“Good News Club” a Fascinating Look Into Religion in Public Schools

When I first heard about Katherine Stewart’s book, “The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children,” I was intrigued. I wondered, “Is there really some organized group going after kids, or it this just another crazy conspiracy theory?”

What I found surprised me. First, despite the hyperbole of the book’s title, it is clear the author did a lot of research. She first became interested in the “Good News Club” and the organization behind it when they arrived at her daughter’s school. However, the book isn’t based just on anecdotal evidence from that one school. Rather, the author traveled to schools in various parts of the country, speaking with parents, teachers, and school administrators. She also met with church leaders and others interested in the efforts of the club.

Furthermore, she even attended a conference put on by the organization, and also signed up as a club volunteer, allowing her to attend specialized training on how to set up and run a club. As a result, she was able to see the workings of the organization from the inside, as well.

The picture she paints is one of a well-organized campaign to use both deception and candy to lure grade-school children into an environment in which they can be converted to fundamentalist Christian beliefs. If you’re a Christian, that may sound like a good thing…until you learn that Catholics and many other Christian denominations are considered by this group to be the “wrong kind” of Christian, whose members are not “saved,” and who still need to be converted if they want to avoid going to Hell.

The name, “The Good News Club” actually sells the book short to some extent, since it also has sections describing a number of different ways Christian fundamentalists are targeting children in public schools, including teaching Bible classes for credit during regular school hours, revising textbooks (including changing history textbooks – not just adding creationism in science classes), and even opening churches and holding regular weekly worship services and other church functions in public schools while paying little to no rent.

One of the effects of these activities is the polarization of the community in and around the affected schools. The polarization can even be seen in the reviews section of Amazon.com, where, as of this writing, all of the reviews except one give the book either the highest possible rating, or the lowest possible rating. I’m happy to say, however, that the positive ratings outnumber the negative ones by a margin of more than two to one.

The most refreshing thing about this book is it doesn’t end with the expected doomsday scenario describing what horrible things will happen if we don’t all spring into action to stop this threat immediately. Instead, the author says she believes this movement will ultimately fail, as its true nature is revealed and it runs up against the more moderate majority of citizens. May this be God’s will.

Meet the author and buy her book at one of her two local appearances early next week:

Monday, June 25 at 7:30pm at Magers & Quinn Booksellers in Minneapolis 

Tuesday, June 26 at 7:00pm at Common Good Books in St. Paul

*The FTC made me do it: Disclosure of Material Connection: TC Jewfolk received a free copy of ”Good News Club” in the hope that we would mention it on TC Jewfolk. But getting the book for free doesn’t mean that we were obligated to give a glowing review. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” Blah, blah, blah…

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About Susan Esther Barnes

Susan Esther Barnes is a religious Reform Jew who can regularly be seen greeting people at her synagogue before services. She is a founding member of her synagogue's chevra kadisha. Read her blog at www.kissamezuzah.blogspot.com.

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2 comments

  1. Although there is no possible way to “stop this threat immediately,” people in the Twin Cities really should consider “springing into action.” Child Evangelism Fellowship’s “Good News Across America” campaign seeks to “Capture a City for Christ” every year. This year it’s the Twin Cities, and GNAA recently reached its goal of finding 30 partnering churches to start at least as many new Good News Clubs in schools in the Twin Cities area. See http://www.facebook.com/GoodNewsAcrossAmerica. Hundreds of CEF workers will gather in mid-July to train those churches on how to conduct the classes and present the Good News curriculum.

    If these Good News Clubs plan to follow CEF’s 5-year literature cycle, then the second lesson this fall is going to be on I Samuel 15, the slaughter of the Amalekites, from a fundamentalist, Saul should have obeyed completely, and so should you, perspective. That’s an opportunity for citizens in the Twin Cities area to bring public attention to help “reveal the true nature” of CEF.

    It is also important to bring attention to the abusive, shame-and-terror inculcating tactics the Good News Club uses to coerce participants into converting. See http://youtu.be/dNwPj6RsMFg

  2. IntrinsicDignity –
    Wow, it sounds like parents in the Twin Cities area really do have a reason to spring into action. The more you can educate parents about what these groups are all about, the better chance those parents have of making informed decisions.

    It also gives them a chance to talk to their kids in advance, to let the kids know they’re not going to Hell no matter what these folks say, and to remind the kids to come to their parents with any religious questions or concerns.

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