June 6, 2020

Question: Is Evangelism Child Abuse?

chrishill_pointministeringMy last post has stirred up some, uh….”interesting” commentary and email. To the point: in the view of some people, evangelism of teenagers is abusive and unethical. Since I’m a preacher who preaches the Gospel to teenagers with an appeal for their conversion, I’m engaged in abusive behavior.

This especially seems to to apply, to some, to the cases of those who are stated unbelievers or atheists. If I know that is their position, then to evangelize at all is to be disrespectful and manipulative. These young people should not have to hear Christian appeals for conversion and it is entirely appropriate to see this kind of activity as unethical pressure tactics on those least able to resist.

These claims hit close to home. I’ve devoted most of my life to evangelizing students, and I am not bashful about it. That said, I am just as passionate to reject all unethical methods, pressure tactics and manipulation. Scripture, in fact, commands me to abandon and oppose any underhanded or unethical use of the Gospel. I am told to serve and love others in Jesus’ name, and to proclaim/teach the Gospel with faith and submission to Christ at the center. I am given specific instructions to honor God in evangelism by leaving matters of the heart and conscience to him. My calling is to love, communicate and relate. I am an incarnational proclaimer of the Good News. I can’t manipulate and represent Jesus. I also can’t equivocate and represent Jesus.

When I deal with students, I am straight up about evangelism. If they take my class, I will occasionally explain the Gospel to them. I stress that their beliefs are welcome to be shared as well. I use no decisional tactics and I have no personal interest as a teacher in what a student does with the claims of Christ. I pray for these students, and would find it impossible to pray for them without praying that they come to know Christ.

I am just as honest about preaching. I give full permission to ignore or reject whatever I say, but I am straightforward that my calling and vocation is to proclaim, explain and apply the Gospel. I use no altar call. I use no tactics or manipulations of any kind. It’s the Gospel, an appeal to believe, a prayer and I leave it with them and the Holy Spirit.

I tell my students that I am completely open to being evangelized by them. I invite questions and I ask questions. Because I am in a Christian school with a missions focus, I have many non-Christians in my Bible classes and preaching services. We have dialog constantly. It’s a natural outgrowth of the diversity of our school.

I can see that the handwriting is on the wall. Those who speak of Christ, even in a private school, are going to be labeled abusive. Those who seek for decisions from anyone uner 18 is going to be called a child abuser. Ministries to young people will come under increased scrutiny for everything they do if there stated goal is to bring about conversion.

Do the ethical issues associated with conversion mean evangelism with anyone under 18 is immoral and unethical? What do you think?

Comments

  1. BTW- I’m not going to post any more comments about public schools. Hundreds of thousands of Christian teachers in the PSs of this country deserve better than some of these comments I’ve deleted.

  2. Is evangelism child abuse?

    There was a time I would have said absolutely not, but now I find myself with the shoe on the other foot. I live in a community where those of the Christian faith are the minority. The majority religious belief here (75%) is that of a cult per Walter Martin’s Kingdom of the Cults. The majority of youth activities involve this faith group. Now I have found that one of my children, high-school age, has been in the position of being proselytized on a regular basis by adult(s) of the predominant local faith. This “evangelizing” is not happening at religious event or building, but instead it has occurred at the local public school.

    Does this constitute abuse? Because my son is old enough and educated enough to handle these discussions, I would say probably not. If he were a couple of years younger, I would say absolutely yes. As a parent, I have found the whole thing to be incredibly irritating and frankly a little violating.

  3. >It just got personal.

    It will. The enemy knows where it hurts the most. Prayers, brother.

  4. Tim Van Haitsma says:

    “If you would be uncomfortable with a wiccian or Muslim or atheist doing it to your kid, you should not do it to other kids. Simple enough.”

    Well Tim if you believe your faith is on par with wicca, Islam or atheism the I suppose you are right. But then you probably went to a public school where they teach us that all world views are equally valid.

    Muslims, of course, do not agree with that relativistic nonsense which is why your grand children are more likely to go to a mosque for their religious services then to a church.

    However, if you believe that there are eternal consequences to what you believe I am curious how educating a child about Christ in an non-manipulative manner is “unethical.” It certainly is politically incorrect but then you ultimately do not answer to this country’s thought police you answer to God.

    Reading the comments on this board convinces me that if the Christian faith is to survive, God will need to rely on a people far more serious about “The Way” then people are in this country.

    Thank God for the Chinese and African christians who have not been exposed to post-modernism. Reading most of comments on this board is like seeping in a bathtub of lukewarm water.

    Nietzsche’s Last Man get behind me!

  5. Rick Cruse says

    I am (in that wonderful British term) gobsmacked, but then again, why should I be surprised. I’m dealing with American evangelicals. Clearly, your twisting of my original comments into a blanket condemnation of evangelizing young people certainly served your purpose and gave you the opportunity to rally the troops and keep your ranking in the blogosphere.

    Actually, the original commenter, me, mentioned that the one boarding school we were closely associated with had its spiritually-abusive elements and individuals.

    For the record, at no point did I ever make a blanket statement that preaching to children and teens is abusive. I said that there are kids for whom preaching is harmful and not the appropriate way to be ministered to, those who, in fact, have been the victims of spiritual abuse, like the one who (not too long after his expulsion committed suicide). Or, the one who, after being encouraged to share his struggles, was then expelled for those struggles. Or, the ones whose dorm parent ripped the tape player out of the dorm vehicle when they listened to that “sacrilegious” song by U2 called “Bloody Sunday.” (I’ll leave it to you to figure that one out.)

    In the original blog, I was accused of taking an analogy too and that, by doing so was unfair to this blog’s author. Actually, it is a fairly normal rhetorical method to get people to take the points of another and re-shape them to see the potential underside of the other’s perspective.

    From the comments directed at me personally, I was reminded of what happens among some in the animal kingdom when one is injured (or perceived to be injured). Those around of the same species take great delight in making sure perception becomes reality, and then some. Happy dining everyone.

    Today’s been quite interesting for me. And my thanks to all who encouraged me to find the help I apparently need so badly. And, I feel somewhat like a nail myself, having been hammered so eloquently and completely by you and your entourage. Oops, time to turn on the moderating controls again.

  6. As an atheist, I see several issues here:

    1. To what extent should parents be allowed free rein to indoctrinate their children? For example, should the state intervene in the case of children who are being raised in cults? What characteristics ought to trigger intervention? Whatever your answer, it ought to apply equally to Amish as well as neo-Nazis, Christians as well as Scientologists. And if your answer requires most children to be taken away from their parents and raised by an all-knowing state, I suggest that it is (thankfully) unworkable.

    2. To what extent should parents be able to protect their children (at various ages) from “sales pitches” or undesirable outside influences? And if protection is found to be necessary, how can it be feasibly accomplished? (The issue might include internet pornography, flag-saluting ceremonies, course contents, idle chatter, advertising, clothing worn by others, and even the food served in school cafeterias, or offered in vending machines.)

    Barring physical abuse, I would be extraordinarily reluctant to allow the state to break up any family, even if they are a family of neo-Nazis. The fact is that almost anything is better than the foster care system, so the bar for parents should be set very low. In the case of religion, even a very extreme lifestyle might offer some advantages. In any case, it is not a subject I feel comfortable allowing government officials to rule over except in very limited situations. For example, Jehovah’s Witnesses who refuse blood transfusions for their children should be overruled. And in case of divorce, judges should be able, if necessary, to decree how the child will be raised, in case this is an issue.

    The fact is, children cannot be protected from all of life’s thorns. They should learn early on that people will try to “sell” them on various things, ranging from religion to credit cards, and develop a sense of critical reasoning. Although I am an atheist, I do not hate my religious relatives, or think them stupid, and I hope my children will see the good as well as the bad in religion. To me, it is more important that they use their brains, than that they believe any particular thing (such as atheism). In any case, given the pervasiveness of religion, they might as well make their peace with its existence, if not its doctrines.

  7. Let the teenagers decide for themselves what’s abusive. If we say that a teenager can decide whether or not to have sex when they are 14, they can decide for themselves what to believe or not. If society has told them that it is ok at 14 to have control over their sex life, but then tells them that they can’t think for themselves, something here is bass-ackwards.

    This gets my hackles up. Of course if it does happen, where sharing good news with people (evangelism) is a crime to anyone under 18, then advertising companies should start looking over their shoulders and getting their lawyers ready – they are trying to share the “good news” of their product and quite often with individuals under 18.

    iMonk, none of what you are doing is abusive (from what I hear and read anyway) and most of the people commenting seem to agree. Can’t wait to read your previous post and comments!

  8. Rick:

    Would you like some cheese with that whine?

    I wrote you an email and extensively detailed my issues with your generalization (which I didn’t allow, thereby allowing you to misrepresent your comments.)

    I received at least 4 letters/comments that prompted this post. Don’t give yourself so much credit.

    You are correct: your comment had nothing to do with preaching, etc.

    Someone else’s did.

    You have some kind of chip on your shoulder that you apparently believe gives you the right to generalize about boarding schools and how they treat students, and then apply those generalizations to my school and how I treat students. As I told you in the email, you don’t know me, or my school, or what we do.

    If you find my respond to your broad brushed innuendo and openly hostile attitude toward this site to be frustrating, then my apologies.

    I’ll be happy to discuss any issue pertinent to this post, but when you insinuate abuse on the part of my ministry, I’m going to respond.

    It’s interesting that you wind up saying you’ve been abused so to speak on this blog. I think that says volumes about what your comments have been about from the beginning

    ms

  9. Verne asks two questions…

    1. “To what extent should parents be allowed free rein to indoctrinate their children?”
    Complete! That applies to neo-Nazis, Scientologists and yes, even athiests.

    2. “To what extent should parents be able to protect their children (at various ages) from ‘sales pitches’ or undesirable outside influences?”
    Complete! That is a parent’s perogative. We can hope that a parent would allow a child to expeience other opinions but that is for a parent to decide not the state.

    “Barring physical abuse, I would be extraordinarily reluctant to allow the state to break up any family, even if they are a family of neo-Nazis.”
    I agree with you whole-heartedly.

  10. Rick Cruse says

    Ah, point taken. I did take credit that clearly wasn’t mine. Thanks for the clarification. At the same time, me thinks thou dost protest too much. I have found a fundamental truth over the 40 years in which I have served in ministry in four countries and three continents. There are those that take Jesus and the gospel very seriously and there are those who take themselves very seriously.

    btw, I love cheese with my wine (which I make myself).

  11. sue kephart says

    Do unto others as you have them do unto you.

  12. I’m quite serious: If there is a point you want to make without hanging it on someone, your contribution is welcome.

  13. >However, if you believe that there are eternal consequences to what you believe I am curious how educating a child about Christ in an non-manipulative manner is “unethical.” It certainly is politically incorrect but then you ultimately do not answer to this country’s thought police you answer to God.

    I hesitate to respond because imonk’s original issue regarded teens, and I don’t want to distract w/ these issues regarding children which are a bit different, I believe. But I can’t in good conscience let that one slide.

    If one actively evangelizes w/o parental consent, Alfred, one is manipulating. Just from a simple developmental standpoint, kids believe what authority figures tell them until their thinking matures to a more rhetorical stage.

    By definition, one manipulates when the person on the other end can’t think for themselves. So if what you’re after are shallow converts who will be as easily swayed by the next convincing speaker, then continue preaching to children.

    On the other hand, If you want a child to remember Jesus, be the guy who brought groceries to her family in their hunger because he loved Jesus. As she gets older she will compare you to the guy who preached at her to turn or burn and got her to dunk into the water out of fear. Guess whose Jesus she’ll want to worship?

    BTW, I am very serious about The Way. I might even be as serious as you. I share the Gospel with words almost as often as I share it w/ my actions, but I refuse to force either on anyone, especially a child.

  14. Alred, I just read your response to Verne which seems in contradiction to your post responding to Tim, which I quoted above. Can you clarify for me your position? I apologize if I misunderstood.

    Should Christians proselytize children w/o parental consent?

  15. sue kephart says

    oops, Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

    imonk, you did not answer my question. Are some of these children brought up in some kind of religious tradition albeit not Christian or are some brought up with none?

    Sorry you are taken such a beating for trying to spread the Gospel. I think you explained the way you do this and I have no issue with it being abusive.

  16. Well, Rick certianly does take himself veeery seriously.

    I’m For IMONK

  17. Can’t find a original link for it right now, but in the UK recently a “foster mother who had fostered a large number of children in care and provided a loving home for them, (…) lost her job and with it her house because a 16-year-old girl she was fostering chose to convert to Christianity.”

    (Seen quoted here: http://archbishop-cranmer.blogspot.com/2009/05/comres-british-christians-suffer.html)

  18. Do the ethical issues associated with conversion mean evangelism with anyone under 18 is immoral and unethical?

    The mere fact that you feel the need to ask such a question shows just how much higher an authority the State is (legal age) for some people than God is (Creator and Lord over all).

  19. “For example, Jehovah’s Witnesses who refuse blood transfusions for their children should be overruled.”

    I have very mixed feelings about this. Some friends of ours ran into this before we knew them. They had a young daughter with brain cancer. Surgery was done. Some chemo done I think. But they were pushed hard for radiation treatment. Very hard. It made the talk radio in the city they lived in at the time that a family was refusing “needed” treatment for a child with brain cancer. They still refused. Because it was almost a given that the child would have an IQ below 70 if radiation was done.

    The child in now at college studying for a nursing degree. A current MRI shows a large fluid filled space in her skull.

    Oh, by the way. Mom was an RN, dad a cardiologist.

    Would a judge have intervened if the parents were not medically trained? Just where do you draw the line and allow a parent to refused medically “needed” treatment.

  20. Do the ethical issues associated with having sex mean that health education with anyone under 18 is immoral and unethical?

    Do the ethical issues associated with the redistribution of wealth mean that arguing politics with anyone under 18 is immoral and unethical?

    Do the ethical issues associated with torture mean that defending the use of water boarding with anyone under 18 is immoral and unethical?

  21. If you want to know where this is going in the US, just look over here to Western Europe. You can’t even take a picture, much less post it on a church website, of a child under 18 without express written consent of the parents, no matter how innocent the photo is.

    When running our VBS, despite being held at a church and the words “Bible School” being in the title, we must clearly express in writing that the children will be given instruction/stories from the Bible–then we must get a signature from the parents.

    Clergy of any persuasion speaking or interacting with children in public, even if they aren’t addressing Christian issues at the time, receive glares and stares. I fear that the EU will make it increasingly difficult for those in official church capacities to address any children under 18 that are not brought to church by their parents.

  22. For me, crossing the line is when we go from simply sharing what we believe (in both words and actions) to attempting to “seal the deal”. It is this desire to complete the conversion experience that drives much of the manipulation (heads bowed, eyes closed while we sing the 42nd verse of “Just as I Am”).

    What joy does God derive from a false conversion?

    IMO, the measure of true evangelism is a) our willingness to share without any expectation of a response and b) our willingness to let someone choose not believe.

    My 19 yr old son is not a Christian. Has he been exposed to the gospel message? Countless times. Taken to Sunday school and church, and sent to VBS as a child year after year? Yes. Heard the gospel message directly from me? Yes. Witnessed his sister’s conversion experience and baptism? Yes. Has he believed the gospel message? Apparently not.

    It is through this experience that it became apparent to me that my Christian friends seem to relish bragging when one of their children gets saved. There is an unspoken principal that all children of Christian parents must get saved or else we are not being good parents and need to try harder.

    The simple fact is that all will not believe, whether they hear the message once or ten thousand times. How willing are we to “fail” in doing what we are called to do and not go over the line and apply the abusive, manipulative tactics to “succeed”?

  23. I have a related question. Would you consider taking your youth group to the local Judgement House or Hell House abusive? And is a decision to avoid hell, the same as a decision to trust and to follow Christ? It’s something that I see quite often and find disturbing.

  24. Ben White says

    As a dad of toddlers, I am all for saturating children (whether 3 or 13) with the truth of the gospel. If we believe Christ and His life, miracles, death and resurrection to be true, then why wouldn’t we tell children of all ages – just like we tell them socially-acceptable truths? I am against coercion and scare tactics because I think that it cheapens the gospel and that it potentially leads to false-believism (at any age). I feel more than confident that Michael does not do this in his ministry. Keep preaching!

  25. Todd Erickson says

    A running theme that I will comment on:

    Evangelism, at all points, appears to be where we talk to people in an attempt to convert them to our viewpoint.

    But it can exist entirely outside of lifestyle.

    If we have to talk to people to have a witness, do any of us really have a witness for Christ?

  26. Memphis Aggie says

    I think Dan Allison hit it on the head: the term abuse is hyperbole. Doubtless some manipulation does occur in religious classrooms, but it would be false to say it doesn’t occur in secular classrooms around sexual, ecological or political issues. I went to public schools and saw plenty of manipulation. Actually indoctrination is a better more apt term.

    As for religious educators like Imonk, you are obligated to teach the Gospel if you believe. How could it be otherwise? You love God yourself and rely on His salvation, so you want that for your kids and students as well. Only those who view the Gospel as false can see it as anything but a blessing. I guess I can understand that because I worry about kids getting filled up with grossly exaggerated eco-fears of impending doom in public schools.

    Now the high pressure excesses of many approaches are not only wrong, they backfire. Catholic school excesses are legendary for this effect. Of course Imonk, of all people knows the pitfalls of Gospel preaching very well. This blog revisits that issue regularly, at length.

    I send my son the Catholic schools and I’m delighted when he comes home with a new prayer his teacher taught him. That’s the whole point. I want him to learn the history and depths of the Church so that his faith, when he comes to it fully on his own, will have a solid foundation. That strikes me as the basic desire of any believing Christian parent. If I were to send my son to Imonks school I ‘d be very disappointed it he didn’t get exposure to the Gospel. It’s a Christian school: teaching the Gospel is the whole point. Complaining about teaching the Gospel at a Christian school is like those guys who join the reserves and then refuse to serve when a war comes. It’s a failure to read the big print.

  27. “If you would be uncomfortable with a wiccan or Muslim or atheist doing it to your kid, you should not do it to other kids. Simple enough.”

    Well Tim if you believe your faith is on par with wicca, Islam or atheism the I suppose you are right. But then you probably went to a public school where they teach us that all world views are equally valid.

    Alfred, I just want to echo and expound on sue kephart’s point, because I don’t understand how your response to Tim above abides by the Golden Rule.

    This is something that I continually think about, because my oldest son’s best friend is Jewish. We love him and his family and treat him (and therefore treat/respect his parents) the way we want his parents to treat our son (and treat/respect us). He (and they) know/s we’re Christian. He knows our faith is important to us. His parents know how involved we are at our church. Rather than being something that separates us from them, it’s become something of a common bond.

    Besides which, out-and-out evangelizing this child (or other children in certain situations) does not seem to me to be the only effective way to bring Christ to the child. Evangelism in deed is often more effective than evangelical words, anyhow. Please consider Jesus ministy as he explains it in Luke 7:18-23 (NIV):

    John’s disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, he sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”

    When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?'”

    At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”

    Jesus cites six activities as evidence that he is the Messiah. Only 1 involves preaching the Gospel. His case largely rests on living it — on being it.

    Michael, to your larger point and original post, I don’t think you’re doing anything unethical. When parents send their children to your school, they know the score. In fact, for you to do other than outright preach the Gospel would probably be unethical.

    If my husband and I, for whatever reason, sent our children to a Buddhist school and they did not learn Buddhism, I would think that was…weird. And I would think the staff lacked the courage of their convictions.

    The ethics of evangelizing children have to be situational, I think. That is, I think they depend on the age, place, manner and the child, himself.

    I happened to come to Christ very young and of my own accord, simply because my mother read the Bible to me regularly. There was nothing coercive about it. I understood more of the message than she expected, asked questions and then asked if I could accept Christ as my savior. That was God’s plan for me.

    Scaring a child with hellfire and damnation or stealth evangelism of a child from a non-Christian family doesn’t seem loving (to me). If it’s not loving, can it be of God?

    Presenting the Gospel as you do, straight-forwardly, non-coercively, and openly — to adolescents, is an entirely different ballgame and you’re playing by the rules.

  28. Wow! A lot of interesting comments here. There are a few that I feel must comment on.

    Scott writes: “They think so in Canada. It is a funny statement to say that it is immoral or unethical to teach that their is a God and ask someone to believe it but say that is isn’t immoral or unethical to to teach that their isn’t a God and ask someone to believe it.”

    Scott, are you speaking as a Canadian? This has not been my experience here. In Hamilton we have prayer groups and Bible study groups within our public schools. Friends of mine who are foster parents are free to take their children to church. There are no limitations on youth group activities, etc. So what specifically are you pointing to in Canada?

    A few people raising a child up to be a “Neo-Nazi”. We do have a case concerning that exact situation before the courts in Canada. Children’s Aid is seeking custody of two children who are being raised in a family with extreme Neo-Nazi beliefs. “If” your parents are teaching you that the killing of blacks and immigrants is a good thing, do they deserve to keep you?

    C. Holland – The taking of a picture of a child is protected by privacy legislation in Canada. You need parental permission to do so whether it has to do with a church or a Public School. I think that getting written consent from parents for VBS is just common sense. It protects the church more than anything else.

    Bob Towell writes: “According to studies most Christians (about 85%) become followers of Jesus before 14 years of age.”

    Agreed, but I have also heard of studies that showed that those who continued in the church had some sort of life rededication experience after the age of 12.

    My own thoughts on the matter:

    I think it is important to remember that any time you have an Adult/Teenager interaction, especially in a teaching situation, there is a power imbalance. iMonk writes that the students have the right to evangelize him, but that is like saying that the chickens in the hen house have the right to kill the fox. It is not a fair fight/discussion. Parents need to be properly communicated with, so that they have a basic understanding of the things to which their teenager will be exposed. Once the child hits college or University, it is a totally different story. (This is why I give 1/4 of my tithe to college ministries.)

  29. I would think that being a preacher at a Christian school, people would know what to expect when you stand at a podium and start talking. Friends of friends run Christian schools in Iraq. (http://csmedes.org/) They are very open about what they teach and what they expect out of their students. High-ranking Muslim families flock to them because of the education.

    Here in the capital of the Evangelical wasteland, a woman parked her van outside a public school and tried to convince a girl to come in and learn about Jesus so she wouldn’t die and go to hell. Apparently, an unrelated church has a reputation for approaching students on their way to school and home for the purposes of proselytizing. That’s uncool.

  30. I think it SHOULD be very difficult for clergy of any persuasion to speak to children without their parents’ consent. However, enrollinging your child in a Christian school constitutes consent. Letting your child go to Sunday School/Children’s Church/any church related activity is consent.

    I’m with the other posters who talked about going to churches that were all up into that Rapture theology. I consider what happened to me as a youth, in church, to have been psychological abuse. I still struggle with the psychic scars I have from this, and I probably will until I die.

    Honestly, if I had it to do over again with my own child – I would absolutely positively not have allowed him to go to children’s church. He would have sat right up in church with me, and anyone who had a problem with it could kiss my foot. I’m not sure that what happened to him could be considered abuse, but he suffers spiritually because of it. His head was filled with bad theology. He was promised if he would just “pray the prayer” that life would be all hearts and flowers and nothing bad would ever happen to him, and of course life didn’t turn out that way… The health and wealth gospel was being pushed on those kids downstairs, and I was largely unaware of it, because it was being denounced upstairs. So, if I had it to do over again – I either wouldn’t let him go, or I’d be such a nuisance to the teachers that they’d probably ask me to stop bringing him.

  31. Michael, after reading your description of how you teach your students, I wished I could have been a kid in your class.

    Having grown up in an fundamentalist Independent Baptist environment, I’ve spent quite a bit of my adult life trying to figure out how to still believe in Christ without being a fundamentalist. This may seem like a simple thing to many. Some of you know, it’s anything but simple. Many days have been spent on the brink of giving up Christianity altogether because I couldn’t get past the idea that the only “real Christians” are fundamentalists. Therefore, I would have to be one, act and talk like one. That I wasn’t willing to do. So the only logical alternative seemed to be rejection of Christianity altogether.

    Just last year I read Jeff VanVonderen’s “The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse”. It allowed me to put a label on what I experienced as a kid–the high-pressure fear-of-hell tactics to get me to believe; the hyper-focus on me making a decision “before I leave the building tonight!”; the many false-dilemas made between “God’s Truth” and science/psychology/sociology/etc.; the trained arrogance that every interaction I had was a divine appointment to get the person saved–all of it was abusive. It was abusive because I was a child and emontional manipulation was used to get me to comply. Was it intended to be abusive? Certainly not. But intent is not a pre-requisite. If you run into someone’s car, their door still gets smashed in, even if you had no intention of doing so.

    Note that I’m not saying that all fundamentalists are abusive. Nor am I saying evangelism is child abuse. What was abusive in my case were the tactics used to evangelize me.

    With my own kids, we are raising them as Christians. However, we are, hopefully, helping them think for themselves, and are open to the possibility of them choosing another path as adults. I’m not a relativist, so if they did, that would be scary for me. But I know that God is faithful to his promises, and each one of them is under His care. So all I can do is love my children, teach them with humility, and let God handle the rest.

    Michael, thank God for your ministry and for the way in which you approach it. I don’t hear anything like what I experienced as a kid. Oh how I wish I would have been a kid in your class. 🙂

  32. I consider Hell House and Judgment House to be abusive and incredible perversions of the Biblical Gospel. I once put my job on the line to avoid having one come here. I abhor them.

  33. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Here in the capital of the Evangelical wasteland, a woman parked her van outside a public school and tried to convince a girl to come in and learn about Jesus so she wouldn’t die and go to hell. Apparently, an unrelated church has a reputation for approaching students on their way to school and home for the purposes of proselytizing. That’s uncool. — Beth

    That’s well beyond “uncool”, Beth. That’s the type of approach that’ll attract the attention of the local cops. That SHOULD attract attention from the cops. (And think of the resulting opportunity to cry “Persecution!”)

    I mean, parking van outside public school and high-pressuring a girl to “come in”? That sounds WAY too much like a serial rapist/serial killer abduction MO with the van as a cozy little “crime scene on wheels”. At the very least, just parking the van and soliciting looks a LOT like a drug deal setup or a cruisy pedo. (Van as “mobile crime scene on wheels” is a direct quote from a retired FBI profiler; several serial killers he profiled used that MO to abduct their victims.)

  34. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    It is through this experience that it became apparent to me that my Christian friends seem to relish bragging when one of their children gets saved. There is an unspoken principal that all children of Christian parents must get saved or else we are not being good parents and need to try harder. — Ed

    It’s the CHRISTIAN (TM) version of “My kid can beat up your kid”, “My kid’s a Genius and your kid’s Not”, or “My kid speaks thirteen languages, won a dozen national-level medals in his soccer league, and is at a special boarding school in Europe where they’re prepping him for the Ivy League.”

    The Christian version of Parental One-Upmanship, that’s all.

  35. This has probably been said here many times, but I don’t have the time to read all the posts.

    I appreciate you and your ministry, Monk. Keep it up.

    But I find it ironic that those whou oppose “evangelizing” minors on certain grounds have no problem with other groups doing it. It’s only Christians who get attacked.

    When I was student teaching in a public school a woman from Tibet came into an elementary classroom and led the students who were obviously minors in Buddhist religious practices.

    I noticed one commenter above targeted all and any religious “indoctrination” but never included or mentioned secular humanist indoctrination. It is taken for granted that the tenants of secularism are true and therefore should be taught to children under 18 in the home.

    Why is it then wrong to believe and teach that the tenants of Christianity are true and to teach those to our children?

    Where does one store the universal solvent? No container will hold it, for it eats away at everything it touches.
    So one takes the extreme, and dangerous, position that children ought not to be taught anything whatsoever, but should be allowed grow entirely on their own. But that in itself is a moral statement of belief. Why is it any better than the Christian’s moral statements?

  36. The hyperbolic use of words like abuse in such a context is of a piece with a standard left-wing strategy of putting your opponent “beyond the pale”. One can then argue that one is for free speech, but this is “over the line”. This strategy includes a sort of bait-and-switch. Everyone is against abuse, so you just expand the definition to include all your opponents. Just like everyone is against sexual harassment, and suddenly people became legally liable for crude jokes. Everyone is against hate speech, and suddenly factual statements about Islam are “hate speech”.
    Keep up the good work, iMonk. You inspire me every day.
    BTW, I’m American, but not “evangelical”.

  37. Sorry, I posted the above before I was done.

    I just want to say one more thing. Parents, and schools will always teach their children something. Will always pass morals, beliefs and ethics on to their children. The question is are they good morals, beliefs and ethics or are they bad ones.

    C.S. Lewis said something to the effect of everyone has a philosophy, the only question remains, is it a good one or a bad one.

  38. Oops, my above comment should read:

    “A few people raised the issue of raising a child up to be a “Neo-Nazi”.”

  39. Rick: I appreciate the fact that you posted, knowing that your point of view was going to be the decided minority, and not that liked by some. It would have been easier, but dishonest, to stay in hiding. You did have a bumpy start to your post, it sounded like this:

    I’m dealing with American evangelicals

    and then something about not being surprised that your words were twisted. And you have 40plus years of ministry experience behind you ?

    If your interest is to minister to the Yanks, and assorted others here, you might want to avoid the generic insult to start your post. Or, perhaps, go all the way , call Monk a fat hillbilly, and go from there…. hot or cold and all that. I’m somewhat joking, but my point is your voice of ‘correction’ will be hard to hear (if it is in fact GOD sent correction) when you put yourself in such an adverserial posture from the get go.

    Again, not sure your goals here, and if you are a frequent lurker here, you’ll know that the IM crowd is very diverse, very outspoken, and representative of many views and traditions. That’s a lot of the attraction.

    MONK: you are to be commended for putting the topic out in the open, into the light, instead of just sulking….which would have been my response, probably. Loved the comments.

    GREG R

  40. As much as I feel some parents out to be publicly flogged for what they do in raising their kids, once you get past requiring parents to teach kids to read, write, do math, etc… at a decent level, and are not physically abusive, I strongly fell parents should have free reign to teach them any philosophy they want.

    Anything less and you get into a violation of even the most conservative reading of the 1st amendment. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …”

    As much as I think Mormons have it wrong, they have the right to be totally wrong. Ditto Dawkins if he has kids.

  41. I certainly have heard the line of “reasoning” from less-rational atheists that:

    1) Religious belief is a pathology
    2) Nobody over the age of 21 not raised religiously would become religious unless they were unusually stupid or insane
    3) Being raised religiously is the main cause of having religious belief
    therefore : 4) Raising children religiously is a cause of adult pathology
    therefore : 5) Raising children religiously is abusive
    therefore : 6) The state should be able to intervene in families to prevent religious upbringing.

  42. A few random thoughts (which may have already been said in the previous 92 comments which I haven’t read yet):

    * As to anyone who names the name of Christ and yet classifies evangelism to any demographic as a bad thing, I would ask what they do with Romans 10:14 ?

    * What you are decrying is the ultimate baby-with-the-bathwater. Genericize your closing question and it becomes, “Because some people screw up XYZ, is XYZ automatically bad?”

    * History tells us that some of the disciples were probably under 18. So, apparently, not only was Christ the second Adam, but the first Abuser. So you’re in good company, Michael.

    * We live in an age where people are allegedly offended by any identification of faith that they do not share, and a belief that they have a right to not be offended. One would be hard-pressed to call it “abuse” if the subject is an adult, but it’s easy if the subject is a child, and it sound so much sexier.

    * In many states, a 13-year-old girl is capable of handling on her own (with no input from her parents) whether she is going to have an abortion. But she’s not capable of handling someone sharing their faith with her. Puhleeeeze.

  43. I’m perplexed by some of these comments that seem to be so enamored with the *right* to evangelize that they completely step over the harm being done by some evangelism of minors, and being done quite regularly in some quarters. Doesn’t it enrage you that some in your faith are harming children in the name of spreading that faith? It seems like you’re more concerned that there are leftists out there who think you’re wrong than that children are being sinned against in the name of your religion. That’s not good news in my book.

  44. Specifics, post-Christian? I’m disturbed by Jesus Camp, but I’m not going to take children away from parents for loving their kids but being loony.

  45. If someone from my faith was pulling up in a van and proselytizing children on their way home from school, I’d be doing everything in my power (such as it is) to get the authorities all over their case if they didn’t cease and desist immediately, and I would take the opportunity to cast shame upon them publicly within our shared religious circle if an appropriate opportunity arose and they hadn’t repented.

    Another example is a local preacher here who a couple years back who tried to physically beat the devil out of an autistic kid in worship. I would think his co-religionists have a responsibility to let people know that he wasn’t acting in accordance with their faith and to condemn what he did from within the understanding of that faith.

    I grew up around Jesus Camp-style children’s programs. My parents sent me to those things because they thought they would be good for me. That’s all you can ask of a parent. It’s certainly not grounds for taking kids away from their parents.

    I would hope that discerning evangelical leaders who have kids in their flock who could potentially become Jesus Campers would speak out loudly against it and try to persuade parents against sending their kids. Just like I hope discerning Unitarians or liberal Episcopalians would speak out loudly against some of the harmful lefty loony stuff that they do to their kids, instead of just saying that different parents make different choices.

  46. iMonk,

    I understand your distress at seeing your life’s work demonized; however you are the victim of the bad behavior of others.

    Whatever it’s worth to you, reading your blog I am convinced that you, personally, can be trusted to evangelize in a rational, moral, ethical, non-abusive, caring manner. Very few others can.

  47. iMonk,
    I find the whole discussion comical because I can only fall back on my own behavior when I was a mere teenager. I was an atheist, arrogant, opinionated and distrustful of all authority, but especially teachers! If you could have evangelized me, more power to you!

    But if you put this in a larger context–the best teachers I had MADE me think, and taught me HOW to think. I think sometimes we sell the kids short–they cannot think, they are susceptible to brain washing, etc. Most kids I know are opinionated and unafraid to mix it up over a host of topics–the Gosple included.

    Keep up the good work; your eternal student and brother in Christ.

  48. Post-Christian:

    I think that mainstream Christians consider events such as you describe to be ipso facto the work of deranged mentally ill sociopaths and criminals, and would hesitate to feel they need to say “Oh….we don’t approve.” We view it as having nothing particularly to do with us. It’s like saying that if Ted Haggard has sex and does Meth with a male prostitute we should write columns saying “We aren’t that kind of evangelicals.” It’s perverse on its face. We don’t need to disassociate. Only those who want to tar us would even think of associating us with those tactics.

    Much like I don’t hear the left apologizing for the Unabomber or Environmental Terror groups.

    peace

    ms