Hey, did you know that the schools have the job of teaching our children morality now? They’re having a tough enough time teaching reading and math, but now we’re supposed to add right and wrong. It’s nice in principle, but now there’s another problem: the powers that be believe the right way to do this is to teach them Christianity, a notion which opens the door to the Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) and their Good News Clubs. Look at one of the examples of moral thinking they teach in schools.
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.
Oh, yes, we now have after-school programs to tell the children that not only is it OK to kill people if god tells you to, but that having different religious beliefs is sufficient cause to justify mass murder, and that the only mistake you might make is in being insufficiently thorough in executing your foes.
We can thank the Supreme Court for this state of affairs, in a decision that said schools could not discriminate against organizations they lease their facilities to after hours (a lie; watch what would happen if the KKK tried to organize a White Supremacy Club in the schools), and worse, that teaching bible stories was a good way to instruct children in morals.
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”.
I don’t expect the Supreme Court, much less Clarence Thomas, to be capable of deciding what is a proper moral lesson for my kids. I also think it’s quite clear to everyone that the Bible is a highly unethical text — it’s all about justifying evil in the name of tribal self-interest.