Censorship by design: Criminalization of child evangelism: The hostile Christian, Part 3
By Debra Rae
In the words of secularist Katherine Stewart, "By turning our public schools into religious battlefields, [Good News] Clubs have been detrimental to public education as a whole." A tool of the Religious Right, these Clubs purportedly employ "evil-genius tactics" to target very young children. While slighting the "Golden Rule" (or "Royal Law," loving one's neighbor as self), leaders advance an ostensibly objectionable, five-year curriculum, employing heavy-handed, "draconian tactics" that emphasize sin, punishment, hell, and blind obedience.
CEF Hostility Toward (and Damage of) Public Education—NOT!
Stewart's book, The Good News Clubs: The Christian Right's Stealth Assault on America's Children exposes this alleged, fundamentalist-Christian plot to infiltrate and then seriously damage public schools. While purportedly "in-your-face" on school grounds, child evangelists likewise are accused of leveling a "stealth" assault. That the Good News Clubs damage public education does not comport with testimonies to the contrary of principals, staff, teachers, parents, and children who know firsthand the work of Child Evangelism Fellowship.
Bible-believing Christians, Stewart insists, disdain even the concept of public education. In her thinking, their subconscious goal, driven by the Religious Right, is to "get rid of the schools altogether," reasoning "If you can't own it, break it. …Take the money with you and go." Again, this does not add up. What Stewart castigates as an evil "system of religious education funded by the state" precisely mirrors historical roots and development of higher education in America.
Of the first 108 colleges in our country, 106 were firmly founded on the Christian faith. By the close of 1860, the lion's share of 246 colleges in America avowed religious purpose. Even the nation's Ivy League schools—including Harvard, William and Mary, Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, and Brown—all took form under Christian inspiration and through Christian effort. Up until 1784, Columbia was called "King's College." Noah Webster was a devout Christian, but in no way hostile to public education; he's credited with being its father.
Christian Hostility Toward Science and Reason—NOT!
In addressing a humanist/secularist crowd, Stewart shared the stage with Professor Richard Dawkins, introduced as a "rock star for reason and science." In his acceptance speech for Humanist of the Year (1996), Dawkins compared the threat of faith to AIDS and "mad cow disease," harder to eradicate than the smallpox virus. By thus likening faith to disease, Dawkins projects hostility toward the faith-based crowd (not the other way around).
In setting science and religion at odds, Dawkins fails to recognize the many pioneering scientists who embraced biblical Christianity—namely, Nicholas Copernicus, Sir Francis Bacon, Johannes Kepler, Galileo Galilei, Rene Descartes, Blaise Pascal, Isaac Newton, Robert Boyle, Michael Faraday, Gregor Mendel, to name but a few. None dare dispute their noteworthy contributions.
These brilliant scientists gave us the first mathematically based system of planets encircling the sun, not to mention mathematical foundations of genetics and "Boyle's Law" for gasses. Christians contributed to early work on light, as well as theoretical work on dynamics, projective geometry, and the foundation for probability theory. Some revolutionized physics (leading to computers) and even forged the scientific method of inquiry based on experimentation and inductive reasoning.
In 1993, a number of respected scientists (from a variety of disciplines) became intellectually dissatisfied with problematic mechanisms of natural selection. They bypassed conventional wisdom and took a fresh look at Darwinism in light of exploding scientific knowledge, and what they came up with is irrefutable evidence for Intelligent Design. Be sure, Christians are by no means hostile to science or reason.
Christians Seething with Personal Hostility—NOT!
Together, Stewart and Dawkins defame Good News Club leaders as uninvited, unwelcome, contemptuous extremists, bigoted, aggressive, and forceful bullies while, on the other hand, Stewart likewise characterizes those with whom she's had personal encounter as "gentle in spirit" and consistent in demonstrating "personal warmth" and generosity. Still, Stewart warns, these fraudulent deceivers bribe children with points, prizes, balloons, yummy snacks, and candy and, then, harm their witless prey with severely exploitative messages that foment fear and shame (even so, Stewart adds, they "mean well for kids"). Huh?
Fellow speakers make clear that CEF is no cult, but rather an organization consisting of Bible-believing, interdenominational, evangelical fundamentalists; but theirs is a message of "faith-based bigotry," to borrow Stewart's words. Really? For nearly eighty years, Good News Clubs have taught what the Bible has for two thousand years—namely, Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Gospel, after all, means "Good News"; and "whosoever will may come" to faith in Jesus. God is no respecter of persons; neither are His faithful disciples.
Of course, Stewart allows, these clubs are held after school; they are legal ("playing by the rules") and voluntary (no one's "forcing" anything). Participants choose the Club from among equally available options and, to participate, children need signed permission slips from parents. Yet, Stewart insists, they "unfairly demand more rights than others" in advancing an exclusive, harmful Bible message at odds with mainstream Christianity. Bigoted bullies employing unfair, stealth, "evil-genius" tactics, Good News Club teachers even advocate genocide. Yet, says Stewart, they "mean well for the communities they serve." Say what?
If Stewart's allegations were true, which they are not, countless testimonials would be few, and far between; but they are not. Countless students, staff, principals, parents, and public school teachers credit Clubs with providing a safe, nonthreatening place, especially for latchkey kids, where their teachers "love on them," teach respect, and encourage them to make good choices that align with the school's character education programs. If indeed the program is fear- and shame- based, why do children joyfully sing Good News verses at home, share excitedly about their fun experiences at the Clubs, and demonstrate tangible improvement in behavior—in some cases, improvement in academic grades?
Tens of thousands of child evangelists sacrificially volunteer their time, even money, to serve through Child Evangelism Fellowship. One native woman in her eighties voluntarily travels from village to village, sometimes sleeping on the floor, to spread Good News to children in Alaska. In her own experience, Stewart describes the face of one teacher, Audrey, as "shining with affection when she speaks about GNC kids." Bob gave Stewart his well-worn Bible; and Evelyn is "a welcoming, gentle, and elegant woman." How inconceivable that the likes of these would seethe with personal hostility while, at the same time, reaching out to literally millions of children with what can be best characterized as good news!
Christians Exploiting Children to Advance an Untoward Agenda—NOT!
To Stewart, age matters. In bemoaning Good News Clubs for allegedly exploiting the immaturity of children by recruiting them as vessels for a specific worldview, she ignores Personal Responsibility and Education Programs (PREP) that open the door to Planned Parenthood-run, federally subsidized clinics in public middle schools. Without parental involvement, minors obtain contraceptive, prenatal, and STD services. Age appropriate? I think not.
It cannot be argued that students (or teachers) must shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate, or on campus during authorized hours (Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District, 1969). Even so, Stewart links the religious message of CEF to equally inappropriate political messages that target children in elementary schools. Forget mock elections in primary classes that (surprise, surprise) overwhelmingly "elect" liberal-progressive candidates favored by teachers. Never mind pushback of Better News Clubs that use children from secularist families as tools for protest against faith-based clubs. How about multicultural studies assigning the reenactment of Islamic practices—e.g., prayers and fasting—this, in the name of diversity education and tolerance?
Would the Real Agenda Please Stand Up?
One group alone must be stopped, and that group carries the banner of Christ. To that end, Stewart asks parents to introduce into their schools anti-bullying and tolerance teaching programs—programs that specifically address faith-based bigotry. Not because of dangerously hostile Christians—you know, the "warm," well-meaning ones. Not because these "intruders" are unlawful; the Supreme Court repeatedly rules in CEF's favor. Certainly not out of empathy for supposedly slighted "mainline Christian denominations," nor to generate book sales.
Simply put, secular humanists afford no place for Christian expression. Katherine Stewart and ilk will have no part of it—nor should you. Their showpiece doctrine of "tolerance" not only excludes Christians, but also sullies their reputations. The humanist vision for "a modern secular democracy" must be realized—apparently at any cost.
Now, that's what I call an agenda!
Debra Rae is a regular contributor to The Intellectual Conservative and this publication. © 2015