These scouts pledge to church, family, God : NOT America
Bruce Wilson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Feb 20, 2006 at 05:53:50 PM EST
Last year, a blogger living in Lowell, Mass. organized a rather successful  anti-Fred Phelps rally that raised money - via pledges - in proportion to the number of supporters who showed up at Mr. Phelps rally to endorse his particularly execrable brand of anti-gay hatred.

The "anti-Phelps" rally was a success - only a handful of Phelps supporters came out.

News reports mentioned that most of the few who turned out to support Phelps came from an Assemblies of God church, within the route 495 beltway, in Mass.  

So I looked for the church website. I found it and didn't notice anything obviously odd but I did discover the the Assemblies of God had spun off their own international scouting organization they'd dubbed the "Royal Rangers"

and a  curious aspect of the "Royal Rangers" took a while to sink into my awareness :

The "Royal Rangers" oath.

Royal Rangers is a ministry that reaches across the United States and in over 65 nations around the world. It motivates boys spiritually through Bible study and memorization, devotionals, and Christian role models. Boys are strengthened mentally by an advanced awards-based weekly program. Further, the boys increase their physical prowess by participation in age-specific activities and recreation. Finally, they are introduced to church, community, and nature-related activities to develop their social skills and awareness.

Dedicated leaders, called commanders, provide boys the necessary direction during a weekly outpost meeting. The meetings are designed to develop the total boy for Christ and offer love and understanding between the boy and a godly role model.

Now, contrast that with the "vision statement" from the Boy Scouts of America:

The Boy Scouts of America is the nation's foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training.

In the future Scouting will continue to

    * Offer young people responsible fun and adventure;
    * Instill in young people lifetime values and develop in them ethical character as expressed in the Scout Oath and Law;
    * Train young people in citizenship, service, and leadership;
    * Serve America's communities and families with its quality, values-based program.

But the REALLY interesting aspect - to me - lay in the difference between the respective oaths of the BSA and the Royal Rangers :

Boy Scout Oath:

"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."
[ emphasis mine ]

Royal Rangers Pledge:

"With God's help, I will do my best to: serve God, my church, and my fellow man, to live by the Ranger code, and to make the Golden Rule my daily rule." [ emphasis mine ]

Lest you think that is somehow unrepresentative, let me also provide the Royal Rangers Code:

The Royal Rangers Code

"A Royal Ranger is:

    * Alert - He is mentally, physically, and spiritually alert.
    * Clean - He is clean in body, mind, and speech.
    * Honest - He does not lie, cheat, or steal.
    * Courageous - He is brave in spite of danger, criticism, or threats.
    * Loyal - He is faithful to his church, family, outpost, friends.
    * Courteous - He is polite, kind, and thoughtful.
    * Obedient - He obeys his parents, leaders, and those in authority.
    * Spiritual - He prays, reads the Bible, and witnesses.
[ emphasis mine ]

Now - having alleged possibly nefarious intent - let me say that it's wonderful that kids in the Royal Rangers - or the Boy Scouts of America - are getting outside. But I'd feel even better about the "Royal Rangers" if their members swore oaths to their countries of origin rather than to the Assemblies of God. Nationalism is overated : probably so. But, replacing nationalist oaths to the state with oaths of fidelity to church allegiance seems a step backwards to me.

I 'd be less harsh - I suppose - if the AoG scouts swore oaths to some benign international principles - peace, love, and so on. Well, they do not.

Call me old fashioned.

Speaking as someone who is an Assemblies walkaway--yes, the Royal Rangers (and its alternative to the Girl Scouts/Girl Guides, the "Missionettes") are heavily promoted as a "Christian alternative" to Scouting and Guide programs.  (Yes, even the Boy Scouts--who will not allow an out atheist or gay person to be a Scout, much less a Scout leader--are considered not Christian enough by the Assemblies.)

The groups have been promoted at least since the sixties (my sister, who is pushing her 40's, was in Missionettes) and is one of the big ways in which the Assemblies targets kids in their youth (and begins indoctrinating them into the coercive tactics of the group).

Anymore, traditional Girl Scouting and Guiding is condemned by dominionists in general (there is at least one other dominionist "parallel economy" alternative to Girl Scouts, "Heritage Girls of America") and Assemblies churches in particular push parents to put their kids in Missionettes, claiming that the Girl Scouts are actively un-Christian.

One of the more disturbing facets of the Royal Rangers and Missionettes programs is that they are starting to be promoted outside of the Assemblies of God proper.  Ted Haggard's New Life Church (which, to the best of my knowledge, is not technically an Assemblies church, though I'm not going to be one bit shocked to find connections because the theology taught at New Life Church is identical to that of many Assemblies churches) has a Royal Rangers post, and per the Wikipedia article on the Royal Rangers reportedly the group has been promoted in "many other denominations"--largely neopentecostal "independent" churches, but occasionally to mainstream churches as well who are not aware of the fact that the Royal Rangers and Missionettes are Assemblies of God frontgroups .

by dogemperor on Tue Feb 21, 2006 at 08:32:32 AM EST

Hosts annual summer gatherings of "Royal Rangers" and boasts the biggest RR "outpost" which is led by a real live active duty soldier ! ( a medic ).

The largest "outpost" of the Rangers in the country, 475 boys and men, rallies at New Life.

Royal Rangers wear khaki military uniforms and black ties. They study rope craft and smallbore shooting and "American Cultures." There is a badge for "Atomic Energy," which boys can earn by making scale models of a nuclear reactor. Mainly, though, Rangers earn merit badges for reading the Bible.[ From "Soldiers of Christ", by Jeff Sharlet

Here's a Landsdale, PA., Royal Rangers group that has a number of pledges : the RR pledge, a pledge to the Bible, and pledges both to the United States and also to "The Christian Flag" [ not the one w/the eagle and the bloody cross though ] :

I pledge allegiance to the Christian flag and to the Savior for whose kingdom it stands, one brotherhood uniting all true Christians in service and in love.

by Bruce Wilson on Tue Feb 21, 2006 at 09:55:29 AM EST

Again, not all that shocking.  The Assemblies for the past fifty years has actively been working towards infiltration of the US military and has been frighteningly successful at it (read the articles here by Lorie Johnson, or for that matter, Yurica Report's excellent reporting on this).

Even at the "Bible Camp" that the dominionist church I walked away from (which is roughly akin to a Vacation Bible School elsewhere--day camp program) they actually had kids firing BB guns, saluting the "Christian Flag" (with its own pledge, yet!--in fact, the very pledge you mentioned--and yes, it's the white flag with the blue field with the red cross in it), and even to little kids promoting the "spiritual warfare" meme which is an essential part of this church's theology.

(As I've noted before, the Assemblies of God essentially invented dominionism--"dominion theology" actually started within that church, and is actually a part of its core theology.  Even the official position statements of the church tend to promote it.)

People don't realise just how scary these people are--the main reason I know about it (and scream about it from the hills!) is because I survived 26 years of spiritual abuse at their hands.  I've seen the belly of the beast and every day thank the powers that be that I made it out with my sanity intact.

Most people don't think of the Assemblies as dangerous--kooky, yes, "holy rollers", yes.  They're not the first group most people think of when mentioning things like hijacking of governments, or paramilitary training of kids, or of coercive religious tactics on par with the Moonies or Scientology.  The fact that they have over a million members worldwide in the church has, unfortunately, helped gain a veneer of respectability (that, and the fact they're a "Bible-based" group).

by dogemperor on Tue Feb 21, 2006 at 10:18:07 AM EST

To publicize "Force Ministries" : I came across the outfit in footnotes to one of Kathleen Yurica's pieces, and when I visited the site the site counter was well under 2,000 as I recall. That was in mid to late 2004, back when the Force Ministries site still had the fantastically sinister flash splash into screens up. So, I did a post on it - in fall 2004.

Later, they removed the most menacing aspects of the site, after a number of thousands of people had visited and been suitably appalled and/or creeped out.

by Bruce Wilson on Tue Feb 21, 2006 at 04:52:43 PM EST

The picture link--I think you meant that to be clickable to go to another site (re the history of the Royal Rangers) but the link unfortunately is broken.  If you'd post where that was actually meant to go or fix it, it'd be appreciated :3

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One of the other things that is disturbing to me--as a walkaway from the Assemblies, and in regards to a general trend--is the fact they're willingly pairing up with Phelps.

This is probably a trend I should not be shocked at--the Assemblies actually has promoted involuntary exorcisms of gay youth (some of which I personally witnessed growing up--the outing of, and involuntary exorcism of, several gay youth in the very Assemblies church I am a walkaway from).

The particular Assemblies church I am a walkaway from has the state head of the American Family Association as one of its head deacons--a person (Frank Simon) whose anti-gay rants (which have included mailings of softcore gay BDSM porn to households claiming this is representative of the "homosexual lifestyle" and including the stinger in one mailing "Remember what the homosexual priests did to the children", and in a previous mailing and flyer distribution implied that the Fairness Ordinance (which would prohibit discrimination against LGBT individuals in housing and hiring, and which actually had exemptions for religious groups) was supported by NAMBLA) are so infamous locally that they led two conservative Catholic members of Louisville's metro government to give the swing votes for renewal of the Fairness ordinance.  

Two separate Assemblies groups (an Assemblies front group called "International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem", which focuses on converting Jewish people to "Messianic Jews", and a separate Assemblies church) are tied with a Holocaust-revisionist book called "The Pink Swastika" which claims that not only were LGBT people not killed in the Holocaust but were the actual instigators and architects of it (and the very group I am a walkaway from promoted it, and Frank Simon's groups still promote both that and Paul Cameron's discredited work which has included calls for actual concentration camps and execution of LGBT individuals).  

Kids in Assemblies churches are quite often referred to "de-gaying" camps like Love In Action's unlicensed facilities in Tennessee if they're thought to have "caught the gay".

It's still distressing, though--even being a survivor of it, even knowing that I'm never going to be able to be out to my folks because of this--it's still really, really distressing to see it, and to see the church essentially give their official stamp of approval to Phelps.

Then again, Phelps tends to say out loud what the people in more "respectable" dominionist circles--like the Assemblies--are privately thinking.

(My husband's commentary on hearing this--"Good God, they really know how to pick their whackjobs, don't they?"  When I pointed out this is part of a pattern, he noted "Yeah, but Phelps is the alpha whackjob, you know?"  This is one reason it's hard to talk as a walkaway.  People don't realise the private face of dominionism if they've not been in it :P)

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