God and the Girl Guides – The Promise Debate

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On both BBC Breakfast and 5 Live this morning I caught some of the debate over the dropping of the line ‘to love my God’ from the Girl Guides’ promise. Being male, I have never been a part of the Girl Guide’s association (though I was once a Cub and, briefly, a Scout) but it’s apparent from the debates I’ve been hearing that this issue is considered big enough for people from all walks of life to weigh in with their arguments, so this is my contribution to the debate.

It may come as a surprise to you (or it may not) that I do not immediately think that all Girl Guides should promise to love God. Before I go into my opinion, let me just briefly outline the two sides of the debate as I’ve understood them from listening and watching this morning:

In favour of dropping the line – Those in favour of the new promise argue that it allows the promise to be inclusive for a wide range of beliefs. People who don’t believe in God should not be required to make a promise to love him as this would go against the Guide’s ethos of tolerance and inclusivity.

Against dropping the line – Those against the new promise argue that the Guides were set up as a Christian organisation with Christian values at the heart, and thus the line ‘to love my God’ ensured that this grounding still remained and affirmed the moral values at the heart of the Guides.

I’m not an expert in the history of the Scouting/Guiding movement, so I’m not going to try and say whether or not Baden Powell would have been in favour of this change. What I am going to do is look at whether or not the line ‘to love me God’ actually has any value in the movement anymore. To be honest, I don’t think it does (gasp). Let me explain my reasons why it’s not necessary:

Christian Girl Guides – Any Girl Guides who are Christian will already have made a promise to love God in becoming a Christian. As Christians are called to be public with their beliefs, this promise will not be a secret and people will know that they have made this commitment, therefore there is no need to make that promise again as a Girl Guide.

Non-Christian Girl Guides – If a non-Christian is required to promise to ‘love my God’ then would we not be making them break a promise? Let’s be realistic, making the Guide promise is not going to instantly make you a Christian so it’s not going to make you love the Christian God, thus, making the old promise as a non-Christian would have been dishonest.

The fact is, I don’t think there is a perfect solution. Despite thinking that making someone promise to love God in the Guides is unnecessary, I’d hate to see the Guides lose their Christian moral roots because, and you may disagree, I think Christian moral roots are the best (yeah, I said it). I think it’s possible to encourage these morals without mentioning God explicitly, but it doesn’t quite sit right in my mind. Also, the new promise contains the something along the lines of ‘furthering my beliefs’ which, as one lady pointed out on BBC Breakfast, seems to turn religion into some sort of personal, self-help thing which makes me baulk.

It seems to me that the only way the Guides can go from here is further from Christianity and that saddens me, however, I also have acknowledge that it is merely reflecting the progression of England as a nation. I stand by my point that you cannot make someone promise something that they either know they won’t keep (as in the case of a non-religious person) or that they think is wrong (as in the case of a religious non-Christian). I know that I wouldn’t want to make a promise that I didn’t feel was right – as an example, I wouldn’t want to swear on the Bible in court because of Matthew 5:33-37.

Here are my thoughts on a couple of other points that were raised around this issue:

Christianity should stay in the home – This was a point made by a secularist on the radio regarding this issue. I completely disagree as I think it shows a fundamental misunderstanding of Christian beliefs. I’d love it if the Girl Guides encouraged the sharing of faith, but I don’t think they will.

Without God, morals are meaningless – This point was made by a Christian on BBC Breakfast and, though I agree with the overall concept, I think that in the context of Guides, good morals can still be taught without God in the promise.

I appreciate that this post has been more a collection of my thoughts than a coherent, structured piece of writing, but this is the type of issue where I think a lot of points need to be covered. To sum up, I DON’T think that Girl Guides should be made to promise to love God, I DO think that the Girl Guides should retain Christian morality and foundations, but I DON’T think they will, in the long run.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Anna says:

    The trouble with your argument though is the fact that Girlguiding has never, ever been a Christian organisation. Not when were founded, not now. We have always been open to everyone from the start and have always had members from all faiths and none – across the globe. This change is therefore wholly in keeping with everything Girlguiding has always been about.

    1. bengarry says:

      Well my main argument was the the change was fine, so I don’t think you want to say that there’s a problem with that! As for the nature of Guiding, you have to admit that there are people who would say the opposite to you, so who’s right? Even so, what morals would you have in place instead of Christian ones if Guiding is truly secular?

  2. moralessence says:

    Scouting is a faith based association, it is embedded in the fundamentals of its initiative. People who don’t have faith shouldn’t make the promise but that doesn’t mean the promise shouldn’t exist. The promise can be modified to include a number of God’s to accommodate all faiths and regularly does. Yes, the promise isn’t entirely inclusive, but neither is the Christian church. No-one complains that being a member of a church comes with responsibilities and morals that centre around Jesus Christ because you wouldn’t be a member of a church if you didn’t believe in their relevance. Scouting is very much the same and I don’t believe it should be secularised.

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