Maybe they want the guides’ role models to be like the blasphemous Russian pussies, who desecrated churches? La samaha Allah! Lord Baden Powell founded both scouts and guides. A soldier and imperialist, his war service in South Africa fighting the Boers had taught him the importance of life outdoors in the wild for character formation. As a former scout myself, I like the old fellow. All right, it was all for the purpose of buttressing that universal spider, the British Empire. The scouts’ values list may read a big smug and priggish but the virtues came into it too. Loyalty, helpfulness and friendliness appealed to the boy I once was. A Jamboree in Rome demonstrated scout friendship between races and nations. And God was not left out. Queen Victoria’s ghost still hovered about. Refusing to love God? Victoria would not have been amused.
I imagine a critic objecting: Excuse me but how can love of God ever be an obligation? Didn’t Kant, no less, say that a love commanded is nonsense? Love isn’t the kind of thing that can be enforced. Just try it out. Tell Olivia she must love you: the last thing you will see is her scratching your eyes out.
I answer that: romantic love definitely cannot be commanded. Impossible. But that is not the kind of love at issue. Love of God is akin to love of your parents. A child ought to love his parents. Because it is both natural and dutiful to do so.
There may well be unloving and unlovable parents, sure. Lady Clementine Churchill apparently was like that sad, rare thing: a bad mother. She simply was unable to love her children and so they all grew up screwed up. Regardless, they should still have loved their unloving mother, I maintain. And I trust they in fact did – I hope so.
With God, however, it is wholly different. You do not have to fear a cold, unloving deity, an indifferent maker of your being, like the remote gods of Epicurus, who did not give a damn for human welfare. The One True God is the opposite of that ghastly pagan fantasy. God’s love is total, absolute. In Christianity God especially loves the unlovable, the sinners, the lowly, the despised, the scum of the earth. Jesus Chris fully shared in the human condition. He did not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. Love of God thus becomes like the love for a dear, beloved friend, one who is always by your side, one who cares for you and even dies for you. Anyone who has been fortunate enough to have had a friend even slightly resembling that will know that loving him would come not as a burden but as a joy. A love as natural and as delightful as breathing fresh air.
‘This is all very well but we live in a multicultural society. That includes unbelievers. It makes sense therefore to leave your God out of the guides’ promise, so that atheist girls too may come in’, my unmoved critic interposes. Multicultural, yes. That was accommodated years back, when the promise was changed from ‘loving God’ to ‘loving my God’. Just in case Hindu girls suspected that Krishna or Vishnu were left out. But you realise now how that was specious. The truth is that unbelievers will not rest until they get God utterly out of the picture. The poor English girls must not hear the supreme Author of their being mentioned. That would be too dreadful. I suspect only a promise to disbelieve in God would fully satisfy the atheist brigade. Like in the old Soviet Union, they crave hatred of God made into a system of government. Mutatis mutandis, capitalist Britain is well on the way to that.
Capitalism is part of the explanation. Hard line atheists apart, its default position is that religion is a private affair. That disreputable French dogma, la laicite’. Belief in God to such people is like belief in flying saucers, something bizarre, odd and ridiculous. To be whispered in closed conventicles, impinging on public life only occasionally, to be laughed at. True, a smart brand of capitalism also may accept religion as something both public and privatised. Officially acknowledge but kept at a safe distance, within narrow limits. Such is, for example, the God of the Church of England. A roi fainéant, or a useless King Log, who makes no difference to anything at all. A very insular deity for Sunday morning only and one who bores his elderly devotees to death.
The new girl guides promise replaces God with ‘the Queen and my community’. I am fond of Her Majesty but, well, forgive the poor priest, she is perhaps not quite like the Creator of the Universe. ‘My community’ is more interesting. What kind of community could that be, I wonder? Could there be unpleasant, rotten, dangerous communities? How would a girl love or serve them? More critically, this is multiculturalism at its worst. It fragments the country into bogus units called ‘communities’. To each his hole to hide herself into, eh? Not nice.
But my mum was right: women are spiritual. Hope they rise up and rebel against this garbage. All power to the girls! Teach the bastards a lesson, my gals!