Of primary concern to theists and monarchists alike was the news last month that the Girl Guides of Australia have decided to doff their chapeaus and adorn themselves instead with the tin foil hats of 21st century thinking.
The Aussie GGs will no longer “promise to do my best; to do my duty to God and the Queen.” Now, that may delight many in the neo-atheist movement and will no doubt please my colleague and long-time friend Peter Stockland, whose apostasy when it comes to the monarchy runs so deep that redemption seems barely imaginable.
But even these would have to be shocked at the utter vacuity of the phrases the Girl Guides from Down Under have chosen to replace “God and the Queen.” (References to obedience are also gone, which seems an odd decision for a paramilitary unit but there you go; once that tin foil hat is on firmly, just about anything is possible.)
Instead of promising to do their duty to the higher powers, the little Sheilas will be going right out on a limb and promising to serve the community and Australia. Then, proving that stranger things happen south of the equator than toilets flushing in the wrong direction, the next generation of Australian mothers will pledge “to be true to myself and develop my beliefs” and thus ensure that narcissism is embraced as a core value for generations to come.
Now, the head of the Australian Girl Guides muttered some bafflegab concerning the need to be “relevant” to the modern world (a path Scouts Australia, blessedly, has no intention of treading).
And, remarkably, Belinda Allen said this: “The actual fundamental values and principles of our promise have not changed; it is just the way we express them that has changed,” she said. “Our community comes from about 200 different countries. We need to be able to reflect our community and have wording in our promise that’s meaningful and relevant to the girls of Australia in the 21st Century.”
This is an intellectual lie. Pledging duty to God and the King is the primary requirement listed by Sir Baden Powell in his original book. Many countries not fortunate enough to enjoy the benefits of constitutional monarchy have adapted that to be loyal to “God and my country” (whatever unfortunate republican construct that may be), and in so doing it is fair to say they have retained the original principles intended by the pledge. That is, that they submit themselves to and recognize that there is something bigger in life than them. So, you can take the Queen out and retain the original meaning by replacing it with “my country,” which is something that has similar meaning. But you can’t take God out and replace it with “my community” or, more hideously, “myself.”
God is—at least in the terms used by Alcoholics Anonymous—a “Higher Power” beyond our comprehension or understanding. He (or she, if the Sheilas prefer) is eternal and omnipotent and one’s belief in His existence is a fundamental and non-sectarian acknowledgment that there is “more” than that which our eyes can see or our minds comprehend.
Rationally, one cannot remove this universal, non-sectarian concept from a pledge and say “the actual fundamentals” have not changed. God is either nothing, or everything. If the promoters of this change believe God is nothing, they should have the moral courage (one of the fundamental values they say they promote) to say so. But they don’t. Instead, they have slipped so fully into the embrace of post-modernity’s insistence on the primacy of self and its abandonment of truths beyond individual definition that they can casually abandon reason and, in its place, promote the relative emptiness of “being true to myself.” The worship of self cannot replace the acknowledgment of God.
But it has. And the noble Slouch Hat has turned tinfoil.