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Now that school’s out for the summer

June 2, 2011

…impressionable children around the country are being sent to centers of childhood indoctrination, otherwise known as church camp.

A neighbor girl came to our front door recently to ask for a donation to help her attend a Baptist church camp. She brought with her a letter, written by someone at her church, stating that “While there, I will be able to experience life-changing Bible messages, develop friendships with other Christians,… grow in my own faith… get closer to Jesus and become the person He wants me to be.”

She had asked for a donation last year, and although I felt then as I do now, that miseducating children is a disgusting practice, I found it difficult to say no to her and contributed to her fund, recalling my own fond memories of attending a Presbyterian church camp for six consecutive summers as a teenager. When she returned from camp last year, she shared with me that at camp she had been saved. I resolved that if she asked for a donation the following year, I would decline, which I did. I just couldn’t stomach financially supporting the indoctrination of this young girl.

The summer camp that our oldest son attended last summer and is registered to attend this summer is with Camp Fire USA. According to their FAQ page, “Camp Fire USA is inclusive, welcoming youth and adults regardless of race, religion, socioeconomic status, disability, sexual orientation or other aspect of diversity.” This is reassuring. The letter about our neighbor’s camp, on the other hand, promises only to allow her to “develop friendships with other Christians,” as though Christians are the only people worth developing friendships with.

1988; Montlure Presbyterian Church Camp, White Mountains, Arizona

I had some wonderful experiences at camp, including some profoundly emotional experiences, the cause of which I was misled to regard as being supernatural, emanating from some invisible god or spirit rather than being an entirely natural and beautiful aspect of being human. I only later understood that people who go to secular summer camps remember their experiences as being just as exhilarating, fun, and impactful as I remember mine. The attention given to religion in these camps is at best superfluous and at worst harmful, at least with regards to understanding the world as it really is.

This video contains some scenes from the documentary Jesus Camp, which Roseli and I recently watched. It gives a sense of the psychological manipulation that the religious exert over young people at far too many summer camps.

Even the comparatively mild camp that I attended was no exception. After insufficient sleep that seems inevitable at camp, and during one of our morning devotionals, one of the counselors had asked us children to reflect on what Jesus had done for us personally. When I found myself crying I was told, as are many children in similar circumstances, that I was feeling the Spirit of God. This experience remained with me for years as an evidence of God’s existence until I came to understand that such emotional highs are caused by entirely natural stimuli that can to some extent be controlled, as anyone who has watched reality television can tell you.

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  1. Carrie permalink

    When I attended LDS Girls’ camp around ages 12-15 we learned practical things like knot tying and we went on hikes and did archery. Indoctrination only factored into a third of the time. Fast forward to when I was at camp ages 16-18. Indoctrination was the WHOLE time (might as well be in the church building and not in the woods (one of those years we WERE in a church building and not in the woods!)) What’s the point of being in the woods if you are under a patio the whole time with your scriptures?

    This is actually a trend in Mormonism in general. As youth we used to have fun activities: plays, musicals, paintballing, camping, etc… Nowadays it is all devotionals. Youth are going to leave out of boredom, not from doctrinal issues!

  2. Laura Duck permalink

    I absolutely believe that lack of sleep and exhaustion in combination with the late Friday night “altar call” are calculated to manipulate these children into a message they may question otherwise.

    Sleep deprivation and separation from those who hold a different point of view (like when one is at camp all week) would manipulate nearly anyone.

    ***A week is a long time for a child. An adult could hold out longer, but the tactics are the same for straightforward brainwashing.***

  3. To see all of those children crying and shaking as they were being guilt tripped into thinking they were horrible, sinful beings absolutely broke my heart.

  4. The video was fascinating! Has many WTF moments. It’s sick that this sort of thing happens anywhere. However, I still think it represents a bit of a straw man. After all, not all Christians act like this. In fact, I don’t think most Christians act like this. I’m a Christian and am utterly appalled at this. Why? Because it goes against what Christ taught. Christ taught us to be ‘One’ and to love our enemies. Anyone can speak in the name of Christ; the test is whether or not they are speaking his message. This kind of militancy in the name of Christ really disturbs me.

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