Hilary White

Christian religious education ‘naïve, cartoonish’ and lacking substance: Oxford researchers

Hilary White
Hilary White

LONDON, December 13, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – “Naïve,” “cartoonish” and “lacking intellectual development.” This is how a group of education experts at Oxford University have described the quality of religious education on Christianity in British schools. The group has sharply criticized the way multiculturalism, secularism and fear of offending have watered down the teaching of Christianity in religious education (RE) classes.

Currently, RE classes, which are mandatory in state schools in England up to age 16, offer little more than a “naive and cartoonish” understanding of Christians, and fail to delve into more substantive theological content, the group has said.

“Fearful of evangelising,” teachers “may reduce Christianity to a series of factoids” while avoiding more personal, “confessional, nurturing approaches,” particularly in non-religious state schools, said Dr. Nigel Fancourt, the group’s lead researcher.

The reluctance of teachers to give substantive lessons in the meaning of Christian doctrines has resulted in students being “presented with inaccurate stereotypes of Christians,” and a skewed and watered-down understanding of Christian moral doctrine. Out of a fear of offending non-Christian students, teachers are instead favouring more in-depth study of other religions, such as Islam or Judaism, rather than Christianity.

“Concerns have been raised about how pupils often leave with an incoherent or stereotypical picture of Christianity, or without having been intellectually challenged,” Fancourt added.

Teachers tend to shy away from the religious content of RE, focusing instead on a “soft generic moral message.” “The feeding of the 5,000 becomes sharing your lunchbox, not a way of raising questions about ‘miracles’”.

Such teaching, Dr. Fancourt wrote in the Guardian, cannot help students “develop the essential values for life in a multicultural society, such as tolerance and respect” and presents little more than a “cardboard cutout” of Christians.

“If Christianity is better taught, pupils will be able to make more nuanced cross-references and comparisons with other religions and views,” Dr. Fancourt wrote. He wants to see Christianity taught in a more effective way than it was to previous generations, for whom “religion has become in some instances a bitter and polemical issue.”

The group is preparing an internet-based training program, the Teaching Christianity in Religious Education project, for primary school teachers that they expect to be ready by September 2013. Led by Dr. Fancourt, a lecturer on the RE program at Oxford’s Department of Education, the team hopes to raise the quality and tenor of religious education across Britain.

Fancourt said the teaching of religions in Britain’s schools has suffered from a distancing from the genuine “lived experience” of Christianity.

“What is the difference between teaching Christianity and teaching about Christianity? …The lived experience of the practice of religion can be missing in a dry presentation of facts.” Teachers, he said, are routinely distancing their instruction from the realities of Christian faith because of “their own educational ghosts,” and fears of upsetting students of different faiths.

The Oxford group commissioned a Yougov poll that showed two thirds of Britons want Christianity to be taught in schools so that children could better understand their own society. Sixty-four per cent of the 1800 people surveyed supported teaching Christianity and 57 per cent said the subject was important if pupils are to understand the English culture and way of life.

Andrea Williams, Chief Executive of Christian Concern, commented on the group’s research, saying, “We are often given the impression that teaching about Jesus and His message is old-fashioned and irrelevant to a modern generation. But this survey shows that many people value the Christian framework.

“This is not surprising, given that our society is increasingly confused about a basis for moral decisions, for human dignity and for community. Jesus is the personal basis for this, as well as the foundation for so much of our nation’s culture and history.”

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Lisa Bourne

‘You can’t have’ marriage equality ‘without polygamy’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

July 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Motivated by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing homosexual “marriage,” a Montana polygamist has filed for a second marriage license, so he can be legally wed to two women at once.

"It's about marriage equality," said Nathan Collier, using homosexual advocates’ term to support marriage redefinition. "You can't have this without polygamy."

Collier, who has has appeared on the TLC reality show Sister Wives with his legal wife Victoria, and his second wife Christine, said he was inspired by the dissent in the Supreme Court decision.

The minority Supreme Court justices said in Friday’s ruling it would open the door to both polygamy and religious persecution.

“It is striking how much of the majority’s reasoning would apply with equal force to the claim of a fundamental right to plural marriage,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts.

Collier and his wives applied for a second marriage license earlier this week at the Yellowstone County Courthouse in Billings, a report from the Salt Lake Tribune said.

Collier, who was excommunicated from the Mormon Church for polygamy, married Victoria in 2000 and had a religious wedding ceremony with Christine in 2007. The three have seven children between them and from previous relationships.

"My second wife Christine, who I'm not legally married to, she's put up with my crap for a lot of years. She deserves legitimacy," Collier said.

Yellowstone County officials initially denied the application before saying they would consult with the County Attorney and get him a final answer.

Click "like" if you want to defend true marriage.

Bigamy, the holding of multiple marriage licenses, is illegal all 50 states, but Collier plans to sue if his application is denied. Officials expect to have an answer for him next week.

While homosexual “marriage” supporters have long insisted legalization of same-sex unions would not lead to polygamy, pro-life and family advocates have warned all along it would be inevitable with the redefinition of marriage.

“The next court cases coming will push for polygamy, as Chief Justice John Roberts acknowledged in his dissent,” said Penny Nance, president of Concerned Women for America, after the Supreme Court ruling. “The chief justice said “the argument for polygamy is actually stronger than that for ‘gay marriage.’ It’s only a matter of time.”

In a piece from the Washington Times, LifeSiteNews Editor-in-Chief and the co-founder of Voice of the Family John-Henry Westen stated the move toward legal polygamy is “just the next step in unraveling how Americans view marriage.”

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Chris Christie: Clerks must perform same-sex ‘marriages’ regardless of their religious beliefs

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By Ben Johnson

TRENTON, NJ, July 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Chris Christie is not known for nuance. This time, he has turned his fiery personality loose on county clerks and other officials who have religious objections to performing same-sex “marriages.”

In a tone usually reserved for busting teachers' unions, Christie told clerks who hold traditional values, “You took the job, and you took the oath.” He would offer no exemption for an individual whose conscience would not allow him to participate in a union the vast majority of the world's religions deem sinful.

“When you go back and re-read the oath it doesn’t give you an out. You have to do it,” he said.

He told a reporter that there “might” be “individual circumstances” that “merit some examination, but none that come immediately to mind for me.”

“I think for folks who are in the government world, they kind of have to do their job, whether you agree with the law or you don’t,” the pugnacious governor said.

Since the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to legalize homosexual “marriage” last Friday, elected officials have grappled with how to safeguard the rights of those who have deeply held religious beliefs that would not allow them to participate in such a ceremony.

Christie's response differs markedly from other GOP hopefuls' responses to the Supreme Court ruling. Mike Huckabee, for instance, has specifically said that clerks should have conscience rights. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed an executive order granting such rights and ordered clerks to wait until a pending court case was fully adjudicated before any clerk issues a marriage license to a homosexual couple.

Christie gave up a legal appeal after a superior court judge struck down his state's voter-approved constitutional marriage protection amendment. New Jersey is the only state where such a low court overturned the will of the voters.

The decision to ignore conscience rights adds to the growing number of Christie's positions that give conservatives pause.

The natural locus of support for a Christie 2016 presidential run is the Republican's socially liberal donor class, for personal as well as political reasons. His wife works on Wall Street, and some of the GOP's high-dollar donors – including Paul Singer – have courted Christie for years.

However, this year Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and to a lesser degree Scott Walker have eclipsed Christie as the preferred candidates of the boardroom donors – who sometimes prefer Democrats to Republicans.

Christie also used language during a speech before the Republican Jewish Coalition last year, which concerned some major GOP donors.

Christie is reportedly spending this weekend with Mitt Romney and his family at Romney's New Hampshire home. Romney declined to enter the 2016 race himself and may be able to open his donor list to Christie's struggling campaign.

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After having a girl with Down syndrome, this couple adopted two more

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By Ben Johnson

LINO LAKE, MN, July 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – For most people, having five biological children would have been enough. In fact, for many Americans, large families are treated as a scandal or a burden.

But one family made the decision, not just to have a large family, but to give a home to some of the most vulnerable children in the world: Girls born overseas with Down syndrome.

Lee and Karen Shervheim love all seven of their children, biological or otherwise. Undeterred by having twin boys – Daniel and Andrew, 18 – they had Sam four years later.

They now have three daughters who are all 11 years old. All three have Down syndrome.

And two of them are adopted.

About the time their eight-year-old son, David, was born, Lee and Karen decided to adopt a child with Down syndrome to be a companion to their daughter, Annie.

They made the further unexpected choice to adopt a child from Eastern Europe with the help of Reece's Rainbow, which helps parents adopt children with Down syndrome.

“Between my wife and I, we couldn’t get it out of our heads,” Lee told the Quad City Press. “So many children need families and we knew we could potentially do something about it.”

After originally deciding to adopt Katie, they spent six weeks in Kiev, visiting an orphanage in nearby Kharkov. While there, they decided they may have room in their heart, and their home, for another child.

When they saw a picture of Emie striking the same pose as their biological daughter in one of their photographs, they knew they would come home with two children.

Both girls were the same age as their Annie. She would not lack for companionship, as they worried.

Lee said after the Ukrainian government – finally – completed the paperwork, they returned to the United States, when the real challenges began.

“The unvarnished truth,” Lee told the Press, is that adopting the Russian-speaking special needs children “was really disruptive to our family. They came with so many issues that we had not anticipated.”

After teaching them sign language and appropriate behavior, they moved to Lino Lake, Minnesota and found a new support group in Eagle Brook Church. There they found personal assistance and spiritual solace.

Every year in the past seven years has been better and better, they say.

“I think my girls can do almost anything they want to do,” he said, “and that’s what I want to help them become.”

The family's devotion is fueled by their faith, and it informs the sense of humor Lee showed in a tweet during the 2014 midterm elections:

It takes a special person to believe in the potential of the “mentally retarded,” as they were once labeled. Today, 90 percent of all babies diagnosed with Down syndrome in the womb will be aborted. The percentage is higher in some countries. Some have even spoken of "a world without people with Down syndrome."

Their God, and their experience, tell them that every child has infinite worth and potential, Lee told local media, and he would encourage anyone to follow his footsteps and adopt a Down syndrome child – or two.

“The message is that it really doesn’t matter where you started or where you came from,” Lee said. “There are endless opportunities for everyone, whether they have disabilities or not. They deserve a shot.”

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