- The Washington Times - Monday, March 27, 2000

Secular teachings that Christians have fought to keep out of public schools are now being taught in church youth groups, according to two Washington state women.
In their new book, "Spiritual Junkfood: The Dumbing Down of American Youth," Cathy Mickels and Audrey McKeever say they want to warn churches of the problem. Mrs. Mickels of Lynden, Wash., is the state president of the national conservative organization Eagle Forum. Mrs. McKeever, of Bellingham, Wash., is a regional director.
Following are excerpts from an interview with Mrs. Mickels:
Q: What is going on in church youth groups?
A: The church has adopted the same secularist view as the public school system. Instead of telling children and teen-agers about God's Word, we are asking them how they feel about God's Word.
There is a vast supply of materials available in Christian bookstores telling youth leaders how to engage everyone through activities such as "trust walks," "trust falls" and open-ended "what if" questions.
This type of thinking was developed by [liberal educational philosopher] John Dewey and men with agendas to … elicit emotional responses and create cohesion among the group. But, what if the group is wrong? What then? Constant concern for the group takes away individualism, and we do not know whether that result will be positive or negative.
Q: What are examples of different activities taking place and why are they viewed as negative?
A: The "trust fall" is when a person stands on top of something high, closes his or her eyes, engages in a series of questions and responses, and then falls backward into the hands of other individuals. In the "trust walk," someone is blindfolded and led around by a peer. They are then asked how it made them feel to be dependent on someone else and whether they trusted that person.
The most disturbing thing being recommended to youth leaders is taken from "death education." Developed in the early 1970s, it is a values-clarification strategy used to help students see their lives more clearly from the perspective of their imagined deaths.
Activities involve suicide questions, death fantasies and writing out what a person would want written on their tombstone. This type of thinking is very popular and trendy right now.
We are teaching our kids to be worldly. We are telling them that God and His Word are not enough. I think Hollywood has also had a huge influence over popular culture and the church. We should not be showing movies and music as a tool to understanding the Bible. It takes away from children really wanting to learn, and has them thinking they need to be entertained.
Q: Who is responsible for publishing this material?
A: We really struggled with whether or not to disclose who was publishing and endorsing this propaganda, but we decided that the public needs to know.
Youth Specialties, a division of Zondervan Publishing House, discourages teachers from being too preachy and encourages students to question their belief in God apart from their parents.
They have also taken Matthew 1:18-25, the story of Christ's immaculate conception, and suggested that students turn it into a soap opera. Tom Schultz, author of "Why Nobody Learns Much of Anything at Church: And How to Fix It," says that churches can benefit from the best liberal thinkers in education. Churches buying into these new ways of teaching shows how secular we have become.
Q: Are parents and church members in favor of or opposed to this teaching style? Are they even aware of what is going on?
A: Parents who are aware of public school philosophy usually see [secular teachings] immediately. Since churches are usually opposed to certain ideologies in the public school system, they are usually in immediate denial to think that the same methods are being used in their church.
People in the church may have different motives for implementing this teaching style, but the results will not be any different. The secular humanist method will fail. It has in schools. Why would churches be any different? We send our children to church trusting that they will be instructed in biblical truths, not taught John Dewey.
Q: How can parents find out what their youth group is teaching and what can they do about it?
A: By talking to their kids about what they are learning in church and school. Then go and talk to the youth leaders and teachers. See if you agree with their views on dating and movies and learning techniques.
We cannot give all the responsibility of educating our children to different people and institutions. Parents are still the ones responsible for educating their children in a godly manner.

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