The Royal Law and the Golden Rule

The Neglect of Non-coercive, Agenda-free Empathy

The Word “Empathy” is Never Mentioned

As discussed in the previous two sections, the Good News Club promotes a worldview in which obedience is the supreme value. The word “obey” and its derivatives are mentioned 1113 times in its lesson books. The word “empathy,” by contrast, is not mentioned at all.

Neglecting the Royal Law to “Love thy Neighbor as Thyself”

The word “empathy,” it should be noted, is also never mentioned in the Bible. But the Bible does include multiple verses exhorting people to love their neighbors as themselves. See, e.g., Lev. 19:18; Mt. 19:19; Mt. 22:39; Mk. 12:31, Mk. 12:33, Lk. 10:27, Rom. 13:8-10, Gal. 5:14, James 2:8. Galatians says that the “entire law” is summed up in that command. James calls it the “Royal Law,” and says that one who fulfills it is “doing well” (NAS). Romans says that “he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.” Empathy is putting oneself in another’s shoes, and loving them as yourself. It may well be — as Romans 13:8-10, Galatians 5:14, and James 2:8 suggest — the source and sum of morality.

But true to its reactionary anti-modernist roots, the Good News Club barely mentions the Royal Law at all: in one or two oblique easily missed references. It detracts, after all, from CEF’s fifth non-negotiable dogma:

  • That no degree of reformation however great, no attainment in morality however high, no culture however attractive, no humanitarian and philanthropic schemes and societies however useful, no baptism or other ordinance however administered, can help the sinner take even one step toward Heaven.

The Forgotten Golden Rule

In Matthew 7:12, Jesus reportedly stated the Golden Rule: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (NIV). See also Luke 6:31. But like the Royal Law, the Golden Rule isn’t the subject of any of Good News Club’s lessons. The closest allusion to the Golden Rule is an optional post-lesson “Growth Activity” section in David’s Reign that encourages children to read aloud several verses, including Matthew 7:12. But neither that lesson, nor any of the Good News Club lessons, include any elaboration of that verse.

Be Kind to Others to Demonstrate Obedience and Righteousness, Not Out of Empathy or a Shared Sense of Humanity

The concept of loving others because of their intrinsic dignity, or because they were equally made — like everyone else — in God’s image, or because we are all God’s children (Acts 17:28), or simply for who they are, is absent from Good News Club materials. In the “First Christians” lesson “God’s Message is For Everyone,” for example, the memory verse is I John 3:23 and the teaching objective is that “[t]he saved child will witness by showing God’s love to people who are different from himself.” Likewise, in the “David and Mephibosheth” lesson, Good News Club teaches Galatians 6:10 — to “do good unto all men,” especially believers — in order to witness.

While the Good News Club teaches character values such as loving one’s enemies (Joseph, Lesson 2), being forgiving (e.g., David: A Man After God’s Heart, Lesson 6), resisting jealousy (e.g., David: A Man After God’s Heart, Lesson 5), and contentment (e.g., Moses: Chosen Deliverer, Lesson 6), Good News Club teaches children to do so out of obedience, or because not to do so would constitute sin, or out fear of God’s punishment, or for the purpose of witnessing. True empathy — the kind that springs from a natural sense of being connected to others, and out of loving people for who they are, the way they are, and without trying to change them — appears foreign to the Good News Club worldview.

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