We spent a week at a United Church family camp.
It was fantastic! Right on the edge of a lake in a secluded forested glen. We didn’t have to cook, and best of all- there was 6 hours of child care a day!
We’d start the morning with singing and dancing crazy camp songs, eat food, and then there were activities. Lil’T discovered a love for archery. C-minor loved that everyone laughed at her nonsensical knock-knock jokes.
you: Who’s there?
You: Dora who?
C-m: Dora pirate apple!)
We could take part in games like football, do crafts, or do our own thing. My partner, the Tousle-Haired Poet (long-time nickname I wasn’t allowed to use before), canoed and cycled and read. I wrote, learned to hula, and ran. We spent time with fantastic people who had also snuck in some very good wine.
It was a great vacation.
There was also a pastor there who I had not expected at a United Church anything.
Every night there were optional vespers and “community conversations” which were supposed to be about social justice topics. Except the pastor hijacked it. He turned the 20 minute conversation time into an hour and a bit full blown church service. He lead everyone in old evangelical songs and then preached in the self-professed style of the Black Pentecostal church. He could talk and turn small anecdotes into stories so long, you forgot the original topic. And he loved to talk about faith.
He was good-hearted, but terrifying. I wasn’t the only person there to feel fundy PSTD. One woman furiously wrote sacrilegious erotica to her girlfriend while waiting outside for him to finish for that exact reason. Some kept the children playing tag outside so they wouldn’t be accidentally pounced on.
At the last dinner, I found myself sitting beside the pastor and two 14 year old boys. They boys had not been previously exposed to anything but Christianity Lite and were quizzing the pastor who made it clear he saw them as potential targets. I opened my mouth only after I heard things being said that were not true.
We then kept talking, with both warmth and respect. There was no animosity. The tween boys apparently found this fascinating. We discussed inerrancy, gospel narratives and Christian history. We talked about Bart Ehrman and what atheism and agnosticism really means. I wasn’t trying to deconvert anyone, but I’m not good at watching harmful half truths being preached. As our conversation was drawing to an end, the topic of how to interpret Jesus came up. The pastor’s view was that Jesus was Divine Saviour and if all of Christianity would see his interpretation of Jesus as the right one, then everything would be fixed. He invited me to share my thoughts and I began.
The pastor cut me off as soon as I started to share my reasons for doubting Jesus’ divinity and said,
“it sounds like you’ve cut your soul off from life.”
I could see he meant that as a conversation stopper.
He must have felt very uncomfortable if he felt that he needed to invalidate my words by making an (incorrect) judgment on the state of my life.
By then the boys were ready to move on to the next activity and so was I. It had been an engaging and pleasant discussion for the most part. I hope those boys will at least be encouraged to think and learn about things from different sides before accepting any. I hope the pastor learns some better songs.