Wednesday, 18 September 2013

The Promise

Well, first we had the survey, then we had the waiting, then we had the announcement, and then an anguished period whilst the changes were digested.  At first, some people were unsure or unhappy, but many are now coming round to it.

So, where are we now?

Well, we now have what some have described as a 'vegetarian Promise' - not because of diet links, but because of it's universality - the new wording gives food for thought to all, both those who follow any of the organised religions, and those who have beliefs which don't fit the framework of any of the organised religions. 

We also have a more challenging Promise than before, I reckon.  When I first joined, we had to "do my duty to God" - so all you needed to do was whatever you considered it your duty to do.  For some people, absolutely, that would mean attending acts of worship, studying religious texts, undertaking faith-related community work and much more.  For others, they might consider that 'not doing anything to offend others' was as far as their duty went - and that was equally applicable. 

Then the Promise was "to love my God" - so it was now my God, which didn't necessarily resemble anyone else's God, and it was love - a verb or doing word, so some action was now called for - but still not necessarily all that much action.  One could easily say 'yes, I love God' and leave it at that. 

Now, that's not enough.  We have to "be true to myself and develop my beliefs".  So being true to the best we can be is there, but it's not enough to passively do duty, or tokenly love, we now have to "develop my beliefs" - to do something proactive about them.  So that would mean each one of us taking time to work out what we do and don't believe in.  And then thinking about what we can do about it.  We might want to read holy books to research what they have to say on the subject.  We might want to take part in debates or study groups to discuss and debate out topics.  We might want to get involved in campaigning or taking practical action.  But whatever of these or other options we undertake, it's no longer enough to say "I believe in X".  We then have to say "and what I'm going to do about it is . . ."

In that way, I also think it encourages the members to grow their Promise as they themselves grow.  A Brownie might well believe that it's wrong to steal, it's unfair that she has to go to bed when her folks say, that there should be enough food for everyone.  By the time she's a Guide she may well start to think about the environment, about girls' rights, about media portrayals.  By the time she's in Senior Section she may have strong views about a particular issue, and be actively involved in campaigning.  As an adult . . .

There has been a lot of mutterings about Leaders resigning, Church Halls cancelling Let agreements, units moving wholesale to Scouting, and units campaigning to use other sets of words instead of the agreed version.  In some cases this may be down to people mistakenly believing Guiding to be a Christian organisation (which of course, is something it has never been), but I appreciate that that isn't always the case.  I also appreciate that people can find change difficult.  But - are these objections really the unanimous view of every member of the unit, having had the meaning explained by someone happy to present all the meanings, and after the members have taken time to reflect on the new wording and what it has to offer - not knee-jerk reactions?  I really think that if people take the time to look at the meaning of the Promise, alongside the Laws and the challenge that they set us - they will see that the new wording is more demanding than the old, and is more relevant to members of all faiths - the wishy-washy wording of "duty" and "love" has been replaced by the proactive word "develop".  We may not use the word God - but those members who believe in God will now find that believing alone is no longer enough. 

What will you do to develop the beliefs you have, whatever they may be? 

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