Cynical evangelisation of children

All parents are concerned when they send their children out into the world. We all hope that our schools, and other places our children go, are going to be safe. We are rightfully shocked when we find adults entrusted with the care of children have actually been preying on them.

Sexual predators get the headlines. But children can also be subject to unhealthy interest of adults who interests are more political or ideological than sexual. I am beginning to think we should look at the way religious instruction operates in our public schools as an example of this unhealthy interest.

There has been a lot in the media lately about “bible in schools” and similar programmes. Simon Greening, the chief executive officer for the main provider of these religious instruction programmes (the Churches Education Commission),  has been assuring everybody that their interests are not evangelical. They are not trying to convert children – just educate them about values (see Their mission – values or advancement of religion?). It hasn’t helped him that other spokesmen for his organisation have presented a different story – admitting that they see religious instruction in public schools as a great opportunity for their religious mission. There has even been talk of creating disciples out of children in these religious instruction classes.

George Higinbotham (@streligionVIC) a recent commenter here pointed me to a document which is very relevant to this issue. Partly because one of the drafters of the document is Mitch Jordan who is currently Chairperson of the CEC board. But also, and more seriously, the document outlines a cynical programme for the evangelisation of children that seems to actually now be in place in New Zealand.

The document is Evangelisation of Children.” Prepared several years ago, it’s seen as part of a general plan of world evangelisation. I’ll present some extracts from the document and compare them with what is actually happening here.

Identifying children as a fruitful group for evangelisation

We are all aware of the importance dogmatic religions place on the early indoctrination of their own children. But this document describes the same approach to your children.

“Children represent arguably the largest unreached people group and the most receptive people group in the world. “

“Children are more open and receptive to the gospel than at any other time in their lives.”

„ “Between the ages 5 and 12, lifelong habits, values, beliefs and attitudes are formed.  Whatever beliefs a person embraces when he is young are unlikely to change as the individual ages.”

„ “If a person does not embrace Jesus Christ as Saviour before they reach their teenage years, they most likely never will.”

“The data show that churches can have a very significant impact on the worldview of people, but they must start with an intentional process introduced to people at a very young age.  Waiting until someone is in their teens or young adult years misses the window of opportunity.”

“Unevangelised children generally become adults who see no relevance of Christian faith to real life, make no contact with a church, who live and die without knowing that Jesus offers eternal life.  Ineffectively-evangelised children in our churches become ‘well-intentioned, inadequately nurtured, minimally equipped secular people who dabble in religious thought and activity.”

The organisations currently operating religious instruction classes in public schools all seem to express the same belief in the importance of reaching young children.

Evangelisation of children, by children

The document cynically advocates to: “invite children to be active participants in the task of evangelization:”

“The focus of mission and the call to mission do not have any age limitations.”

“The work of mission can be shared by a generation of children equipped to be faithful witnesses for Jesus”

“peer evangelism among young children – one kid leading another kid to the foot of the Cross for a life-changing encounter with Jesus”

“Children bring unique gifts to the task of evangelization.  For example, they have access to thousands of children outside the church – and are often the only means of reaching these children.  They have a simple faith that is attractive.  They put their whole heart into reaching out.  Children will do the job of evangelism in simple obedience.  Even adults will listen to children because they are perceived to have no hidden agenda.”

“Challenge children to be witnesses and challenge them at an early age”

“Marketing companies have recognised that children have the power to enthuse others. Imagine if the church worldwide could harness the enthusiasm of children and encourage them to tell their friends and get them involved as well.”

“existing worldwide initiatives that focus on child evangelism could encourage children who are already churched to take ownership of the event – be trained to share their testimonies, invite their friends and do discipleship.”

What a horrible task to place on children – that their friendships be destroyed by the need to evangelise.

Action plans for influencing children

The action plans advocated in this document are very similar to what is occurring in New Zealand:

“ACTION PLAN for the local church: Think about how a values-based programme might give unexpected access to local non-Christian communities (e.g. schools) and become a vehicle for evangelization”

Provide “Quality interactive websites for children” and  Email, chat-rooms and ‘mailbox clubs’ which are tools to help children to follow Jesus.”

“Going to where the children are in their world.  In every continent, there are more children outside our churches than inside: we dare not be content with hoping that children will come to visit a strange place with strange rituals and unknown people.  Many children require stepping stones before they can cross the cultural barriers represented by church as it is now.”

It advocates “specific application to the evangelization of children in different social contexts.” And “Working within the web of relationships to which the child belongs – friends, gang, family.’

Church groups in New Zealand are forming special relationships with public schools as the document outlines. These also include web sites and email clubs for children who are initially contacted through the religious instruction classes. the Cool Bananas Kids Mailbox Club operated by the Cool Bananas group in Tauranga is one example. The same group offers an Annual 5 day Adventure Camp. Other local groups do the same.

There is a video in my post What really happens in religious instruction classes? describing how Pentecostals in Australia use such camps to further indoctrinate children attracted through religious instruction classes at school.

Tactics – winning the cooperation of care-givers

“For the local church to plan evangelism that minimises offence and maximises effectiveness, it must:  1. Commit to long-term effort, preferably involving a partnership of interested people such as teachers or health care workers”

“6. Be prepared to work within the limitations while taking the opportunities”

“1. Use the window of opportunity  Parents may well have an interest in introducing values, ethics or belief frameworks to their young children.  The church will be one option they may consider.  Make it an attractive one!”

„ “Church members join school boards, volunteer for sports coaching”

This is a cynical agenda for the infiltration of places our children attend with the sole purpose of evangelisation.

Confidence of their plans for your children

“We can bring about a transformational shift even through the timespan of a single generation if we seriously address the challenges and opportunities that face the evangelism of this generation of children.”

This document reads like a cynical action plan for a political/ideological group wishing to carry out a political/ideological change in society. And they are concentrating on our children because they see them as the group most easily captured or evangelised. And as a group which itself can further evangelise others.

When we send our children to public schools with a legally prescribed secular curriculum we do not expect they should be preyed on, evangelised, by such groups.

It’s time this was stopped.

Image credit: God Discussion

See also
Human values are secular


Mixing values and Jesus in secular education
What really happens in religious instruction classes?

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38 responses to “Cynical evangelisation of children

  1. If they had anything worthwhile to offer, surely they would not need to be so sneaky about preying on the unsuspecting and the vulnerable.

    Of course it is all about stealing power and control, including political power, which will deliver to them the means to control every aspect of our lives. But they don’t share that part of the plan with their mindless drones recruiting and managing the army of the brain dead.

    They are only able to get away with it because of the success of previous generations’ child evangelisation efforts in switching off people’s brains when religion is discussed.

    If children receive a proper education in values, ethics, reason and logic they would be able to use their own brains to make their own moral and spiritual decisions and be largely immune to the dangerous and hypocritical mush espoused by these creeps.

    So proud my own children made their own decisions by age 9 or younger to see through such nonsense with absolutely no influence from me. I hope, because it is their own conclusion not something they parrot mindlessly, it will protect them from the insanity of religious evangelisation for the rest of their lives.

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  2. At least the evangelicals admit that only young, uneducated, inexperienced children are receptive to their poisonous message. They are implying that anyone outside the desired demographic will be too “worldly” to fall for the nonsense. They just can’t help shooting themselves in the foot. But, there’s work to be done to keep them out of the schools because for some inexplicable reason, their desires are viewed as positive by some deluded decision makers.

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  3. EmmittBrownBTTF1

    See also “The Good News Club” also Katherine Stewart.

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  4. Disgusting sneaky little people preying on children. Yet they have no choice. Religion must latch onto children (anybody’s children) in order to survive the long term. Very young children are trusting and have not fully developed their critical thinking skills. It’s the perfect time to indoctrinate them with magical stories so that they take them for granted and don’t know how to question them. (If they can believe in Santa they they will believe in anything). Adults are much more of a hard sell. Yet when vulnerable, adults can be ripe prospects. The imprisoned, the poor, the lonely, the old, the addicted and the mentally ill etc.

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  5. The whole thing is disgusting. To parents and the media the CEC speak of “teaching values” but their real agenda is in this paper. Note the phrase “neglected mission field” in the quote below:

    Evangelization of Children – Lausanne Occasional Paper No. 47, 2005
    (http://www.lausanne.org/docs/2004forum/LOP47_IG18.pdf)
    “The main focus of this paper is the evangelization of children who have never heard the Good News of Jesus Christ. But there is another significant group that is addressed: those children within our church communities who, while evangelised, remain un-impacted.”

    “Children remain a neglected mission field. Their numbers are increasing globally, and resources are not meeting the challenge – this despite Barna’s conclusion: ‘The data show that churches can have a very significant impact on the worldview of people, but they must start with an intentional process introduced to people at a very young age. Waiting until someone is in their teens or young adult years misses the window of opportunity.’”

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  6. I have a recurring image in my mind (whenever I hear about the grooming of children for god) of religion mindlessly lurching along like a zombie calling for “fresh brains”. As pointed out earlier it’s a bad look for any ideology to need to get in early before the ability to reason is fully developed. Fettering young minds with religions “mind forged manacles” should be a criminal offense.

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  7. Yes all the Christians are baby eaters and should be thrown to the lions.

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  8. Yes all the Christians are baby eaters and should be thrown to the lions.

    Stop listening to the voices in your head, ropata. Focus on the conversation on the monitior in front of you. When you can’t engage the argument and are forced to create a strawman, it’s as sign of weakness.
    Remember your Ninth Commandment.

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  9. Ropata, you defensive reaction “Yes all the Christians are baby eaters and should be thrown to the lions” just avoids the issue and therefore provides tacit support for those evangelists who are preying on our children. Not all Christians do that by any means and many Christians actually recognize the problem and oppose bibles in schools. Your attitude is just an attempt to cover up an important problem and this encourages the bad elements.

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  10. How many kids are taught about Santa?
    How many adults believe in Santa?

    It is a problem?

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  11. Richard Christie

    How many kids are taught about Santa?
    How many adults believe in Santa?

    It is a problem?

    Good to see that you equate this particular god with other make-believe constructs.

    Anyway,

    Studies have shown that it is only a problem for the kids taught to unconditionally worship Santa and to give their lives over to his service and spreading the message of his big book “How to site and manage toy factories in the permafrost”.

    These children do not tend to do well at school.

    Hope this helps.

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  12. Richard Christie

    PS what happened to your eye?

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  13. Thanks. My point is that kids are a bit more resilient than we like to think. I am not in favour of this stealth indoctrination of kids, but my experience is that they soon grow out of it, especially if their parents let them watch South Park or The Simpsons.

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  14. Evangelism is not so innocent, though, B. it’s one thing to talk of fairies, santa, elves, etc. But evangelism involves talking about sin, making children feel they are sinners, and that they can be saved. Sure many kids survive – but not all.

    it seems to me that the evangelical, pentecostal approach of making kids feel they are sinners and then asking them if they want to be saved could lead to entrapment in a cult, eventually.

    Anyway, I think most parents really don’t want to expose their children to that risk. They wouldn’t want to feel their kids are being preyed on. I think they are being misinformed when they are told it is only about values or the history of Christianity.

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  15. Not all Christianity talks about sin. Maybe the Catholics, but i don’t think the Anglican Church is too heavy on it.

    I don’t really know about tall those new age churches. They give me the creeps anyway.

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  16. True, B. But the point of this post is to show the influence that evangelists, pentecostals and similar Christian extremists have in this relgion in schools programme. They are the ones with the cynical evangelising children programmes and seem to dominate the religion in schools material.

    The video I referred to shows a previous religion in schools tutor revealing their programme.

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  17. How many kids are taught about Santa?
    How many adults believe in Santa?

    How many kids are seriously evangelised to believe in Santa?
    How many kids are stealth indoctrinated to believe in Santa?
    Culturally it’s not the same so, naturally, the effect is not the same.

    With Santa, the kids are let in on the joke early in life.
    Nobody builds Santa houses just down the street where you are culturally pressured to show up once a week and give him money.
    Nobody gets a Santa-name baptized in the name of Santa with the rest of the family joyfully looking on.
    Nobody asks a blessing from Santa before eating.
    Nobody swear by Santa they will tell the truth in a court of law.
    Nobody wins elections by claiming to be a Santa-fearing person.
    Nobody dresses up in fancy dress and stops using their penis (with the possible exception of raping young boys) because they want to interpret the word of Santa.
    Nobody builds compounds cut off from the outside world to stop the enemies of Santa tempting them.
    Belief in Santa will not get you tax-free status.

    My point is that kids are a bit more resilient than we like to think.

    Chlidren will believe in ANYTHING at a young age if they are taught it by someone in a position of trust. Anything at all. If it is universally re-inforced by their community and culture then those children will pass on their beliefs to their children and so on. How do you make sane people believe in magical elephant people? You grab their children and teach it as a religion and make it part of the living fabric of their culture.
    Easy fix.
    Nobody can convince you to accept magical elephant people at your age. Your critical thinking skills as an adult reject the idea of magical elephant people as being self-evidently absurd. Yet Hinduism is alive and well and doing fine.Kids are resilient but they are not superhuman.

    How do you make sane people believe in a flying horse with a human face?
    You grab their children and teach them it as a religion and make it part of the living fabric of their culture. Kids are kids everywhere but Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. The basic rule for any successful religion is grab the kids young and hold them in a vice-like grip.
    Religions must propogate if they are to survive.

    The Internet: Where religions come to die

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  18. I don’t really agree that kids are in on the joke. Most kids really do believe in Santa, and we construct this giant temples that we call shops and department stores that we use to indoctrinate the kids into a life of mindless consumerism.

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  19. I don’t really agree that kids are in on the joke. Most kids really do believe in Santa…

    Yes they do. They really do believe in Santa. But….then, later, they are let in on the joke.
    How many teenagers do you know that believe in Santa or the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy? It doesn’t happen.

    “…we use to indoctrinate the kids into a life of mindless consumerism.

    Which is not the same at all as indoctrinating kids into believing in Santa.
    Bait and switch.
    Culturally it’s not the same so, naturally, the effect is not the same.

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  20. How many teenagers do you know that believe in Santa or the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy? It doesn’t happen.

    No, they figure it out for themselves.

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  21. Santa is based on St Nicholas who is a Christian Saint.

    The idea of good children being rewarded with presents is based on the sinning idea, (or lack of it)

    Holiday is also based on the words Holy Day.

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  22. So, B, what conclusion(s) are you wising to draw from your very limited regress?

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  23. My conclusions are that our society is steeped in Christian and other traditions and that it doesn’t do anyone any harm.

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  24. Of course society is steeped in traditions. And the traditions claimed by a specific group have often simply been taken over from previous traditions. This is certainly true of Christianity which has very often simply acquired previous pagan traditions and philosophy. Similarly we have taken up the baton and acquired traditions like Christmas, calendars, etc., modified them and put them to use (usually for much better things like family).

    But one must look at this in its development. Traditions, beliefs, and moral intuitions are not static. They change over time – and the progress in scientific understanding of nature, society and humanity has been an important driving force in that. Of course this trend has been resisted – an example is the teaching if anti-scientific creationism in these religious instruction classes.

    The “doesn’t do anyone any harm” mantra has been used to support the worst sort of anti-human customs and to oppose things like the rights of children, women, racial minorities, slaves, homosexuals, etc.

    Of course many people survive backward traditions, but they can cause problems for others. And they can sometimes be used as a justification for violence, even murder. Brevik relied very much on tradition – and that certainly harmed his victims.

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  25. Hi Ken,
    All is not lost, I was brought up in an admittedly liberal christian household and was sent to a christian school because my parents wanted me to have christian schooling. Now I am a happy atheist, and I’m not repeating the mistake of foisting any sort of superstition on my kids now.

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  26. Rachel – that is my experience too. I believe a “liberal christian” upbringing gives you the opportunity to find your own path.

    In many ways, it is like a vaccination – a small amount of something that makes you resilient

    I don’t approve of this fundamentalist indoctrination which is a whole different kettle of fish

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  27. A liberal or moderate upbringing (theist or non-theist) probably works for most people. Anyway a fundamentalist or dogmatic upbringing suppresses a person’s autonomy and will limit their ability to think for themselves.

    But ,B, if you “don’t approve of fundamentalist indoctrination” then surely you can see my point. Because of the tactics used by evangelicals and Pentecostals and the inability of moderate Christians to see the threat it is the fundamentalists who are making the running in certain aspects of Christianity today. And their dirty fingerprints are all over the bible in schools programme.

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  28. Yes I do see your point Ken. I wasn’t disagreeing with you
    Sorry if I didn’t make that clear

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  29. “How many teenagers do you know that believe in Santa or the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy? It doesn’t happen.”

    No, they figure it out for themselves.

    No, they don’t.
    It would be nice if they did but they don’t.
    If that did happen then religons would collapes within a generation.

    Chlidren will believe in ANYTHING at a young age if they are taught it by someone in a position of trust. Anything at all. If it is universally re-inforced by their community and culture then those children will pass on their beliefs to their children and so on.
    It’s called religion.

    Children do not figure out “for themselves” that magical, elephant people do not exist. They don’t get a chance to do so. It’s relentlessly re-inforced by their community.
    Indoctrination: It’s not just a pretty word.

    Childrens do not figure out “for themselves” that a flying horse with a human face is a bloody stupid story. They don’t have any choice in the matter. It’s relentlessly re-inforced by their community.

    Children are malleable. They are vulnerable.
    Religions go for the young as a means of survival.
    It’s a very effective strategy. It works for the cigarette companies too.

    Santa doesn’t get the same effort put into it by our society. It’s not re-inforced the same way. Therefore, the results are not the same. Once the kids get to a certain age, parents voluntarily stop playing the Santa game.
    Our culture says it’s fine to stop indulging them after a while and let them in on the truth. Teenagers don’t try to sit on Santa’s knee at the mall. (If they do, the local community will respond with mockery or stern disapproval.) Teenagers are not super smart or have an iron will. They may have, when they were younger, sincerely believed in Santa at one point. Yet, once the re-inforcement splutters out, the doubts and the questioning begins and the facade fades away naturally.
    Religion, however, does everything it can to ensure that their dopey, magical beliefs don’t go the same way as Santa.

    Get society to accept indoctrination of children for Santa in exactly the same way as a religon with all the trimmings and you will get the same results.
    There’s nothing anything more especially absurd about Santa than there is about surfing zombies, magical elephants, talking donkeys, human-faced horses etc.

    The fox isn’t really in the box.

    The Power of Belief with James Randi 1

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  30. Cedric, have you ever spoken to a parent who has had the big “Santa doesn’t exist” talk with their kids?

    No, neither have I. They figure it out. TV and other kids are probably the biggest influence.

    Most parents that I know like to keep the Santa fantasy going as long as they can.

    I know kids who have gone to a church school. Many turn out as atheists, some as moderately faithful. I don;t know any who turned out as God Botherers.

    I see it as a bit like prohibition of alcohol. If you allow a bit of room in society for these things, most people learn how to deal with it.

    If you try to eliminate it, you end up with a bigger problem, like the evangelicals.

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  31. Richard Christie

    Cedric, have you ever spoken to a parent who has had the big “Santa doesn’t exist” talk with their kids?

    No, neither have I. They figure it out. TV and other kids are probably the biggest influence.

    No, Cedric has it dead right.
    The reinforcements cease. Reinforcements are not the same as a formal debriefing.
    Here’s a question for you, have you ever seen mass meetings of Santa enthusiasts sincerely maintaining to teenagers and adults that Santa does exist?

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  32. Richard Christie

    errata, I messed up my grammar, the above should have read :
    “cessation of reinforcement is not the same…

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  33. No, neither have I. They figure it out.

    Ask yourself why. Why do they figure it out “for themselves” for Santa but not for the flying horses with the human faces?
    Muslim teenagers exist too.
    They don’t “figure it out for themselves”.
    Hindu teenagers exist too.
    They don’t “figure it out for themselves”.
    Indoctrination works.
    It really does.
    Put enough effort into it and anyone will get sucked it.
    Children are vulnerable.
    Religions know this and make special efforts to target them.

    TV and other kids are probably the biggest influence.

    Sure. Do you remember the bit about me explaining how Santa doesn’t get the same effort put into it by our society? That would include TV and other kids, right?
    TV and other kids are part of society. Belief in Santa is not re-inforced the same way. Therefore, the results are not the same. Once the kids get to a certain age, parents voluntarily stop playing the Santa game.
    It’s standard shtick for cultists and fundies to restrict access for their children to TV and the Internet and other kids.
    They don’t do it for fun and giggles.

    Most parents that I know like to keep the Santa fantasy going as long as they can.

    How many parents do you know that don’t accept that Santa is just a fantasy for the kiddies?
    How many parents do you know that try to keep the fantasy going with full teenagers as opposed to the little ones?
    How many parents do you know that would approve of seeing a seventeen year old sitting on Santa’s knee at the mall?
    It doesn’t happen.

    now kids who have gone to a church school. Many turn out as atheists, some as moderately faithful. I don;t know any who turned out as God Botherers.

    Yes, and…so?

    I see it as a bit like prohibition of alcohol. If you allow a bit of room in society for these things, most people learn how to deal with it. If you try to eliminate it…

    Prohibition? Elimination? How did this enter the conversation?
    What are you proposing to eliminate or prohibit?

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  34. You are right about the Muslims. Those kids in the camps in Pakistan scare the crap out of me.

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  35. Easily the most incompetent spam bot I have ever seen. Spams all the threads and doesn’t even link to the site it’s promoting.
    LOL.

    Like

  36. Pingback: http://openparachute.wordpress.com/2012/08/12/cynical-evangelisation-of-children/ | Arkarbor

  37. Pingback: Arkarbor

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