Thursday, March 27, 2008

Censoring the Gospel Update: Letter from the Publisher

When a Christian repents his repentance should be as notorious as his sin. When an organization does something wrong or foolish and then takes measures to correct their actions I believe that the decision to change should be as made known as widely as was the mistake.

Reggie Joyner, Founder of ReThink, the publisher of the curriculum that decided to eliminate the story of Christ's death and resurrection from their preschool curriculum this year, has issued a letter to the churches that use their material. In it he reaffirms his and his staff's commitment to the gospel message and its need to be clearly taught in their materials. He also acknowledges that the explanation that was posted on their website defending their decision "does not accurately reflect" their oganization's position. While he is not posting the letter on their website, he has sent it out very widely and has granted permission for it to be forwarded to interested parties. A friend sent me a copy this morning.

In the letter, Joyner pledges two things to those who use their materials: they will "teach the cross to every age group" and every Easter "the death and resurrection of Jesus will be included" in their preschool curriculum.

While there are certainly questions that remain about how the original course of action ever came about--questions that must be addressed internally within the organization--we should be grateful for this quick response and promise not to excise the Gospel from future lessons on Easter.

7 comments:

Stephen Jones said...

Thanks for passing along this bit of good news. We have a two-year old son, and I can attest that while he doesn't fully grasp Christ's death and resurrection, he is already learning that Christ died on the cross for our sin and is now alive. It would be a tragedy to withhold the gospel from preschoolers.

Chris said...

I applaud that ReThink is taking this measure to ensure this doesnt happen any Easter going forward. However, one has to wonder if they would have made the same changes if they had not received negative pubilicity on several blogs which I am sure led to numerous contacts with Joyner and the ReThink organization. I wonder if it was purely a decision made on a financial level because they feared that churches would drop their curriculum or that they would lose future sales. I realize that I have no way of knowing their motivation for sure but I do know that they are trying to make a profit and on some level that has to come into the decision making process and damage control when they encounter negative PR.

What still bothers me is that the omission of the cross from the First Look curriculum happened in the first place. My former church uses this curriculum and there are still people that I care for deeply. When I brought it to the attention of one of the pastors of the church who has a preschooler, he had no idea that the Easter lesson would not include Jesus' death on the cross. He brought it up to the children's minister and she had no idea either. ReThink has a responsibility to the buyers of their curriculum which does not excuse the lack of discernment so present in much of the evangelical churches of today.

John P said...

Interesting...I know there is some discretion involved when going through the truths of scripture with children...

For example, as I was reading through Genesis with my 8 and 9 year olds, when I got to Genesis 19 and the story of Lot's daughters and what they did with/to their father, I must admit, I skipped some of the material. Maybe I should have read it, but I didn't feel like trying to explain that to my daughter and son...

With that in mind, I still find it outrageous that someone would completely omit the death of Jesus on Easter. While discernment is needed (for example, I would not show The Passion of the Christ to Pre-K children) the truth of the death of Christ can be taught, while not exposing the children to inappropriate violence. My three year old understood it well this year, she said “the bad men gave Jesus boo-boos.”

While I am not familiar with ReThink, I would be reluctant to rely on material from that organization in the future.

Strong Tower said...

How refreshing and what an example this sets for SBC "non-Calvinists".

John said...

In response to Chris's comment, I think all should know that of the 1400 churches that use this curriculum, only two churches called and complained. I don't think there was much of a chance of many churches dropping their curriculum because obviously there aren't too many churches that noticed or cared. I'm grateful that my pastor was one of the two that did call and complain.

Fred said...

Forgive me if this has already been covered but what do these materials teach kids about Christ's mission? What I'm try to get at is: In a years time, what is taught to preschoolers about why Christ came? How does the publisher handle the Christmas story? How do the materials explain the angel's words to Joseph that Jesus will save His people from their sins? And what about the inauguration of Jesus ministry in which John says "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world."

I'm afraid that the decision to withhold the Gospel details at Easter means the company has withheld them throughout the year.

I hope I'm wrong.

Chris said...

I recently left a church that was using the First Look curriculum for the preschoolers and 252 Basics for the Elementary school aged children. The 252 curriculum featured a monthly "virtue" that all the lessons were designed around. "Virtues" such as initiative, orderliness, and individuality. My daughter at the same time went to a public magnet school and they also had montly "character traits" that they emphasized and often times they would be the same as the "virtue" that was in the 252 curriculum. These "virtues" are of course not exclusive to Christianity nor was Jesus' death not necessary in order for one to have such virtues. They would also take selected parts of scripture as a memory verse for the virtue of the month. For example, for the virtue of individuality the memory verse taken from the NIRV bible was Psalm 139:14 and the only part that they had the kids memorize was, "How you made me is amazing and wonderful" and that is it. Didnt even use the whole verse.

This is just one of many examples i could provide with the deficiency of this curriculum and the Easter issue just confirms my already held convictions about the curriculum being man centered and lacking in serious biblical discipleship.