Good News?


This is not something I normally blog about, but it’s a hot button for me, and I found this video so disturbing I could not remain silent. This was the first I’d heard of this group, so surely there are other people still unaware of them and their doings, despite their worldwide reach. They have chapters in all 50 states, and 176 countries.

For those who don’t want to watch the video, here’s the opening statement:

In 2001, the United States Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that the Child Evangelism Fellowship organization had the freedom of speech right to set up evangelical clubs in public elementary schools. Twelve years later, a few of us decided to learn more about these clubs, and how they operate.

That’s right, elementary schools. Not junior highs, or high schools. I could not tear myself away, I watched every second, three times now. It’s a good look inside one of their “Childrens’ Good News Spectaculars” at the state fairgrounds in North Carolina. The documentary crew showed a lot of integrity: there are no leading questions, the people who work these events are allowed to answer without anything being taken out of context or any prompting by the interviewer/camera crew. Everyone is respectful, they have kind words for the followers at the end, believing them to be sincere, kind people, ‘gentle spirits’, as Katherine Stewart calls them. At no time do they argue with the people they interview, or try to change their minds. They simply allow them to express their views, and talk about what this group does. There are more than 3500 of these clubs in public schools, as of 2012.

The level of willful ignorance by its members is staggering, though. One girl expresses disbelief in the theory of evolution even though she was home-schooled and never actually exposed to it. None of them seem to have any real grasp of it. At least Mr. Bob is right that evolution is a theory. That’s why it’s called the “Theory of Evolution.”

If, as the one gentleman says, it’s about ‘freedom OF religion, not freedom FROM religion”, then everyone, EVERYONE, gets an equal shot at doing this with whatever religion they follow: Rastafarians, Pastafarians, Muslims, Hindus, Wiccans, Asatruars, Druids, Ordo Templi Orientis, Mormons, Jews, Voudon, Santeria, Candomble, Umbanda, Zoroastrians, Baha’i, Buddhists, Mithraists, Satanists. And yes, even Atheists and Communists. No offense to any religion or group I have inadvertently neglected to mention.

Most of the time I’m an atheist. In those moments when I’m feeling a belief in some greater force, I can best be described as an agnostic pagan. Pagans DO NOT PROSELYTIZE. Ever. A basic tenet is that we respect everyone’s right to raise their children as they see fit. No respectable Wiccan coven (I acknowledge the existence of people willing to take advantage of teens and adults under the guise of religion, I’m not saying those types don’t exist) will take a minor on for training without express WRITTEN permission from the parents, after they have met and spoken with the parents. We’re not interested in swelling the ranks. We firmly believe (ok, let me qualify the ‘we’: every pagan I’ve ever met or spoken with on the subject, and that’s a fair few of many different traditions) that if someone is meant to be on a pagan path, they will find their own way to it. In fact it’s preferable. It’s not for everyone. It’s hard work.

The fact that they target such young, impressionable children is, to me, despicable. Can you imagine the outcry, the furor, the indignation if any group other than this tried to come into school and teach their ways? Can you imagine a Wiccan coming in to teach the fundamentals of the Craft? I can already hear their charges of “Satanic Harry Potter-like demonic attacks on our children.” (Note: Harry Potter has nothing to do with demons or Satan, and if you think it does please see your doctor to adjust your medications.) There would be lawsuit after lawsuit. State dollars used to teach witchcraft? Know that whatever brand of Christianity you follow, if it’s not their particular flavor, you too will be painted with the same ‘demonic’ brush. We don’t even have to use the Craft as an example. Imagine it was a Muslim group. Or a Catholic group. The result would be the same. The whole approach of their ‘Spectacular’ to lure children in with the carnival atmosphere is so conniving it reminds me of the Pleasure Island scene in Disney’s 1940 “Pinocchio”, to lure boys away. This group specifically targets very young children, starting from the age of four. Children at that age have no reasoning skills, they simply believe what they’re told. This should be disallowed on the basis of interfering with parental rights.

They have no right to indoctrinate other people’s children with their particular belief set. And it is indoctrination, brain-washing, or as Ms. Stewart says, “religious bludgeoning.” If this is what they want to teach their own children, I would not try to stop them. But to come into public schools and try to steal other people’s children and contradict what the child’s own parents have told them is beyond the pale.

I think Rev. Barry Lynn nails it around the 32:19 mark when he said these people are absolutely interested in a theocracy that would back up their own particular version of Christianity, making everyone who is not Christian a second-class citizen. So they’re trying to indoctrinate the masses while there’s still time to sway them with no fight. Shameful.

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10 thoughts on “Good News?

  1. It wasn’t quite as hardcore as this, but Student Christian Union groups were a staple in the school system where I’m from, run by the stronger Christian teachers. This _on top_ of being a Christian school system to begin with ie. religious assemblies twice a week, hymns, prayers, mandatory bible study. Worse, it was socially “cool” to belong to the SCU, so there was pressure to belong. The SCU did almost irreperable damage to my inner workings; dogma that I am only now – after 15 years -, finally, shaking off for good.

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    1. I totally understand how hard that is. I was raised Catholic, and even today, after all these years of being a practicing pagan (let’s just say better than 20 years) I’m still not sure I’m completely over it. Not saying the Catholics were worse, I just think anything you’re indoctrinated into that strongly when young will have that effect. It’s one reason my own children had minimal exposure to religion when they were small, and we talked about things very openly. I also exposed them to paganism, but neither has much interest in any religion now.

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  2. Wow! I had to quit watching because my blood pressure skyrocketed! This organization must have gotten their ideas from the Hitler Youth Movement, but using in their own subversive manner…and in public primary schools! I think I may have to take a tranquilizer.

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  3. The parallels are definitely there. I thought it was hysterically ironic how the home-schooled girl suggested scientists need to keep an open mind about Creationism when she clearly had no such open attitude toward the scientific method.

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  4. Thanks for posting this DD.

    I was raised Catholic too. I went to Catholic grade school and High School. My family was not fanatically religious. My mother’s side of the family was Italian, as children we spent the bulk of our time around them, ergo, it was a part of our lives. As we became teenagers, we spent less time at church until it got diluted in our adult lives.

    I never liked going to Church, I never liked sitting in “religion class”, I never liked attending mandatory “religious functions” with school.

    In some ways I actually hated it. But it was part of my life and I simply “dealt with it” in my own fashion.

    Today, I can not put into words what my “religious status” is: I think you put it best when you described yours so I’ll adopt it for mine, if that is ok? 🙂

    I know that my “belief” would be branded heretical today by the Church. I defined, for myself at a young age, that the Bible was a collection of stories written by humans to explain what they thought were the tenants of being a good person. And of course, reality is mixed with fantasy. I never thought of it as many factions of Christianity do.

    So that freed me up a bit to remove the monstrous weight of guilt that is placed on your back as a young Catholic.

    My father, his family being from Norway, was Lutheran. He did not attend mass with us, except on Holidays (Christmas Easter etc). When my sister and I were in high school he started to attend Lutheran services at a local church. I went with him once, I remember feeling a LOT more comfortable there. Like I should have been there all along. All I can describe it as being, is that I felt welcome there and not Sheep#125 of Flock 56. Had I begun there, my religious views would be different today, no doubt.

    So now that I lined up a few hairs of my religious background, I am a firm believer in these few things:

    – Evangelicalism of ANY religion does not belong in a public school for any reason. Period.
    – Humans should not attempt to be part of a religion as a child. For much the same reasons as stated in the video.

    My wife and I home-school our children. I can not put into words how exhaustingly difficult it is to find a curriculum that is not religion based. And it has garnered a horrible reputation for being an almost “cult-like” thing to do because of it. It’s sad. Because my children will undoubtedly carry a stigma because of it when they are grown…but they are learning SO much more than they ever would in school at their present ages.

    My wife has a masters degree in education and a minor in special education. Everyday she brings me things that they do in school with her eyes wide with surprise. Myself, not being a teacher or having a background in education says, “Wow, this is what you guys did today?”

    She nods and says, “Yep, it is amazing what they are learning and retaining.”

    My son is 5 and is lecturing me on Greek Mythology and running around pretending to be Theseus fighting the Minotaur.

    He can also write his name so neatly, that I can’t tell if he or my wife printed it.

    He also uses words like “perhaps, unfortunately and defeated” (when he’s playing with toys the good guy always DEFEATS the bad guy – that I find absolutely hilarious)

    That doesn’t happen in your normal everyday Kindergarten classroom.

    So if we consider the video, we have to believe that someone else is going to be playing with his mind and telling him what to believe in and what not to believe in.

    The video makes me uncomfortable. Because religion has always made me uncomfortable. I’m doing what I can to help my two never know that feeling.

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    1. My family was almost the mirror image of yours with respect to religious backgrounds: my mother was the Norwegian Lutheran, Dad’s side was Irish Catholic. My two eldest sisters both attended parochial schools, although only one did all the way through high school. The last 3 of us were public school all the way. I had to go to Mass and catechism through 8th grade when I made my confirmation, after that I think I quit going to anything. Mom never attended Mass, she had refused to convert and was unwelcome as a Lutheran. I’ve attended a Lutheran church and was made to feel very unwelcome as a non-Lutheran. I’ve tried other churches, but all left me feeling empty. I’ve been happiest and most at peace as a pagan. It doesn’t feel ‘artificial’ the way most churches do. Motives were always suspect in church, people are so phony. My BS detector was usually pegged at Def-Con 4.

      Sounds like your kids are getting a great education without all the soul-numbing dogma, that’s marvelous. I hope they continue to thrive!

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  5. DD, this is a great post. I’m always suspicious of any one group who claims they have a “lock on,” or knows the right way to build or lead anything. But there are a whole lotta people out there who just find it easier to follow, or to have something/someone tell them what to do or how to behave. And that’s very easy to exploit ~ especially if nobody calls it out.

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    1. Thanks, Rosie. Yes, I think a light needs to be shined on these types. I was shocked at how much of a reach they have, and I’d never heard of them. (not saying I’m all-knowing or anything, but 3500 of these ‘clubs’ in schools across the country seems like it should have come up here or there).

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