An oath is “either a statement of fact” or “a promise calling upon something or someone that the oath maker considers sacred, usually God, as a witness to the binding nature of the promise or the truth of the statement of fact.” When reciting an oath, the person is publicly making a vow to fulfill the actions of the oath or adhere to the facts and principles contained in the oath. Additionally, taking an oath suggests a guarantee of that person’s honesty and integrity in the matters discussed by the oath.
Just as climbers trust their belay partner to catch them if they fall, we ought to be able to trust that a person offering this oath will follow through consistently, too.
In organizations for developing youth leadership, such oaths typically involve a pledge made against the honor of the individual. Therefore, the solemnity of such a pledge depends on both the individual’s understanding of the value of personal honor, and the consequences of breaking the oath.
Trail Life USA has an oath for its members to take:On my honor, I will do my best
To serve God and my country;
To respect authority;
To be a good steward of creation;
And to treat others as I want to be treated.
There are multiple elements to this stated oath that bear closer examination for a full understanding of what is being pledged. Questions that could be discussed with youth members might include:
- What is meant by “my honor”?
- How do I gauge my “best” performance and how would I reconcile an honest mistake that leads to breaking my oath?
- How do I serve God and my country?
- Why should I serve God and my country?
- Whose authority should I respect and how would I demonstrate that respect if I can’t reconcile obeying that authority due to a conflict in beliefs (i.e. can I (should I) demonstrate respect to a country that sanctions murder of innocent life?)
- Is there a scriptural basis for making these assertions (i.e. either scripture states that I’m to behave this way, or permits me to behave this way if not otherwise explicitly stated)
- How does the oath relate to issues like leadership principles, healthy living and investing in the lives of those people I interact with on a daily basis?
There is a lot that can be discussed within this oath, and without fully understanding its intent, pledging to fulfill it could be seen as a wasted effort (why pledge your personal honor on a series of statements that are not clearly defined in your own mind – how would you know if you’re really fulfilling them?)
We’ll offer our thoughts on these elements in a series of blog articles, and we don’t claim to speak for Trail Life. At the same time, we welcome constructive feedback that helps put the oath into clearer perspective.