As trailmen, we are committed to a certain set of ideals and a way of living. The Trailman’s Oath is simple:
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.
In a series of articles, we’ve begun to examine these words and what they mean. The analysis isn’t complete and not everyone may agree on all the terms and opinions expressed here. However, the process of investigation is what’s important, and if we inspire folks to dig a little deeper, that’s good!
So what does it mean to serve my country?
As citizens we have rights, and obligations or duties. Some are simple (serving on a jury) and others require a significant commitment that may come at high cost (serving in the military where one could lose their life).
The US Citizenship and Immigration Services unit (http://www.uscis.gov/citizenship/learners/citizenship-rights-and-responsibilities) offers these suggestions on rights and responsibilities:
The same unit (USCIS) provides a booklet called “Learn About the United States: Quick Civics Lessons for the Naturalization Test” (CLICK HERE) which is supplied to folks who want to become US citizens. People applying for citizenship have to pass a test of basic civics knowledge. Sometimes we might have difficulty with some of the questions — not because they’re especially difficult, but because we often forget.
- How many amendments does the Constitution have?
- What did the Declaration of Independence do?
- We elect a U.S. Senator for how many years?
- We elect a U.S. Representative for how many years?
- Why do some states have more Representatives than other states?
- Name your U.S. Representative.
- When was the Constitution written?
- There are four amendments to the Constitution about who can vote. Describe one of them.
Teddy Roosevelt authored a letter about citizenship and helping young men understand the need to serve their country with a genuine dedication. Much of his letter reflects on citizenship as a duty or obligation and it seems quite passionate;
No one can be a good American unless he is a good citizen, and every boy ought to train himself so that as a man he will be able to do his full duty to the community. I want to see [these boys] not merely utter fine sentiments, but act on them; not merely sing, “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” but act in a way that will give them a country to be proud of. No man is a good citizen unless he so acts as to show that he actually uses the Ten Commandments, and translates the Golden Rule into his life conduct–and I don’t mean by this in exceptional cases under spectacular circumstances, but I mean applying the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule in the ordinary affairs of every-day life. I hope [boys] will practise truth and square dealing, and courage and honesty… Any boy is worth nothing if he has not got courage, courage to stand up against the forces of evil, and courage to stand up in the right path. Let him be unselfish and gentle, as well as strong and brave.
While it’s not necessary to be a Christian to be a Trailman youth member, the families in our troop share a common Christian faith and we choose to examine Trail Life USA ideals in the light of God’s revealed word to mankind – the Bible. What does the bible say about citizenship? I was able to find three specific references to our behavior towards government:
- 1 Peter 2:13-17 – Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.
- Romans 13 – Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
- 1 Timothy 2:1-6 – I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time.
Based on these three passages, I would submit that serving our country is part of serving God (following his directives and guidance for appropriate living). I’m confident that a further examination of the Bible would yield additional references of our calling to practice hospitality towards strangers and to take care of people within our own church families, too. These are related to being a good citizen as part of being a “good Christian”.
A Trailman should be confident that serving his country is a worthwhile experience, and the help that he provides could create ripples of goodwill and inspiration to others to follow his example.