Guides, God and my son the sectarian paramilitary
The Guides have taken the decision to drop any mention of God from their official promise, and it’s fair to say that reaction has been mixed, ranging from a relaxed “about time, too” to indignant rants from people who seem to be on the verge of going the Full Carey.
This caught my attention because Elder Son has recently joined the Beaver Scouts. He loves it – he gets to play games, do cool stuff, learn things and spend lots of time with his friends. And because he’s having fun, I’m happy. But the promise is a peculiar anomaly when viewed alongside all of that.
The Beaver Scout Promise is a funny old thing. Here it is in full:
I promise to do my best
To be kind and helpful
And to love God
Hmm, interesting. I know why that last bit’s there, but it seems like an awkward afterthought, paying lip service to an idea that bears no relation to what they actually get up to every week.
Obviously, when a group’s originally founded as a religious organisation it’s no wonder if they expect members to live by that, but you’d struggle to find any mention of the religious bit on the Scouts’ website. Looking at that, you could be forgiven for thinking that they were a normal, secular organisation who are only interested in outdoor adventures and building friendships. And to most people, promises aside, that’s exactly what it is.
Whatever the reason, I feel that there’s something wrong with any group that requires members to make specific promises like this but does nothing to make that clear in its publicity. It’s hard to see how anything can be so integral to the group but not warrant a single mention (as far as I can see) on the whole website. This would appear to be the reason for the Guides excising their own clause – it just doesn’t reflect who they now are and what they do and stand for.
Personally, I’d be very happy to see the Scouts, Guides and all associated younger-age groups dropping the religious part of their promises (as well as the monarchist and nationalist stuff) because it’s unnecessary, restricts the views which can be held in good conscience by members, and considering that these children can be as young as six years old, it’s inappropriately and uncomfortably close to indoctrination.
But even leaving all that aside, the Guides have done the right thing because there’s little or nothing in their activities that has any religious connection these days. To all intents and purposes, they’re a secular organisation.
That’s why the people who object to this change are raising their objections at the wrong time. If they think belief in God is an integral part of being a Guide, a Scout or whatever (whether the Christian God, some other specific God, or just some unspecified higher power), the time to make their case was when that was being dropped and sidelined in practice, not when the official promises start to catch up with the reality.