We tried an experiment with our summer camp program this year. It worked well.
The Scout Reservation had selected a theme of “Pirates” for camp. I thought it strange to match up scouting with “lawless criminals of the sea”, but I knew that pirate themes have been popular since the various Pirates of the Caribbean movies were released.
We had the scouts and the adults work to design a commemorative camp patch for this year’s trip and theme. We’ve displayed the results of the design work previously, but here’s a reminder:
In each patch design, we incorporated a scripture reference that tied back to the artwork and theme (of sorts).
We did this for several reasons:
- Our troop families value incorporating what scripture says into our daily lives (Deuteronomy 6:6-7; Deuteronomy 32:46-47) for guidance.
- We search scriptures to learn about our Duty to God and for instruction on how to “help other people at all times” (part of our Scout Oath).
- Other people might ask us about the scripture reference and give us an opportunity to engage in caring dialog about this project and what we believe.
Each patch’s design is different and has a distinct message to offer through that combination of artwork, messaging and scripture.
For the Ship’s Wheel patch, we used Isaiah 58:11 (NASB) –
And the Lord will continually guide you,
And satisfy your desire in scorched places,
And give strength to your bones;
And you will be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.
The use of the four-point star (in a cross shape) at top was to represent the North Star, a guide point for seafarers, but the scripture also reminds us that our true guide is the Lord who will lead us to bounty. Almost universally, this patch was preferred by our youth over the Jolly Roger-as-Scouter patch. In fact, in many cases where we presented both designs on a side-by-side basis, many people picked this patch as their favorite. Further, more people asked about this scripture reference than on the other patch — and were eager to discuss the connection between the scripture and our boy scout troop, our beliefs and church background. In short, as adult leaders, it opened a lot of dialog for us with staffers and other adult leaders.
For the Jolly Roger Scouter patch, Psalm 34:19-21 states:
Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the Lord delivers him out of them all.
He keeps all his bones,
Not one of them is broken.
Evil shall slay the wicked,
And those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
The scriptures remind us that God is on our side when we obey Him and pursue righteousness in our lives. He will preserve us in times of trouble, but the wicked will be slayed by their own evil practices.
The Jolly Rogers (as with all pirate flags) was intended to provide a grave warning to those who saw it fluttering in the wind — “We don’t take prisoners! We fight to the bitter end! Prepare to meet our wrath”
Now, I’m not trying to compare God with lawless pirates, but instead, we recognize that God’s wrath against us is justified since His law was broken by our sins and rebelliousness – Romans 3:23; Ephesians 2:1-3; Jeremiah 21:14. If we saw God coming for us, He’d be OK flying a “take no prisoners” type of flag (Romans 1:18) – we earned His wrath.
Thankfully for us He withholds his wrath so that we can come to him for reconciliation – Romans 5:6-10; 1 Timothy 1:12-16 – further, if we surrender our lives we can be spared – Matthew 10:39; Matthew 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24; Luke 17:33; John 12:25; Romans 10:9; Romans 10:13. God wants to reconcile with us (2 Peter 3:9; 2 Corinthians 5:17-19), and He did it in a way that is easy for us to accept — His own son died in our place, satisfying God’s wrath over our lawlessness so that we could live if we believe and pursue repentance (confess our sins and stop sinning)/reconciliation (get into a right relationship with God by pursuing holiness instead of lawlessness).
It was an interesting experiment to place a scripture reference on a scout patch. We didn’t do this to tackle people and force our beliefs on them, but rather to open a dialog (if they were interested) and share what we believe in a productive, caring and thoughtful way. In the end, we (adults talking to other adults) did have many conversations about the patches, those scriptures and how studying what we believe (and why we believe it) helps us to be better scouts.
It’s an experiment worth trying again.