Christian groups supporting schools: Secularists see exploitation where schools see a service

Evangelism in State SchoolsToday’s post is an immediate response by Danny Webster to an inflammatory report released today by the National Secular Society attacking the work of Christian groups who offer their services to schools. Danny blogs at the curiously entitled Broken Cameras and Gustav Klimt and tweets at @danny_webster.

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With words like ‘infiltrate’, and ‘incursion’, and ‘manipulate’, you are left in no doubt from the National Secular Society’s (NSS’s) latest report that something bad is going on.

That bad thing  as far as the NSS is concerned, is the involvement of many Christian groups in a wide range of school activities, from assemblies, to religious education, to sport, to after school clubs. What is met with outrage is that people would give of their time to serve the local community and contribute to the education and wellbeing of students.

The report, Evangelism in State Schools, finds that ‘there is a significant and growing incursion of evangelical organisations into publicly funded education’. It also claims the presence of such groups undermines the human rights of parents who choose a non-religious or other religious upbringing. Firstly, an aside; one point frequently made by those critical of religious beliefs is that parents shouldn’t place their beliefs on their children but allow them to make their own mind up. Such an opinion seems to go out of the window when it is parents opting for something other than Christian belief.

The National Secular Society want religious belief out of public life, and on the back of a few complaints by parents of the activities and presence of Christian groups, see a crack into which they can gain some leverage to take on this particular public manifestation of belief. Because that is what this is, this is the work of Christians, committed to serving others, working in their local community and helping students in both their education and wider wellbeing.

They want schools to keep a closer eye on such groups and tighten the criteria under which they can work with schools. But beyond that, they want faith out of public life. The idea of a public space with different religious beliefs, openly stated and gracefully communicated, and those motivated by belief serving others with care and compassion, is something most people would welcome.

And it is something welcomed by schools. In response to the report Youth for Christ, one of the organisations mentioned, commented: “As a well-established youth work charity working in Britain for over 65 years, we have always sought to serve and support schools on their invitation. Our staff and volunteers are trained, many to a professional level, to act as responsible youth workers within an educational context serving in teaching, chaplaincy, reading and classroom support, sport, Dance and drama. We would welcome the development of best practice guidelines and believe they would enhance our professional approach.”

There is no infiltration going on here, there is no manipulation, there are Christian organisations invited into schools because their work is appreciated.

Nothing raised in the report suggests any of the groups are doing anything they shouldn’t and there are no complaints noted from any of the schools. The NSS appear to have scoured the organisations’ websites to find quotes that cast suspicion on their motives, and they seem to have done this in the absence of any evidence the groups have done anything wrong.

Dr Dave Landrum, advocacy director at the Evangelical Alliance, said: “Schools work with Christian groups because they are valued, because they are trusted, and because they contribute to the overall wellbeing of students.

“There is no such thing as neutrality and across the world religious belief is growing and our schools need to be plural rather than secular spaces where faith groups can openly and fully take part. The curriculum requires a spiritual dimension to education and OFSTED have found that religious education needs improvement. The National Secular Society would seem to prefer pupils were ignorant about religious beliefs.

“This is no more than the latest desperate and ultimately doomed attempt by dogmatic secularists to remove faith from public life.”

The report makes no attempt to hide the goal that those passionate about their religious belief should be kept away from education. Those with beliefs can be involved as long as they keep quiet. And those without are welcome because what have they that could be objected to?

The objection is to the idea that there can ever be a standard that is above religious belief and used to regulate their activity and expression. This simply places the supposed neutrality of the National Secular Society as the privileged new dogma through which they wish to regulate belief.

The work of Christians in schools across the UK should be celebrated and supported, and perhaps some credit should go to the NSS for making us aware of the diverse and creative ways Christians are working to serve all of society and not just those who are part of the church. This is the church working for all, and for the good of all.



Categories: Atheism, Christian organisations, Education, Faith in society

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89 replies

  1. Reblogged this on From the evidence to the hope and commented:
    I’ve long had my suspicions about the NSS, this just reinforces all of them.

  2. Please don’t treat people like idiots.

    The only reason Christian groups (or any other kind of religious group) go into schools is to evangelise. For that is their purpose. If the people who belong to religious groups were purely and selflessly concerned with children’s education (a PROPER education, based on facts and critical thinking), with no other agenda, they would get into education as individuals (exactly as proper professional teachers do) and not under a special interest banner.

    If parents want to teach children about their religion, they can do that at home. There is absolutely no need whatsoever to bring those religious beliefs into schools.

    You want to get your superstitious beliefs into the minds of impressionable children.

    Pick on people your own size.

    • Of course if all learning were based solely on irrefutable ‘facts’ as you suggest, then a great deal of the curriculum would be made redundant. Much of science would not be able to be taught as often it’s work rests on ‘theories’. equally psychology & sociology where the study of human behaviour is explored through theories which are tested. Surely the only way to educate young people fully is to give them the opportunities to discover the world for themselves, thus helping them to make their own decisions as empowered individuals. that should mean learning about all faiths so that if nothing else, they have an understanding of the way others live and can respect their beliefs.

      As a Christian who works in schools, I believe that schools are a place for learning, never evangelism but I would still encourage churches to be involved in supporting their local school communities as at the heart of the Christian gospel is Love & Serving. Of course we believe that Christianity is a great life choice… we wouldn’t have made the choice for ourselves if we didn’t, but to suggest that we want to indoctrinate young people is just not fair. I want to see young people become all that they can/want to be and the motivation for that just happens to be that I believe in a God who wants the same for them. Nothing sneaky or covert about it.

      • My point is, if you just want to help children to learn and have no desire to indoctrinate in your beliefs, then by all means become a regular teacher.

        But if you are going in to schools under the auspices of some religious group, then you are obviously trying to bring the interests of that group into the schools. Everyone has personal interests, but they can do most jobs without having to bring those interests in to the workplace.

        I have no problem with teaching children about the various religions, and at an older age they may even hear invited speakers talk about their religion, but religion should not become part of the fabric of the education system. Children should not be obliged participate in or to respect religious beliefs.

      • Don’t you think you’re being a little bit patronising to children? I’ve worked with young people, and believe me, they are very capable of saying ‘Oi, miss/mr, if there’s a God, then why X?’ Children love to argue and they’re not at all afraid of offending people! Yes, church groups do go into schools to evangelise (not just to teach drama etc.). I don’t think we should try to hide that. But kids will do their own thing and believe their own thing. They’re not the gullible little innocents that the secularists are trying to make out. The fact is, organisations like the NSS think that Christian ideas are false and dangerous, but instead of trying to prove that through rational argument they use these kinds of tactics – suggesting that what they want is a ‘neutral’ space, as if such a thing could exist.

    • Bless you sir, but the Bible tells us to go out into all the world and preach the Gospel and that is good enough for us. And as youthpasta says, how are we to protect them against secular and atheistic indoctrination? Get Christian teaching back into all schools and a solid knowledge of the Bible I say, as a buffer against what the world would teach them. May God bless every precious tender little life and bring them into the marvellous and excellent light of the Gospel

  3. It seems that the secular society group members, not all normal secular folk, only wants to moan and not do anything to help educate children by offering their own services and expertise. It moans about Christian charity but does nothing to aid people. It moans about Christian groups helping people in society but does nothing to aid people. If it does not like something why does it not start its own enterprise of help? Typical of moaners. They do not like what others do but cannot be arsed to do something to help, just stop others.

  4. Thanks Simon, perhaps a little sharp but the point is very well made. Kids are malleable and need to be protected from indoctrination.

  5. Proud to say that I am part of this “incursion”, having done 5 RE lessons to 7 classes and a KS1 assembly this week.

    In response to Simon’s comments, I would like to point out that all the lessons delivered were in line with the National Curriculum. After each lesson the teachers are given a feedback form to tell us what they think of the lesson delivered. The curriculum was created by at least 2 people, 1 of whom is a Christian and the second that I know of is an ardent atheist. The fact that an atheist and a Christian created a curriculum for primary schools that they agree on would suggest that it ticks the boxes for both groups, and hopefully for the areas regarding other faiths.
    So, to suggest that the RE lessons that are delivered by Christian groups are purely for evangelistic purposes is rubbish. Sure, I would love to see everyone come to faith and become a Christian. But the aim of the lessons is to inform so that they can make a decision based on correct information. I would have thought that anyone from the atheistic perspective, who claim to value informed decision making, would welcome this into the education of all children. Because don’t forget, this can also include atheists going in and speaking about atheism!

    • There’s nothing wrong with a Christian teaching lessons in school. That is not my argument. Teachers can come from all faiths and none and comply by the regulations.

      I don’t know your particular situation, but if you are being sent into schools by a Christian organisation, then obviously there must be an underlying motive to spread the interests of that organisation within the school. Otherwise, why would you be sent in under the auspices of that organisation? If the organisation existed only for the benefit of its members, it would keep itself to itself, and not be sending people out to schools or anywhere else.

      • You make a lot of assumptions about other peoples motivations. Christians shouldn’t be judged on what you perceive their motivation to be. Otherwise no one could ever do anything as we’d all just assume they have the worst possible motivation and not let them.

      • (For some reason, I can’t reply directly to John Settatree’s comment.)

        John, I make no assumptions about the motivations of individuals, whether they are religious or not.

        But I do make natural assumptions about special interest groups. A religious group exists because its members have a common interest in practising, celebrating or evangelising their religion. If they decide to take their interest outside the confines of their group, that intention speaks for itself.

      • Simon, I work for a church and I go in not because I am sent but because I want to (although my church are fully behind my work in schools as well).
        The reason I go in is in no way to indoctrinate or coerce children or teachers to believe as I do. The reason my church supports my work in schools is also not for these reasons.
        The reason I go in, and the reason my church support me going in, to schools is because we wish to help the school in it’s representation of Christianity when it speaks about it. We seek to explain ideas like Trinity (which IS in the syllabus) and forgiveness from a Christian perspective, with the chance for the children to ask questions about things that they don’t understand to “experts” (if you can call the vicar and I that) who have a better chance of answering than the teachers.
        Now, of course the church and I would love to see all the children at the schools I go in, as well as their parents and teachers, coming along to church and becoming Christians, that is the hope we have for all mankind. But that doesn’t mean that the reason we go in to schools is to make that happen. The reason we go in is in the hope that, through being given the information to decide for themselves, the children will, at some point in their lives, choose to go to a church and explore the Christian faith for themselves. We seek only to inform and educate when we support the schools in their religious education of the children. And, given that I help out with, at most, 5 hours of RE in any 1 particular student, plus no more than about 10 assemblies per key stage group, in a year it is hardly a huge amount of influence in the grand scheme of things.
        If we have a look at their teaching time, they have, let’s say, 6.5 hours of school per day. That’s 5 days per week, 38 weeks per year for 7 years. That’s 8645 hours of teaching. If I teach them in every lesson I do for each year group, adding in the fact that RE is now only 30 minutes per lesson, that’s averaging out at 4 lessons per school year, plus the possibility of 1 extended lesson to cover a bigger topic (so say 2.5 hours per year) over 7 years and we have 1050 minutes, or 17.5 hours. That’s 1 hour being taught by a Christian for every 494 overall teaching hours, also known as 0.2%!
        Even if we add in the assemblies, which are only 15 minutes at the absolute maximum, that’s only another 2.5 hours per year, meaning that it’s another 17.5 hours over their time in primary school. Or 1/247 or 0.4% of all their schooling in primary school.
        And, some good new for you, in my case I don’t do assemblies or RE lessons with reception classes, so my percentage of contact less than the figures I have quoted at you!
        So, if we are less than half a percent involved in the teaching or primary schools (and it is significantly less in secondary schools), only teaching to the syllabus and being watched by teachers as we do it then can it really be called an incursion? The Normandy landings were an incursion, and they covered 50 miles of about 300 miles of the overall Normandy coastline. My involvement in 1 primary school (which probably represents the most any church can be involved in a school) would be the equivalent of 0.06 of a mile!

  6. Mervyn, how are we to protect them from secular and atheistic indoctrination then?

    • Please provide evidence that secular and atheistic indoctrination is taking place anywhere, and explain why protection is required.

      • And I think you have just made my point for me!

      • So I’ll ask again, please provide evidence that secular and atheistic indoctrination is taking place anywhere, and explain why protection is required.

      • 99.6% of all teaching in the first 7 years of school life is non-Christian. 98.4% is non-religious. In addition, the new philosophy and ethics part of the syllabus (heavily influenced by atheist thinkers throughout history in content) gets just as much time as ALL RE content, thus making it 1.6% of all schooling in the first 7 years and 4 times more prevalent than Christianity within the syllabus.
        All non-religious teaching is, by it’s very nature, secular as well, so 98.4% of the entire syllabus is secular. Therefore, the vast majority of teaching is secular and hardly representative of the number of secularists/atheists/humanists in the population. Looks to me like we need saving from this secular imperialism within education, clearly our children are being indoctrinated into the idea that the secular world is more important than the rest!

        You can’t argue with the numbers!

  7. Where I have been involved with schools work it has always been on the clear understanding that we are not there to evangelise or indoctrinate. What we do is to present an application of a story or saying from the Bible that is relevant for today and specifically relevant for the children present. These presentations are invariably well received by the teachers present.

    At times we invite children to come along to a church based event where there is, obviously, a greater emphasis upon personal faith; but the children come to those events by their own free will and with the approval of their parents and, given the numbers attending, the approval rate is quite high.

    School is not the only place that children learn – the whole of life is a classroom so why are the NSS so concerned about this one area even though they clearly have little understanding of what is actually happening? The answer is that fundamentally the NSS would like to outlaw expression of faith in any and every environment – which then is more pernicious: Christians (or any other faith group) sharing what they believe in a controlled environment or an anarchy of ideas and influences such as exists on the internet and is increasingly creeping into TV programmes?

  8. Simon, what exactly is wrong with what is going on? Let’s try to be specific and use actual examples. You say that groups go into schools to evangelise, but where is your evidence? Btw, I agree there should be no place in publicly funded schools for evangelism and proselytization. I am unconvinced that this is taking place. I have read the report and can not see how its conclusions are substantiated.

    • Seriously people?

      Simon’s argument is pretty clear; if any group is going in to schools then they have some motive, whether they are overtly or explicitly preaching or not. Religions only survive/thrive on spreading the word right? So is it really inconceivable that Christian groups are going in to undertake the soft sell, by, say, I don’t know, perhaps ‘invite children to a church based event’ where there may be a ‘greater emphasis on personal faith’. Even if the child is attending by their own free will, they are there because the person representing the Christian Group in the school has created the lead. It’s just a forward sales ploy, don’t try and pretend it’s anything else.

      Youthpasta – ‘decision based on correct information’. What correct religious information are you referring to? And the point about secularism and atheism is that there is nothing to indoctrinate (belying yourself much?) in to. Atheism or secularism isn’t a defined framework of beliefs.

      • Wouldn’t it be good when studying human biology at school for example if you could get a doctor in to help teach it with a greater knowledge than a school teacher will ever have?

        It’s not that different to having a theologically trained Christian coming to take an assembly or help with RE lessons. Especially as most RE teachers these days are poorly trained according to the recent Ofsted report. Pupils can gain a much better understanding and have their questions answered more fully and accurately from someone with a living faith than someone with just a loose academic understanding.

      • Hi Gillian,

        You’re assuming the Doctor is a good teacher. While the teacher must undeniably ‘know’ their subject matter, they don’t have to be a pre-eminent expert on the subject matter. Very clever people often make bad teachers. Anyway, that’s by-the-by….

        Why is the Doctor going in to the school?

        • I know a doctor who has been into their local primary school to talk to the children when they were learning about their bodies.

          The point is that if I wanted to learn about Islam I would rather talk to a practising Muslim than someone who has read a few text books on it.

      • Of course talking to practitioners of any subject is going to provide insight, but those practitioners will have a level of subjectivity and bias in terms of how they practice which will influence their teaching, won’t they?

        Not sure that’s really the point though, you’re not arguing against the assertion that any group going in to the school will have a motive for doing so, which brings me back to the question; why is the doctor going in to the school? To – explicitly or implicitly/consciously or unconsciously – talk about their practice and convince children that science of medicine has the answers, to ‘sell’ medicine as a framework for treating ill-health, to build an association between doctors, knowledge and cure, to give kids confidence in doctors.

      • I guess it depends what you mean by ‘indoctrination’. Obviously Christians presenting the Christian faith are going to hope that the children find it attractive, but, with such a small input, it’s a bit hard to see how these groups could succeed in indoctrinating anybody. Indoctrination (not necessarily a bad thing – we indoctrinate children with beliefs like that racism is a bad thing) requires continual input in which the child is prevented from exploring other options.

  9. I conduct assemblies every week in a school where 85% or more of the students are Sikh, Hindu or Muslim. I go into this school with the support and backing of the head teacher and staff. The reality is if I didn’t go into this school, the children would get little or no religious input in their assemblies. I always connect the themes I am given (by the school) to the Bible and to the Christian faith. In these assemblies the children learn about love, respect, justice, compassion, care for one another and for our environment etc. I think this is extremely important, and whilst I’m very open about my beliefs as a Christian, I never impose these beliefs on the children. The school welcomes and values the contribution I’m able to make, and in the eight years I’ve visited this school I’ve never once had a single complaint about the content of these assemblies. If any school had concerns about groups going into to conduct assemblies, or lessons, I’m sure they would quickly do something about it. The reality is that the NSS won’t be satisfied until they have completely got rid of all religious input into schools. They could do with listening to an assembly on tolerance & respect for others beliefs!

    • You’re giving assemblies of ‘Motherhood and Apple Pie’. How can anyone disagree or complain about content which teaches about ‘love, respect, justice’ etc? But you’re then wrapping it up in a religious package, as if these basic principles of goodness are somehow a virtue of religion only. People don’t need religion to act with kindness, justice, honour etc. There are those who can live their life in this way, simply content to try and be as good a person as they possibly can be, knowing that what matters is what you do each day. And then there are those who try to be as good a person as they possibly can be because they believe that if they are they’ll be punished if they don’t. Those people are weak and pathetic.

      • Weak and pathetic nice and adult well done. Glad you don’t go into school telling my son he is weak and pathetic. I think you impression of faith is based on a series of bad mis conceptions. Perhaps a little bit more RE would enable you to see people who are different in more respectful terms

  10. I go into my local schools and teach Christianity at KS2 also the school comes to church as part of their RE at various parts of the year. I am a governor of two schools and a learning mentor at KS3 working with vulnerable children. I also go in teaching science at KS2 and KS3. I teach lessons on genetics, evolution and how to assess evidence.

    Why do I do this?

    Mostly it is myth busting work. I have noticed how particularly in KS3 how children seem to have many ideas about faith that bear little resemblance to the reality. It seems some of the posters above suffer from the same misconceptions.

    My son was told by his teacher in year 3 that if you were a Christian you had to believe that the world was made in 6 days. She also said that Christians cannot be scientists. I only found this out when I visited and showed the class a picture of the genetics lab I worked in.

    I teach evolution etc in KS3 because the teacher says I am excited about science and infuse the kids. So it is buy one get one free myth busting and good science teaching.

    Education is good learning is good. Opening up your mind is good and holy. The NSS want to close minds to what faith is so the mis information about faith is driven forward.

    I am appaled at the crass stereotypes that children think in when it comes to faith. Surely and such thinking is bad for society and community cohesion.

    The kids I teach and some of the teachers leave with a different perspective on faith we are not the mindless bodgey men they were told about. Now breaking down any predujice has to be a good thing.

  11. Mmm interesting discussion which am only just catching up.

    Funnily enough, it’s rather relevant to what’s engaged my attention this past fortnight – how schools/churches turned me against Christianity and the consequences (details at http://wp.me/p1Y1yB-42R). It turned me in the wrong direction in looking for truth and only the good Lord himself could rescue me from bondage to darkness. Thanks forever Jesus!

  12. Are these evangelicals breaking the law? My teacher friends tell me they welcome Christians who come into school, they have passion for students, are committed to helping and meeting a need, they are convinced, enthusiastic and dedicated to the subjects. What do the secular side FEAR??!!

  13. So I am sure the good folks at the Evangelical Alliance are doing all they can to support the rights and equality of gay and trans students. They would never tell a gay kid that homosexuality is a sinful perversion of god’s intention that they should love and procreate with members of the opposite sex. They would never counsel a gay kid to seek spiritual or mental “therapy” to change or suppress their innate sexuality. They would never kick them out of their churches or their schools. Those evil secularists are smearing the godly reputation of the pressure group known as the Evangelical Alliance that also takes very strong political positions and actively lobbies the government against issues such as legal rights for LGBT. In fact, I am fairly certain that they are strongly opposed to any mention of homosexuality, except in a negative way, in any school in the UK. Oh how quickly these honest and virtuous christians seem to forget the political effort they put into enacting Section 28 and resisting bitterly any effort to repeal it.

    So the faux outrage and pearl clutching of Christians here isn’t fooling anyone besides yourselves. It’s actually pretty disgusting that you continue to portray yourselves as victims of some modern day pogrom. You have historically exercised undue authority in society and government and like any privileged group, you don’t want to lose that power. You think you are somehow being victimized because you no longer can control peoples lives or influence social and political policy. You think that you can co-opt the rhetoric of victimization suffered by actual repressed minorities and by some smoke and mirrors convince society that the gays and atheists are actually bullying you. Good try but I doubt anyone is going to fall for it.

    • You have a very active imagination. There may be some isolated examples of people being thrown out of church but such action goes against everything Jesus stood for. As for throwing children out of school that is illegal and rightly so.

      As for counselling young people in such an awful way if that occurred you would be banned from acting within the school again and rightly so.

      The post is mostly slander as there is no data to back it up. For example what percentage of Christians in schools behave in this way? What would be a good idea is to find out what really goes on in schools and churches rather than sharing irrational fears based on ignorance.

      • You are either completely naive or being disingenuous. I was speaking about faith schools in particular, which are allowed to make selection decisions based on religion. You do realize that the Evangelical Alliance believes that gay people should either by celibate or marry the opposite sex. There is tremendous pressure on gay kids growing up in these environments to repress themselves and the self-harm rates in the US at least are significantly higher in homes where the parents have religious objections to homosexuality.

        And as a gay man I just love being lectured by anti-gay christians about how I am slandering them when I object to being told I am immoral and going to hell because I am married to a man and yes we have lots and lots of boring sex. But frankly I am a grown man and can handle it. I just laugh at if now because I know they are losing the battle. But I remember growing up in a the south in an evangelical home and trying to pray that god would make me straight. I know kids that have tried to kill themselves over this.

        So, its not a joke or a game to me.

    • ‘It’s actually pretty disgusting that you continue to portray yourselves as victims of some modern day pogrom…’

      Before making a somewhat offensive assertion etseq97, did you check any facts? Today, I came across one recent example as well as Gillan’s latest on different lines re Dr David Drew.

      Why not check out that example of Peter Bull and his wife? They simply ran a B&B business in Cornwall their way for decades but, according to media reports, became targeted victims of a real, NOT imaginary, ‘modern-day pogrom’ with the usual elements of harassment, ‘death threats, vandalism’, plus a ‘campaign of hatred, vilification and intimidation’, not to mention legal prosecution and this month’s hostile media interview – just like in any totalitarian society! It makes us absolutely no different to Nazi Germany…

      Thoroughly objectionable and deeply offensive retorts are: ‘they were to blame’, ‘ They brought it upon themselves’! Now that lot’s irrational and beyond every norm of common humanity and suggests a supernatural source.

      Even so, I’m very saddened by your follow-up for it indicates the need for healing of deep wounds and conciliation (which is what Mrs Bull spoke about).

      • Thank you very much for proving my point! You really do think you are the victims and gays are the bullies. Tell me, when was the last time a christian committed suicide because his gay parents kicked him out of their house because of his religion? How many christians have been killed by gays? How many christians have been denied a marriage certificate from a gay registrar?

        And the fact that you consider Equalities legislation a “pogrom” makes me wonder if you even know what word means – I’d suggest you ask your jewish friends but that assumes facts not in evidence.

      • etseq97 – There’s absolutely no need for discourtesy.

        Of course I know the definition, but YOU yourself modified it to mean ‘modern-day’ and used the term ‘victims’. Pogrom is just a fancy name for a historical outbreak of orchestrated virulent hatred and organised murder of those who think and believe differently to totalitarian edict – not to mention the raft of assorted varieties of villainy arising from that bitter root of hatred.

        What we’re attempting to discuss in Britain is nothing compared to the current ‘pogroms’ being carried out by maniacal Muslims. The original Christians were taught to expect persecution so its nothing new, and is expected to increase globally anyway.

        My preference is to deal with facts and I conveyed those which I’d encountered. The facts you refer to have understandably caused deep pain and anger and I agree with Hywel Snook’s points. His last is well worth your heeding and trying to apply because you made a completely unfounded assumption concerning ‘Equalities’, the injustices of which I’ve personally met and discussed in this blog. So I won’t waste our time going there.

        Were you able to consider advice from someone older, wiser, experienced and ‘got the T-shirt’, worn it and burned it after meeting the Devourer, I’d offer out of human empathy: beware of deep anger taking hold and consuming you. As your batting to and fro is pointless I won’t bother responding again.

  14. etseq97

    It is deeply sad that the Christian faith has been twisted to encourage homophobic actions. It is truly dreadful that you have suffered as a result. This is why in the UK OffStead regulate teaching in schools so such abuses cannot take place or if they do they can be stopped. I know little about faith schools in the US only what I read in Marilyn Mansons Biography. I am thankful that we are regulated in the UK in such a way so abuses as you describe can be dealt with.

    I understand why you feel so strongly about these issue and many Christians feel appalled by homophobic behaviour too. So don’t assume that all Christians behave in these ways. When we have been dealt an injustice the temptation is to become the thing we hate most. Yes there are people who cause harm in this way, the answer is to unite together against such behaviour.

    • Well the author of this blog believes that homosexuality is immoral and that gays will burn in hell unless they repent and become celibate or “convert” to heterosexuality. He railed against the same sex marriage bill and he is the one who quoted a rep from the Evangelical Alliance. And that very angry chap above who really thinks that christians are the victim of a pogrom led by gays. So, I’m not sure what more evidence you want of homophobia.

      • I never said that gay people will burn in hell and just because I disagreed with the principle of equal marriage it doesn’t make me homophobic. I’ve published articles on being Christian and gay that condemned programs that try to ‘convert’ gay people to heterosexuality.

        I’m not expecting everyone to agree with me but I strongly disagree with claims that I hate gay people because I don’t.

      • I think that your own negative experience has coloured your view. Try listening to what people are saying not assuming what you think they saying. It is sad that you and others have been treated so badly but that doesn’t mean that all will do so. Making accusations alienates people

      • Gillan – you are dissembling. You clearly stated in the Steve Chalke post that you hold to the traditional evangelical biblical interpretation. That means that you view non-celibate gays as sinners and that unlike straight people, they are excluded from religious marriage. Also, I assume you oppose non-celibate gays from being ordained as priests or bishops. You aren’t nasty about it – in fact you feel uncomfortable discussing it because you know that it is will cause justifiable offense. But you also think that because you are nice about about that somehow exempts you from the consequences of affirming a belief that is by its nature homophobic.

        Please explain to me how believing that the bible condemns homosexuality as sinful is not homophobic. How do you think a gay kid is going to react to that view? What if your son came out as gay? Would you feel like a good father telling him that while your heart tells you that he is loved by God just the way he is and that you want him to fall in love and raise a family with a the man of his dreams just like you would want for a straight child, your faith says just the opposite. That God wants him to be celibate and have no chance of ever sharing his life with another person and never have a chance to be a father like you. Don’t you think that he would view that as homophobic? Its all very nice that you go out of your way not to be obnoxious about it but at the end of the day, you can’t have it both ways. Either you believe in equality of you don’t.

        • Welcome to the world of false dichotomies!

        • I appreciate that you’ve taken the time to read some of my posts. There’s no point being nasty about these things whatever our views. How does that help? If you are familiar with the Bible then Romans 14 says a great deal about this: we are not to judge. We all sin and are all loved by God. Our sexuality makes no difference. From a Christian perspective the Bible does not explicitly affirm gay relationships, but I fully understand those Christians who have prayerfully considered this and come to the conclusion that monogamous gay relationships should be affirmed. My job is to support someone whatever they decide. It is between them and God if they believe in Him.

          I get very tired of the use of the term ‘homophobic’ when people don’t agree with you. The same goes for equality when we choose our own definition of what it means. Also ‘evangelical’ is a term that is misinterpreted too even by many Christians. The thing is that I am not gay and I don’t see why I should impose my limited understanding of what it must be like on someone who is. Should I treat someone who is gay and has chosen to be celibate as a lesser person than someone who has not for example?

      • How about human empathy? How who you want to be treated? The idea of celibacy would never come up unless you want to join a monastic order or just never fall in love. You have the option of marriage. That’s what your gay son would want as well. Do you think we are some alien species?

        To you this is some abstract theological question but to us it about being loved and accepted. When we object to being treated differently, you claim we are unfair in our demands.

        Try substituting race for sexual orientation when you pose these questions and you will see how absurd and dehumanizing these arguments are to us. If you told black people that they couldn’t be married but its not about discrimination, its just my religious beliefs, no one would be making these hair splitting arguments. And they certainly wouldn’t tell the black person that they are the real bigots and words like racism and equality are too vague. And that you really get tired of being accused of racism.

        But I am sure that is “false equivalence” because no christians ever used religion to justify racism.

        I’m sorry I have hurt your feelings – that is extremely rude. Unlike restricting peoples legal rights or gay kids dying. I have pogroms to plan….

        • You haven’t hurt my feelings at all. I understand much of what you say and for good reason. You make your points well, but it’s a shame if we feel we can’t find some common ground unless one agrees 100% with the other. I’m much more interested in building relationships and positive dialogue than knocking others down even if through the course of these conversations this might not always appear to be the case.

      • etseq97, I really must take issue with your fallacious link between homosexual actions and race.

        I will start at the basics of what religion is, to give the basis for why I disagree.
        First up, someone who believes in an all-powerful creator and seeks to follow them views the values of this creator higher than any other views. In the case of Christians, that means that we view the values of God, as revealed to us through the Bible, to be the values by which we should live our lives. As a result, it means that Christians do not seek to meet the values of this world, but try to influence the world to hold to the values of God, as they are better, according to our belief.

        Next I will define homophobia, because it is an oft-abused word that MUST be used correctly for proper discourse.
        Homophobia is the “extreme and irrational aversion to homosexuality and homosexual people” (http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/homophobia). It is NOT disagreeing with homosexuality, with those who practice homosexual acts or even those who have homosexual feelings. It is ALL about the irrationality of a reaction!

        As I have shown in my first part, Christians hold their understanding of life based on the logical progression of believing in God and wanting to do as he commands. It is not irrational, it is completely logical. Therefore, anyone who follows this progression and takes the view that, from reading the Bible, homosexual acts are not what God wants for anyone to do then it is a logical step, not an irrational one. After all, it is simply following their understanding of the world, just as you act out of your understanding of the world in what you do.
        This does not give excuse for mistreatment of homosexuals, but does mean that it is not homophobic to say that I believe that homosexuality is a sin (sin being anything which goes against the will of God).

        Regarding marriage, given that the Bible talks about marriage as being between 1 man and 1 woman, If a Christian believes that the Bible tells us what God wants for the world then there is no way that they can go against this because they would be going against God’s will. So “religious marriage” for a Christian who takes the Bible seriously is only possible for a heterosexual couple as that is how God says it should be.

        And now the racial aspect of your argument. You suggest that homosexuals being rejected is the same as rejecting someone based on their ethnicity, nationality or colour of their skin. But there is nothing in the Bible that says about people’s race being an issue. The Bible says that the Gospel should be spread to ALL nations, so whether you are black, white, green with pink polkadots or whatever, the good news is for you. That doesn’t change in any of the specifics either, because Paul’s letters only say that sinners are not able to enter the Kingdom of God, and race is not a sin because you are not able to stop being black (for example) and expressing it, whereas whilst you may not necessarily be able to stop “being homosexual” (not the best turn of phrase, but the only one I can come up with at the moment) you ARE able to stop expressing it with your actions.

        So, to sum up, disagreeing with homosexuality for logical reasons IS NOT homophobia. Christians follow God’s laws above all others. Race does not equate to sexuality.

      • Gosh etseq97, where to start?

        Let me pick up a few things you wrote.

        That means that you view non-celibate gays as sinners and that unlike straight people, they are excluded from religious marriage. Also, I assume you oppose non-celibate gays from being ordained as priests or bishops.

        Deep breath. I’m homosexual, I’m not celibate, I’m married and I’m a priest. I don’t think you can find anyone evangelical on this website who would suggest that in any of those things I am sinning. You seem to be rather limiting what people are allowed to do or become based on your prejudices and assumptions.

        Would you feel like a good father telling him that while your heart tells you that he is loved by God just the way he is and that you want him to fall in love and raise a family with a the man of his dreams just like you would want for a straight child, your faith says just the opposite. That God wants him to be celibate and have no chance of ever sharing his life with another person and never have a chance to be a father like you.

        Well, what about this GLB man writing right now who is married, has fathered a family and certainly isn’t lonely or repressing anything? I shared my life with someone and it has been (and continues to be) wonderful.

    • Some Christians would say that because you are not homophobic (in the sense that you do not condemn homosexuality), you are not a true Christian.

      • I’m just trying to follow Jesus: “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.”

      • daveygod, just because it says it in the Bible doesn’t mean that we must constantly thrust it in people’s faces every time the argument comes up. Neither does not using a particular piece of the Bible mean that we don’t believe it to be true. It just means that we are wanting to have positive dialogue that can be understood without causing unnecessary offence.
        The only reason my comment above to etseq97 covers the matter the way that it does is because it is directly responding to issues he raises. Otherwise I would not directly have answered him as I have done.
        Also, there are no Christians that I know (and I know quite a few from various traditions and backgrounds) that would say that you have to be homophobic to be a Christian. My definition, used earlier, should point out the reasons why.

        • I could point you towards a number of websites that are hosted by Christians who clearly disagree with you.

        • Feel free. I will happily attempt to point them towards verses that would disagree with this way of “being a Christian”

        • So if Christians can’t agree what constitutes a good Christian, how can any of you possibly instruct children what they must do to be good Christians?

        • You have yet to offer proof that there is this clash, so your question has no basis as yet.
          Also, there are disagreements within the atheist and secular realms as well. You only have to look at the backlash that Dawkins has had from many well-respected atheists to see that. Disagreement is hardly a basis on which to challenge.

        • But I am not advocating that children should be instructed what form of atheism they should follow (even though all atheists agree on the same thing – there is no evidence for the existence of gods, so there is no reason to believe that any exist). You, on the other hand, seem to advocate that children should be instructed in believing in the Christian god, when there is no agreement on what aspects of that belief they should follow.

          At the end of the day, all religious thought is subjective, and children should not be told which religion they should follow any more than they should be told which political party to vote for, which football team they should support, or what their favourite colour is.

        • “You, on the other hand, seem to advocate that children should be instructed in believing in the Christian god”
          Umm, no! I do not say they should be taught to believe in God, I say that they should be informed about the Christian beliefs (and other religious views) so that they can make an informed choice.
          And that you try and suggest that the fact that there are different views on homosexuality among Christians suggests there is a problem in teaching the Christian faith suggests that you have a complete lack of understanding of the Christian faith yourself. It is yet another reason why teaching RE correctly, with the use of those that could be described as “experts” being hugely important to ensure that people don’t end up misunderstanding religion in the way you seem to.

        • “I do not say they should be taught to believe in God, I say that they should be informed about the Christian beliefs (and other religious views) so that they can make an informed choice”

          Forgive me I understood that I was commenting on a site that has, as its banner “Taking the Good News relevantly to every young person in Swindon.” I took that to mean that the organisation in question sent members into schools to preach about Christianity. It seems I was wrong and that this organisation also teaches about Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Scientology, as well as the hundreds of different Jewish, Muslim and Christian faiths. Silly me.

        • Now you really ARE being silly. I will humour you this once, but if you continue I will take it to mean you have nothing intelligent to offer this conversation.

          I do not go in and preach about Christianity. I go in and teach the basics of the Christian faith, so that children can understand what the Christian faith is about, at least in a very basic sense, without being under any misconception. For example, many Muslim children are often misinformed by their parents that the Christian Trinity is God, Jesus and Mary. Given that these 3 people are key characters within the Muslim understanding, with 2 of them being human, it can lead to a complete misunderstanding of who Christians pray to. By teaching them that the Trinity is actually God in the 3 persons of Father, Son and Spirit we are able to help their future discourse with Christians, whether that is for potential conversion or simply good relations across religions.

          However, I do only teach children about Christianity, as my experience is only within Christianity. For me to go in to schools and teach about Islam would be ridiculous, given my lack of knowledge in the area.

        • I’m silly because I see teaching the basics of the Christian faith as preaching Christianity? Where is the difference?

          I’m silly because I believe it should make no difference to children that the trinity refers to father son and spirit, and not a mythical supernatural being, Jesus and Mary (or indeed, Freeman, Hardy and Willis).

          By the way, can I ask for the third time to please provide evidence that secular and atheistic indoctrination is taking place anywhere, and explain why protection is required.

        • So are non-Christian teachers that teach RE in schools preaching?

        • Hand up, I’ve probably broken most of them, including a few of the Top 10 (murder and adultery are not on the list). That makes me a sinner, but does it make me a bad person?

        • When did anyone say this was about a qualitative judgement? If God exists then you are a sinner, regardless of how amiable you may be. It is a basic fact of life, in no way a judgement upon in individual.

  15. I’ve included the SU press statement in response on my post at http://www.psephizo.com

  16. Gillan @ God and Politics in the UK

    “…we are not to judge. We all sin…”

    Do you really not see the irony here?

    • There is no irony, you merely misunderstand. Sin, by it’s definition, is going against the will of God. The Bible tells us that everyone sins, that no one except Jesus has ever lived a pure life and that we need to recognise that we all sin and seek forgiveness. To say that everyone sins is not judging, it is a statement of fact. Unless, of course, you are able to say that you have never done anything that breaks any of the 600+ laws in the Old Testament.

  17. Fascinating that a blog about the NSS has turned into a discussion about sexuality. How did that happen?

    And on the question of atheistic indoctrination—there is a constant, steady stream of it from influential public figures, with no right of reply, all the time in the media. From Stephen Fry’s constant quipping on QI ‘When you look at that, how can anyone believe in a loving God who made the world?’ through the abuse of stand-up comics about the absurdity of religion, to David Attenborough’s constant and fixed view that there is no God. These are often slipped into conversation, and in such a way which closes down any possibility that there could be another viewpoint.

    • Three words: Songs. Of. Praise.

      Four more: Thought. For. The. Day.

      And if religion wasn’t absurd, comedians wouldn’t hold it to ridicule. Try listening to Tim Minchin, for example, without simply dismissing him because he’s an atheist.

      • Yes, I agree with you that Songs of Praise is also part of the anti-Christian agenda. It is completely anodyne, and there is little of what would pass for credible Christian testimony in it. I like Tim Minchin, but again it is the triumph of the monologue.

        Ah, but you are right. I am absurd so I deserve any ridicule I get. (Hang on, I am not allowed to apply that to other faiths or outlooks by dint of the Human Rights Act…funny that….)

      • My nephew said to me you’ve got a Tim Minchin DVD have you heard the pope song. Yes I said why do you think it is on the DVD. Dunno my nephew said because that is what the pope is like. How do you know that. Dunno he said. Am I like he says priest should be. No my nephew says your not like that. So I asked him why did he think the pope was like the song said.

        He then asked an interesting question if you are not like the song says and none of your vicar mates are either why did he write it? I said people don’t know many Christians so assume we are like these people say we are and people like to make fun of people who are different to them. Years ago there was a man called Bernard manning he made fun of black people now you can’t do that but they are allowed to make fun of me.

        Bernard manning would have said in the 70s if black people were not like this I wouldn’t ridicule them. People often say to me your not like a vicar is that the same as saying your not like a black?

        It would be interesting to do study if what Christians are like and what peoples perceptions are. Because the Christianity that I see described is nothing like the real faith.

        Ignorance breeds hate and I think that is at the core of the problem. If we can fight ignorance in school we can live in a better world

    • Re: A.I. – exactly so Ian.

  18. Silliness abounds!! – Songs of Praise and Thought for the Day do exactly “what they say on the can” they are what they are and may be viewed and listened to as people wish. The point of this debate was the inference that children are being indoctrinated by Christians going into schools. I would dispute that entirely, as have a number of posters here. Yes we have an agenda to share the Gospel, but sharing and indoctrination are poles apart.

    I will repeat what I said much earlier on: School is not the only place that children learn – the whole of life is a classroom so why are the NSS so concerned about this one area even though they clearly have little understanding of what is actually happening? The answer is that fundamentally the NSS would like to outlaw expression of faith in any and every environment – which then is more pernicious: Christians (or any other faith group) sharing what they believe in a controlled environment or an anarchy of ideas and influences such as exists on the internet and is increasingly creeping into TV programmes?

    The point, for those who refuse to see it, is that much of the atheistic “indoctrination” is precisely that because it arrives unannounced and never open to challenge. My talks to schoolchildren invariably include the words “Christians believe” or “this is what I believe.”

    The fact that comedians ridicule religion is hardly proof that it is absurd – the ridicule lots of things. However which is of greater concern – Christians who talk of their faith or those who would prevent that happening? After all if you are correct in your beliefs I have simply wasted my time and perhaps persuaded a few others to waste theirs, if I am correct and your view prevails many people will have lost out on an eternity.

  19. On the subject of Evangelising in schools and the danger of giving control or access to religious groups with an agenda to evangelise through the school system- may I recommend this and the other blogs from this site. – it is most definitely not harmless and where you give the fundamentalists access they will abuse the privilege and will always go to the limit if not well beyond of acceptable behaviour. http://leavingfundamentalism.wordpress.com/2013/09/26/parents-against-creationism-two-big-victories-in-one-scottish-town/

    • I think many Christians would be equally disturbed by this case. I would be the first to complain about such action. However just because one group behaved badley does not mean all will. How many Church of England priests behave like this? Some data on what Christians do in school is what is needed not isolated extremist cases. Also the same issue can work in reverse. As an example my son was told that he couldn’t believe in evolution and be a Christian. He then told his teacher that he had a evolution poster on his wall and his dad who is a priest told him all about it. She replied I’m very surprised about that. It would be interesting to see via survey data how common such attitudes are within the teaching profession or whether this is an isolated case.

      Perhaps what we need is more rational religion and rational atheism in school.

      • Personally, I can’t see how you can believe in both the biblical account of creation, and the sciences that provide a contradictory and more realistic account (cosmology, particle physics, biology, evolution, chemistry, geology, geophysics, astronomy, nuclear physics and many more). If you’re happy to accept both, good for you. But for me, Genesis is just another creation myth (and not a particularly entertaining one).

        • Here lies the problem which is one of ignorance. Many indeed most within the church accept modern science. Those who engage in creationism are ignorant of science and misunderstand the bible. The other problem is that some are ignorant of Christian thought as is evident from the post above. If you do not understand how evolution and an understanding of creation go together perhaps you should do some research. There are endless books on it out there.

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  21. Well I have followed this debate in the course of researching the activities of an evangelical group (OneHope / United Christian Broadcasters) who have ‘targeted’ (their word) my son’s RE lessons.

    “Our goal as we create and distribute Scripture engagement tools, alongside our ministry partners, is to constantly target the Word to meet each segment of the youth population at their point of need and move them toward a decision for Jesus, a biblical worldview and the means to live their life like Christ.”
    http://www.ucb.co.uk/whoisonehope

    My specific and fundamental objection is, that as a parent I have elected for a secular education environment for my child. He enjoys RE and I also find the understanding of the different world belief systems past and present interesting. I therefore have a reasonable expectation that my child will be presented with an unbiased and factual RE lesson. i.e ‘Christians believe in the Holy Trinity consisting of…. Muslims don’t drink alcohol because… etc’. I do not find it acceptable that without my knowledge a religious faith group with a clear and declared agenda of proselytisation be allowed access to the classroom to distribute leaflets stating religious doctrine and belief as uncontested fact. As the evangelists quite rightly appreciate, children between the ages of 4 and 14 are at a very suggestible stage in the formation of their life outlook. As a captive audience in a classroom there is a powerful relationship between teacher and student, students are expected to listen to and accept as ‘truth’ what the teacher is teaching them. ‘Fish in a barrel’ if you like.

    I appreciate that to a person of faith, giving up their own time to tell other people about something that brings them great joy, i.e their belief in a spiritual being is an enormously generous thing to do. However, how would you feel if a team of recruiters from the Scientologists, or Hare Krishna, or the Westborough Baptist Church or Al Queada (all groups with fairly committed religious viewpoints and a holy book to prove their belief) were allowed repeated access to your child’s classroom?

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