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Good News!

Christian Clubs Provide Balance in After-School Options

“Hear ye, hear ye!” came the long-ago call of the town crier who had news to impart.

Today, routine news trumpets banal clichés, proudly announcing the latest “new development,” and insisting that all who hear—especially believers—accept the reality of “a new world” brimming with “new concepts,” and that these pristine notions are simmering to yield a “new order.” Alas, it is important to remember that “new” has an ever-growing list of meanings, both singular and plural. But the most venerable definition can be traced back two millennia, and it was so powerful and positive that it was forever linked to an adjective.

The Good News proclaimed throughout the world was that the Son of God had come to Earth and lived among men for just over 33 years. He was subjected to almost every imaginable mistreatment, especially during the last three years of His life, the time of His public ministry. He preached love, compassion for the weak, and the meek and lowly, and forgiveness—even for those who had beaten Him nearly to death, and then hung Him on the coarse timbers of a cross to complete the dreadful execution.

The Good News matters so much to the Child Evangelism Fellowship that it chose that label for the clubs it organizes and places in public schools, where they are reaching millions of students each year.

Founded nearly 90 years ago, the CEF boasts 3,500 staff members in nearly every country around the world. Last year, Good News Clubs spread the Gospel to nearly 20 million young people. It is a fresh, delightful story when something old-fashioned, such as the promotion of goodness and decency, makes a difference in the “new” world. Therefore it is generally ignored by the “media.”

However, that is not the case with the polar opposite so, predictably, the announcement that a new satanic club at Truman Benedict Elementary School in San Clemente, Calif., scheduled its first meeting for mid-February makes the “news.” Ironically, the After-School Satan Clubs organization seeks to piggy-back access along with the GNC, while at the same time working to undermine both the standing and accomplishments of the Good News.

Satanic clubs have already been established in Los Angeles, and Orange County, along with various locations in other states, including Colorado, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Massachusetts, and one was slated to meet last month in Memphis. The satanic club’s brochure says its goal is to provide students with a “fun, intellectually stimulating and non-proselytizing alternative to current religious after-school clubs being offered in our public schools.”

Media stories point out that the sponsoring Satanic Temple is a non-theistic organization that uses Satan as a symbol, but not a deity, and claims that its function does not involve worship of the symbol—or hell—but rather as “a tool to express its philosophical and political beliefs.” The temple’s website says it seeks to “provide a safe and inclusive alternative to the religious clubs that use threats of eternal damnation to convert school children to their belief system.”

There is no similarity in the “belief systems,” according to Moises Esteves, executive vice president of CEF, which is the largest ministry in the world aimed specifically at young people.

“Although even the presence of After-School Satan Clubs shows how far America has sunk into moral relativism, these so-called clubs are not succeeding in their goal, which is to scare school authorities into banning all after-school groups, so as to oust Good News Clubs,” Esteves said in a GNC news release. “Satan cannot create anything but trouble, and this is a prime example.”

Josh Davis, a pastor, and staff evangelist for Southwest Radio Ministries, agrees and says the very presence of GNCs is uplifting to all involved, as opposed to the almost comically detrimental aims of the opposition. Davis and his wife, Amanda, served as sponsors of a GNC in Southwest Virginia for four years. “The clubs have a very positive effect on the schools. I’ve seen that firsthand. We were welcomed by teachers and staff, and the impact was good,” Davis said.

Others have seen the effect as well. The CEF released a survey of more than 200 school principals from nearly 30 states where the clubs are located, and almost 90 percent of them noticed “an improvement in student behavior.”

Davis believes there is more at work behind the scenes than might be noticed by the casual observer.

“There are some Satanists who do believe exactly what you would think. They’re trying to oppose anything that’s good, anything that honors God or Jesus Christ. But there are others who promote such things as a way they can just be a thorn in the side of Christians.

“The school district that we served is in a conservative area,” Davis said. “Of course, the school principals can really make or break a GNC—or any club. Some principals and administrators are taking the easy way out and just making a rule for no clubs, no matter what kind. They don’t want the crazy ones coming in, and they think it is not worth the headache.”

The potential problems are real, and growing. Last year, the American Civil Liberties Union sued the Saucon Valley School District in Pennsylvania, alleging it violated the First Amendment when it blocked access to the satanic club. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled in favor of the Satanic Temple. In the settlement, the school district was required to pay $200,000 in attorneys’ fees and provide the club “the same access to school facilities as other organizations,” according to an ACLU news release.

Davis said GNC is a welcoming organization, and the clubs are open to anyone. “There is no cost for the student or family. We met right after school. It was totally voluntary, and each student had to have a permission slip signed by the parents or legal guardian. That’s at the elementary school level.”

Davis and his wife, who had been a public school teacher for several years before the birth of their children—when she decided she’d rather be home, teaching them—were also involved with a high school-based club, First Priority, which met once a week before school. “I was more of a coach on the sideline rather than a player on the field. That’s a reminder of what is legal and appropriate. As long as it’s student-led, any club has a legal right to meet at the school. That’s not feasible in elementary school, of course, because age difference plays a role.”

Davis says that volunteers are always needed for the clubs, and financial support is helpful. “GNC is very much a volunteer-oriented organization. There are screening and background checks, above and beyond what the school might require. They make sure that no one who has not been vetted can be a volunteer.”

The clamor of satanic devotees—or the reach of their namesake—doesn’t end with clubs meeting in schoolhouses financed by taxpayer dollars. So, too, the media’s apparent fixation with, and growing coverage of all things satanic may simply mimic the demonic babel therefrom. Casual observers, including many Christians, seem to pay little attention to the erecting of statues of Lucifer, or the widespread distribution of published material promoting his “cause,” no matter how empty or deleterious on closer examination. In their minds, that indifference may be justified by a verse from the Old Testament: “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done; and there is no new thing under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

Still, on occasion, modern derivations which, though not “new,” manage to surprise those same observers with fresh effect—and brazenness.

Just before Christmas, the Order of Nine Angels, described as “a terroristic satanic cult,” announced its support for the reelection of the current administration in November. However, the reasoning for the endorsement, proclaimed on the cult’s website, surprised some readers. “Democracy is failing; worldwide nations are going broke, preparing for war, inundated with refugees, beset by internal refugees, ruled by careerist psychopaths, and perhaps most ominously, electing leaders who are associated with foreign powers. The last thing we want right now is one of these Christian band-aid do-gooders … to take over and fix things.”

Prophetic observers note that none of that should come as a surprise, given that it originates from the being the Bible describes as the father of lies and the greatest spreader of confusion. They also know that in the squared circle of life—the ring in which spiritual battle is done every day—resistance to such a “belief system” is critical.

The Good News promised that the splendor of the new day to come was beyond human comprehension for those who would believe in Him.

Still, those He chose and sent—the apostles—to spread the news, and the promise, not only knew of His divine magnificence but also about the forces arrayed against Him on Earth. None of those early followers had any greater love for the Savior, nor had failed Him any more abysmally than the “rock.” He warned that our adversary the devil walketh about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).

Could there be a more important time to take Simon Peter’s warning to heart, and to put on the whole armor of God while holding fast to the form of sound doctrine? 

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Jon Ruetz

Jon Ruetz is a former newspaper reporter and editor, author and longtime journalism teacher. He now writes for the Prophecy in the News magazine and is spearheading SWRC’s new audiobooks branch.

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