Good News Clubs and their critics, part 3: Is calling the child a sinner a way to deny his inherent worth/ intrinsic dignity?

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<<Good News Clubs and their critics, part 2: A summing up of the Good News club message



I hate the little Red Riding Hood story. I have studied at least 40 different Little Red Riding Hood Books or volumes of collected fairytales, and the story always have the same theme: It is about a girl and grandmother getting eaten by a wolf, about vulnerable people losing against the bad guys. The message of Little Red Riding Hood is that we will always lose against the wolves preying on us. – Little Red Riding Hood Info, my spoof on “Good News Club info”

That is roundabout how the sites “Intrinsic Dignity” and “Good News Club Info” (what a misleading name! These sites spread negative propaganda, not objective info) looks at Good News Clubs. Even though there is a wolf gobbling up a girl and old lady in the story, Little Red Riding Hood is not a story about a wolf winning. The wolf loses.

And if I put GNC teaching in a diagram form, with gold, black, red, white and green squares representing the 5 oft-repeated messages, and the other colors some less used messages, the clubs looks about like this:

I used a white background, because the ultimate message of the GNC is about becoming a child of God, symbolized by the white page. But ID, on his two sites, cuts out all the black squares in the above diagram and paste them together, to tell us the clubs are all about sin, hell and shame:
GNC as ID sees it

With the Ferrari example in part 2, I already showed that the message “you are a sinner” is not a way to deny a child’s “Intrinsic dignity”. Nor is the Christian message a knock to the self esteem, as it is “Your sins can be forgiven, or is forgiven.” It is also “everyone is a sinner.” Is there anything bad for the self esteem about having a running speed which falls short compared to cheetas, but is normal compared to other humans? Nor is it terrible for the self esteem to hear you fall short of what God wants, but do what other humans also do: sin.

…the “Dark Heart” count provides a rough tally of the number of personalized attacks on the child’s character — e.g., “you were born with a sinful heart,” “you sin when…” … — all calculated to abase a child and rob the child of his or her innocence and self-esteem”
– Good News Club Info, curriculum page

This claim is dishonest. Firstly, the good parts of CEF messages are also said in personalized “you” language. The clubs tend to teach what it can in “you” language – they would, for example, rather say “Jesus loves you” than “Jesus loves people.” And “you sin when …” could as easily be understood as a general you. But ID counts it as “personalized attacks on the child’s character,” which tells us more about ID’s way of looking at the message than about the nature of CEF’s sin teachings. And many of the references to sin cannot be construed as “personalized attacks” at all – see the next point.

Are Good News Clubs disproportionately focused on sin?

My answer would be that even I think they are, but the problem is perhaps only 30% as bad as Intrinsic Dignity tries to convince us it is. ID claims:

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.

No, the dominant theme is not sin. “The dominant theme is: God wants to save you from sin if you choose to become his child.” The dominant theme is salvation. Salvation, the love of Jesus, being a child of God, being part of God’s kingdom, heaven, and the privileges of being a believer, are discussed in many ways, not all of them with the word “love.”
And the claim of 5000 references to sin, about 1 every 90 seconds?

The “5000 references” part probably depends on what he counted:

  1. Did he count any instance where the words in the manuals remind him of sin, or only the word “sin”? From how he mentions “over 250 references to Hell–including 52 explicit uses of the word ‘Hell’ “, I would guess that many times he counted an alleged “reference to” – as opposed to “explicit use of the word” – sin could be in his imagination – like 80% of his alleged references to hell.
  2. Did he count everything in the CEF teachers’ manuals, or just what you say to kids during the lesson?

To explain that question, understand that CEF manuals are extremely thorough:
* It starts with an index page to the different lessons. (In the closest CEF manual I have on hand, “Jesus, my Savior and friend”, that index page contains the word “sin” once – there is a lesson named “Jesus forgives the sin of a paralysed man.”)

* There is a page for “how to lead a child to Christ” which have words not said in class either, but which also contain the concept of sin in the middle of a story which is not about sin, but about salvation.

* There are pages to discuss how to set up an hour-long or three hour-long program with a variety of activities for children, in such a way as to work with their short attention spans.
* There are pages with the lesson title (The title of one lesson is still “Jesus forgives the sin of a paralysed man.”), a schedule for a lesson hour, and a lesson outline. All these things may contain the word “sin” somewhere.

* It then contains the words of the lesson, word for word, what you could say to children. To honestly count references to sin, and how often it is mentioned in class, only references in those actual lesson words, to be used in class, should be counted.

* Even for the during-lesson words, some places in the lessons show alternatives, for example: Either ask set A of review questions with older children, or set B with younger children. If “sin” appears in both sets, but you will only ask one set of questions, it should be counted once.

5000 ideas that “reference to” sin in ID’s mind, over 5 years’ manuals, would not come down to even close to 1 mention for every 90 seconds of class time. Much of what is in the manuals is not said in class time.

3. Context is everything, and many of the sin references are (contrary to the claims of Intrinsic Dignity and anti-Good News Club propaganda Info) not personal. These sentences, for example, all contain the word “sin”, but they are not equally negative or equally personal: 1) David sinned. 2) You sinned. 3) It is not sin to do this. 4) It is sin to do that. 5) Jesus forgives your sins if… 6) Jesus told the man his sins are forgiven.


Next part:

>> Good News Clubs and their critics, part 4: Is ID honest? And is he an opponent of only these clubs, or of the Christian message itself?


About Retha Faurie

Attempting to question everything, reject the bad and hold fast to the good.
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