Thoughts of a former evangelical Christian

Posts Tagged ‘Good News Club’

The Good News Club Curriculum: An Overview

In Child Evangelism Fellowship, Good News Club on May 15, 2013 at 4:27 am

Other posts on this blog–see here and here and here–have discussed the dark gospel of Child Evangelism Fellowship’s Good News Club.  This post reviews troubling content from a much wider sample of CEF’s Good News Club curriculum.

Overview

The Club’s curriculum is a 5-year-long series of weekly Bible  stories—about 120 in all—most of which are drawn from the Biblical books and/or characters of Genesis, Jesus, Paul, Moses, King David, Daniel, Joseph,  Joshua, Esther, Elisha, Elijah, and Judges. Each 60-90 minute lesson is interwoven with presentations of the “Gospel” according to the so-called  “Wordless Book.” The “Wordless Book” refers to the colors gold, black, red, white, and green, which respectively symbolize heaven, the child’s sin nature, Jesus’s shed blood, righteousness, and growth. Each Bible story is divided into sections; and in between each section, the lesson draws a parallel between the preceding section of the Bible story and one of the “Wordless Book” themes. Most lessons also feature didactic exercises, memory verse quizzes, songs, games and prizes, all designed to reinforce the lesson themes.

This post discusses the contents of the 21 lesson books of the Club’s  2006-2011 curriculum cycle.[1]  The Club’s current curriculum cycle includes 18 of the same lesson books.[2]

Shame indoctrination

The Club’s dominant theme is sin. Its 5-year curriculum includes over 5000 references to sin, compared to less than 2000 references to “love.” Spread over 120 one-hour lessons, a child can expect to hear a reference to “sin” approximately every 90 seconds.

Each lesson uses a black heart to vividly symbolize a child’s inner self.  The black heart impresses children with a deeply personal sense of their own inadequacy and sordidness. “You were born with darkness in your heart because of  sin,” says one lesson on blind Bartimaeus.[3] “Your heart (the real you) is sinful from the time you are born,” exclaims a lesson on the golden calf.[4]

The Club frequently reminds children that they are “deceitful,” “dishonest,” and “desperately wicked.”[5] A lesson on Cain and Abel warns: “your heart is very sinful…. You may think you’re pretty good, but when God sees your heart He sees it is full of sin.”[6] Another lesson on Jacob and Esau declares: “Others may think that you are a good person, but God knows what you’re really like on the inside. He knows that deep down you are a sinner—you were born that way.”[7] “God says none of us are good,” explains a lesson on God’s omniscience.[8] Even the concept of redemption is used to deprecate children. “As Jesus hung on the cross, God punished him for your sin and your deceitful heart.”[9] Read the rest of this entry »

Guidelines for Drafting a Facility Use Policy

In Child Evangelism Fellowship, Good News Club on May 15, 2013 at 3:28 am

Intrinsic Dignity has released detailed guidelines for drafting a facility use policy to protect elementary public school students from emotional and psychological abuse from outside groups.  The guidelines accompany a comprehensive article that surveys public forum, equal access, and religion clause caselaw relevant to religious clubs and uses in public elementary schools.  Here’s the title of the abstract, entitled “Protecting Public Elementary School Children from Emotional and Psychological Harm By Outside Groups”:

In 2001, the Supreme Court gave the Good News Club equal access to Milford Central School to teach elementary students after-school religious “moral and character” lessons. Today, there are over 4,000 Good News Clubs in America’s public schools, telling 5-12 year-olds that they are sinful from birth, deserve to die and go to Hell, to not become close friends with their non-Christian classmates, and to be afraid of thoughts, beliefs and scientific facts that displease God. Can schools do anything to stop it?

Yes and no. Public schools cannot deny equal access to groups merely because they are religious. But the principle of neutrality works both ways. Religious groups must play by the same rules—including not harming children—as any other group. Schools can—through the careful drafting and application of religiously neutral policies—act to protect the psychological, emotional, and intellectual well-being of their elementary schoolchildren.

To plot the legal authority guiding public school regulation of after-class forums, this article surveys caselaw on public forums, student speech, other special categories of speech, church autonomy, and equal access statutes. This article also provides guidelines for drafting a child-protective facility use policy and proposes a model facility use policy.

Also check out Intrinsic Dignity’s redesigned website.

Standing up for children & uniting against religious child abuse

In Child Evangelism Fellowship, Good News Club on March 10, 2013 at 8:46 pm

Protesting Religious Child Abuse

On Saturday, March 9, about 40 concerned citizens gathered at a peaceful protest of the abusive shame and fear indoctrination of Child Evangelism Fellowship. The event was a “Good News Spectacular” at the Dixie Classic Fairgrounds in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  The protest was covered by the local newspaper, Winston-Salem Journal, and Fox 8 WGHP.

Intrinsic Dignity Inc.

In Child Evangelism Fellowship, Good News Club on December 8, 2012 at 4:42 am
Child advocacy

Intrinsic Dignity’s logo

If you care about faith-based harm suffered by children, help Intrinsic Dignity.

Join Intrinsic Dignity, make a contribution to Intrinsic Dignity, or do both.

Intrinsic Dignity is an emerging grassroots organization whose mission is to raise awareness of, mitigate, and prevent harm and cruelty to children that is rooted in misguided religious practices and beliefs. Children have a right to develop in conditions of freedom, open inquiry, and empathy, and in respect of their inherent dignity and equality. Children also have a right to resources that will help equip them to become thriving independent adults.

CEF is targeting Denver's public schools

Denver area school districts

Intrinsic Dignity’s opening project is challenging the severe pedagogy of Child Evangelism Fellowship and its Good News Club.  This is exhibited in the extensive recently launched website Good News Club: A Critique and related awareness-raising efforts.  In the coming months, Intrinsic Dignity will focus its attention on Denver, Colorado, as we prepare to meet Child Evangelism Fellowship’s 2013 “summer blitz” with concerned and coordinated opposition.

As Intrinsic Dignity’s efforts to challenge the shame and fear indoctrination of the Good News Club gain traction, Intrinsic Dignity plans to expand into additional focus areas. These include movements and organizations that promote harsh, punitive, and degrading treatment of children, excessively shelter children from integration with the broader community, and hinder children from becoming independent, educated, and equipped to thrive as adults.

Good News Club Website

In Child Evangelism Fellowship, Good News Club on August 15, 2012 at 7:54 pm

Today I am excited to announce the website http://www.goodnewsclubs.info.  This website — the product of several months of intensive research and preparation — provides the public, especially parents of public school elementary children, with information about the “dark side” of Child Evangelism Fellowship’s Good News Club.  The introductory page is especially interesting.  Click on any of the five thumbnails to the right of the introductory page to read excerpts of other authors describing their own childhood experiences at the Good News Club.

The “Gospel” section of the goodnewsclubs.info website cites dozens of invectives of sin and hell in the Good News Club curriculum, unleashed in a torrential assault of shame and terror on children in an effort to convert them to Christianity.

The “Curriculum” section of the goodnewsclubs.info website provides an overview of Good News Club’s entire 5-year curriculum, and will — over time — include summaries of each of the approximately 120 lessons in the curriculum.  24 leson reviews have been completed so far.  Currently, there are completed lesson reviews for each of the 12 lessons in the “Elijah” and “Elisha” series, being taught in U.S. Good News Clubs this fall (Fall 2012), and each of the 12 lessons in the “First Christians” and “David: A Man After God’s Heart” series, being taught in international Good News Clubs this fall.  This will enable parents to read excerpts of the sin-and-shame and turn-or-burn indoctrination systematically incorporated into these Bible stories.

The “History” and “Public School” sections of the goodnewsclubs.info website provide interesting historical information about the Good News Club and Child Evangelism Fellowship and its recent rapid transition from private neighborhood homes into public schools.

The “Legal Issues” section of the goodnewsclubs.info website is very interesting and very important.  The “Equal Access” page summarizes the Supreme Court’s landmark Good News Club v. Milford decision.  Subsequent pages discuss the definition and applicability of “child abuse” under the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, the definition and applicability of “bullying” under recent anti-bullying legislation and policies, and the relevance of the United Nations’ 1959 Declaration on the Rights of the Child and more recent Convention on the Rights of the Child.  The “Facility Use Policy” page suggests religiously neutral changes that can be made to public school facility use policies to protect children from emotionally and psychologically abusive clubs.  Finally, the “Civil Remedies” section discusses the applicability of the First Amendment’s Free Speech and Religion Clauses to claims for emotional harm or distress arising from Good News Club’s activities.

The Dark Gospel Message of the Good News Club

In Child Evangelism Fellowship, Good News Club on June 20, 2012 at 3:03 pm

It’s been well over a year since my last post.  Two years ago, I began focusing on the authoritarian emphasis and shame-inducing content of a handful of Good News Club lessons, some of them dating back to the late 1960s.  I suspended those efforts until now because of the personal trauma they triggered.

Now, I’m back.  Recently, I purchased from CEF Press what was available of the entire Good News Club curriculum.  After scanning and OCR’ing the curriculum, I undertook a thorough analysis of it.  A portion of that analysis is incorporated into a new mini-documentary Youtube video, above, that I created on “The Dark Gospel Message of the Good News Club.”

The Good News Club curriculum cycle spans five years.  The most recent cycle comprised 21 lesson books, including 123 lessons.  The cumulative word count of those GNC materials — some 760,000 words — nearly matches that of the King James Version of the Bible.

The Bible itself has a very strong authoritarian, obedience-focused and sin-obsessed bent.  But the Good News Club materials has an even darker emphasis, including nearly 5000 references to sin, over 1000 references to obedience, 930 references to punishment, and 300 allusions to, or direct mentions of, hell. Read the rest of this entry »

Child Evangelism Fellowship on Genocide

In Child Evangelism Fellowship, Good News Club on October 30, 2010 at 10:02 pm

The animation below faithfully illustrates another one of Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF)’s favorite Sunday School/Good News Club/Vacation Bible School lessons — “Saul’s Disobedience.” Namely, Saul’s disobedience in failing to finish his genocide of the Amalekites, after God had instructed him to kill everyone, including “children and infants” (1 Samuel 15).

As I wrote a few months ago in “Good News Club” on the Slaughter of the Amalekites, CEF uses this Bible story to emphasize the importance of “total obedience” to God’s purported commands. Even when the commands are troubling and seemingly Nazi-like (like the command to commit genocide) and “we don’t understand them,” the Christian duty is to carry out the commands without hesitation or reservation. As with my previous two animations, the female audio script is genuine — directly excerpted from the 1973 version of CEF’s appallingly authoritarian “Life of David” teaching script:

1 Samuel 15 is a favorite argument (legitimately so) of skeptics of Christianity against the inspiration and authority of the Bible. Most Christian adults know nothing about this story. But many Christian children do. I learned about it at a Good News Club when I was seven years old. This, and many other disturbing lessons like it, are designed to instill authoritarian values (such as “total obedience”) in children.

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.

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 »