This is the second part of a two-part introduction to the SRE curricula developed by the Sydney Anglican’s Tim Clemens. Clemens’ curricula is being presented in the context of John Dickson’s claim that the need for ‘believed-in’, ‘sympathetic’ religious instruction in NSW public schools is a ‘compelling’ reason for SRE.
In part one we looked at the curriculum ‘Radical Jesus’ and in part two we will look at the curriculum ‘Hard Core Christians’.
As in the case of Radical Jesus, the Teacher’s Manual (TM) for Hard Core Christians states that the curriculum is part of a series of products written by Tim Clemens for years 7 and 8 students studying Christian studies in independent schools and Special Religious Education in State schools. (emphasis added) [TM, p. 4] – see sample here (accessed 30.03.2019).
FIRIS would like to point out that we are not claiming that this curriculum is authorised for use by the Anglican Diocese of Sydney for use in public schools within the boundaries of the Anglican Diocese of Sydney.
FIRIS will claim that the fact that the provisions for SRE in the NSW Education Act 1990 enable this material to be used is something parents and caregivers should be very concerned about.
The NSW Minister for Education, the NSW Department of Education, the Anglican Diocese of Sydney (= Christian Education Publications = Youthworks) and the supposed ‘quality-control-fix’ All Faiths SRE, have no authority over the choice of SRE curricula by (the other 99) SRE providers.
Furthermore, the general confusion and lack of monitoring by the Department and SRE providers means that it cannot be unequivocally stated by the Minister or the Anglican Diocese of Sydney that the material is not being used in NSW public schools.
Before taking a leap into faith and ‘believed-in’ religion Sydney Anglican style, FIRIS would like to suggest that the following information be read in the context of the statement from John Dickson (from the opinion piece mentioned in part one) –
None of us wants our children proselytised. That’s a given, and the program was never set up to convert anyone.
FIRIS will return to this matter in part three, but for now, let’s look at what it means to put one’s faith in Jesus.
From the very beginning it is clear that one of the main aims of Hard Core Christians is to ‘challenge students to become wholehearted disciples of Jesus‘. [TM, p. 7]
A desired outcome of Lesson One is that students will ‘be challenged to put their own faith in Jesus‘. [TM, p. 8]
On the nature of this faith and in response to the ‘common’ question –
If a serial killer or someone like Hitler had put his faith in Jesus, would he have been saved from God’s judgement as well? [TM, p. 12]
– Clemens prompts SRE instructors to say –
‘Yes…because we don’t understand just how broken we all are’. [TM, p. 12]
– and adds –
Whereas we tend to compare ourselves to people like Hitler, God compares us to Jesus. It’s much harder to look impressive when you compare yourself to Jesus! On God’s scale, those who are perfect like Jesus go to heaven and those who are imperfect (the rest of us) deserve hell. (emphasis added) [TM, p. 12]
Clemens goes on to say in response to the ‘common’ statement and question – ‘So we’re not perfect’, you say. ‘Nobody is. Why does that matter?’
I know it sounds wrong that a repentant murder can go to heaven, but he’s no less deserving than any of us! Instead of complaining about God’s mercy, why not embrace it? Repent of your sin, put your faith in Jesus and receive his free gift of eternal life! [TM, p. 13]
In the Student Handbook (SH) students are told –
It can often be a hard realisation to discover that we don’t actually deserve God’s love and kindness. God isn’t impressed with our attempts to please him outside of our relationship with his Son. You might like to write a short prayer saying sorry to God for trying to earn your way into his ‘good books’. Use the space provided to do this (for example, ‘God, I am sorry for thinking I was good enough for you and that I did not need your help. Please forgive my pride. I need you to save me and forgive me.’). (emphasis added) [SH, p. 9]
– and then –
The truth is, there is nothing you can ever do to be good enough for God. It’s just not possible. Instead, you need to receive his gift of salvation by faith in Jesus. What would it look like if you decided to put your trust in Jesus today for the first time?
To help you answer this question, think about the two elements of faith.
- What would it mean for you to entrust yourself to Jesus?
- What would it mean for you to respond appropriately to Jesus? [SH, p. 9]
In Chapter 5 ‘Meeting with Other Jesus Followers’ students are presented with one ‘appropriate’ response to Jesus – to go to church.
One of the outcomes for this lessons is that by the end of the lesson students will ‘be invited to start attending a local church.’ [TM, p. 27]
In the Student Handbook, students are asked –
Do you attend a church regularly? Yes | No
If yes, why do you go? If no, what’s stopping you from trying it out?
– and to –
Write down a list of everyone you know who regularly attends a church, youth group or the Christian group at your school (if you have one).
It is then suggested to students that –
You may like to approach one of the people on your list after this class and ask them if you can join them next time they go. You might even enjoy it! [SH, p. 44]
– and later it is suggested to students –
If you’ve never tried going to a youth group before, ask your teacher if he or she can recommend one. Grab a few friends and go together. Who knows? You may actually discover that you really like it! [SH, p. 48]
But what if ‘parents’ wills contradict God’s will‘?
Clemens gives SRE instructors some ready-made answers to the ‘common’ question –
What if my parents don’t want me to go to church?
The first of the four suggested responses needs to be quoted in full –
Jesus unashamedly expects to be first priority in relationships. In Luke 14:26 Jesus says, ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters – yes, even their own life – such a person cannot be my disciple’. This sounds incredibly harsh, but the point is clear: Jesus wants up to put him first. That being said, he’s not saying we have to hate our families (since he quotes the Old Testament commands to ‘honour your father and mother’ and ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ [Matthew 19:19]]; he just wants to make sure that put him first. (emphasis added) [TM, p. 30]
This statement reinforces the message in response to the question in Radical Jesus – “Do I have to give up my family to follow Jesus?”
On that note, we will say a worrying goodbye to Hard Core Christians.
In FIRIS’ next blog we will consider the issues related to the presence of ‘believed-in’, ‘sympathetic’ religion instruction in NSW public schools (as identified in the two curricula) in the context of legislation and the Department of Education’s policies and procedures.
I have attached a document highlighting sections of concern which include –
- statements like – “Radical followers. Jesus taught that those who want to follow him must give up their lives to do so“ and expecting students to “consider what it might look like for them to live as radical followers of Jesus.”
- asking students to put Jesus over and above their family – “Jesus unashamedly expects to be first priority in relationships. In Luke 14:26 Jesus says, ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters – yes, even their own life – such a person cannot be my disciple’. This sounds incredibly harsh, but the point is clear: Jesus wants up to put him first.”
- asking students to commit their lives to following Christ as their Lord and Saviour and challenging them “to become wholehearted disciples of Jesus.”
- asking students to consider and talk about the ‘most radical example’ of the death of family pet’
- statements like “If a serial killer or someone like Hitler had put his faith in Jesus, would he have been saved from God’s judgement as well?” to which the answer is “Yes“.
- that people are destined for Hell if they do not believe in Jesus
- encouraging students to attend church – see “What if my parents don’t want me to go to church?” in the attached document.
FIRIS has evidence that Radical Jesus has been used, and most likely is still being used, in NSW public secondary schools (see attached document).
It is also very likely the Hard Core Christians is also used (see attached document).
Any claims that the materials are not being used are irrelevant given that the resources clearly state that they are intended for use in NSW secondary schools. Furthermore, each SRE provider has complete autonomy to choose its curriculum and as long as these items are on sale they may potentially be being used in NSW public schools. In addition, there is no way the publishers can state that the materials are not being used.
These curricula also demonstrate clearly the problem with allowing “believed-in” religion in our public schools rather than having all religious education being taught by Departmental teachers in a neutral and objective manner using curricula developed by NESA.
They also demonstrate the use of our public schools as mission fields for churches.
“None of us wants our children proselytised. That’s a given, and the program was never set up to convert anyone.” [see 1 below]
- Note the following statement from the main lobby group for Christian SRE providers in NSW, the Inter-Church Commission on Religious Education in Schools (NSW) Inc (ICCOREIS)
A Vision for Christian Education in Government Schools
Our Lord’s final command to his followers was:
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations … teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. Matthew 28:19-20 (NRSV)
One significant opportunity by which to fulfil this command lies in the access churches have to many of the 750,000 children in NSW government schools, under the Education Act 1990.
– and –