The Dark Side of the Good News Club

If you’re unaware of what the “Good News Club” teaches children, and you haven’t read Katherine Stewart‘s eye-opening book The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children, then sit down for 20 minutes and watch this video by IntrinsicDignity (on fullscreen mode):

I said 20 minutes because you need the last 3:30 to just sit and stare with your mouth wide open.

(via Shades of Grey)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Rose Jansen

    I remember doing a “Good News Club” when I was 12 yo during the summer one year. We didn’t go to the public schools then, at least not my church. Instead we went out to a poor neighborhood because you know those poor children have just never heard the good news! I remember thinking, even at 12 yo and always surrounded by religion and not knowing anything different, that going into peoples neighborhoods, uninvited, just did not seem right. 

    In spite of this video’s gloomy music, look at the children’s faces in the videos at the beginning. Those kids are happy. And they really are because the truth is, the people that are actually out doing these “clubs” truly think they are helping these children because they have just never heard the “good news.” And all these children know is that these people say they love them and that god loves them and that’s a good thing, right? So what are WE going to do to help these poor children in place of this false love? These are the kinds of things that the secular movement needs to be putting into place. Think Camp Quest. But we have to figure out how to do these things for FREE. That means we have to figure out how to make the secular movement financially sustainable. How do we do that?

  • C Peterson

    For a supposedly Christian organization, these folks are awfully obsessed with the Old Testament- and the grimmest, least child-appropriate parts of it.

    The reality is, stories about this sort of child abuse need to be presented prominently in broad public forums- places like 60 Minutes and the New York Times. In ordinary television shows. And I just don’t see that happening, given the fear amongst corporations of the religious right (not unreasonable, given the number of Dominionists in powerful places).  Because until these people are seen as dangerous and crazy by popular culture, not just by the well informed, the situation is only going to get worse.

  • Silo Mowbray

    This. This is exactly why indoctrinating children in religious thinking should be a crime. And we wonder why so many of us grow up to be completely dysfunctional as adults.

    Religion is a tool used by those who covet power and control over all others. ALL others.

  • mitchell knox

    This is very disturbing.

  • Rich Wilson

    Also please see

    The video is great, but personally, I prefer reading text that doesn’t move. 

    I’m torn as to the best place to direct my energies, but this is certainly a big contender.

  • IntrinsicDignity

    They are happy, and there is lot’s of fun, and they like being with friends.  I was too, when I attended a Good News Club in a neighborhood home in the early 1980s for two summers.

    But I also felt uneasy and uncomfortable every time the teacher got to the “Dark Heart” part of the message, which was included in every lesson.  I also developed quite a terrible fear of God when I heard lessons on the slaughter of the Amalekites, God turning Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt for the slight offense of looking back on Sodom, God slaying Uzzah for keeping the ark of the covenant from falling off an oxen cart, God burning Aaron’s two sons alive for offering false incense, God sending two bears to rip 42 kids to shreds for taunting Elisha, and other GNC favorites.

    So don’t get too carried away by the smiles you see during the songs and games.  There’s a much dark side, and children remember those parts long after the songs and games are over.

  • A Reader

    Watching this for me was very personal. I didn’t expect it to be; in the beginning, I was almost bored. Sure, the things this group was saying weren’t right, but, having been raised Christian, I’d grown so acclimated to this style of teaching–hell, sin, death–that I barely recognized its harmfulness–until the “shame” section. This really connected with me, because for as long as I can remember, I’ve had deep self-esteem issues, depression, anxiety disorder(s)–you name it. If I could have back every second that I’ve thought I wasn’t good enough, that I was bad and ugly and unworthy of any love…even that couldn’t make up for all those painful memories, those feelings of worthlessness. I don’t know if this particular series was ever used on me as a child, but whatever was used had a very similar message. I’m sure that what I grew up hearing every Sunday didn’t completely cause my myriad of issues, but I have no doubt that it contributed.

    For anyone reading this, Christian or not, please remember to treat kids with love. A four-year-old’s feelings are no less real than those of someone ten times her age. She feels, thinks, reasons and remembers just as you do. Whatever beliefs you wish to convey to your children, please share them with love.

  • TheAnalogKid

    Evil motherfuckers.

  • Joseph

    This makes me feel physically ill. Fortunately, they aren’t active in my part of the state, but freethinkers and atheists need to mobilize not to counter this, but to put into place a  program of critical thinking and respect for science. They’re right– kids are vulnerable to persuasive ideas. Let’s make sure they’re getting the ideas of tolerance and critical thought.

  • Annie

    Thanks for sharing.  Your advice at the end was universal and important for everyone to hear, even those who already know it. 

  • IntrinsicDignity

    According to the late Dr. Alice Miller, author of “For Your Own Good” and other books exposing the psychological and physical abuse of children, that’s how it often works.

    A young child doesn’t question these kinds of things, and learns to voice agreement with them (i.e., learns to defend their abuser), while self-protectively suppressing the reality of their own abuse.  A sort of a intellectual and emotional disconnect occurs. 

    But messages like this still plant a sense of alienation, worthlessness, and shame that can emerge later in life, for reasons the child doesn’t even understand.

    I was affected in similar ways.  I became a perfectionist, straight-A over-achiever, but felt worthless.  I internalized the message of “you deserve death,” and a sense of being loved only for my proper behavior and belief.  That led to a pre-teen suicide attempt, and later, to frequent struggles with depression. 

    It is my own experience that drives me to, today, to expose the Good News Club in hopes of protecting at least some children from what I experienced.

  • Annie

    Ugh.  They are in several area schools in my city (though only the ones on the outskirts, near rural areas).  They also have a summer camp in my county.  I had trouble following the video, only because the moving multi-colored text is not easy on aging eyes, but followed enough to see that it’s heartbreaking to know that children are subjected to this.  My daughter volunteered to go undercover, but I would never let her attend such an event (plus, I think she is too old… they target elementary aged children, and as one person in the video said, “when they are young and tender”). 

  • Katherine Lorraine

    This makes me sick to my stomach. This is child abuse, it’s church-sanctioned child abuse. They’re using emotional and psychological abuse to turn these kids into little Christian drones.