That does seem to be the gist of Christine Dao‘s latest article at everybody’s favourite Creationist outfit, the Institute for Creation Research: New Film Says Youth Ministry Borrows from Evolution, Paganism [Dead link]. No, she’s not ripping the film to shreds – she really seems to agree with it. And no, I am not making this up. So what the hell is going on here?
Whether or not your pastor talks about how belief in Darwinian evolution undermines the authority of God’s Word, chances are that evolutionary thinking is already firmly established in your church.
Personally, I consider anti-evolution pastors to be a blight on the normally benign face of Christianity, the root of all (ok, most) evil etc, though I will admit that I find many of the most devout young Christians that I know are also YECs. But then again they’re also all Baptists, probably from the same church, so I suspect I have a sample size of a single malign pastor. On with the show:
That’s the idea presented in the new film Divided: Is Age-Segregated Ministry Multiplying or Dividing the Church?1 In the documentary, filmmaker Philip LeClerc set out to discover why young people were leaving the church and turning away from God. […]
Former youth pastor Boyd Dellinger commented in the film:
I look back and realize I did more harm to families than I ever imagined. I see that more as I look back because I was usurping the authority of parents, especially fathers by having their children’s hearts turn towards me—with their permission.
Wait, what? There are people who really think that Sunday School is harming church attendance, and that kiddies should sit through the sermon like Tom Sawyer did? (Although he went to Sunday School also). I looked up Family Integrated Church on Wikipedia and it turns out there is a small movement of “evangelical” churches that do this kind of thing (bear in mind that there is also a geocentrist movement among fundies. We are supposed to take these people seriously why exactly?). In the circumstances, they have little evidence scripturally to use as evidence for their views, and, surprise surprise, even less of the real stuff.
Honestly, to return to these YEC friends of mine, another thing that their little Baptist church has is a strong youth group, which they all seem to be involved in and enjoy. I would doubt there would be so many of them if they didn’t have such a thing.
Even when it comes to the non-evolutionary hostile Presbyterio-Methodism that I have personal experience in, I have got to say that there wouldn’t be a single person under 50 there if it weren’t for Sunday School. Consider that it is a chore to drag a child to a church generally, if there was no Sunday School or other activity for them to do while everyone else is belting out Majesty – ♫ Majesty, worship his majesty/Unto Jesus be all glory, honour, and praise… ♪ – and listening to a sermon on the wonders of donating to the food bank, I think that parents would cease even coming themselves, and quite rightly so. If nothing else, it’s hard to control children during sermons, and even coming out with them to S.S. is better than having to hold them still for the duration. As it happens, having children associate religion with such things is how you create atheists, even if it does result in more agitated, stressed bums on seats.
Anyway, rant over – let’s go and find out where they shoehorn Evolution into this.
It is argued that “age-segregation isn’t found in the Bible” (of course not – they were more intent on preventing women speaking in church etc) and go searching for it among their traditional enemies:
According to the film, LeClerc’s research led him to the ancient Greek philosopher Plato, who said that children should be taken from their parents and trained by the state. Men like French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Sunday school founder Robert Raikes, educator and atheist John Dewey, and psychologist G. Stanley Hall also influenced the modern education system, which separates children by age.
The Dewey here is not the same Dewey that is responsible for the Dewey Decimal System by the way, although he may have some relation to the teaching style called by that name in To Kill a Mockingbird for all I know. It seems that we have jumped from the church to the public education system without warning. I wonder if these people really think there was ever a time where the toddlers weren’t separated from the apprentices? Certainly the age brackets may have been more fluid in the good ol’ days, but they’re really going it bit too far here.
Doug Phillips of Vision Forum said in the film:
One of the key influences in developing the modern youth culture was the creation of the modern classroom environment. According to the theory of evolution, man developed over millions of years. And there was the australopithecine. There was the ramapithecine. Then there was Neandertal. Well, men like G. Stanley Hall took that, and they applied that to child development theory. And the same child development theory was then applied to the classroom.
There may be a grain of truth here – there usually is with creationists, though it generally has nothing to do with their point…
The church, Phillips said, later adopted that theory in the form of Sunday schools and youth ministry. He commented:
Here’s what [men like Hall] said: “We don’t want six-year-olds with 12-year-olds any more than we want australopithecine with ramapithecine. We don’t want the Neanderthals with the Homo sapiens. We want to keep them separated along different age groups.” And consequently we had the development of the age-segregated classroom. Never seen it before. Hadn’t been a part of the American history. It was a modern innovation meant to accommodate evolutionary thinking. And every time you go into a Christian church and they’re breaking the barriers along these age groups, they’re simply borrowing from an evolutionary platform.
But they are really taking this too far – Hall may well have had interests in this area, but Robert Raikes’ Sunday School long pre-dates the Theory of Evolution or any of these fossils found. And the idea that any species of Human is more evolved is fallacious anyway, as you’d think everyone would know by now. You might have picked up on my admiration for Homo (sapiens?) neanderthalensis in my recent post on that subject – they did have bigger brains than us, you know.
So what is the church to do? The consensus among the pastors and experts LeClerc interviewed was to put the responsibility of raising children back in the hands of their parents, specifically their fathers. And the church’s role lies in teaching and equipping the parents.
“God has appointed fathers to lead their children; not for someone else to do it just because they have a college degree or some seminary training,” Dellinger said. “That does not qualify someone to all of a sudden become the spiritual leader of your family.”1
An acceptance of neo-Darwinian belief has had many obvious negative impacts on the church’s adherence to biblical truth.4 The film Divided provides an interesting perspective on the more subtle ways evolution may be affecting the church. It can be viewed for free until September 15, 2011, on the online video sharing website Vimeo. [here, if you’re interested in that sort of thing – I personally don’t have the time or the Internet connection]
Yes, it would be terrible if people that were formally trained to teach ever got their hands on children. However, as a person who strongly supports the idea that children do not have a religion until they are old enough to make up their own minds on the subject, I would agree with not letting children be indoctrinated by people who have been to any seminary, though I don’t think that’s his point, or Dao’s.
In reality, I think the Creationists are just getting a tad paranoid.