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Of Creeds, Oaths and Honor

July 14, 2010

Recently I was reviewing some old personal files and came across A Navy Flyer’s Creed and my original oath of office. These were elements of my commissioning ceremony as a Naval Officer on April 25, 1969. As a result, I began to think about America in 2010 and of the symbiotic relationship of personal creeds, oaths and honor to each other.  These cherished codes and ideals also have a symbiotic relationship to the strength, integrity and sovereignty of the Nation.

A creed is defined as any system of principles that are believed or professed by an individual. In the Christian faith the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed are familiar terms that embody the essence of Christianity and define who Jesus Christ is. Likewise the Boy Scout Creed, that clearly and concisely defines who a “boy scout” is, would be a familiar term in many sectors of our culture. The term scout’s honor is an accepted rubric of our modern lexicon and the term Be Prepared is commonly associated with Boy Scouts.

An oath could be defined as a solemn affirmation or promise attesting to the truth of and/or loyalty to a particular set of principles. The Hippocratic Oath, which forbids euthanasia and abortion, (formerly required of all entering the medical profession) is a classic example of a personal allegiance to a specific set of principles. Likewise the solemn oath taken by those entering into offices of public trust, e.g. political, judicial, military, public safety, etc. always require an allegiance to support and defend the Constitution. There is also the specific language to be obedient and accountable, and to faithfully discharge you duties “so help me God”.

Honor could then be measured in the life of a person who has identified with a particular creed and swore an oath of loyalty to that creed. By the testimony of their life, mirrored in the tenets of the creed and the oath they swore to be governed by, a framework for the manifestation of honor or dishonor can be established. Needless to say, the news of the day often contains the pathetic, sometimes tragic, tales of certain officials dishonoring their sacred oaths by their careless, unfaithful and unethical conduct. Such stories tend to foster a decline in the public trust and that can weaken national life.

Most military and public safety personnel can readily identify with this thought progression. Over the years I have observed a common core quality that most of these professionals have a passion to simply serve others. For them, the news of the day often contains the heroic, sometimes tragic, details of the honoring of their oaths by risking their own lives and personal safety in the service of others. They have responded to a calling on their lives, codified by creeds and oaths. However, their passion “to prepare themselves to protect and serve others” is the heart of the matter. Their stories tend to foster an increase in the public trust and that can strengthen national life.

Over the course of my 37 years of professional life I was always sworn by an oath of office that was founded upon a system of principles that I believed in. These oaths, both military and law enforcement, required a personal allegiance to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. Accordingly, the ultimate authority of the office I occupied resided with “the people”. I was always relieved that these oaths ended with the phrase so help me God. This was because of the sacred nature of the oath and the responsibility incumbent upon me to fulfill the serious obligations that the oath prescribed.

I was recently reviewing the various creeds and oaths listed above, as well as others, and was impressed by the clarity and profundity of each of them. The Boy Scout Creed begins simply…“To be trustworthy in all things”. Wow! In a total of just 63 simple words a system of principles is succinctly proclaimed that could transform any culture where implemented. If you have never read the Boy Scout Creed or the language of the creed is bit fuzzy…it would be well worth a few moments of your time. I think most pastors would be very pleased to have a congregation full of folks who “were good scouts”. Check out the Nicene Creed too!

A few phrases from A Navy Flyer’s Creed…“I am a United States Navy flyer…My countrymen built the best airplane in the world and entrusted it to me. They trained me to fly it. I will use it to the absolute limit of my power…I will do anything necessary to carry out our tremendous responsibilities…When the going is fast and rough, I will not falter. I will be uncompromising in every blow I strike. I will be humble in victory…my countrymen and their way of life are worthy of my greatest protective effort. I ask the help of God in making that effort great enough”.

Now think about a few phrases from “this creed”… “I am a Christian saved by grace…I serve an awesome God who has entrusted the Gospel to me…He has provided me with training to share it and given me the Holy Spirit’s power. I will use it to the absolute limit of my power…I will do whatever is necessary to carry out my tremendous responsibilities…When the going gets fast and rough, I will not falter. I will be uncompromising in every blow I strike. I will be humble in victory. My family, my church family, my community and my countrymen and their way of life are worthy of my best protective effort. I ask the help of God in making that effort great enough”.

Although my last carrier landing was 27 years ago, the desire to strap a navy aircraft to my back remains strong. Likewise, my retirement from law enforcement, just 18 months ago, did not lessen my desire to bring criminals to justice. Yes, I know, Fantasy Land is at Disney World. Nevertheless, let us do a quick reality check and access our passion, our posture, our fighting stance if you will, here in 2010. This is absolutely necessary because we will either be seated as spectators over the coming months or we will be contending for victory as participants on the arena floor…“on the tip of the spear”. Joshua 24:15 comes to mind.

You may or may not have had the privilege to serve under the authority of a specific creed or oath such as I have…but the issue is what now? Perhaps the slightly modified phrases in the creed above will help you focus or you may give the Boy Scout Creed a fearless review. Now that’s a challenge! Of course these suggestions are not intended to set aside any biblical teachings, but perhaps they might assist you in fulfilling the Great Commandment and The Great Commission, all while preserving our dearest liberties and our way of life. Such an objective set of imperatives could even assist you in being a more effective parent or spouse.

“Who sows virtue reaps honor”—-Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)

Developed by: John R. “Barney” Barnes, CDR USN®

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