Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Of Fellowship, Fundamentalists, and Girl Scout Cookies

I have long known that my current church affiliation is occasionally something on the fundamentalist side. I think I had heard someone mention before that scouting (Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts) was frowned upon. I had no clear idea why, but as I had bigger fish to fry I didn't really worry about it.

Then a year and a half ago my daughter wanted to join scouts, and I checked; there aren't actually any religious requirements to join and the Girl Scouts do not actually see themselves as a religious organization. They do not have any religious teaching, and defer all religious education to the hands of the child's own parents and/or congregation. Based on that, I figured it was safe to enjoy the benefits of Girl Scouts. I let her join, and she's been happily selling cookies and making crafts ever since.

I didn't think there was anything wrong with it, so while I didn't exactly put an announcement in the church bulletin, I didn't conceal it either. I wasn't entirely expecting the reaction when news began to get around. Oh, sure, some people are supportive, but generally very quietly. I can see why the support has been more quiet and private; but more on that in a minute. Meanwhile, I have been made the undoubted target of a Bible study on "fellowship" -- by which, in a way only our group could manage, the study does not mean "brotherhood and bonding with fellow Christians", but "why we should dissociate ourselves completely from anyone who is not in 100% agreement about all doctrine and most practices, including Scouts".

The Bible study has been drawn up by one of our younger elders. It is not at all up to the usual standard I expect for a Bible study. It is occasionally mocking or insulting. For example, when discussing concerns that Girl Scouts mention "duty to God" but are fine with people of all faiths, the Bible study puts it that it could be "Buddha, Allah, 'Heavenly Father', your particular voodoo spirit, or the little green man that visits you late at night". That came across as mocking, and seemed out of place in a Bible study. I think some of the rhetoric in the study is over the top. The verse "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul?" was brought up in this study, as if joining scouts is tantamount to losing your soul for worldly gain. (Really, the cookies aren't quite that good ... though maybe the Thin Mints. My daughter is mostly into the friendship and companionship with other girls her age, and they actually didn't make her sign away her soul in exchange. I think she benefits from it. It's why we're there.) The grand finale of the Bible Study is priceless.
Maybe it will take years, but what will you do on that future day if your child comes back to you and says, "Why did you let me do that? Why did you let me lie about God? Why didn't you stop me?"
It's hard to know whether to object more to the false accusation or to the emotional blackmail, or whether they're both missing what is, to me, the ultimate point: the Scout organization doesn't teach religion or have a profession of faith, and leaves all such in the hands of the parents and/or congregation.

I don't often use this blog just to vent, and please pardon me for trying your patience like that now. I just need to be able to discuss this with my head on straight when it comes up again -- and it will. Sunday night's Bible study was -- what, four or five on one against me. I stayed calm and level-headed -- not easy to do with "Why did you let me lie about God" on the table. Interestingly, that segment of the quote was carefully skipped by the study leader, wife of the elder in question. I wonder if she realized that accusation was inappropriate and at least bordering on bearing false witness, or whether she actually agreed but knew we were out of time & wouldn't have a chance to sort through that can of worms.

To the best of my knowledge, with the research I've done, the concern seems to be based on a misunderstanding / misperception of the nature of Girl Scouts. I hope to pursue it from that angle. One of the ladies in the study has been reaching out in friendship to me, but still thinks Scouts must be a risk of spiritual harm to my daughter and is completely on board with the need for us to leave Scouts.

My thoughts on my daughter's spiritual well-being are these:
  • Odds, if we stay in Scouts, that she would come to believe that "your particular voodoo spirit or the little green man who visits you at night" is equal to God: something around 0%.
  • Odds, if we have to leave the church because the church as a whole decided that the scouts actually teach such a thing, that her trust in the general decency, sanity, and good judgment of Christians will take a hit: I don't have a number, but I bet it's closer to 100%.
Wish me luck. Prayers and insights are welcome too.


Tony-Allen said...

When I was younger I was in Boy Scouts and had the exact opposite problem. My scout master was a super-religious fundamentalist who would pray at the start and end of every meeting, and these prayers would usually last for minutes on end and sometimes involved language that bordered on "the preservation of our white race." Eventually my dad pulled me out of it but didn't tell me why until I was much older.

That's terrible what they're doing, as any problems should be done in private, like Aquila and Priscilla did to Apollos. Bible study should be used for scriptural edification and not public chastisement.

Weekend Fisher said...

Hi there

Thanks for the support.

Y'know, I've stayed for a few scout meetings and have never seen our scout master pray. Not everyone in the troop is Christian, and I don't think she's religious anyway.

The elder in question -- read between the lines when I said he was one of the younger elders -- he's actually kinda immature, and no this is not an opinion I came to while he was being a jerk about scouts but something I've known for awhile 'cause it's kind of one of the first things you notice when you meet him. So I'm trying to be patient with him, as I'm not sure he's got enough life experience to know there are better options. Meanwhile, it would be easier if he weren't being so needlessly incendiary, y'know. :)

Thanks for the kind words.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

God will reward you for your patience - for starters!

People can be so ignorant. I don't know what you do about that, or how to educate them...

Well, for whatever they're worth, you have my support and prayers.


PS (PSanafter-thought) said...

I'm not clear on one thing here, are you saying that this was printed study material from "on high" ie your denomination? That would indicate a deeper problem, I guess. You could look on the denomination's website to see what the official stand is on this. I know that my M-I-L's brand of L church frowns on many of these groups, and it provides a similar thing for the kids under their own umbrella.

What does the pastor have to say about this? Do people in your church generally accept everything from the denomination without question?
Lots to think about here.

Weekend Fisher said...

Anastasia - Thank you very much for your support and prayers. I have no doubt I will need them, as my patience and goodwill are sure to be tested.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Weekend Fisher said...


This Bible Study is not from "on high" so to speak, it's locally developed by that elder I mentioned. I wonder very much whether the pastor knows or approves of the incendiary language and what I consider to be substantial misrepresentations of the Girl Scouts. He hasn't gotten involved yet as far as I know, though no doubt that's a matter of time. Likewise I'm sure the synod's position will eventually come into play.

Myself, I'm not in a position to push it just now, even though I'd like to. At work, we've just come under a mandatory overtime order so I'll be putting in minimum 50hr weeks for the foreseeable future. I'm hoping they'll let things coast on this Scouts issue til I have time to do something about it, because if they press while I'm short of time, I'm not likely to be able to do it justice. It's not easy being outnumbered and outgunned. The only reason I bother is that I'm acting for my daughter's good, and I actually do think they're misrepresenting the scouts. I also think there are some doubtful priorities there ... and priorities really are a matter of spiritual importance. That's why Jesus answered the question on which commandments were the greatest.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Martin LaBar said...

Ouch. God help you (and also the elder and others who are acting like this!)

Weekend Fisher said...

Thank you, Martin. Even the fellow with the most incendiary comments probably has good intentions.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF