Here is a rather interesting article by Victoria Cohen about the Brownie’s new promise and the concept of “being true to yourself”.
The promise has changed from “I promise to love God” to “I promise to be true to myself and develop my beliefs”. She points out that “being true to yourself” could be seen in a rather negative way. It seems a bit like a promise to cut oneself adrift from anything absolute outside of ourselves and do whatever we like. The phrase “love God” anchors us to reality, to something outside of ourselves, to external meaning, responsibility and relationship. At a push, being true to oneself could of course mean “being true to who God has made me to be” but it’s a rather hard push akin to trying to fit an elephant into your hand luggage.
“Develop my beliefs” seems rather post-modern and self-referential too. It cannot really include all beliefs that a person might have. There is nothing in itself good about belief. What matters is what is believed and why.
I do get the problem though. The old words were not really that appropriate for everyone to day, so in a multi faith secular society what do you promise and on what basis? Jesus boiled down the law and morality to loving God and other people. While the first half is rather controversial, most people feel happy with the second and are happy promising to “help other people”. I suspect though that that first anchors the second. Without it how do you answer the “why” question. “Why should I love my neighbour?”
I guess you could say “because that’s what benefits me most in the long run” but is love really anchored in selfishness? Another related answer is “Because it is beneficial to our species to cooperate in order to propagate our genetic code”. That’s a bit more community spirited and may be true but it does not answer the “why should I question”. Sure it may be beneficial to humans in general but what if someone didn’t really care too much about humans in general? Just about themselves? Another answer is “because it feels right”. Which hopefully for most people it does but what if doing nasty things feels right for some?
The bible says “God is love”. Its says God loved us so much he gave up his son to a hideous death on a cross so we could be forgiven and reconciled to him. Love is such a great thing because we are made in the image of a God who is love. We are made to love and be loved. All “Sin”, all moral failure is actually a failure of love, either towards God or to other people. Remember though we don’t get to define love and what is or isn’t loving. God does, and he does not do so arbitrarily, rather it comes from his very nature. Who he is.
Developing our beliefs can be a good thing if it causes us to think about what we believe, and make sure they line up with reality. ie we believe true things. In doing so we will hopefully encounter Jesus, the one who is the truth.