“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come! If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.
- Matthew 18:6-9
“On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.”
- Boy Scouts of America Oath
I am disgusted.
When I was a boy scout, I never thought about child abuse. It may have happened, but no one talked about such things. My scoutmaster was my second father. He had his rules, but he was fair. Whenever I see Follow Me Boys with Fred MacMurray, I think of my scoutmaster, and I get a little watery eyed. My scoutmaster would not be as spry as Fred MacMurray. He had cerebral palsy, and he walked with a profound limp, but the boys had a hard time keeping up with him.
I joined scouting when I was thirteen, having completed the requirements for the Arrow of Light in Cub Scouts and then moving where there were no scout troops. My scoutmaster made me the scribe so that I had troop duties during the meetings, a barrier to prevent the younger boys of higher rank from giving me too much trouble until I had advanced in rank myself. Harassment and initiation were the things most closely associated with abuse when I was a scout, and those things were almost non-existent – other than the ancient order of the “Siam”. Repeat after me, “Owa. Tagoo. Siam.” And keep saying it until you figure out what you are saying. You may have to speed it up a bit. That kind of thing.
In fact when it came to anything sexual, I was a late bloomer. In the photo above, the photo within the photo to the right is trek group photo of the guys I trekked through Philmont with. I am the next to last on the far right, kneeling. It was that group of guys who corrupted me as I turned sixteen, letting me thumb through their girlie magazines. I had never seen such things before and had never thought about them. Forget having ever kissed a girl by sixteen. I was too afraid to say “Hi!”
The uniform shirt in the photo above was my adult leader uniform. As a district staff person, the epaulets were silver, and the joke was that if you were in scouting long enough, the other colors turned gray. I have been a den mother, assistant cubmaster, cubmaster, scoutmaster, district cub scout roundtable commissioner, council day camp director, and the only certified youth protection instructor in the area from, but not including, Atlanta, Georgia to Charlotte, North Carolina to Savannah, Georgia. When the Boy Scouts of America started having issues with boys claiming sexual or other abuse, a hand full of us were trained in youth protection measures and then we taught all the camp director staff and as many scoutmasters and cubmasters as possible. The rules at our church for youth groups and Sunday school are almost identical to what I taught.
But, some people are so desperate to have people volunteer that they do not perform the proper background checks, and some people just have not been caught yet.
When scouting dropped their hard rules regarding a belief in God and the LGBTQ issue, I had moved and had not volunteered at the council office. My wife and I decided with the changes that we would no longer work as adult leaders. My wife had been a den leader for many years, teaching others the tricks of the job, and running the council Pow Wow to help cub scout leaders learn new skills. But we could not reconcile the scouting changes with their motto, quoted above.
While many boys were in scouting because of the camping, hiking, and other outdoor activities, I was in scouting in spite of that stuff. I did those things to earn the Eagle Scout rank. Even before becoming a born-again Christian, I had this inner drive to do my best and honor God and my Country, to serve others, and to be a positive example in my community.
Those are the values that I taught. That and being a wild song leader and storyteller around the campfires. The following song can also be found in old archive footage and used in documentaries where the crown prince of England sings this song, with all the motions, with Lord Baden-Powell, founder of Scouting. The song, and the silliness, have been around for over 100 years.
Yet, it seems at least once or twice each day, I hear someone on television ask, “Were you in the boy scouts?” and then they tell you that the BSA has filed for bankruptcy and that if you wish to sue them for abuse, here are the numbers to call. If you relax your standards and accept second best, our litigious society will make you pay.
I do not recall any advertisements in the past 20+ years where the boy scouts were portrayed as being someone who did good deeds daily or someone who could be trusted and relied upon. Child abuse will become their legacy.
I am an Eagle Scout, a former “most outstanding cubmaster” in the district, and a certified youth protection instructor, but as I started this post…
I am disgusted.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.