Catholics might be disappointed to learn that a group of Christian Girl Guides, who initially refused to drop the traditional pledge to “love my God” from their oath, will now be using the Girl Guides’ new secular oath, “to be true to myself and develop my beliefs”.
I was never a member of the Girl Guides so I cannot pretend to feel especially passionate about this latest victory for secularists, many who hold sincere and well-meaning beliefs about the benefits of a secular ethos.
But I was struck by the comment from an ‘atheist volunteer leader’ which was featured in the Daily Telegraph today.
Responding to the news that the St Paul’s Harrogate troop will now be using the secular oath, the 28 year-old, Jem Henderson, said: “It’s a new oath, and more leaders that are younger and perhaps less stuck in their ways should make Guiding more exciting for people that want to join that don’t just want to go and sit in a church hall with women who are older than their mothers talking about whatever it is they’re talking about.”
“Women who are older than their mothers talking about whatever it is they’re talking about?” Does this comment reflect sincere secularism or juvenile ageism? Will this dismissive mentality make “a positive difference to Girl Guides’ lives and their communities?”
Admittedly, many of us can recall teenage times when we rolled our eyes at an elderly relative’s favourite anecdote but with the benefit of maturity one spots the priceless wisdom in the advice they imparted. I personally regret not having listened more closely to the stories my grandparents told but, thankfully, I do remember my Polish grand father speaking of his experience when the Russian army occupied Eastern Poland during World War Two. He told me how he had prayed the Memorare as he hid from armed men in a forest in Poland. Crouching in the undergrowth as he prayed, he overheard the men tell each other: “If you find that Polish dog, shoot it”. Having survived this terror he always maintained his prayer was answered.
Most of us who grow out of ageism come to cherish those tiny tales of love of God and love of country. “Being true to oneself and developing your beliefs” is not as inspiring when you believe that anyone over 45 is an irrelevant bore.