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Jun 22 2013

A Step Forward – Girl Guides

The Girl Guides of the UK have made a change. It’s a minor one really. It’s nothing big. But one that I applaud.

The Girl Guides have given up their “Christian” roots and become a secular organisation. It has changed it’s pledge from mentioning “God” and “Country” with “be true to myself and develop my beliefs” and “community”.

Needless to say? There are always going to be haters. And in this case it’s the Daily Mail.

More precisely? It’s Stephen Glover’s stance.

Obviously I’ve never been a Girl Guide. Nor did I ever join the Scouts. I was briefly a member of the more junior Cubs — but got out as soon as I could. The regimentation never appealed. Camping was a mixed blessing, and knot-tying had its limitations. 

If that’s all the scouts were to you then I am afraid you didn’t learn anything.

It is a staid denigration of what scouting means and what it means to millions who have fond memories of it. I was blessed that the scouts of the UK were not very religious and more inclusive than say…. the BSA of the USA. It was never “regimented”, scouting has changed since its paramilitary days.

So scouting was not for me. But I was glad that there were people more energetic, and perhaps more  public-spirited, who wanted to be Guides or Scouts.

Over the years, those feelings have deepened. Thank goodness that, in an age in which many young people are glued to their computers, there are still some of them who want to shin up trees, light camp fires and do good turns. Believe it or not, there are nearly half a million Girl Guides in this country.

Oh yes, kids these days all listen to urban music and wear hoodies while walking around like they are smuggling hedgehogs in their pants…

Because they are incapable of doing anything dressed like that. And then we try and teach children not to judge people by how they look.

I will say one thing about shows like the X-Factor and Britain’s Got Talent. They don’t half teach you a lesson about judging people for what they look like.

Every group of people in History were disappointed by the youth of their time. Even those “glued” to their computers.

But, alas, their world is being turned upside down under the leadership of a politically correct female Torquemada called Julie Bentley. The promise which young recruits make has been modernised. God and country have been axed.

Torquemada killed and tortured thousands of Jews and Muslims and indeed Christians believed to be Jewish or Muslim or “A bit shirty”.

Julie Bentley merely struck off words from an oath that made no sense in this day and age. Both the scouts and guides are extremely secular. They don’t have any religious leanings these days. So why speak a false oath? Why not update it? No one was bothered by the old one. The new one is more inclusive.

God and Country? A god that doesn’t exist? And to remove the paramilitary nature of the origins of these organisations and make them about “kids having fun and learning stuff” rather than “Teaching kids to become soldierettes”. Lest we forget, Hitler Youth was a scouting group and many of the skills taught in the scouts would often fit into the National Service when it was active.

Modern scouts stepped away from the regiments and became more fun. So why should it still chant the same oath? The scouts became about service to the people not the country. The interests of the country happen to be rich wankers not the community after all.

Until now the pledge has read: ‘I promise that I will do my best: to love my God, to serve the Queen and my country, to help other people and to keep the Guide law.’

The new pledge will be: ‘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 help other people and to keep the Guide law.’

Any one else think there is nothing wrong with that?

I don’t agree, of course, because we are talking about the Girl Guides. You wouldn’t expect the Hells Angels to pledge themselves to God and country (though some of them might), but you would expect the Girl Guides to do so, as  they always have. That’s what they’re like.

Just because someone has always done something doesn’t mean they should keep doing the same things or that the thing they did was right.

In any case, the old pledge only required Guides ‘to do their best’ to love God. In other words, it did not demand of them that they should love him, or even believe in him, but simply try to love him.

But we don’t believe in your god. It’s like demanding we love Sasquatch?

As for the exhortation to serve ‘community’, it is difficult not to see this as a concession to minorities who feel no particular love for this country, if any at all, but a strong allegiance to their religious or ethnic grouping. That seems against the spirit of the Girl Guides, who are national and inclusive. 

Yes, it’s always the minorities faults. Those bloody Welsh and Scots! How dare they refuse to serve the United Kingdom, a nation where all the economical and political power is held by England and for decades has fermented discomfort in the North creating the Scottish Nationalist Party (who are actually nice people BTW unlike the BNP who are dicks).

Because brown people don’t love the UK and don’t do things like represent the UK at sport or pay their taxes or go to war or abide by laws or any one of the usual tropes racists like to fish out about “minorities” not loving the country they are in.

The Guides were not founded as an inclusive organisation. Segregation was common. It changed for the better and it’s changing again for the better.

There’s nothing at all wrong with ‘community’, and the word could have been inserted before ‘country’, so that Guides could serve both. But it is very foolish, and contrary to the tradition of the Girl Guides, to smother national pride.

National Pride? How can one speak of national pride then write for the Daily Mail. A tabloid newspaper masquerading as a broadsheet with naught by gossip, bad reporting and commentary that thinks the biggest problem the scouts and guides face is the fact they removed “god” from their oath rather than say the funding cuts due to the downturn in the economy reducing donations.

The new wording effectively replaces religious belief with belief in oneself. ‘I will do my best to be true to myself, and develop my beliefs.’ But what if those beliefs are narrow, selfish, ignorant or even violent, as might be the case? Wherein lies the benefit of developing such beliefs?

Oh no! A scouting association is teaching you about belief in the self and reliance on one’s own skill rather than prayer. However will we learn how to light campfires if not by by sacrificing the weakest to appease Moloch and his gift of fire.

We had no qualms in accepting Christianity as a over-arching belief system despite the fact that many Christians have narrow, selfish, ignorant or even violent beliefs. (I assume the last one is a gotcha aimed at Islam.).

The benefit? Well since nearly 50% of the UK doesn’t believe in a god they may believe in other non-theist beliefs such as secular humanism. A idea that has done more for humanity in its short existence than religion has in the millennia that it has had its stranglehold. For the Guides to pick up its ideas and make a more inclusive Guides where people of all religion are treated equally is a testament to it.

The literal argument is “But now Christians aren’t super special awesome” to which I say “Really? Christians didn’t lose anything. Everyone else gained though. They gained enough to be seen as equal in the eyes of the Guides which already saw them as equal. It may as well take down the last remnants of its less universal origins.

‘Being true to oneself’ could mean following one’s baser instincts. One virtue of religion, or of any belief system, is that it enjoins us not to please ourselves but to please God, or at least to accept the existence of a universal moral code that should regulate our selfish instincts or ‘being oneself’.

Yet our moral codes are not based on religion but on rational thought. Which is why the “laws” of the United Kingdom are decided by our elected representatives in the Parliament rather than by some priest reading a Bible.

This new Girl Guide pledge is a declaration of individualism. God and country are jettisoned in favour of self and the smaller entity of community. The Queen miraculously survives, though I shouldn’t be surprised if she were chopped before long by Julie Bentley.

So you didn’t like the regimentalism of the Guides and Scouts but when they removed that you don’t like the fact they removed the wrong kind of regimentalism?

Ms Bentley is the recently appointed chief executive (why ‘chief executive’ — is it a business?) of the British Girl Guides. Try to think of a traditional Guide, and then think of the opposite. You have imagined Julie Bentley.

Her previous job was as head of the fpa (formerly the Family Planning Association) for five years where she championed abortion rights and sex education. On taking up her new post last autumn, she announced that ‘the Guides is the ultimate feminist organisation’. Of course it is! How silly of the rest of us not to see!

Yes. The modern Guides “grew up” during the 70s and became the EQUAL of the Scouts. There is little difference between the two and often the two groups are joined together with no gender restrictions. They became firm supporters of progressive values and have been so for more than 30 years.

You can’t demean Ms. Bentley as a person who has championed the rights of women and indeed “young girls”. You may not “say” it but I know the tone. Look at this woman who teaches our ladies to kill babies and our girls to have sex! I mean the Guides stopped teaching young girls how to “cook” and started teaching how to “camp” and go do outdoors things.

I have read Spike Milligan’s war diaries. Let’s just say the past wasn’t as uptight as Stephen Glover. The past was not some magic place where sex happened for procreation and this recreation sex malarky is all frightfully new and depressingly bourgeoisie.

I just said that. Picture me smoking a gauloise and blowing rebellious smoke contemptuously over my shoulder.

In short, in my opinion, Ms Bentley is a trendy, Lefty moderniser, doubtless also thoroughly secular, who wants to transform the venerable organisation under her care, and make it as unlike its old self as she can manage before she hands it on, largely ruined, to someone else. She has already declared that the Guides are ‘too middle-class’.

If we let poor people into the guides they will stab us rather than whittle. And even if they do whittle things it will be a gun. Oh if only Diana were still alive!

I have nothing very much against her and people like her. I just wish that with their bland smiles and complacent assumptions they had not taken over nearly all our institutions, and that people who respect traditions, and don’t believe in permanent revolution, might occasionally be given a turn. 

My irony meter exploded here because of the complacent assumptions Mr. Glover makes about the world where minorities don’t care about the UK (Unlike all those white youths who he so maliciously slandered as glued to their computers and unwholesome).

Tradition for the sake of tradition is pointless. If the bloody princes of England can marry “commoners” rather than traditionally marry their “posh and inbred cousins” then the fucking Girl Guides can be  secular.

The Church of England, still dear to my heart, is another institution increasingly dominated by such people. By the way, one of their most egregious characteristics is intolerance. They nearly always speak of traditionalists and conservatives with contempt.

Last Friday, at a party in Oxford, I found myself  talking to the biologist and atheist Richard Dawkins and a very senior Anglican clergyman. I asked this cleric, whom I know and like, whether  he believed in the Resurrection. He said that he did not. He added that he ‘didn’t think for a moment’ that he ‘would survive after death’.

What a sensible clergyman. Kudos!

It may shock people like Stephen but belief in the imaginary is not something to be lauded. We give up our imaginary friends, then why must we fear the imaginary dictator.

A senior clergyman in our Established Church publicly and shamelessly professing such disbelief makes one despair. Perhaps we shouldn’t wonder that the Girl Guides have become secular if the Church of England harbours such doubters. 

We should do something traditional. I think we should tie him to the stake and set him on fire…

What was so painful was this clergyman’s easy denial of a cornerstone of his faith in front of the most notable and militant atheist of our age. In effect he was saying to Mr Dawkins: ‘You’re right, and the Church is wrong.’

Not really. I am sure those two were discussing stuff that wasn’t about religion. I mean I don’t go around all day shaking my fist at Ganesh and kicking over temple priests. I am actually quite polite and nice.

This priest may believe in a god but not in an after life. He may believe in the “goodness” of religion. He may even be struggling with his faith and doing what he knows best.

But all that doesn’t matter. It’s not a war against god. We cannot wage war on the imaginary.

I hope my friend is part of a minority in the Church of England, and think of my own local Anglican church, whose admirable priests most certainly do believe in the Resurrection. I also marvel that an institution can be so quickly corrupted from within.

Hey… that stake suggestion sounds pretty good right about now eh? Lest we forget “The History of The Church of England”.

All institutions evolve and change. But clergymen who don’t believe in a Christian God shouldn’t be priests, and leaders of Girl Guides who don’t revere the traditions of the Girl Guides should look for another job. 

Maybe, but clergymen can have their own personal beliefs and it is ILLEGAL to discriminate on the basis of personal belief. It’s why I can be a paid organist in a Church despite being an Atheist. And the leader of the girl guides should be able to move the institution forward rather than pay blind lip service to a rotting core of White Christian Privilege that pervaded the Guides and often caused minorities to not join. I mean imagine joining up only to be told that “You lied on your oath because everyone knows minorities don’t care about the country”.

A more inclusive Guides and a more gender neutral scouting “practice” in general is a good thing for all our children.

You may think the Girl Guides are unimportant, but they’re not. A promise that once soared to embrace God and country is cut back to concentrate on self. Don’t tell me that this won’t  be a big thing for millions of  young women.

No. We think the Guides are very important. A promise that once soared to alienate the very Scots and Welsh who are often ostracised by British politics now gives them more leeway and the demilitarisation of the oath makes it a more community orientated scheme. And so what if we don’t pay lip service to Jehovah? If your all powerful god is insulted by the actions of kids learning to camp and not mentioning his name then he is an insecure child of a god.

And this is nothing. The guides for most of my living memory have NEVER been religious. They have always acted secularly. In the same way that the UK’s government is secular despite its rules being enshrined with nods to the Church. The Guides just liberalised without changing the oath. There is no “ban” on Christians. It’s just that their god doesn’t get called up specifically.

Stephen Glover has it all wrong. The Guides aren’t changing to fit the Promise.

The Promise now Fits the Guides.

4 comments

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  1. 1
    Cathy W

    If the activities of the Girl Guides in the UK are anything like the Girl Scouts in the US, then you’ve hit the nail on the head – they’re simply updating the Promise to reflect the organization. On all the issues the columnist is complaining about, the horse left the barn decades ago.

  2. 2
    Rich Woods

    @Cathy #1:

    On all the issues the columnist is complaining about, the horse left the barn decades ago.

    That’s why Glover writes for the Daily Mail…

  3. 3
    MattR

    It’s interesting to note that Glover deliberately misrepresents the oath:

    to do my best: to serve God, …

    is not the same as

    to do my best to serve God …

    The first begins a list of items required for one to do one’s best. The second (as portrayed by Glover) suggests that it’s about effort — actual belief not required. So Glover’s comment that belief in God “is not required” is disingenuous at best.

  4. 4
    Peggy Ramos

    Thank you, thank you for posting your opined regarding the recent changes in the Girl Guides UK! As a Girl Scout leader here in the USA, I was delighted to read the positive changes in seeking to broaden the inclusion and change the dated promise.
    In Canada, the guides are allowed to change their promise as they see fit. We also made the change to our promise as there are athiests, agnostics, and Christians in our troop. It didn’t seem a good fit use the old promise when we’re actually trying to make our world and community better places. BTW, the girls were the ones that chose to make the change. I was okay with them not learning the promise if it offended them.
    They work well together in tolerance and friendship.

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