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Letter to the Editor: Lifewise Academy, An Evangelical Trojan Horse

letter to the editor

Letter to the editor of the Defiance Crescent-News

Dear Editor,

Evangelicals have now set their sights on taking over and transforming public schools. Not content to homeschool their children or send them to private Christian schools, Evangelicals are increasingly clamoring for school boards to acquiesce to their theocratic demands. Sadly, school boards seem all too willing to bulldoze the wall between church and state, reintroducing sectarian Christianity into our schools.

Take Lifewise Academy. Lifewise, an Ohio-based Evangelical ministry, is a Trojan horse that has been rolled through the front doors of numerous local schools with no pushback from school administrators or the media. Exploiting a quirk in Federal law, Lifewise purports to teach ethics and morality. Who wouldn’t want schoolchildren to learn morals and ethics, right? What is not told to parents is that their children will be taught these things from an Evangelical perspective; and that the goal is to evangelize non-Evangelical children.

Children will be taught that they are “sinners,” inherently broken and in need of fixing. Of course, the “fix” for their brokenness is salvation through Jesus Christ. Children will be taught that they are not inherently good; that their good works will never merit them favor with God. Lifewise makes it clear in its materials that personal transformation through the salvific work of Jesus Christ is the goal for every child. Do local parents really want their children to be targets for proselytization? Lifewise’s program literature states “Our continual appeal to students will be to believe the gospel, repent from sin, trust in Christ, and get connected with a local church.” Is this what you want for your children? If so, take them to church. If not, I implore you to not let your children attend Lifewise’s classes. Their “training” is not benign. As someone who has been investigating and writing about Evangelicalism for decades, I can testify to the incalculable harm caused by such indoctrination.

Further, children will be taught that the mythical stories found in the Protestant Bible are real; that the universe was created by the Christian God; that Adam and Eve were the first humans, and all of this happened a few thousand years ago. These teachings, of course, directly contradict what students are being taught in their science and history classes.

Lifewise’s objective is indoctrination, not truth. The goal is to make new soldiers for Jesus, not well-rounded, well-educated citizens of a diverse, pluralistic society.


Bruce Gerencser
Ney, Ohio

For readers who want to investigate Lifewise Academy further, please check out their sample curriculum here. Local Lifewise statements obfuscate what is clearly revealed in their curriculum. The goal is “saving” unsaved children.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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    Is this offered in an actual class at school or as an extracurricular activity? It’s disturbing – typical evangelical indoctrination.

    I have a friend in Kentucky whose kids’ school sent out notice that a program was going to come for several weeks to the health class to teach ethics, self esteem, etc. She looked into it and found that the program was from a crisis pregnancy center. She didn’t want her kids exposed to any potential purity culture or anti-choice ideas, and didn’t sign the permission slip. She emailed the administration and guidance team to ask what program would be offered in its place for those who opted out – the school is supposed to offer quality alternative programs. Crickets. She kept at it for a few weeks. Crickets. Finally they responded and said they had decided not to offer the program. She thinks enough parents must have opted out.

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      @OBSTACLECHICK I checked their FAQs : LifeWise classes are scheduled as part of the “specials” rotation during the day. I’m not crazy about it, but the rather slim look into their curriculum (though I have to wonder why is it slim?), it looks like the same cartoony Adam and Eve and Noah crapola I learned in Sunday School as a tot. I doubt it will be very effective at indoctrination. 45 minutes a week? Which is what 30 minutes after you get the kids to sit still. It is a lot like the crisis pregnancy centers, they don’t do anything but make fundies feel like they are doing something.
      Something not clear (though hinted at) is that children leave the school to attend the class. Even with background checks on staff, that seems like an opportunity for children to be abused.

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    MJ Lisbeth

    Troy—Your comment made me think of my own efforts at proselytizatiion. When I was a jusr-saved, newly-born Evangelical, I was zealous about “witnessing.” Over time—actually, fairly quickly—I realized (even if I wouldn’t admit to myself) that nothing I did was “saving” anyone. For a time, I doubled down on my efforts, hoping that God actually use me to reveal himself. But, eventually, I found myself handing act tracts, talking to and praying for and over random strangers and engaging in other acts of “witness” just to, as you say, feel like I was doing something.

    I also agree with you—no, I know—is that a program like LifeWise is a golden opportunity for child abusers.

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    Barb Anderson

    It seems to me that kids are exposed to lots of harmful things these days – the Bible does not seem like one of them. And indoctrination? If everything we don’t believe in, but that is taught to our children, is considered indoctrination – that leaves a huge gray area for adults to argue about. Seems to me that if parents are allowing their children to go off school property (probably in keeping with separation of church and state) – to be taught from the Bible – then that is their choice (and business quite frankly). So why are you trying so hard to convince them it is a bad choice? I am positive that many would consider your belief system something that is indoctrinating and to be avoided. If you were asked to give your opinion publicly (kind of like you asked people to send in comments on this article) – then please forgive me for questioning your motives. If you were not – then why??

    Barb Anderson

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      Bruce Gerencser

      Lifewise Academy is a decidedly Evangelical group — a fact that they hide. Their goal is evangelize children and indoctrinate them in “the faith once delivered to the saints.” They teach their charges that the stories in the Bible are factually true. You know, the universe was created in six twenty-four hour days, 6, 025 years ago. Every childhood Bible story is treated as non-fiction.

      Further, children who don’t participate are “othered.” I have grandchildren in three local school districts. I can tell you that they don’t like being singled out for not attending or being pressured by adults and friends alike to attend.

      While this release time program is voluntary, attendance does take away from classroom instruction time. Those who don’t participate end up in study hall.

      Lifewise Academy’s goal is to indoctrinate children in the one true faith and return public schools to their “Christian” roots. Christian nationalism simmers underneath the surface, and that’s why I oppose Lifewise. My thirteen grandchildren attend local public schools and I am a taxpayer. I have every right to push back against what I considered a violation of the separation of church and state (and the establishment clause). I have talked to the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) about Lifewise. Technically legal, I have already heard from locals who report that Lifewise leaders and teachers are violating the law.

      I am all for teaching public school children religion (and logic/philosophy). Of course, this is not what the promoters of Lifewise want. They only want ONE religion –Evangelical Christianity — taught to children. Why not require students to take a World Religion class? Of course, doing so will reveal to predominantly Christian children that there ain’t nothing special about their tribe’s religion. Teaching only Christianity is indoctrination. Imagine if the Church of Satan wanted to have a release time program for students. Why, local Evangelicals would demand such a program be immediately stopped.

      I am an expert on Evangelical Christianity. I have been telling my story and critiquing Evangelicalism for the past sixteen years. I owe it to local parents and students to tell the truth about the motives of Lifewise Academy and what it is they really teach. Surely, Lifewise doesn’t mind me shining light on their programs and motivations, right?

      As far as the Bible in general, it is littered with all sorts of immoral and unethical behavior. God himself is hardly a pillar of morality and virtue. Lifewise teaches students a sanitized, Evangelical-approved version of Noah and Ark. What’s not taught is that God drowned millions of people; that God drowned zygotes, fetuses, babies, children (just like them) and developmentally disabled people — saving only eight. Surely, children should be taught “Biblical” truth, right? Maybe cover Song of Solomon too.

      I could go on and on, Barb. If you have any questions, ask away.

      Thanks for commenting.


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Bruce Gerencser