Some thoughts on the new Guide Promise
This month sees the introduction of a new Promise that girls who join the Girl Guide Movement will be asked to make, in an attempt to make the Guiding movement ‘truly inclusive and relevant to the reality of 21st century Britain.’ In the new promise all mention of God has been taken out and replaced with a promise to ‘be true to myself and develop my beliefs.’
When I became a Guide the promise I made was ‘to do my best, to do my duty to God; to serve the Queen and to help other people and to keep the Guide Law.’ As a young adult and a convinced atheist I had no problems making this promise to remain a member of an organisation I loved and which had a profound influence on my life. To my mind God as a person or a spiritual power was a creation of people’s imaginations, like Father Christmas. He was a prop for emotionally deficient people. But I liked the idea of what ‘God’ stood for – love, peace, justice - ideals that are rooted in the faiths of many people and which ask us to look beyond our small, self centred worlds to the well being of our planet and all who live here. These ideals are reinforced in the Guide Law which a Guide also promises to keep. These have not been changed.
But the new words of the Guide Promise are, I believe, worse than meaningless because they replace a commitment to look beyond my own interests with a commitment to be self centred, and to develop personal values and beliefs with no reference to a greater good. What if the beliefs I seek to develop are selfish, ignorant or even violent? What if being true to myself involves disregarding the rights of another person? The new promise is not conceived in the spirit of the founders of the Scout and Guide movements.
One of the reasons I feel so passionately about this is that it was partly through my involvement with Guides that I found faith. I certainly wasn’t looking for it. God took me by surprise! Because the Guide Company I was leading during my University days was expected to attend church one Sunday a month, I grudgingly went along. But I met God in the worship and practical love of the people there. Despite my protestations that religious belief was irrational gobbledygook I had an experience that I could not deny and that has enriched my life and, I hope, the lives of others beyond all imagining.
Well, perhaps to put ‘I’ at the centre of Guiding philosophy is to make it relevant to the girls of the 21st century as they listen to their iPods, communicate on their iPhones and aspire to an iPad. But it doesn’t make it good.
What do you think?