Long before Dr. James Dobson started talking about bringing up boys, British Lord Robert Baden-Powell was already doing something about it. Baden Powell, a war hero, founded the Boy Scout movement. He derived the idea, in part, from using boys for responsible jobs during the siege of Mafeking -- a battle during the South African war with the Dutch Boers in 1899. There "B.P.," as he was called, learned the way young boys could courageously and with equanimity respond to life's most serious challenges.
Scouting ultimately spread to the United States after William D. Boyce, a millionaire publisher from Chicago, visited London and got lost in a dense fog. While standing under a street lamp, trying to get his bearings, a young lad approached Boyce and asked if he needed help. Boyce conceded he did and the young boy offered to guide him to the address he was seeking. Boyce offered to pay the boy a shilling for his help, but the boy replied, "No, sir, I am a scout. Scouts do not accept tips for good turns." Boyce was so impressed with the youngster, he went home determined to start Scouting in America.
The Boy Scouts of America celebrated its 95th Scouting anniversary during the week of February 6-12, 2005, with the theme "On My Honor, Timeless Values."
Winston Churchill once said of Scouting: "Many venerable, famous institutions and systems long honored by men perished in the storm; but the Boy Scout movement survived. It survived not only the war [World War II], but the numbing reactions of the aftermath. While so many elements in the life and spirit of the victorious nations seemed to be lost in stupor, it flourished and grew increasingly. Its motto gathers new national significance as the years unfold upon our island. It speaks to every heart its message of duty and honor: 'Be Prepared' to stand up faithfully for right and truth, however the winds may blow."
If Churchill were alive today, he would be proud of the way the Boy Scouts of America has stood for "right and truth," despite the way the winds of moral change have blown. In fact, this virtuous organization has been besieged on every side from attacks by leftists who are determined to either reform or kill it. Still, the Scouts have never turned from their oath to do their duty to God and their country and to obey Scout law; to help other people at all times; to keep themselves physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.
Think of it. Here is a youth program based on doing "good turns." They have helped to make volunteer service an American ideal. With their every act of kindness, they have strengthened our nation's commitment to civic responsibility.
Scouting has helped young people develop for public service and become effective leaders in our nation. According to the website ScoutingAround.com, approximately 64 percent of Air Force Academy graduates, 58 percent of West Point graduates, 70 percent of Annapolis graduates, 72 percent of Rhodes scholars, and 85 percent of FBI agents were Boys Scouts. Moreover, one of every 100 Scouts will enter the clergy due to his Scouting relationships.
Nevertheless, because the Scouts insist their members profess a belief in God, because they will not accept girls as "boy scouts," because they believe that to be "morally straight" means to reject the practice of homosexuality, they have been attacked by local governmental bodies, school systems, the United Way and radical groups like the American Civil Liberties Union. As Gavin Groom, executive director of Save Our Scouts, puts it: "With the support of many in the media and well-financed nonprofit organizations, today the Boy Scouts have been made to look like the 'bad guy.'"
Last year, even the Pentagon agreed in a negotiated settlement with the ACLU to cease direct sponsorship of Boy Scout units on military facilities. That decision by the Department of Defense prompted Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) to introduce the Save Our Scouts legislation. Frist says "[T]he legislation stipulates that no federal law, including any rule, regulation, directive, instruction, or order, shall be construed to limit any federal agency from providing any form of support to the Boy Scouts of America ... or any organization chartered by the Boy Scouts of America." Frist had hoped the measure would pass by unanimous consent, but it didn't.
The Senate Majority Leader plans to reintroduce the Save Our Scouts bill this year, saying he hopes "common sense will prevail and both chambers will give their support to protecting the scouts." "However the issue is resolved," writes Eagle Scout Hans Zeiger, "it is not a battle we can afford to lose. There is too much at stake here to give up on the Boy Scouts. Our very capacity for self-government is at risk when we allow the ACLU to deny a boy's opportunity to learn to be 'trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.'"
Hundreds of years ago on a grassy knoll outside the city of Bethsaida, when Jesus' popularity was at its peak, a tremendous crowd gathered around our Savior to hear him. Looking with compassion on the hungry multitudes Jesus said to Philip, his disciple, "Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat" (John 6:5). Philip was despondent in his answer: "Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little" (John 6:7). Almost mockingly Andrew, another disciple of Christ, stepped forward to exclaim, "There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes" (John 6:9). Interestingly, the miracle Jesus wrought next by feeding over 5,000 people with only five barley loaves and two small fishes was dependent on the awareness, "There is a lad here ...." *
In the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus demonstrated that some of the highest hopes of a nation are predicated on the presence of its boys. Boys, hardwired as they are for aggressive behavior, need to be shaped and molded for good. Baden-Powell's purpose in creating the Boy Scouts was for that very reason -- to make young boys into fine men. What is more, our Lord indicated that the judgment for those who oppose such an objective would be so terrible, it would be better that a millstone be hung around their necks and they be cast into the deepest part of the sea (Matthew 18:6).
* This writer gratefully acknowledges G. Othell Hand, whose sermon on this text appears under the heading for "Boy Scout Sunday" in Sermons and Services for Special Days (Convention Press, 1979; compiled/edited by Jack Gulledge)