This logo looks fun. It’s bright and it’s cheerful. It looks tasty and conjures images of summer and water park smiles. It’s innocuous, upbeat and playful, and it’s just what any five year old American kid needs to learn that genocide is not only A-OK, it’s damn well required by the Christian god. Now in 3,200 public elementary schools the Good News Club is a filthy tentacle of the Child Evangelism Fellowship; a violent Christian hate group whose stated aim is to “Knock down all doors to all 65,000 public elementary schools in America and take the Gospel to this open mission field now! Not later, now!” (CEF’s national convention in 2010). Now, using the public schools system to convert children to fundamentalist (radically evangelical) Christianity sounds an implausible objective in a secular society, but after a 2000 High Court ruling (Good News Club v. Milford Central School) entirely possible. Through the guise of supplementary after school classes US elementary schools are open fields for the Child Evangelism Fellowship’s 750 fulltime employees and reported 40,000 vultures volunteers to march into tax payer funded classrooms and teach the groups favourite moral biblical story: Saul and the Amalekites.
It’s a beautiful tale of childhood innocence retold in 1 Samuel (15:3) where god said to Saul on his bloody rampage to unite the more stubborn northwestern-Semitic speaking Canaanite tribes under the banner, Children of YHWH:
“Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.”
Obeying his god Saul set about and dutifully butchered the babies, the children, the women, the elderly and the men, the camels and the donkeys, but apparently not all of the Amalekites cattle and sheep. Some of the younger ones we hear looked plump and tasty and were spared presumably for a later BBQ. This act of leniency enraged Saul’s god. He’d said kill everything and leave nothing, and this little upstart deliberately disobeyed a pretty straightforward command. KILL EVERYTHING. Alas, Saul’s failure to fulfil this ordered holocaust peeved this god so much that he threw a tantrum and turned his favour to a truer, more ghastly psychopath: the onetime shepherd boy come military commander turned traitor and insurgent, David. And with that so began the next bloody chapter of Israelite history.
To the Child Evangelism Fellowship and their insidious hooked claw, the Good News Club, this is a wonderful story for elementary school children and the first thing the curriculum’s Teacher Instruction Manual says is that if god gives instructions to kill an entire population, you must go out and slaughter every last one. The material reads: “You are to go and completely destroy the Amalekites (AM-uh-leck-ites) – people, animals, every living thing. Nothing shall be left…That was pretty clear, wasn’t it?” This particular story is used (starting in week 2 of the curriculum) to emphasise to five year olds the importance of obedience to this Old Testament god. It’s a simple message: Obey and you can be King, like David. Disobey, and god’s going to get medieval on your ass… and that goes doubly for ignoring this tyrant. Here the instruction manual points out that the Amalakites were targeted for destruction “on account of their religion,” or lack of it. “The Amalekites had heard about Israel’s true and living God many years before, but they refused to believe in him. The Amalekites refused to believe in God and God had promised punishment.” The moral here for the children is people of other faiths are evil and shall be killed if god tells you to kill. In all reality its even worse than that. This god really wants you to kill them all, no questions asked, and just to nail this point home the instruction manual poses the question: Would Saul “pass the test” of obedience? The answer in the eyes of the Good News Club is a definitive, No, but they guide their teachers to approach their classes in a more circular manner, offering a rhetorical response instead: “If you are asked to do something, how much of it do you need to do before you can say, ‘I did it!’?” The lesson plan goes on to read, “King Saul should have been willing to seek God for strength to obey completely,” and in three separate places it instructs teachers, “Have children shout ‘God will help you obey!’”
In her book, The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children, Katherine Stewart rightly concludes with this question: “when does a religious group qualify as a ‘hate group’? Surely any answer must begin and end when that group sanctions school children to slaughter infants and other children for the glory of their particular sky being.
Postscript: The always excellent, always on the money Drenn at Freethinkers corner has three brilliant articles (links below) on the insidious nature of the Good News Club. These go deeper into the nature and methods of the group and what their larger goals are for the United States. Spoiler Alert: It’s not pretty.
Here’s a 30 minute YouTube video, Sophia Investigates The Good News Club.