Guides and God

So, am I all up in arms about Girl Guides dropping their promise to love [their] God[s]?

No, I don’t think so. I suspect God can take it.

This is what the Girl Guides used to promise:

I Promise that I will do my best;
To love my God,
To serve my Queen and my Country,
To help other people
To keep the Guide Law.

Now they are going to say this:

I promise that I will do my best:
To be true to myself and develop my beliefs,
To serve the Queen and my community, 
To keep the Guide Law.

This doesn’t seem to me to be particularly troubling. It looks as though Guiding wants to be modern and inclusive. I’m just a little surprised they’ve kept the Queen in there which surely must exclude republicans.

I don’t expect that Guiding will change significantly by changing that promise except to allow some girls to take part who might once have thought that it was not for them because they were not religious.

The “self” has a complex relationship with religion. And Christianity is something of a mixed bag when it comes to the self. On the one hand it is all about losing your self and being lost in God and service of others. On the other, we are told to work out our salvation in fear and trembling, which sounds a bit like a good starting place for a lot of modern therapy.

“Unto thine own self be true” is an injunction that sometimes is wrongly attributed to the Bible. It isn’t, it is a misquote in any case and comes from Polonius speaking to Laertes in Hamlet: “This above all- to thine own self be true”.

I think that God will survive the Guides’ change of wording and I hope that Guiding will flourish as a result of trying to keep up with the times.

However, you can see an enormous shift in ethical thinking taking place between those two versions of the promise. The self is paramount in modern thinking. I think that’s an inevitable thing. I also think that it is a good thing. We’ve not thought nearly enough about the self in the past. Somewhere inside though, I find myself thinking that focusing on the self is not an absolute good. Some things within the self may not be good. Presumably the injunction to serve the community in the Guide promise is an attempt to mitigate that.

If I’d been a Guide taking part in their big consultation about the promise, I’d probably have wanted something included about preventing harm. I think that’s a good direction to follow for ethical thinking and can cover the self and others.

I like the new Rainbow promise though:

I promise that I will do my best to think about my beliefs and to be kind and helpful.

You can find the inside skinny on this from a Guide leader at Some Random Bint’s blog.