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How Christian Fundamentalists Plan to Teach Genocide to Schoolchildren

Child with Bible

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 Stewart, Guardian 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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  • Faisal Rathor

    @Michael Elwood,

    First of all thank you for your very convincing references!!!

    Secondly, I will just quote a verse from Quran to end my discussion on this topic with you,

    59:10 And those who came (into the faith) after them say: Our Lord! Forgive us and our brethren who were before us in the faith, and place not in our hearts any rancour toward those who believe. Our Lord! Thou art Full of Pity, Merciful.”

  • Michael Elwood

    @Faisal Rathor

    “After all this long chain of discussion, you could come up with only a grand site where author claims that he has original copy but never proved it. and other evidence sited by you is Rashad Khalifa’s Quran’s Translation which has that scan? Can you post his Fatwah where he calls people apostate who go against his Fatwah (explictly)? So assumption at best is not good to have.”

    First you asked which book, and it was pointed out to you. Then you asked which page, and it was pointed out to you. I don’t know what would convince you outside of Bin Baz coming back to life and telling you himself. You don’t have to take Yuksel or Khalifa’s word for it. You have the reference. And you’re in Saudi Arabia (where his books are presumably readily available). You can read the suggested page for yourself. You can even read the pages before and after, or the entire book, for context.

    “It is very simple common sense. If Sheikh Bin Baz has issued any such Fatwah that whoever believes such and such is apostate, he is not saying that whoever goes against his Fatwah is apostate but whoever believes this is apostate. There is a huge difference here. His understanding could be that such believe is against Quran or Sunnah though he corrected himself later. That is why he might have issued such Fatwah of apostasy against those who believes in it and not because such believe goes against his opinion.”

    That sounds like a distinction without a difference to me.

  • Faisal Rathor

    @Mikael Elwood,

    /* I think the quote was from page 23 of “al-adillat al-naqliyyati wa al-hissiyati ‘ala jarayan al-shamsi wa sukun al-’ardi. . . .”. I think a scan would have been overkill. But my old, dusty copy of Rashad Khalifa’s translation of the Quran does have a partial scan of the Arabic version. */

    After all this long chain of discussion, you could come up with only a grand site where author claims that he has original copy but never proved it. and other evidence sited by you is Rashad Khalifa’s Quran’s Translation which has that scan? Can you post his Fatwah where he calls people apostate who go against his Fatwah (explictly)? So assumption at best is not good to have.

    /* And I don’t understand why you find it so hard to believe that he called those who disagree with his flat earth view apostates. */

    It is very simple common sense. If Sheikh Bin Baz has issued any such Fatwah that whoever believes such and such is apostate, he is not saying that whoever goes against his Fatwah is apostate but whoever believes this is apostate. There is a huge difference here. His understanding could be that such believe is against Quran or Sunnah though he corrected himself later. That is why he might have issued such Fatwah of apostasy against those who believes in it and not because such believe goes against his opinion.

    Since he repented and corrected himself, May Allah forgive his shortcomings.

  • Michael Elwood

    @Faisal Rathor

    “Sorry to say that author in that site says he has original copy of the book and never shown Sheikh Bin Baz quote by page! Very skeptic though the author least could have some scans of his fatwa if he really has that book”

    I think the quote was from page 23 of “al-adillat al-naqliyyati wa al-hissiyati ‘ala jarayan al-shamsi wa sukun al-‘ardi. . . .”. I think a scan would have been overkill. But my old, dusty copy of Rashad Khalifa’s translation of the Quran does have a partial scan of the Arabic version.

    “Let me be more pessimistic about Sheikh Bin Baz and after ready his Fatwa from grand site given by you, let me accept that he said that whoever believes such and such is apostate. Wait! where did he say that whoever does not accept his Fatwa is apostate. If he has said what this grand site says, then according to Sheikh’s understanding such believe might take someone of out of fold of Islam but still never proves that he called those apostates who goes against his Fatwa. There is a huge difference between these two statements.”

    I’m not sure I understand the distinction that you’re trying to make. And I don’t understand why you find it so hard to believe that he called those who disagree with his flat earth view apostates. Wasn’t the reason why King Faisal was so mad at him was because that would make him an apostate too (presumably he was of the round earth persuasion)?

  • Faisal Rathor

    @Michael Elwood,

    Sorry to say that author in that site says he has original copy of the book and never shown Sheikh Bin Baz quote by page! Very skeptic though the author least could have some scans of his fatwa if he really has that book.

    After all you could come with only this evidence. Come on! The book Sheikh Bin Baz wrote, it was only published by Madinah University (KSA) in 1975 as per site given by you and interestingly the author of that site got the original copy of it?

    Let me be more pessimistic about Sheikh Bin Baz and after ready his Fatwa from grand site given by you, let me accept that he said that whoever believes such and such is apostate. Wait! where did he say that whoever does not accept his Fatwa is apostate. If he has said what this grand site says, then according to Sheikh’s understanding such believe might take someone of out of fold of Islam but still never proves that he called those apostates who goes against his Fatwa. There is a huge difference between these two statements.

    Anyhow, I have seen Sheikh, he was very humble man and same time very staunch to enemies of Islam. Rest I leave it to Allah.

  • Michael Elwood

    @Faisal Rathor

    “Our position should be to reject only ridiculous Fatwa and not the scholars. They are human and prone to do mistakes. Consider how many mistakes we do so we should ridicule ourselves too!”

    Why can’t we reject both? Especially if a scholar is a repeat offender? By the way, here’s an article that quotes Bin Baz’s fatwa about the earth being flat and those who disagree with him being apostates:

    http://www.yuksel.org/e/law/terror.htm

  • Sir David Illuminati membership number 16.69

    I think the fastest way to turn children away from religion is to make them do “it ” as part of school 😉
    Like in the UK making hijab part of school uniform therefore for many girls hijab becomes the most uncool thing to wear in the world 😉

  • Sir David Illuminati membership number 16.69

    infinity maths gave me a headache when I was 18 the situation has not improved since.
    As someone who has a few more qualifications in Science than Jack 🙂 I would agree about the flux . I also think its a good thing .
    I also think its the reason why I have no faith I look for a rock but see only jelly and a wobbley one at that 😉

  • HGG, thanks, dyslexia is a fun condition to have when it comes to advising others on their English 😀

  • Steve

    “scientists used to believe that time and the universe was infinite”

    Infinity is a strange concept, taking counting numbers:

    1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9…

    of those only 4 are prime

    2, 3, 5, 7

    so you’d think there are more counting numbers then prime numbers but in fact there are an infinite number of both.

  • HGG

    @Ilisha

    It’s not a bad book, but not one likely to change many minds.

    @Jack, it’s an homonym 🙂

  • Ilisha, sorry I missed your comment on ‘The Bible, The Qur’an and Science’. I’m a somewhat amateur scientist and studied (and still study in my own time) various for many years, though my extracurricular training often involved ‘experiments’ along the line of ‘if one gram of lithium fizzes a bit, how much do I need to blow up a bathtub’ (answer: enough to warrant a visit from the police) or ‘can a rocket made of toilet paper tubes go into orbit’ (answer: no but it will make a very big hole when you wire the launch motor wrong). I also spent a rather sad amount of time as a teenager when I should have been chasing girls trying to make a perpetual motion machine… the less said of the results the better. And yes, I can dress myself and do personal hygiene, someone who wasn’t blind agreed to marry me after all.

    Now you know my qualifications, my comment. I haven’t read it in full but I agree with HGG and what I said earlier; science is in flux so to try and link it to a religious text is not particularly smart. The way it is linked is also a bit vague and often circumstantial, not something that I’d call scientific. And as HGG says, what happens when we find that science has been wrong about something? I also agree with the analogy that its just the opposite of WikiIslam and simply starting with a pre-determined idea then fitting the quotes around it.

    But I look at it as the Qu’ran, being for all time, can be ‘shoehorned’ if you like that sort of thing into any scientific theorem though I stay away from it. That said I enjoyed the ‘speed of light’ equation greatly.

    I think that sadly the author started the ball rolling on the whole ‘scientific miracles of the Qu’ran’ thing which I find depressing and showing a weakening of faith amongst Muslims. The Qu’ran in itself is enough… why do we need the sideshow and to start spotting the world ‘Allah’ in someone’s toast? Its more than a little paganistic to me, kinda detracting from ‘faith’ or ‘purity’ but whatever floats people’s boats. If it gets people pleasure and enjoyment and makes their faith better then that’s fine, I just wish they’d find a more rational way perhaps.

  • “Here we are not talking about the attitude of Saudis! Can you site me your claim about Bin Baz concerning Takfir of whoever goes against his Fatwa? If you don’t have then it is a blunder accuse against someone.”

    Well I am talking about Saudi attitudes as they are extremely troubling to most Muslims, the fatwa issue is minor compared to it and simply something I read about. If its wrong its wrong, but the fact that he still issued some frankly bizarre ‘fatwa’. He also declared various groups, Sufis normally, as ‘apostates’ which, last time I checked the Quran was something only God can do.

    Also, its ‘cite’ not ‘site’, synonyms get me as well :-S

  • HGG

    “Have you read The Bible, Quran and Science by Maurice Bucaille?

    Or you, Jack Cope?”

    Well, I’m neither of them, but I have read it.

    Overall, I think the author does a good, if superficial, job explaining certain Astronomy concepts, which is the subject I’m more familiar with, but I suppose he did a better job relating to his own field. But I was not overly concerned with how he used the science in his book.

    However, I think this book is the exact same opposite of what the quotes from WikiIslim do. While they are completely rigid with their interpretation, Dr Bucaille couldn’t be more loose, allowing him to shoehorn whatever similar modern scientific discovery into the, a courtesy he didn’t apply to the Bible.

    For example, he gives credit to the Quran for presenting the Expanded Universe theory while omitting the Bible mentions this also (and obviously did so before) and since I’m not familiar with the Quran in its entirety, I can’t be certain he isn’t obviating other chapters of it that couldn’t be fit into modern scientific thinking.

    For example, the Bible opens Genesis with “In the beggining God created the Heaven and the Earth…” I could argue that scientists used to believe that time and the universe was infinite, without beggining or end, and what the verse is describing there is the modern thinking of the Big Bang Theory and just conveniently ignoring all the other parts of the Creation story that don’t fit.

    Personally, while I find the subject interesting on some level (I did read the book after all) it’s not something I tend to give much weight to. Science, good science at least, isn’t settled. What is known today may be found to be wrong tomorrow. What if those supposed scientific facts in holy books turn out to be wrong? Would that disprove the religion? Not anymore than having them when they were considered true proved it, in my opinion. Faith is important.

    Still, I suppose it’s nice to talk about this before RationalSkeptic’s reeducation camps open.

  • Faisal Rathor

    @Jack Cope,

    Here we are not talking about the attitude of Saudis! Can you site me your claim about Bin Baz concerning Takfir of whoever goes against his Fatwa? If you don’t have then it is a blunder accuse against someone.

    @Michael Elwood,

    Our position should be to reject only ridiculous Fatwa and not the scholars. They are human and prone to do mistakes. Consider how many mistakes we do so we should ridicule ourselves too!

  • Sam Seed

    @Susanna,

    In the words of Jesus (pbuh) ‘Seeing they see not, hearing they hear not, neither do they understand’.

  • “People, is this the place to discuss whose religion is best?”

    Not at all but I believe the main point is people like Susanna will, while liberally cut and pasting stuff, will deny the same arguments they use against Islam (e.g. literal text interpretation) when used against their own faith of choice. The example above r.e. ‘flat earth’ just goes to illustrate the hypocrisy.

    But yeah, I get enough missionary stuff in my inbox to really bother reading the back and fourth here…

  • Michael Elwood

    @Ilisha

    “Have you read The Bible, Quran and Science by Maurice Bucaille?”

    No. I couldn’t get a hold of it. But it was a very popular book back when I converted.

    “I ask because I read it long back and found it interesting but wanted to know what someone with more knowledge of science would think of it.”

    I doubt I have more knowledge than anyone in science. 🙂 I’ve always been more interested in the history and philosophy of science. But my impression is that books on science and Islam are more sophisticated than they were when Bucaille wrote his book.

    @Jack Cope

    “On ACSII… seriously I am surprised they haven’t done that yet. I have seen so many loose and obscure connections made when attacking Islam it boggles the mind, the world becomes so twisted to fit their weltanschauung! It gets to the stage where *anything* done or said about Muslims can be twisted into whatever shape they please. Check the comments on the ‘Casuals United’ site (if you dare) where the activities of a Muslim MEP reporting protesters to the police suddenly becomes part of the Muslamic Alliance’s take over of the world”

    Wow! The Islamophobes over there are as crazy as the ones over here.

  • Steve

    People, is this the place to discuss whose religion is best?

  • Susanna

    @ Sam Seed

    Your Wikipedia article was interesting, but doesn’t prove that the Bible is corrupted. It just shows translations differ but the context does not. The NIV which I use for study may utilize the language for readability but the context of the Scripture is not lost. Take, for instance, Matt 17: 20 in the NIV “He (Jesus) replied, Because you have so little faith, I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, Move from here to there and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Now I read daily from The Living Bible, more readable and great for daily reading. The same Matt 17: 20 verse in the Living Bible reads,” Because of your little faith,Jesus told them. For if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed you could say to this mountain, Move, and it would go far away. Nothing would be impossible.” But here goes verse 21, ” But this kind of demon won’t leave unless you have prayed and gone without food.” Does adding or omitting verse 21 take away from the context or intent of Jesus’ word? No, because Jesus’ point was that with faith in God, you can do anything. Matt 19: 26 ” with God all things are possible”

    God never changes James 1:17, and God’s Word never changes Matt 5:18. But human language-the vehicle for communicating God’s changeless message- undergoes constant metamorphosis. In the 20th century this has given impetus to numerous revisions and translations- the product of scholarly committees employing the most recent archeology and linguistics. ( From the introduction to The Living Bible.)

    Sam, your conclusion is dead wrong.

  • Géji

    @Ilisha says to Suzanna: “Can you see the four corners of the earth from your glass house? …

    “Isaiah 11:12 …. And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.” ”

    When I was a child, I’ve always wondered where we got ‘the four corners of the earth’ slang. Since adult Muslims too use-it to indicate the vastness of their statement, example, saying this or that spread to “the 4 corners of the earth”, but at the time not understanding its was a figure of speech, I’ve imagined a sort of boxed world where the sky and ground closed from top and bottom, and wondered which were the countries and the people that were located in those 4 corners, and how things can spread so high as reach the 4 corners enclosing the sky. So I guess at least now I know that “Israel” is located somewhere in the middle!

  • Faisal Rathor

    Sadly many Saudi attitudes towards Islam are seen by many Muslims all over the world as distasteful at best. Of course, a lot of this is a reaction to some of the most ‘extreme’ elements of Saudi thinking but at the same time there is no smoke without fire, Saudi is seen how Saudi is seen for a reason; when the top ‘cleric’ issues such a book you know you have problems! Anyway as you say this is not the time nor place for this, I suggest email.

    Michael Elwood

    Yes, very sad and true and something I could go on for ages about but I think you’ve said the most of it. Its strange that they attempt to attach their ‘old’ ideals onto Islam, ideals they ‘rejected’ and then paint Islam as backward simply for doing stuff (in their eyes) that they did before… without of course using an Islamic opinion to back up what they say. I love reading some of the ‘explanations’ of Islamic texts offered by these sites, the quality of mental mind games played is outstanding!

    On ACSII… seriously I am surprised they haven’t done that yet. I have seen so many loose and obscure connections made when attacking Islam it boggles the mind, the world becomes so twisted to fit their weltanschauung! It gets to the stage where *anything* done or said about Muslims can be twisted into whatever shape they please. Check the comments on the ‘Casuals United’ site (if you dare) where the activities of a Muslim MEP reporting protesters to the police suddenly becomes part of the Muslamic Alliance’s take over of the world: http://casualsunited.wordpress.com/2012/05/25/ok-here-goes-blackburn-mep-sajjad-karim-and-his-lies-regarding-an-edl-protest-at-his-house/#comments

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