Thursday, August 24, 2006

Onward Christian soldiers

The Patherfinders (Adventist Scouts) in Northern Europe held an international camp in Denmark recently. My brother-in-law's father was a volunteer and did the dirty work of cleaning the toilets after the camp. There he met and talked with the woman in charge of maintaining the camp site, who asked some poignant questions.

When the Adventist Pathfinders booked the camp site this woman did some research into Adventism and was therefore very surprised by the 'square-bashing' and marching by the English Pathfinders. This militarism combined with songs using war rhetoric and symbolism was contravy to what she thought was Adventists opposition to war and violence.

Having served in the military and now being committed to pacifism, I am deeply uncomfortable with the use of military symbols and rhetoric in the Church. Most of all, however, I wish we would think long and hard about what message we send to others when we do things, whether its Pathfinders, singing or whatever it is we do.


At 26 August, 2006 01:07, Anonymous Alexander said...

I appreciate the post.

The history of Pathfinders does mimic the rise of militaristic youth movements in various countries during the early 20th century.

Caught up in the Zeitgeist, it seems that Adventist church leaders just wanted to provide alternative venues for the same inculcation of what actually turns out to be values and skills antithetical to our non-combatant tradition.

Some thoughtful pastors, such as Jim Coffin in Florida, have converted their Pathfinder clubs into more of an environmental organization for Sevy kids.

At 26 August, 2006 22:52, Blogger Torsten Pedersen said...

Thank you for your Comment.

I'm uncomfortable with the militarism associated with marching because of my Navy experience. In the Navy marching was used to take away the individualism of its recruits.

Good to hear people like Jim Coffin are creating new ways to get childen and teenagers involved in worthwhile activities.

At 27 August, 2006 00:39, Blogger Johnny said...

This is a great post!

I've found that the majority of my non-American friends are surprised how state symbols like the flag are featured so prominently on the platforms of American Churches, including Adventist churches.

This flag is normally posted alongside the Christian flag. Both flags usually stand at the same height on opposite sides of the platform. American flag on the right and Christian flag on the left of the speaker is the conventional placement. Here is an example.

Did you know that the Mormons have about three times as many Boy Scout troops as the next ranked church sponsor, the United Methodist Church?

The Boy Scouts and Pathfinders were both founded the same year in the early 1900's if I remember right.

And as far as the marching goes Pathfinders don't traditionally fish or hunt while scouts do train in those things. So I suppose the marching sort of makes up for that.

My childhood in MA saw my family involved in pathfinders as well as the Auburn Society so my memory might be confused as to which organization I did river cleanups with. I agree, the environmental thing in florida is very cool.

At 27 August, 2006 00:46, Blogger Johnny said...

ps. Here is a better flag example.

I meant to say Audubon Society.

At 27 August, 2006 01:07, Blogger Johnny said...

Wow. I really got into this!
After googling I found a picture that shows both the flag, and scouts, in an adventist church.


Ohio Pathfinders

At 29 August, 2006 18:05, Blogger Dave said...

Actually, I believe Pathfinders was started in California in the post WWII era, a time when the military was considered a model organization for changing the world. In the post-Vietnam era that model took a serious blow. But there are still some quarters of the world where kids enjoy it, so why not give it to them in a pacifist way?

At 30 August, 2006 11:27, Blogger Torsten Pedersen said...

Marching and other types of exercises mimicking the military are not in themselves problematic unless the ethos and attitudes of the military are copied.

I believe, however, that Pathfinder activities should be cultural relevant to the societies in which they operate.

When I was a Pathfinder leader in club in the inner city of Copenhagen, we tried to focus on activities relevant and interesting to city kids. For example, navigating around the city using the Metro, or visiting a 400 year old observatory in the city. None of the children came from Adventist homes and I don't think we would have given the children or parents a good impression if we emphasized military discipline and exercises.

At 31 August, 2006 23:44, Anonymous Iben said...

what's the "christian flag"? What does it look like?


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