One of my favourite stories is the one about the boiling frog, who simply fails to realise that the water is getting hotter. His failure to comprehend the incremental rise in temperature (he’d jumped into a pan of cool water on an outdoor fire, you see) spelled his death. Similarly, the heat of fashionable nouveau atheism is increasing all around us. One writer who regularly does notice – and speaks up about it – is Melanie Phillips. I want to share her latest piece with you today.
Like a poorly knotted woggle, the attempt by the Girl Guides (Girl Scouts) to rope in the new generation is now steadily unravelling.
In June, the Guides announced they were changing the historic promise made by all Guides and Brownies from ‘to love my God’ to ‘be true to myself and develop my beliefs’.
They would also drop the pledge to ‘serve my country’, which was to be replaced by ‘my community’.
According to the Chief Guide, Gill Slocombe, the old promise put some girls off because they found it confusing. The new formula, she said, would be easier for Guides to make and keep.
The change – which comes into force in six days’ time – was received with horror and outrage by Christians, and left many others bemused and uneasy. It seemed to be just a crude and shallow attempt by the Guiding establishment to rebrand itself as modern, by dumping timeless values.
Much worse was to follow, though. Guide groups in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, rightly dismayed by the proposed change, announced last week that they would encourage their girls and leaders to continue to use the old promise.
In a letter written jointly with a local vicar, they insisted the movement had to keep God at its core. Impeccably fair-minded and inclusive, they also proposed to offer the new promise to anyone who might prefer that form of words.
Yet in response, Ms Slocombe said such rebels need to accept this change, and even suggested they could be forced out of the movement altogether if they did not.
So much for diversity!
For with this not-so-veiled threat, the true intention of the movement’s leaders has been laid bare. A move they claimed to be more inclusive has turned out to be entirely the opposite.
Indeed, it now stands revealed as being actively discriminatory; far from pulling down any (mythical) barriers to joining the movement, the Guide leaders are actually putting them up.
Under the spurious guise of encouraging membership by atheists, or (inexplicably) those with an aversion to serving their country, the Guides are now threatening to expel those who wish to express a religious belief.
A belief, moreover, which forms the basis of the Christian values in which the Girl Guide movement is rooted, and on which its identity rests.
Yet this movement is now actively discriminating against those who wish to proclaim the continuation of those religious values at its own core.
Having dumped God and country altogether, it is now actually forbidding Guides – on pain of excommunication – to promise to serve anything beyond themselves.
Is this not beyond perverse? For there is no reason why the new promise needs to be exclusive of any other. After all, the Scouts apparently intend to offer atheists an alternative promise rather than abandon the existing one.
Other institutions have long done something similar to accommodate both believers and non-believers. When you swear to tell the truth in court, for example, or take the oath of allegiance as a new Member of Parliament, you are given the choice to swear on the Bible or to affirm.
Just imagine if you were forbidden to give evidence in court or take your seat in Parliament if you insisted on swearing on the Bible!
Of course, this would be utterly unthinkable. And yet that is precisely what the Guides are now doing. As church leaders have pointed out, this is nothing other than secular totalitarianism.
There is thus a weary absence of surprise upon learning that the Guides’ chief executive, Julia Bentley, formerly headed an abortion and contraception group. For it is hard to think of a background which more powerfully symbolises merciless and doctrinaire individualism.
Indeed, to Ms Bentley the Guides are the ultimate feminist organisation but – tsk! – too middle-class.
Thus she revealed herself to be just another politically correct zealot, standing for the secular sectarianism of group rights.
For far from serving the whole of society, each such interest group exists to gain power over everyone else – and damns anyone who stands in its way.
Indeed, this is why ‘political correctness’ is not remotely liberal at all, but viciously oppressive. It is simply a mechanism for re-ordering the world according to a particular dogma – and thus inescapably stifles all dissent.
Innately hostile to traditional morality, it paves the way for a secular Inquisition in which today’s Torquemadas are the ideologues of such group rights – and it is Christians and other religious believers who are the heretics to be silenced by force.
It is, indeed, the principal weapon of unholy war wielded by the forces of militant secularism, which are intent upon destroying the Judeo-Christian basis of western morality.
It supplants traditional morality and the concepts of right and wrong, truth and lies by a creed which says in effect, ‘Whatever is right for you is right’.
It also seeks to replace patriotism and service to one’s country by serving ‘the community’. This is yet another slippery concept, which today can simply amount to membership of just such an interest group, which is in the business of elbowing out other interest groups in the greedy clamour for entitlements.
So the new Guiding promise is all about being true to me, myself and my beliefs, whatever they may happen to be. It represents the antithesis of duty to others. It says, more or less, ‘I promise to serve myself’.
It is a promise for a narcissistic, self-centred and morally vacuous age.
And now we can see also that it is about brutally trampling underfoot the beliefs of others. Pinch yourself: this is the Girl Guides we are talking about, for heaven’s sake!
They have now managed to embody the aggressive secularism and hyper-individualism that the retiring Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks, talked about yesterday when he told BBC Radio’s Sunday Programme that British society was losing the plot.
As he said, religious faith underpins the existence of trust. When religion breaks down, trust breaks down. When society becomes secularised, the collapse of trust and the rise of individualism mean the breakdown of social institutions such as the family.
Worse than that, by replacing God with an ideology which brooks no dissent, individualism is a mechanism for illiberalism and even tyranny as these groups get their way through tactics of insult, professional ostracism or outright banning.
Now, though, some Christians are fighting back. Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester, said that he hoped many others would join the rebellion by the Harrogate Guide groups.
And now some churches are saying they will deny the Guides the use of church halls, which hitherto hundreds of their groups have used for free.
As the Rev Paul Williamson, vicar of St George’s church in Feltham, west London, has said, it would be hypocritical of the Guides to expect to use the church’s premises after abandoning its core beliefs.
That’s the spirit! Such responses show that, faced with the kind of secular intolerance that is now in danger of pushing Christianity to the very margins of society, the Church is not altogether on its knees.
Churches should deny the Guides use of their premises. Guide groups should offer the old promise, and people should refuse to join those that do not.
Only through such mass resistance will the secular zealots who have hijacked the Girl Guides be faced down, and a great institution be restored to the defence of a decent society, rather than hastening its demise.[ religious freedom ] [ secularism ] [ girl scouts ] [ promise ] [ pledge ] [ service ]