Thoughts of a former evangelical Christian

Archive for the ‘Child Evangelism Fellowship’ Category

Uzzah — a sketchup animation

In Child Evangelism Fellowship, Good News Club on October 23, 2010 at 2:27 am

Swift off of the heels of my “Parable of Child Sacrifice” animation, I generated this animation of the appalling, morbidly fascinating story of the divine homicide of Uzzah.  God slew Uzzah in anger for reflexively steadying the ark of the covenant with his hand after the oxen pulling the cart stumbled.  The story is told by an animated Child Evangelism Fellowship teacher, reciting the script provided in the 1973 version of Lesson Nine of the Good News Club “Life of David: Vol. 2” teaching manual.

The “good news” is that Child Evangelism Fellowship has removed this narrative from its Good News Club materials.

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Save the Children: A Parable of Child Sacrifice

In Child Evangelism Fellowship, Christianity as Tribalism: Cultivating a Tribal Identity on October 7, 2010 at 9:34 pm

This week, I created a sobering musical 3-D animation (7.6 minutes) that illustrates a modern-day tale of Genesis 22 — Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac — as a parable of the soul murdering message of the “good news” so frequently inflicted on children.   I used Google Sketchup to generate the 3-D animation, and then video editing software to add soundtracks, fades, and textual overlays.

This is not a satire.  I do not scoff.  With this animation, I visually and musically dramatize the very real horror I felt as a child, when being relentlessly reminded about my utterly sinful and inadequate nature and God’s authoritarian nature.

Please take note: the audio script of the animation is taken verbatim from the Bible and from Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) teaching materials.  Because I did not want my own voice to convey satire or exaggeration, I took excerpts from CEF’s favorite “gospel” script and several lessons from CEF’s “Life of David” flannel graph series, and — using ISpeech — computer-generated audio versions of those excerpts.  I repeat: the audio script is not made up.  In fact, the brevity of it cannot do justice to the relentless and overwhelming repetition of these spine-chilling exhortations in almost every CEF lesson.  In their lessons, CEF relentlessly emphasizes (above any and all humanitarian values) the supremely important value of obedience — absolute obedience — to God and our “God-given” authorities.

My dramatization is in the animation visuals, the background music, and (to a small extent) textual overlays.

CEF repeatedly reminds children of their horribly flawed, intrinsically worthless sinful human natures; how God’s holiness cannot tolerate the presence of sin; how sin — even the smallest sins — has to be punished by death and hell; and how the only way of salvation is to believe and obey what they say about God.  On top of this, they instill an anxious fear in children by reminding children to check their hearts — to make sure that they are not just pretending.

The cumulative effect of all of this is to wreck a child’s self-image.  It encourages depression and provokes vulnerable chidren to suicide.  With their lessons, CEF re-enacts, in a very disturbing way, the near-sacrifice of Isaac. Read the rest of this entry »

Child Evangelism Fellowship’s “Life of David” Flannel Graph Series

In Child Evangelism Fellowship, Christianity as Tribalism: Initiation, Good News Club on April 22, 2010 at 5:09 am

Believers with whom I have shared my long-going crisis of faith and more recent deconversion tell me that I dwelled too much on sin and God’s justice and not enough on God’s grace and love.

Many believers don’t know – or refuse to acknowledge – how relentlessly and obsessively sin, shame, obedience, and eternal punishment are stressed in evangelical Sunday School and Bible Club curriculums.

Child Evangelism Fellowship’s Good News Club bible lesson books are particularly egregious.  As a child between the tender ages of 7 and 10, I must have gone to at least 50 Good News Club bible lessons.  I remember learning flannel graph stories from almost every one of the 12 different Old Testament lesson books (6 lessons each) available on Child Evangelism Fellowship’s online store.

Over the past week, I have looked over several Good News Club flannel graph bible lesson books handed down to us for the purpose of instructing our son.  We have six of them:

  • The Life of the Prophet Elijah, by Ruth Overholtzer (Child Evangelism Fellowship 1967)
  • Life of David, Vol. One, by Katherine Hershey (Child Evangelism Fellowship 1972)
  • Life of David, Vol. Two, by Katherine Hershey (Child Evangelism Fellowship 1973)
  • Ruth: The Story of Redemption, by Matilda Alexander (Child Evangelism Fellowship 1972)
  • The Life of the Prophet Daniel, by Ruth Overholtzer (Child Evangelism Fellowship 1974)
  • Esther, by Beatrice Holenbeck (Child Evangelism Fellowship 1964)

These lesson books are utterly disturbing.  The moral of almost every lesson is that complete and unconditional obedience is the highest good.  Every lesson relentlessly presses the concept that every little boy and girl is utterly sinful, unable unless saved to resist any sin, how much God hates sin, how sin must be punished, and how the punishment for sin is death and eternal separation from God.  These concepts are emphatically, repeatedly, and inappropriately stuffed into the explanation of every Old Testament Bible story.  Each lesson also aggressively emphasizes that to avoid eternal death, the child must believe he or she is a sinner and that Jesus died for his or her sins.

To illustrate, I share some excerpts from the twelve lessons – in two volumes – on the Life of David in CEF’s flannel graph series.

Lesson One discusses how Israel disappointed God by wanting a king (Saul), and admonishes children that to want their own way is sin, that the wages of sin is death, and that Jesus had to die for their sins (page 4):

Read the rest of this entry »

“Good News Club” on the Slaughter of the Amalekites

In Child Evangelism Fellowship, Christianity as Tribalism: Initiation, Good News Club on April 19, 2010 at 2:09 am

One of the most horrifying narratives in all of the Bible — a blasphemy if there be a good God in heaven — is in I Samuel 15, where God is credited with commanding the Israelites to slaughter the Amalekites completely, including “women, children, and infants.”

Samuel said to Saul, “I am the one the LORD sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the LORD.   This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt.  Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’ “

The I Samuel narrative continues with how Saul carried out the genocide — “all his people he totally destroyed with the sword” (v. 8′) — but disobeyed God by sparing king Agag and some animals.  The prophet Samuel rebuked Saul for sparing even one person: “The LORD anointed you king over Israel.  And he sent you on a mission, saying, ‘Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; make war on them until you have wiped them out.’  Why did you not obey the LORD ?”  (v. 17-19).

Ranked one of God’s Top 50 Killings, you might be surprised to know that the story has been illustrated on flannelgraph to thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of impressionable boys and girls.  I was one of them.  I was 8 or 9 years old.

You should find it disturbing that the flannelgraph story is published by none other than Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) — an enormous evangelical organization with 700 full-time workers and 40,000 volunteers and the developer of the Good News Clubs.  Yes, CEF regards the story of the Amalekite slaughter (and Saul’s incomplete execution of it) as an important children’s Bible lesson on how important it is to completely obey God.

It’s at the very heart of Lesson 2 of “David: A Man After God’s Heart,” a series of Bible lessons published by CEF.  Although I quote from a 1972 edition of the Bible lesson guide, CEF’s website description of lesson 2 doesn’t suggest any changes:

Lesson 2 – Saul’s Disobedience (1 Sam. 12:1-25; 13:1-14; 15:1-35): Seek God’s strength when you’re tempted to disobey. Memory verse: James 4:17

So let’s take a look inside the CEF teacher’s manual.  Below is an excerpt directly from text teachers are encouraged to tell the young:

The CEF manual continues: “Soon afterward Saul and his army met the Amalekites on the battlefield.  The Amalekites were completely defeated.  But all was not well…”  because Saul spared king Agag, the animals, and erected a monument of the battle.  Several paragraphs later, the lesson describes Samuel’s rebuke of Saul:

 “The Lord chose you to be king over Israel when you didn’t think you were so important.”  Samuel must have been thinking about that monument that Saul had built to honor himself.  He continued, “The Lord sent you out under His orders.  He said ‘Completely destroy the Amalekites, those evil doers.’  Now why haven’t you done it?”

Proud Saul refused to admit the sin of disobedience.  Not only was he disobedient, he also was dishonest.  He lied when he said he did all that God told him to do.  It is a very serious thing not to agree that we are wrong when the Lord points it out to us.  The Lord can neither save nor bless us if we do not admit our sins….

That’s right.  This CEF children’s Bible lesson stresses how sinful and disobedient Saul was for failing to “completely destroy the Amalekites, those evil doers.”  This is followed by a long lecture on sin, repentance, and the need for “complete obedience”:

When Saul heard again that he was to be rejected as king, he was sad.  But he was not sorry about his sin.  If we truly want God to forgive us our sins, we must not only admit that we have sinned, but we must be sorry about sin and turn from it….

How dreadful to refuse God’s way for our own proud way.  God is not satisfied with anything but complete obedience.  But you cannot obey the Lord until you’ve trusted Him as your Savior from sin.

And then — of course — the teacher follows this up by leading the children, as he/she is supposed to do every week, in a sinner’s prayer that reminds them that they deserve to die for their sins, but that Jesus died in their place:

If you have never received the Lord Jeus you can do it right now.  Tell God that you know you have sinned — you have done wrong things.  Tell Him that you believe His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, died and rose again for your sins.  (Death is the punishment for sin.  He was punished for your sins when He shed His blood on the cross.)  If you would like to receive the Lord Jesus as your Saviour from sin, would you raise your hand just now?

P.S.:  Ken Pulliam, Ph.D., provides an extensive critique, in over a dozen blog posts, of the various apologetics Christians put forward to justify this divinely inspired genocide.