to do my best

Something that’s bothering me lately is Guiding and its promises. I’ve never made That Promise* as an adult, because, you know, I can’t…

I have no god. I don’t feel I owe the monarchy any allegiance. That doesn’t make me a worse (or indeed, a better) person, or any more or less fit to lead girls. Feel free to judge me on how I live my life, but not on those beliefs.

I’m the Guider who never wants to hear girls making promises, who ‘forgets’ the flag, who has reluctantly attended church each November only to avoid causing too much offence.

I truly cannot work out why GGUK have put their feet down so firmly on this one. They are clutching the wrong straws. Actions matter; beliefs do not.

I think Canada have got it about right. I could say those words without perjuring myself, and I don’t see that it would detract anything from the experience for those who do believe in god/s.

So what to do whilst we all wait around for GGUK to come to their senses? Keep quiet and make full use of the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy (and ignore the profound discomfort prickling every time the promise issue rears its ugly head?), or speak out and walk away? For this time, there is no third way.

*Ooh, do you know, I can’t actually find the wording of the promise anywhere on the GGUK site… Do we suppose that’s because it’s a really crap website, or because their refusal to change the wording has become such an embarrassing issue?

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “to do my best

  1. Gem

    I completely agree with you. And actually, that’s why I’m not involved in Guiding any more. I won’t stand up and swear allegiance to a God I don’t believe in. It’s an insult both to me and those who DO believe in that God.

  2. It was one of the main reasons that I didn’t jump up from brownies to guides (that and the fear that they might make me go camping). It seemed so anachronistic even then.

  3. Sugar

    I struggle with this one but the relatively recent inclusion of “my” in the phrase sort of helps cos no one asks which God you are referring to and you could worship the yarn God (which you may do 😉 ) for all anyone knows! I do like the Canadian promise, it says the same thing in a totally non religious form. Could you not substitute those words for your own unit promise ceremonies but explain that at corporate events it’ll be slightly different? You can easily remain silent for two words if there are 50+ Guiding people of any age making their promise. That might be a compromise. It’s a lot easier with the Rainbows (5-7y/o, for those that don’t know) as most of them are decidedly hazy on the whole “God” malarkey and we focus on how you can love God by being kind and helpful, which are the other two elements of our watered down promise.

    I’m intrigued though how you managed not to make your promise as an adult. Did you not have a promise ceremony for yourself when you qualified? I thought it was a given but maybe it’s just our area that does it.

    I think GGUK have made a compromise in the respect of adding “My God” to the wording, in making it more inclusive for other faiths but it doesn’t help if you haven’t got one at all and from what I’ve seen over the last 20yrs in young/adult leading there are more adults who struggle with it than previously.

  4. Katherinea

    I avoided it by staying on the edges. And was up front from the start that I wan’t doing God or Church. Then felt v guilty as Sarah would have to beg the girls to come to church for parade.

  5. The post I never made, from a slightly different perspective – that of a theist, though golly if you ask me why or what it’s a hard one (and a monarchist, that’s a bit easier) – as I do not believe in teaching children subversion and telling them “well you can mean X or Y” is in my mind wrong, because “my G/god” is at heart acknoledging belief in a higher power.

    I have been encouraging people to speak out, to write to HQ, to the magazine, to make a blooming nuisance of ourselves. Because the Promise won’t change if they only hear from a few who can be put in the “troublemakers”/”nutters” box, but the more dissenting voices they hear, the more they will just have to listen. They can’t put their foot down on a theistic POV – as a diktat – because the movement would fall overnight thanks to all the leaders who’d have to leave because they are atheist but (as you quite rightly say) are no less capable or fit to lead the girls just because they happen not to believe in a higher power.

    I definitely think Canada has it right. Have you seen The Lizard Lass’s blog on the topic? http://thelizardlass.blogspot.com/2010/03/guides-canadas-new-promise.html I think we need a formal rewording – and probably need the mis-step of godfaith, as Canada had for a few years and is still not…not right, but the other would be too much too fast for our core membership I fear.

    I think it’s one of those things where one is open with the girls about having made the promise or not – and why, and gives the girls advice if asked about it, because if a Guide feels she cannot make the Promise then she cannot complete the Baden Powell Award, which I think is so wrong!

    To be honest, I think the reason you can’t find the promise on the website is because noone can find *anything* on the website. Augh, that search engine! *headbrickwall*

    But I think this is one of those matters where I try to remember: you don’t change an organisation by walking away. You effect change by staying, and pushing, and asking, and making a flipping nuisance of yourself, for as long as you have the strength to do that. Believe me – you’re not alone.

  6. Gnome

    Thank you for posting that. I absolutely agree that the promise is incorrectly worded. I have a huge problem with asking girls to say it (and have taken the route of avoiding promiseythings in the past, which is cowardly, but I’m not sure what the best active way forward is).

    I think it’s right that to be a qualified adult leader you have to make the promise the girls do – I mean, that one should fully subscribe to the thing one is leading – but the promise content at the moment is encouraging lots of people to lie for the greater good. I can’t quite believe that was GGUK’s intention.

    Isn’t the case that adults in Scouting have to be signed-up members of an approved religion? That’s worse, but at least it’s more straightforward. Guiding doesn’t say you have to practise or believe any religion, just to pay a lip service. Why?

    I can remember being very disturbed by the change from “do my duty to” to “love”. Does that reflect GGUK’s change, or something in the theology of a particular church, or is it an attempt to be more touchy-feely?

  7. Alison H

    It’s a very long time since I was a Guide, but I completely agree with you. I’m very uncomfortable with the idea of involving religion in it, and I’ve got no problem with swearing allegiance to the Queen but I can see that other people might.

    (Plus I am embittered by my parents’ refusal to let me join the same Brownie pack as my friend because she was from a different religious background!)

    The Canadian version is much better.

  8. Jane

    I’m with you on this, but again from Ciorstaidh’s perspective. It’s easy for me, but that makes it harder to watch other people struggle. We have official sanction from CHQ to interpret “loving my God” as “appreciating a beautiful sunset, or a flower”, which I’m uncomfortable with, but works OK for the Brownie who doesn’t actually think these things through (some do, some don’t). Rather Gaia-ist, yes but I had a Wiccan boyfriend, which is I think where that particular interpretation came from – he was, incidentally, the only person I know who has read the whole Bible. Anyhow, Earth Mother/Higher Power/your god isn’t always the God of Christianity, it’s all OK… but casuistric in the extreme. Something wonderful made this beautiful world… the idea of loving one’s god is to go on a spiritual journey. Problem is, GGUK tells us *where* that journey must end… However, until we manage to get the attitude of “If you didn’t like golf, you wouldn’t join a golf club, so if you don’t believe in God, don’t join the Guides” shifted out of some members, all we can do is jump up and down and make pests of ourselves, and complain that we’re having different rules

    Moreover, there are just some things you can’t do without the Promise (Queen’s Guide) – and that’s wrong. It’s OK to do most of the rest of it without making the promise.

    Email CHQ, say this, and ask to be put onto the list of people to be part of a working party to consider this next time round. The Exec have debated it recently: it’s on the agenda. We need to keep it there

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