The 22nd of February is World Thinking Day, the day when “when everyone in guiding across the world explores and celebrates how we’re all part of a bigger movement”, and at the ripe old age of 29 it is my first time as part of the Guiding family celebrating the day. It is a wonderful tradition that, like many other things about Guiding, has been going on since 1926. It falls on the joint birthday of Lord Baden-Powell, founder of the Scouts and Guides Movement, and his wife Olave, who served as World Chief Guide. The whole movement is infused of tradition in every aspect: Guiding is based on a book that was written at the beginning of the last century, Guides make the promise, even though it has changed 11 times since 1910, and the meetings start and end with a song.
I’m very fond of traditions. I find them comforting. They connect you to people who came before you and people who will come after you. There are traditions that may need updating, or have some aspects questioned because of the implications they have, but in generally I think tradition is a really positive thing. It is not against tradition that a tradition evolves: it is merely due to the fact the tradition is so important it deserves preserving in circumstances that have themselves evolved.
When the Guiding promise was updated to remove the reference to a duty to God, there was a big uproar from Christians who feel everything is an attack tantamount to persecution, but nobody seems to have wanted to understand why it was done. We live in a multi-faith society in which there is a growing number of unbelievers: the duty to God means nothing to them. I think dropping the reference is preferable to having them take the name of the Lord in vain, and far from being a way of letting secularism win and erase our religion from public life, it should be a call to evangelise so that the next time someone makes the promise in its original form, they will make it with a true sense of duty to God, as a faithful person.
The current promise is this:
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.
Nothing in this promise prevents any Christian girl to pledge this promise to God in her heart: it is implicit in being true to herself and her beliefs. And the Guide Law is clearly still rooted in the Christian heritage of the GirlGuides, and these values are something that is badly needed in our increasingly fragmented society of a extremely individualistic age.
A Guide is honest, reliable and can be trusted.
A Guide is helpful and uses her time and abilities wisely.
A Guide faces challenge and learns from her experiences.
A Guide is a good friend and a sister to all Guides.
A Guide is polite and considerate.
A Guide respects all living things and takes care of the world around her.
(Source: Girlguides UK – Our Promise)
One of my greatest heroes is, unsurprisingly, Edmund Burke, and if one wants to understand why, nobody has ever incapsulated it as well as Jesse Norman. I have always been community-minded, but my family thought that the parish youth club was more appropriate for a little lady than the outdoors adventures of Scouting and Guiding and I was never allowed to be a Girl Scout as a child. My father probably disagreed, as I had the occasional go-apeing adventure. When I met the local leader at an event at a local church back in October, and she told me I could join as a volunteer even if I had not been a Guide growing up, I jumped on the opportunity.
If I had a daughter in the future, I would love for her to try and hopefully want to become part of the Guiding family. The same goes for a boy, as the values are good ones that I think every child should have, but I feel more strongly about it for a girl because of the way sometimes we tell girls that they cannot be adventurous and push on them a specific view of what being a woman means that is reductive of just how strong a woman really is, and I would want my girls to know that they can be whoever they want to be as there is no right or wrong way to be a woman.
P.S. Here are some resources that dive into the meaning of Ezer in the Bible, and related issues:
Christian Feminist Weekly Podcast – Helpmeet: I don’t think it means what you think it means
Today’s blog post has been part of the Love Blog Challenge 2018 on the subject “Tradition”. Find the rest of the series here.