Monday, June 18, 2012

"The Spiritual Training of Scouts"

While searching on the USSSP site here, I came across some excerpts from a speech titled "The Spiritual Training of Scouts"given to the 18th International Conference of the Boy Scouts World Bureau in September 1961.  The speaker was John Thurman, Camp Chief of Gilwell Park, England.  It was printed in the May 1962 issue of The Scout Leader [Canada] .

I conceive it possible that if we abandoned all our principles we might recruit more leaders and consequently could handle more boys and perhaps -- although I doubt it -- in ten years we might double the number of registered Scouts, but we would have lessened a hundredfold the true strength of Scouting for we would end with something that had betrayed its past and in so doing had betrayed its purpose. . . .

My overriding fear in regard to Scouting is that it will die of respectability, having lost the urge to attempt the difficult and ending as a rather nice middle-class Movement.  It is more important to be proud of what Scouting does for the boyhood of the world than to be proud of Scouting.

. . . I want to appeal too that we strengthen our tolerance towards other faiths. "None has a monopoly of truth." Tolerance does not mean weakness or a weakening of your own faith, for it says in effect, "This is what I believe but I respect your right to be different," but that is not the same thing as tolerating the right to be spiritually lazy or to believe nothing. . . .

Why should a Movement like this set out to please an agnostic or an atheist adult? Why should we allow him to contaminate (and I use the word deliberately) the efforts of tens of thousands of adults who accept the principles of Scouting without question and who try to carry them effectively into the lives, the hearts, and the spirits of their boys? Don't tell me that it is brotherly to countenance evil. I believe that Scouting must be militant in its approach to fundamentals, and the fundamentals of Scouting without duty to God are worthless.

These days, I hear from a number of people that Scouting is unpopular because of the emphasis on religious belief as an important part of the program. If only we could drop all the religious stuff, we could attract more scouts. It seems that even in the 60s, this argument was being made also. I'd much rather be right, than be popular.

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