Good News Clubs and their critics: Introduction

If you ask me who, in my adult life, was my biggest role model, I will struggle to boil it down to one person. But I can boil it down to two in a heartbeat: Tania and Werner Schultz.

You won’t know them, but I will always remember this couple fondly. They showed me how to have a purpose, a mission. I discovered, with their help, that I have a gift for teaching and caring about children.

Tania and Werner were missionaries in inner city Pretoria (a South African city, in case my reader do not know). They organized Bible Clubs, based on CEF Good News Clubs. They motivated one of my team mates (he stayed there while I moved on) to start a hobby project to introduce boys in the bad neighbourhood to positive male role models, and to teach them to find their identity in building, not breaking. They started preschools and after-school day care centres. (Schools in South Africa have classes only until about 12h00 or 14h00, depending on the age group; while a working parent tend to work to about 17h00 or even later.) The goal was to give high quality care options to parents who are mostly rather poor. They even raised money to help poor parents afford day care for their children. They spent so much time listening to children and caring about them that on several occasions, the people from PEN (Pretoria Evangelisation and Nurture) was able to intervene in situations of child molestation, and even raise money to get psychological help for molested children.

Tania also taught the CEF (Child Evangelism Fellowship) TCE (Teaching Children Effectively) course. Their ministry had  a lot of CEF material for use at the weekly Bible Clubs.

I hear CEF is criticized wildly these days for allegedly not having the welfare of children at heart, for allegedly teaching “a dark message of shame and fear indoctrination“, for being full of “authoritarian themes“, for telling children they “deserve to … go to hell“, for the absence of  “salutary themes such as the Golden Rule“, for promoting “a negative self image“, etc. (The quoted words in this paragraph comes verbatim from the writings of such critics.)

If you take the word of the critics …ahem …uncritically, you will believe Good News Clubs are downright evil and bad for the welfare of children. But nobody I met ever cared more about the welfare of children than Tania and Werner Schultz, and they were trained at CEF and used Good News Club material among others.

However, when I read the Good News Club critics, I could not judge their words on the merits of Mrs. and Mr. Schultz. The complaints had to be taken on its own merit. As someone who used CEF material since 1994 and taught Good News Clubs for about 5 years in the first decade of this century, I have the knowledge to investigate the truth of the claims. I even still have some CEF lesson material.

The rest of this series of posts are based on what I concluded from looking at both the critics of Good News Clubs on one side, and my actual experiences and the lesson material on the other side. Stay tuned for an approach that looked at both sides, and finds something to defend in both CEF and their detractors. Expect my first post no earlier than Saturday.

>> Good news Clubs and their critics: Part 1

Religious trama syndrome? What?

A new idea is doing the rounds among atheists: They claim there is something called “religious trauma syndrome.” (From here on, I will call it RTS for short.) Well, that proves “religion” is bad, does it not?

But it is wise to question what you hear, so I will ask what evidence exists for these claims.

1) Is there actually a condition named “religious trauma syndrome”?

RTS is not an accepted psychological definition. It certainly does not appear in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the standard classification of mental disorders used by mental health professionals). By my understanding, psychology tends to not need syndrome names like “religious trauma syndrome” or “rape trauma syndrome”, because they learn to recognize and deal with trauma, whatever the source. Continue reading

Where is God when bad things happen? How could God allow it?

It is a very old question: Where is God when bad things happen? How could God allow it? The topic even has a big name – theodicity.

Now, I have read a lot of head answers to the theodicity question. I am sure that topics like free will and the fact that humanity was made in such a way that our actions, good or bad, affect each other plays a role. I have read C.S. Lewis’ “The Problem of Pain” long ago and found it good.

But this is not just a head question, it is very much a heart question. In my opinion, the apologists who treat this as only an intellectual problem miss the point. Most of their their brainy answers are probably right, but most of the askers are people with broken hearts, asking this from the heart and not the head. Continue reading

God the abusive boyfriend?

One new(ish) claim among Internet atheists is that the Christian God is an abusive partner.

The usual argument (at its strongest) goes about like this:

God accuses the believer of sin and “forgives” and then accuses of sin again. God expects you to sacrifice for Him. He says He is better than you and your best deeds are like filthy rags to him. He wants to be in control of your life. You have to fear him. If a human partner was like that, it would have been seen as abusive. – Terrible anti-Christian argument

The problem with the above arguments is that everything in it is completely out of context. Continue reading

Can atheists call God a murderer?

Can you spot the difference?:

a) Gerald has houses which he borrows to Joe Jones, Sally Smith and Martin McDonald. He moves them from those houses to other houses, also provided by him.
b) Joe Jones, Sally Smith and Martin McDonald had legally bought houses. Gerald moves them from those houses, with no thought over where they will go from there.

Now, the second one:

a) God gives life to Joe Jones, Sally Smith and Martin McDonald. He moves them out of this life to another reality, also provided by him.
b) Joe Jones, Sally Smith and Martin McDonald started their life with no God having a hand in it. God moves them out of this life, with no thought over where they will go from there.

Aggressive atheists like to claim that God is a murderer, for those times in the Old Testament when he killed.
But God cannot be a murderer if scenario (a) is true. In order to come to the atheistic conclusion that God is murderous, you need to start with the atheistic assumptions that life did not come from God, and he has no control over any future life.
As such, atheists cannot use a murderous God as a premise, before proving that a human’s life is not from God and God is not in control of the future life.

Why I don’t try to be good without Jesus

In a recent internet discussion, someone was blasting “Christianity” and wishing for Christians to deconvert. She mentioned, in her rant, a lot of ugly things “Christianity” does in her view. I answered that I dislike those things too. But Christianity is Christ-ianity, being like Christ and following him. The things she mention is not Christ-ian, as Jesus will never recommend them. (It is, methinks, shocking how un-Christian some church people are.)

She then answered, among other things, that she agrees with me about Jesus. But I could be Christ-like enough by just following the golden rule. If I don’t proclaim the sexist and otherwise ugly things some Christians are (in her opinion) known for, I could as well drop the label Christian and just be good, like Jesus was good.

Here was my answer: Continue reading