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How Christian Fundamentalists Plan to Teach Genocide to Schoolchildren

How Christian Fundamentalists Plan to Teach Genocide to Schoolchildren

While many in the West are myopically focused on Muslim extremists, another form of religious extremism is poised to reach thousands of children in public schools across the US.

Aside from the disturbing implications for those who advocate a clear separation between church and state, the alarming content of the curriculum begs a question about the sponsors: What if they were Muslim?

How Christian Fundamentalists Plan to Teach Genocide to Schoolchildren

By Katherine StewartGuardian UK

Good News Clubs’ evangelism in schools is already subverting church-state separation. Now they justify murdering nonbelievers.

The Bible has thousands of passages that may serve as the basis for instruction and inspiration. Not all of them are appropriate in all circumstances.

The story of Saul and the Amalekites is a case in point. It’s not a pretty story, and it is often used by people who don’t intend to do pretty things. In the book of 1 Samuel (15:3), God said to Saul:

“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.”

Saul dutifully exterminated the women, the children, the babies and all of the men – but then he spared the king. He also saved some of the tastier looking calves and lambs. God was furious with him for his failure to finish the job.

The story of the Amalekites has been used to justify genocide throughout the ages. According to Pennsylvania State University Professor Philip Jenkins, a contributing editor for the American Conservative, the Puritans used this passage when they wanted to get rid of the Native American tribes. Catholics used it against Protestants, Protestants against Catholics. “In Rwanda in 1994, Hutu preachers invoked King Saul’s memory to justify the total slaughter of their Tutsi neighbors,” writes Jenkins in his 2011 book, Laying Down the Sword: Why We Can’t Ignore the Bible’s Violent Verses (HarperCollins).

This fall, more than 100,000 American public school children, ranging in age from four to 12, are scheduled to receive instruction in the lessons of Saul and the Amalekites in the comfort of their own public school classrooms. The instruction, which features in the second week of a weekly “Bible study” course, will come from the Good News Club, an after-school program sponsored by a group called the Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF). The aim of the CEF is to convert young children to a fundamentalist form of the Christian faith and recruit their peers to the club.

There are now over 3,200 clubs in public elementary schools, up more than sevenfold since the 2001 supreme court decision, Good News Club v Milford Central School, effectively required schools to include such clubs in their after-school programing.

The CEF has been teaching the story of the Amalekites at least since 1973. In its earlier curriculum materials, CEF was euphemistic about the bloodshed, saying simply that “the Amalekites were completely defeated.” In the most recent version of the curriculum, however, the group is quite eager to drive the message home to its elementary school students. The first thing the curriculum makes clear is that if God gives instructions to kill a group of people, you must kill every last one:

“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?” the manual tells the teachers to say to the kids.

Even more important, the Good News Club wants the children to know, the Amalakites were targeted for destruction on account of their religion, or lack of it. The instruction manual reads:

“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 instruction manual goes on to champion obedience in all things. In fact, pretty much every lesson that the Good News Club gives involves reminding children that they must, at all costs, obey. If God tells you to kill nonbelievers, he really wants you to kill them all. No questions asked, no exceptions allowed.

Asking if Saul would “pass the test” of obedience, the text points to Saul’s failure to annihilate every last Amalekite, posing the rhetorical question:

“If you are asked to do something, how much of it do you need to do before you can say, ‘I did it!’?”

“If only Saul had been willing to seek God for strength to obey!” the lesson concludes.

A review question in the textbook seeks to drive the point home further:

“How did King Saul only partly obey God when he attacked the Amalekites? (He did not completely destroy as God had commanded, he kept the king and some of the animals alive.)”

The CEF and the legal advocacy groups that have been responsible for its tremendous success over the past ten years are determined to “Knock down all doors, all the barriers, to all 65,000 public elementary schools in America and take the Gospel to this open mission field now! Not later, now!” in the words of a keynote speaker at the CEF’s national convention in 2010. The CEF wants to operate in the public schools, rather than in churches, because they know that young children associate the public schools with authority and are unable to distinguish between activities that take place in a school and those that are sponsored by the school.

In the majority opinion that opened the door to Good News Clubs, supreme court Justice Clarence Thomas reasoned that the activities of the CEF were not really religious, after all. He said that they could be characterized, for legal purposes, “as the teaching of morals and character development from a particular viewpoint”.

As Justices Souter and Stevens pointed out in their dissents, however, the claim is preposterous: the CEF plainly aims to teach religious doctrines and conduct services of worship. Thomas’s claim is particularly ironic in view of the fact that the CEF makes quite clear its intent to teach that no amount of moral or ethical behavior (pdf) can spare a nonbeliever from an eternity in hell.

Good News Clubs should not be in America’s public elementary schools. As I explain in my book, The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children, the club exists mainly to give small children the false impression that their public school supports a particular creed. The clubs’ presence has produced a paradoxical entanglement of church and state that has ripped apart communities, degraded public education, and undermined religious freedom.

The CEF’s new emphasis on the genocide of nonbelievers makes a bad situation worse. Exterminist rhetoric has been on the rise among some segments of the far right, including some religious groups. At what point do we start taking talk of genocide seriously? How would we feel about a nonreligious group that instructs its students that if they should ever receive an order to commit genocide, they should fulfill it to the letter?

And finally, when does a religious group qualify as a “hate group”?

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23 Comments »

  1. wow. sounds like the god of abraham is a bastard. so why follow or worship him/it?

    “And finally, when does a religious group qualify as a “hate group”?” sounds like all abrahamics should fall into that category.

  2. Their materials say that they are interdenominational and meetings only last one hour one day a week. Local churches contact them and request a trailer at a school. Probably comes from the shouting as opposed to the muttering branches of Christianity.

    I think it’s a bit much to say they’re teaching genocide though.

  3. I think when they started they were using schoolrooms and there was an uproar and now they have trailers. time for another uproar to get rid of the trailers on school grounds. Should be parked in vacant lots.

    i bet most kids just come for the games and snacks. I don’t think the doings of Saul are going to make much of a dent.

  4. anon,

    so they only meet for an hour a week. and the kids probably mostly come for the games and snacks. probably so, but is not the base message wrong. should we not all agree that the crazy abrahamic god be abandoned. that the old testement is bad. that jesus was clearly not god incarnate and that the koran is equally as bad. so do we need to review the crazy actions of the god of abraham?

  5. Tsk, tsk Mike where is your religious tolerance? They don’t coop up the kids for hours brainwashing them as in a madrassa. Besides, King Saul has to compete with Sponge Bob Square Pants among other characters here.

  6. are u waging ur finger at me? i have no problem with relgious tolerance. well if the new interpretaion of the religion is in line with modern ideals. not based in the old torah rules. my mother is a catholic, my father church or christ. the question is why make excusses for those that mean to indocinate children with hatred, based on the amout of time they set aside for such an activity? your deflection is tantamount to muslims bringing up the crusades.

    live and let live. as long as those next to you don’t think part of their living is to kill the unbelievers or the Amalekites.

  7. I’m betting on Sponge Bob, Mike.

  8. So this group week after week just focuses on the destruction of the Amalekites. What a crock of BS this story is. Christians, even fundamentalists, believe the teaching of Jesus in the New Testament supersede the laws in the Old Testament. The Old Testament is used to teach history and lessons such as the importance of obeying the word of God. However, in the Amalekites story God spoke directly to Saul and Saul did not follow God’s instructions. Unless they are a nut, no one is going to state that God told them to go destroy a people. Only an Idiot would believe any pastor that claimed to know God’s will in regards to the killing of a person or a race in modern times. Islam has countless followers who are more than willing to kill people at the drop of a hat. The same cannot be said for active Christians. Even if you find a so called Christian calling for Genocide I would be willing to be he or she has not killed anyone. That’s one thing that can be said for Muslims they are willing to stand by their beliefs killing, poisoning, and raping in the name of God while claiming God wills it. I realize that not all Muslims do this but its easy to find dozens of news stories that support the statement.

  9. Islam could lose its status as a religion and be called a tribal/political genocidal scheme.

  10. ccc,

    where ya been? that is one of the things that confuses me the most. why would a god set laws for human behavior, the old testement, only to change them, the new testement. why not just start with the “jesus laws”. you ever seen “the girl with the dragon tattoo”? lots of quotes from leviticus.

  11. Been busy, and I will disappear again for a little while: It is hard to answer your question but I will give a weak answer. In old testament times the world was totally different. There were no social institutions to help people. People lived in isolated surroundings with a survival mindset. Morals and values were totally different. The laws set up in the old testament set a moral standard for people that were realistic for the times. In the New Testament the Roman Empire was in its heyday, science and learning were respected along with the introduction of new ideas. Jesus gave us a different way to live our lives while still following the standards set forth in the 10 commandments.

    In regards to actions such as what happened to the Amalekites the old testament has several such instances in which God called for or caused the destruction of a people while communicating directly with one of his prophets. Of course not being a believer you do not think this was ever the case, but that is what taking the leap is all about. The act was not evil because God demanded it directly and if you believe in God then death is not the worst thing that can happen to a person as it happens to all people eventually. Anyone today, however, that advocates the killing of a people or persons is simply evil or severely misguided. Though I do admit the government has a collective right through a process of laws to determine if a person is to die, and has a right to wage war if provoked. Once again this is a weak argument best to be discussed orally or written with examples and points on several pages of paper.

    The text and intent of this story is simply BS and insulting to anyone of any intellegence. If you put enough monkies in a room with typewriters this is the type of story you come up with.

  12. ccc,

    that is weak. please you can do better then that???????????

    or then again, maybe not?

  13. In this forum Mike, no. However, even without this forum I will not pretend to know the will and intent of God as he changes his laws from one age to the next. Though, when one notes the changes they seem to represent a more civilized set of values. I believe these values could not have been embraced in ancient times as they may have impeded survival or the ability to flourish as a race or culture. The values expressed in the New Testament were more universal in nature and are such that many people who heard them wanted to emulate them. Even though people were killed and enslaved for advocating these values they were popular enough to gain larger and larger followings. This being the case due to the number and size of cities and small towns available in the era Jesus and his followers allowing the ideas to spread rapidly and to different areas.

    Look at the laws on women in the Old Testament. Women could be killed for adultery. Well, in old testament times the peoples the bible is concerned with moved in tribes or camped in an area for several years as a tribe. It was very important to know who the father and mother of a child was so as to prevent inbreeding. Thus arranged marriages or even unarranged marriages (if there were any) allowed 2 people to marry and not worry that their union was incestuous in nature. In more modern times this is not much of a concern because as the numbers in the population increase the likely hood of such a problem diminishes. In other words, a social sanction for infidelity is much more appropriate then death, as the behavior does not endanger the welfare of society. Whereas such behavior in a tribal society could quickly destroy it.

  14. Yes, criley, the NT has more general, universal ideas and the OT is more preservation of the tribe oriented. I bet every tribe came up with basically the same laws, the 10 commandments, although some cultures put a much higher value on female chastity than others.

    I don’t think people were worried about inbreeding back then. But the conflict caused by adultery between men who had to fight for the tribe would have been very damaging to morale. In US military adultery is or was a big no no.

  15. You may be right Anon, but the ancient peoples in the bible tended animals. Every farmer knows, including those in old testament times that if you allow animals to interbreed then the quality of the stock suffers.

  16. ccc,

    so do you believe genesis to be historically acurate? given your concern for incest it seems strange that all people came from one woman and one man. clearly the third generation of humans would have to have been the products of incest. also the flooding of the earth would have brought back incest. well at least first cousins breeding. seems god waited for this “divine revelation”.

    [4.23] Forbidden to you are your mothers and your daughters and your sisters and your paternal aunts and your maternal aunts and brothers’ daughters and sisters’ daughters and your mothers that have suckled you and your foster-sisters and mothers of your wives and your step-daughters who are in your guardianship, (born) of your wives to whom you have gone in, but if you have not gone in to them, there is no blame on you (in marrying them), and the wives of your sons who are of your own loins and that you should have two sisters together, except what has already passed; surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.

    anon,

    “I bet every tribe came up with basically the same laws, the 10 commandments,” guess you have never heard of cannibals? i think there are still tribes in the amazon where the women live in one hut and the men in another. the children are communally raised because they don’t know who the father is. no revelation for the western hemisphere. how about the polynesians? i was at the chicago museum of natural history a couple of years ago and they had a display of untensils used only by the chiefs when eating people. i think they where from the 1920s? so much for they “laws” spreading quickly?

    ya’lls abrahamic centric veiws are funny.

    you ever hear of the tribe who ate their relitives brains. the mad cow out break is when i heard of them. let me google. given the dietary laws the all knowing god had he should have outlawed feeding sheeps brains to cows. could have avoided cjd? god should have sent a prohpet to this tribe.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/australiaandthepacific/papuanewguinea/6603676/Brain-eating-tribe-could-help-find-treatment-for-mad-cow-disease.html

  17. The Dayaks ate Michael Rockefeller back in 1961. The Pharaohs married their sisters. So did the Hawaii royals.

    Some tribes just killed any stranger who showed up. Some tribes kill their children a lot.

    But I bet theft and murder of off limits people was still frowned on, and if you don’t respect your parents instructions on how to survive you will probably die. e.g. – don’t eat those red berries. Stay on the path. Somebody just died at yellowstone because they didn’t stay on the path.

  18. anon,

    that’s funny. are those referances to the blue lagoon, and a bear attack? or just consequences of not listening to your parents? yeah many claim the eqyptian empire declined because the pharaohs where crazy from their inbreeding. considering themselve gods, they could only marry other gods. wasn’t cleopatra born of her sister’s and father’s union? as for theft, i don’t think the gypsys are aginst it. sorry you have to call them roma now.

    that might be urban myth? i thnk rockefeller drown. but there where still cannibals in new guinea in the 60s. strange that god’s law still hadn’t spread very well in almost thousands of years. well the nt 1961 years, but the ot was thousands of years old.

    oh wait, just heard on the radio. that’s weird.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/09/yellowstone-death-18-year-old-inspiration_n_1583356.html

  19. Do the Roma steal from themselves? Within the tribe? Tribe would be perfectly ok with stealing from others, robbing caravans, acquiring slaves, etc. but might take a very dim view of intertribal theft.

    Mrs. R paid for an investigator who came up with the skulls of 3 white men, one purportedly of her son, but that was before DNA.

    Killing any strangers who show up protects the tribe. Magellan starts walking up the beach, is speared immediately.

  20. One of the reasons the NA indians didn’t kill us all immediately is that they perceived things they wanted in the white camp. Clothing, utensils, etc. Sometimes the conqueror brings things – medicines, etc. besides oppression.

  21. anon,

    last comment didn’t make it through moderator. i messed up and put in two wiki links. anywasy i think magellan was acttacking the tribe who killed him. also, don’t the rockerfellers still have the skulls? why not test them now. anyways interesting theory on why they didn’t kill the pilgrims. maybe the tribe that first meet them was a peaceful tribe. definently not the iroqouis.

  22. Fishermen had been drifting over from Europe for years. Some Indians even spoke a few English words.

  23. The funny thing is the Good News Club is just making stuff up. As anyone who actually reads the full text knows, the Amalekites were singled out not for being polytheists but for attacking the Israelites in the Sinai in a particularly dishonorable way. There were plenty of polytheistic groups Israelites were permitted to socialize with, although they were commanded to remove polytheistic worship within their own societies and force foreign wives to convert.

    So, guys, if you’re going to be a genocidal biblical literalist, at least get the details right! Otherwise you’re being doubly assholish.

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