up, his questions have become more sophisticated.

The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no boy can grow into the best kind of man without recognizing his obligation to God, but the BSA is absolutely nonsectarian in its attitude toward that religious training.  In other words, God doesn't have to be a person or even a power.  God could be anything greater than self, greater than family and greater than community.  Something Big.  Young men yearn to be a part of Something Big, to do Great Things.  Use this part of the scoutmasters conference to help them find that Something.

What is our duty to God?
  1. A Boy Scout's first duty is to himself. He must do his best in school to learn the things he will need to know in order to take care of himself some day.
  2. A Boy Scout's second duty is to his family. He must do his chores and respect the other people living in his house.
  3. A Boy Scout's third duty is to his community or his country. He must obey the laws of the land and the rules at school. He must support law enforcement and school teachers in their attempts to maintain the peace.
While meditating on this hierarchy of duties, it occurred to me that we tell stories about heroes who sacrifice their duty to self in order to fulfill their duty to family: children who drop out of school in order to get a job and support their family when a parent is injured or killed.

We also tell stores of heroes who sacrifice their duties to family to fulfill their duties to country: young men who leave young brides in order to fight evil dictators in far away lands.

Thankfully it is very unlikely that any of our Scouts will ever find these duties in conflict, but it lead me to think: who are the heroes who sacrifice their duty to self, family, community and country in order to fulfill some greater duty, and my answer was: the revolutionaries. George Washington, Ghandi, and Martin Luther King, Jr. risked their fortunes, their lives, their families, and their freedom in order to secure liberty for their people.

That's when I realized that a Boy Scout's duty to God could be expressed as a duty to some noble principle: LIBERTY, EQUALITY, PEACE, LOVE, and JUSTICE come to mind as suitable ideals for Scouts to emulate. If you think about it, you will probably realize that you have been guiding your Scout toward several great ideals. He's probably had to do the right thing, just because it was the right thing to do. I think these are the experiences to build on when you help him define what is his duty to God.

Thank you for your kind attention. I hope my thoughts and ideas have been helpful.

Erin Howarth, 01/01/2016