Christian Camps and Child Abuse – Is Evangelical Theology to Blame?

John Smyth, who now lives in South Africa and campaigns on morality, is at the centre of the allegations.Channel 4 News

The media, liberal ‘Christians’ like Giles Fraser and the Bishop of Buckingham, atheistic secularists, and other enemies of the Gospel can hardly contain their glee.   The ink had barely dried on  the accusations against John Smyth a former evangelical camps leader, before the blame game began – and once again the Gospel was blamed.   I wrote this response which was published in an edited form on Christian Today

I have a confession to make. I was not abused. This may come as a shock to those who think that being brought up in a Christian home, attending Sunday school and being sent on Christian summer camps made me a prime target. Despite the fact that as a child, teenager and adult I have attended many Christian summer camp with Scripture Union, the Free Church, Highlands and Islands Postal Sunday School and the Boys Brigade, I never came across any such abuse, nor have I ever heard of any.

This may be surprising to those whose knowledge of such camps is limited to headlines such as this weekend’s “Archbishop of Canterbury’s QC friend blamed his beating of boys at a British summer camp on sleeping pill addiction” 

John Smyth has been accused of sadistically beating boys. Smyth was a leader of what were called the “Bash” camps run by the Iwerne trust. There is no suggestion the abuse took place at the camps themselves. The details of the story, even though they don’t involve sexual abuse are horrendous, and reflect badly upon the alleged perpetrator. The attempt to smear the Archbishop of Canterbury of guilt by association on the basis that he attended one of these camps as a junior leader, is however a sad ad hominuem.
Of course when these stories arise I expect them to appear on some of the more militant atheistic secularist social media, because they can be used to reinforce the narrative that religion is the root of all evil. There are illogical double standards at play here. They do not argue that because abuse occurs with TV stars we need to ban Top of the Pops, or with teachers that we should ban schools, or families that we should ban families, or with football coaches, that we should ban football. However these kind of stories tend to be circulated widely by those who think that it provides ammunition to undermine and get religion banned. And these stories do a great deal of harm. I guess if I was a parent and heard that my child was going to a Christian summer camp, and then saw this story, I would think twice.

But it gets worse, as Ruth Gledhill explains in this most helpful article on Christian Today   The Bishop of Buckingham, Alan Wilson, has made some extraordinary allegations. To him wilson_125this is not about one man physically abusing a number of boys under his care. This is about a whole theology – the kind of evangelical theology espoused by EJ Nash, who set up the Bash camps, and taught by people like John Stott, Dick Lucas and others who were influenced by them. According to the bishop, According to the bishop “These camps had extraordinary influence. The theology that these people bring to the table very often has an element of violence and nastiness in it. ‘Harmful theology that blinds you to what is in front of your eyes…gay equality….this kind of theology is very much part of it….the theological blind spot is the most extraordinary bit of it.

(You can watch the whole interview Here)

Richard Dawkins must be thanking his lucky stars for such a bishop. Dawkins in The God Delusionimgres  pointed out that he was a victim of child sexual abuse in his English boarding school from a teacher “whose affection for small boys overstepped the bounds of propriety”, which he then went on to describe as “an embarrassing but otherwise harmless experience”. Dawkins then went further and suggested that teaching children the truth of the Bible was sometimes worse than child sexual abuse – “horrible as sexual abuse no doubt was, the damage was arguably less than the long term psychological damage inflicted by bringing up the child Catholic in the first place”.

While I expect the more extreme atheist secularists to take this kind of line (and to be fair many secularists would not make that kind of clumsy connection), it is more than a little disappointing that a professing Christian leader should use this tragic case to further a particular theological/political agenda within the church. It is as reprehensible as those who would use the fact that some Catholic priests have been found guilty of child sexual abuse, as a reason for denouncing Catholicism per se.

One of the victims expressed it well when he tweeted:

But you might say, “Don’t be so defensive. Back off a bit and consider whether there is any truth in the allegation.” Well, I have. Many times. Because it is an accusation that is constantly made. And the obvious conclusion to any fair-minded thinking person who knows what they are talking about is that this particular incident has nothing to do with evangelical theology. Why? Because culture, experience and most of all the theology itself give us a much more credible explanation.

Culture

These offences took place in an era when corporal punishment and ‘fagging’ were very much the common practice at the private schools from which the Bash camps drew their clients and staff. Fagging was the practice of younger boys serving older boys as servants – in some cases it involved harsh discipline, corporal punishment and sometimes sexual abuse. I would suggest that the alleged abuse is far more likely to have come out of that culture, than out of any evangelical theology.

Experience

In that same era I remember getting the belt at school several times, I remember being kicked by a teacher, but I was never touched or in any way physically punished at any of the Christian camps I went to. There was a strong discipline but that was never enforced by violence or threats of violence. Maybe the culture in the North of Scotland was different from that of the English public school culture?!  And here’s the thing. Every one of these camps taught openly and explicitly about the atoning death of Christ on the cross, and Christ coming to save us from hell.

For some of those camps I was not a believer. I liked going because of the sport, the games, the outings and to be honest the fact that they were a safe and secure environment to have a good time, without being bullied and without being expected to take part in dodgy activities. At one camp when we were asked to write a short essay on the Bible, I wrote one explaining why it was rubbish. Rather than get a telling off, I was awarded second prize – admittedly to my disappointment it was a small King James Bible! But I have kept that Bible because of the kindness and generous spirit of the 80-year-old man who gave it to me. He did not dismiss me, or threaten me; instead he took time to listen and to answer my somewhat arrogant and dismissive questions. I would suggest that that man is far more indicative of those who volunteer on Christian camps than John Smyth.

Of course I am not arguing that such abuse does not occur. Nor that those of us in church leadership should not take special care and ensure that there is proper child protection. The fact is that church is one of the few places where adults and children come together in public and with the increase of paedophilia, sexual immorality and the horrors allowed by the internet distorting souls and minds, we need to be on our guard. It is the fact that the church is open to all that makes us targets to some. We need to fulfil our responsibility to watch over the lambs of the flock.

Theology

But that is a world away from saying that this kind of child abuse is caused by evangelical theology. Ironically it is evangelical theology that argues most strongly against child abuse of any kind. We believe that God is the judge. We believe that we have to answer for every careless word spoken and harmful deed done. We believe that God is all-seeing – sins done in secret may escape the law courts of this world, but they won’t escape the judgment court of heaven. We believe the Bible and we believe in the Jesus of the Bible, who taught: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”  (Matthew 18).

Yes, it is possible that those who believe these things can stumble and fall – because after all we also believe that we are sinners, which is why we need to avoid self-righteousness and ensure that we have a collective responsibility and proper checks and balances. But at the end of the day, any professing Christian who abuses children is doing so, not because they follow biblical theology, but because they are going against it.

As for the violent God? Even when I was a child/teenager attending these camps I was politically and socially aware enough to know that we lived in a violent world. I could see no way for that to end – until I came to understand that the violence of the cross negates and destroys the violence of the world. I came to see that the death of death in the death of Christ was the only real hope for peace.

Ironically the Bishop of Buckingham, in his attempt to niceify God, takes away the heart of the Gospel, the Gospel that ultimately prevents the abuse of all human beings. We need more evangelical theology and more evangelical practice, not less.

Rev David Robertson is minister of St Peters, Dundee and associate director of the Solas Centre for Public Christianity. He is on Twitter @TheWeeFlea.

Note:  This statement from the Bishop of Guildford, Andrew Watson, has just been made. It should cause Giles Fraser and the Bishop of Buckingham to hang their heads in shame.

I would also like to express the concern of myself and some of my fellow survivors that we are seen as people and not used as pawns in some political or religious game. Abusers espouse all theologies and none; and absolutely nothing that happened in the Smyth shed was the natural fruit of any Christian theology that I’ve come across before or since. It was abuse perpetrated by a misguided, manipulative and dangerous man, tragically playing on the longing of his young victims to live godly lives.


33 thoughts on “Christian Camps and Child Abuse – Is Evangelical Theology to Blame?

  1. Yes, important to push back against the manipulation to portray evangelical theology as evil.

    What you share about Dawkins and abuse he experienced at a Catholic boarding school might explain what he is so angry towards religion. I know all too well what psychological abuse can do. Being undiagnosed dyslexic growing up in the 60’s and 70’s with the harsh discipline you talk of, I was regarded as talented but lazy, careless and complacent. I only began to have release form this 8 years ago when diagnosed dyslexic and everything made sense. It has taken years to work through that anger.

    So I can understand that association if it has been with religion. Still, I have responsibility for how I manage anger just as Dawkins does and having contempt for no other reason than difference is never a good way of going about it.

    And to that end I do find it distressing the tribal conflict between “liberal” and “evangelical” at times in the body of Christ. Did not the apostle Paul say that there is no Jew or Gentile, all are one in Christ? Is that by application not also true for anyone with either a liberal or evangelical inclination?

    Is there not beauty in liberation theology with an identity with the Exodus narrative as a metaphor for release form the oppression of sin and entering into freedom in Christ? And also beauty in the evangelical distress about sin being surrendered to perfect love in Christ that casts out all fear?

    I hear from the evangelical side of things the need to repent (or the need for change, transformation) and the liberal side the need to love as emphasis. Isn’t it the truth that we need both?

    It seems to be that problems arise when liberalism crosses over into cultural Marxism. And what you describe as liberal might I suggest be more accurately described as such. Even in that Marxism has good values – the idea of brotherhood (and/or sisterhood) or personhood for the political correct and equality. But then Marxism later developing into Lenninsm and Stalinism.

    Isn’t this what we face in our culture now. A kind of an Orwellian Big Brother cultural Marxism bordering on Lenninism and Stalinism in a different form? Where anyone who doesn’t conform gets a little trim to the “ministry of love” which is actually a place where fear is used to control and manipulate a love for Big Brother?

    And isn’t it the case that the daily “two minutes of hate” are often flung in the direction of evangelical Christians?

    Well fear not.

    Did Jesus not say that if you are hated because of him that this was how the prophets were treated and great IS (present tense) your reward in heaven, and that perfect love casts out all fear? Did the apostle Paul not say “the joy of the Lord is my strength”.

    The tide is turning.

    1. Adam….thanks for your post but you keep repeating the same point ad nauseum – the answer is also the same. If ‘liberal’ Christians believe in a Christ who did not rise from the dead, was not born of a virgin, did not perform miracles, is not coming back, didn’t believe the bible, doesn’t judge people etc then they don’t believe in the same Christ. Therefore they are not ‘in Christ’. I’m not sure why you can’t grasp that?!

      1. David,

        It is true that if Christ did not rise from the dead etc. then Christians are to be pitied.

        But that’s not what I am arguing against and it is misleading to imply that this is what I am doing. That, to me is nauseating.

        I’m on your side David but I also don’t have any problem with liberation theology that has an affinity with the exodus narrative and emphasis on love. It seems you have a problem with that.

        I agree wholeheartedly with what you say about evangelical theology and the cultural Marxism that scapegoats it.

        Yet there is another side to the coin.
        Evangelicalism has a history of hostility towards other theological approaches and ideas only to then conclude that it is to blame an need to “repent”.

        Have you not in past commented that you no longer regard yourself as an evangelical in the sense of identifying with a certain element of churchmanship?

      2. What ARE you arguing against? Maybe get your terms right before you start feeling sick?! What do you think ‘liberal’ Christianity is?

        Yes re evangelical – when people like Steve Chalke, etc continue to claim to be evangelical…I don’t want the name. They believe a different evangel..

      3. I thought I made it clear what I was arguing both for and against.

        Again I agree with you wholeheartedly about the scapegoating of evangelical theology by cultural Marxism. And I caution about churchmanship within evangelicalism that is in need of repentance when it is unnecessarily hostiliw to other ideas and theologies.

        I have learned that any theological approach that becomes defensive when challenged ceases to be a valid and great minds talk about ideas, average minds talk about events and small minds talk about people.

        I don’t like to talk about individuals unless they are peesent to defend themselves.

      4. Adam – you are not clear at all. What do you mean by liberals who are in the body of Christ?

        And again – any theological approach that becomes defensive ceases to be valid….guess thats Paul, Jesus and Peter and John gone as well!

        Small minds talk about people? Again condemning Christ….

        Your last sentence sounds good but is biblical nonsense and would condemn Paul, Peter and Jesus!

        You seem to have a very high opinion of your own standards!

      5. David – you said it yourself – what kind of liberal? So you acknowledge there are different kinds.

        By liberal, specifically I don’t rule out liberation theology. Or feminist theology or any theology for that matter that offers insights consistent (or at least not inconsistent) with the gospel for consideration. These would come under the banner of being “liberal” would they not?

        I don’t accept a form of evangelical theology which for example is hostile any from of feminist theology simply because it is feminist. I’ve learned that when any theology that gests defensive when challenged ceases to be a valid theology.

        So whereas I am with you in principle with being protective towards evangelical theology and pushing back against cultural Marxism and some forms of liberalism that have it as evil, I also add the caveat that there can be a form tribalism within evangelicalism that acts as though it is threatened and is hostile to other ideas and theologies at times when it doesn’t have to be. And I suggest this is alienating to the gospel.

        I don’t think that to be inconsistent with what you were expressing a number of years ago when you express that all of us (including evangelicals) need to repent from what I think you put as stupid arguments or church politics or the like.

        Again, I will share than when out walking at that time with the dog and talking with fellow dog walkers about this being grieved about it what they shared of what they thought about religion was this kind of arguing. In one sense it then gave me the opportunity to share of the gospel, but then in another sense they then shared that they had never hear of that before. did not one commentator here describe that as godly grief on one occasion?

        And Richard Tiplady the former principle of the International Christian College has shared in Rode Dowsett’s book on mission that in his view Christian worship and community is unattractive and sometimes even repulsive to outsiders and the only offense should be the cross of Christ.

        It seems therefore, does it not, that it can be said there is a problem with the church of humanism with an evangelical veneer instead of what is glorifying to God. And as such is a hindrance to the gospel. Sad.

        So your objection when I comment as I do is surprising to me.

        You seem as thought you might be angry. Do I hit a nerve with you when I comment like this?

    2. “What you share about Dawkins and abuse he experienced at a Catholic boarding school might explain what he is so angry towards religion. “I do like your posts.
      However, I think you are mistaken. Richard Dawkins was confirmed at the age of 13 into the Church of England at educated at Oundle boarding school. Hardly Catholic.

      1. David wrote that Dawkins had suffered sexual abuse at boarding school and then quoted Dawkins as claiming that as horrible as the sexual abuse was that it was less than the “damage” of being brought up Catholic.

        I read that in context as Dawkins referring to himself in the third party. If that’s not the case then my apology for having been mistaken.

  2. John Stott’s theology was so non-violent that he couldn’t even find it in himself to hold to the eternal aspect of hell.

    And you are right, what happened sounds like something straight out of my public school days. But even there I was at more risk from other pupils than from the teachers.

  3. I agree entirely with all your main points. But could you clarify a couple of things in the first line please? 1) Do the quotation marks around the word ‘Christian’ indicate that you don’t believe that ‘liberal’ ‘Christians’ are Christians are all? 2) Does ‘other enemies of the gospel…’ refer back only as far as “atheistic secularists…” or does it refer to the whole sentence? In other words are “the media, liberal ‘Christians’ like Giles Fraser and the Bishop of Buckingham”, according to you, enemies of the gospel? I don’t think you are saying that, but your words could be taken to mean so.

    1. Depends what kind of liberal. If they follow a different Christ then yes they are not Christian. Yes Giles Fraser and the Bishop of Buckingham are enemies of the Gospel because they are enemies of the cross. Religious enemies are far worse than atheistic ones!

  4. Why does God choose not to act to prevent this abuse? Does he value the free will choice of the abuser over that of the abused child or does he have a purpose to the suffering of the children involved?

    1. Why do you ask, Jon?
      It’s important for us to avoid turning a real problem of sin and suffering into a classroom exercise to score theological points. I’m saying this because the first alternative answer you offer sounds preposterous to me and I suspect you meant it to.
      Nevertheless, if you want a serious answer about the value God places on such expressions of ‘Free Will’ let me direct you to Matthew. 18:6. There you can read about ‘causing little ones who believe in Jesus to stumble.’
      There is a danger in Christian practice and belief, of adding to the plain Gospel, embellishments that turn it into ‘another gospel which is not a gospel.’ They usually come in opposing pairs so that we are called to walk the narrow road between. When it becomes Christianity and Non-violence, for example, we have another gospel and very quickly, the call of the gospel is lost. In this case a form of so-called Muscular Christianity has overstepped its usefulness in the practice of one man: beginning in the Spirit
      and continuing in the corporeal mortification of the flesh. It would be disasterous if we did not learn the lesson of sticking to the simple message of God’s way of salvation.

      Does that answer your question?

      Yours,
      John/..

  5. I think the better question to ask is whether the church is covering up abuse. I would say that this is very much the case (and sadly it’s no better in this respect that the rest of the world). For example I know of one church that took a now convicted paedophile on a missions trip. Those on the missions trip were told not to speak to the media but to get them to contact the church. At no point were they asked if they witnessed any abuse, because of course this would mean taking responsibility. It’s things like this that make me wonder if Jesus will ever return for a pure spotless bride.

  6. I have just emailed our bishop, the Bishop of Oxford, to ask if Alan Wilson is to be held to account for his statements? I wonder if i will get a reply?

    1. Well -there’s been no replies, responses or engagement with actual evangelical argument -e.g. this article or the one on faithroots.net. No critical engagement with written Evangelical theology of which there is plenty. Just a lot of innuendo. So I’m not holding my breath.

  7. ‘Those people’ — by whom Bishop Wilson means the Bash Camp leaders — have been influential because of the links formed among campers who were privileged and talented scions of the English establishment to begin with. What would make that influence extraordinary for a bishop is that the Bash-camp network governance — it is an actual old boys network — has worked largely without the patronage and mediation of the hierarchical system.
    The abuse of power can only take place where there is power and Smyth (QC) will have got his self-justification from Establishment philosophy rather than from Evangelical Theology. These events took place when Evangelical Anglican clergy were being pressured to be Establishment first and Evangelical second. However, Smyth’s behaviour was due neither to him being Establishment nor Evangelical but because of sin.

    Yours,
    John/.

  8. I certainly agree with you that this should not be used to further a theological or political agenda. It is a tragedy and anyone who reacts with glee to this has a wicked heart. Many of these victims are scarred for life and have been suicidal. The correct response is sadness, empathy, compassion and for justice to be done.

    I appreciate that you are writing in response to men like Dawkins and Alan Wilson but there are is a lot missed out in this. I disagree that “there is nothing to suggest that it took place in the camps.” See the Channel 4 news report on Zimbabwe: https://www.channel4.com/news/exclusive-more-church-abuse-revelations

    Whilst the beatings took place in the garden shed, he also forced them to shower and led prayer sessions “in the nude”. Did you see this report?

    And this from the Telegraph shows that two prominent Christian institutions failed to report it:

    “Both the Iwerne Trust and Winchester College, were informed of the allegations in 1982, after one of the alleged victims attempted suicide….Winchester College confirmed to The Telegraph that the police had not been informed but denied they sought to conceal events and stated that the college authorities “did their best to deal responsibly and sensitively” with the situation. The Iwerne Trust is now part of the Titus Trust. A spokesman for the Titus Trust said that the “very disturbing allegations… should have been reported to the police when they first became known”.

    Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/02/01/could-feel-blood-spattering-legs-victims-tell-horrific-beatings/

    The begs the question as to why these Christian organisations did not report it promptly.

    And several victims feel that the Archbishop knows more than he is letting on: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/02/06/victims-say-archbishop-canterbury-failed-expose-child-abuse

    The church needs to put justice and compassion ahead of a desire to defend it’s own reputation.

    1. Thanks…I agree totally with your opening paragraph. I don;t think I wrote that there was nothing to suggest it took place in the camps. The only thing I disagree with is the last bit from the Telegraph – at best it is gossip and speculation – at worst it is a nasty attempt to smear a fine man – with no evidence.

      I agree with the latter sentence…however I am also scared that too many churches will act because they want to defend their reputation, rather than out of any justice and compassion…

  9. I disagree – it’s written by the victims and it’s a fair question. Victims need to be heard, and Welby has an opportunity to reply and address this and give us the full side of the story. Perhaps he didn’t know but senior figures in the CofE hierarchy certainly did:

    “The Iwerne Trust – were aware of the whole story in 1982. I can say that unequivocally because they commissioned a report by your fellow Iwerne Minster Officer and great friend the Reverend Mark Ruston in the Spring of 1982. Channel 4 showed me the report. It has the initials of the Iwerne Trustees at its head, many of whom are still alive, some holding very influential positions in the Church of England.”

    1. And his statement still stands. Why would he change it after the letter? Especially if what he said was true – it would be true before and after. He said he knew nothing about it. Why not believe him? Unless you have evidence otherwise all you are doing is endulging in gossip without knowledge.

  10. I don’t believe Justin Welby conspired to cover up anything but it is fair to to ask what action he is taking here to prevent this in the CofE in the future. Is he asking those officials who knew why they did not report it? If a teacher fails to report an incident promptly they would be sacked or disciplined.

  11. I have yo say I wss pretty angry when I read Giles Frasers article. It’s beyond the realm of absurd to claim a penal view of the cross forms a basis for justifying sadistic treatment of children. Not only is it the theology of John Stott, it was the theology of Billy Graham by whom thousands in every demomination came to know Christ along with great social reformers, many of whom had a special burden for children, people like Wesley and Whitfield, Wilberforce and Chalmers and even John Knox who wanted a school in every parish. It’s the theology of good people in many churches. It’s the theology of friends and former colleagues in the ministry that I’ve found kind and supportive notwithstanding the different road we have taken since.

    My own view, for what it’s worth, is that substitutionary atonement is one model amongst others, albeit a prominent one. It conveys the cost of forgiveness, the cost of love. I think that it’s sometimes taken too literally. God doesn’t need the blood of goats and bulls, as Isaiah explains. But the blood of the OT cultus speaks of the blood that was shed on Calvary. However, the God-Man that hung on the Cross was not an innocent third party as the spiritual reminds us: “Who is he on yonder tree, dies in shame and agony? ‘Tis the Lord…the King of Glory”. Forgiveness is costly and God willingly bore that cost. Again, in Hosea: “How can I give you up?…All my compassions are aroused. The theology of the atonement in the Bible is expressed in a way that was familiar to pagans that believed that they could literally placate their gods by blood sacrifice, and in some cases human sacrifice.

    There’s not only a cost of forgiveness borne by God, there’s also a cost to the believer. In the OT believers offered that which was costly to themselves, be it a lamb or a pigeon. Provision was made for the poor. That cost is most startlingly revealed in the story of Abraham offering up Isaac. At one level this provides the underpinning for the absolute ban of human sacrifice in the OT. But Isaac was that which was most dear to Abraham. Abraham (and Isaac) must have been in agony as they climbed Mount Moriah. Was this really the cost of following Abraham’s God. For all that Abraham remained cofident that God himself will provide the lamb.

    I think we need to try to explain the idea of sacrifice, of propitiation, in a way contemporary audiences can grasp. I don’t like taking it too literally. I think that to some some extent it belongs to its own context and that there are other theories of atonement that convey aspects of the truth. I don’t think that difficulties with subsitutionary atonement necessarily imply a persn doesnt recognise the centrality of the death of Christ in the Gospel. We’re not saved by a theory of atonement but by the atonement itself. But as Christians we declare “Jesus loved me and gave himself for me”. At Golgotha Jesus gave his life for me and for the church.

    I really didn’t like Giles Fraser’s article. It was ranty and, frankly, rather nasty. I don’t know what the cross means to him; it’s for him and his God. I think he damages the reputation of the church only insofar as he appears to have relatively little that’s positive to say about it. I’m not sure I even like some of his comment on SSM. It’s not necessarily that I don’t agree with him, as you know. It’s that I think he, and others, make too much of it. One is sometimes left with the feeling that church, or sections 8of the Anglican church at least, is mainly about LGBT.

    David, we are closer than you think. I remain broadly within the evangelical camp, as do a good many in the church I attend. Can we please agree on this. Then we might get on a little better.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s