Thursday, October 29, 2009


In 1992 I was in the Cub Scouts. I don't really know why I joined in the first place, but I think it had something to do with wanting to learn how to tie an awesome knot. That, and the book that they give to kids to sell them on all the amazing things you'll do in the scouts is pretty good—it definitely piques the interest of a 3rd or 4th grader. The Pinewood Derby, Cub Country and other seemingly spectacular things were all laid out and mine for the taking. I talked my parents into it and they signed me up.

For the most part, I enjoyed it but I think the fact that I wasn't Mormon and had absolutely no intention of becoming Mormon kind of rubbed everyone else the wrong way. The majority of our meetings were held in the Church basement a few blocks from my house, and I always found myself more interested in wandering the halls and looking into the rooms do discover weird religious things instead of learning how to tie those knots I'd been so stoked on in the first place.

I went through the motions for a few years—earning all the requisite badges for the meaningless busy work that didn't really teach me anything I'd ever use in the long run. I got the Bobcat, the Wolf and the Bear badge and they were all sewn on to my navy blue shirt that I wore with mock pride every week. There were a couple of interesting experiences, though. One of my Scout Masters was a dentist, so for one of our weekly activities he took us to his office and make a plaster cast of our own hand doing the Scout Sign. Mine turned out deformed and a little ghoulish actually. I guess that could act as a metaphor for my entire experience with the scouts, but that's a little deeper than I want to get here.

When I was in sixth grade however, the meetings changed from Tuesday at 6 to Wednesday at 7 and I quit for good. I was well on my way to earning that final badge—the Webelos—before advancing
to the much more difficult and widely respected Boy Scouts, but I threw in the towel. I told my scout master, my friends and my parents that being in sixth grade was a little tougher than I expected and I needed that extra hour a week to work on homework.

That, of course, was a complete lie. Wednesday at 7pm was when Beverly Hills 90210 was on, and I'll be damned if I was missing that.

It was the senior year at West Beverly High and there was bound to be some trouble that I just couldn't miss. Brenda picked up a chain smoking habit while in Paris, Andrea was hit by a car and the Walsh's only had enough money for one of their kids to attend a private college. These were all things that I needed to be a part of. These fictional events were far more important that scout meetings in the basement of a church planning a flag ceremony.

Have you ever looked at the requirements for a Webelos badge? They were borderline ridiculous. The most important aspect of that last badge is recognizing your faith.

This is the list:
Do two of these: (Use this Worksheet to track activity)
- Attend the mosque, church, synagogue, temple, or other religious organization of your choice, talk with your religious leader about your beliefs. Tell your family and your Webelos den leader what you learned.
- Discuss with your family and Webelos den leader how your religious beliefs fit in with the Scout Oath and Scout Law, and what character-building traits your religious beliefs have in common with the Scout Oath and Scout Law.
- With your religious leader, discuss and make a plan to do two things you think will help you draw nearer to God. Do these things for a month.
- For at least a month, pray or meditate reverently each day as taught by your family, and by your church, temple, mosque, synagogue, or religious group.
- Under the direction of your religious leader, do an act of service for someone else. Talk about your service with your family and Webelos den leader. Tell them how it made you feel.
- List at least two ways you believe you have lived according to your religious beliefs.

And that's just one aspect. In no way was I ready to do that at 12. Hell, I'm not even sure I'd be able to pull that off now. The only religious knowledge I had was from watching The Simpson's (The early 90s FOX television lineup helped me a lot growing up, as you can tell). I had attended church only a handful of times in my youth and it was never because I chose to. It was always because my parents were out of town and we stayed with relatives that went. I was bored out of my mind and had no idea who any of these ridiculous stories were about or how I was supposed to relate to them.

I was far more comfortable learning what harsh realities the privileged rich kids in California were discovering than examining my own faith. I was 12. I had no faith.

Looking back on it now, 17 years later, I'm 100% sure I made the right decision.

Even if Melrose Place ended up being the better show.

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