(More updated notes on actual conference below.)
So a teenage girl relative is fundraising to attend a Baptist youth conference next month. After a little research on the event, I tossed a small donation her way. Up until now, the kid hasn’t really traveled far, and she’ll be with teenagers her age, and as I recall from my own church-sponsored youth experiences, there’s plenty of trouble one can get into between praying and skits. It can be fun. And hopefully she’ll meet some smart kids who can encourage a little free thinking as an antidote to the conformist religious indoctrination they’re likely to get. I’d like it better if she went to summer camp playing outside, or spend the money on a bike, but it’s her choice and I’m willing to bankroll the part where she gets on a bus and goes away from home.
How did I form such a quick and hearty suspicion for the people putting on the conference? I looked at the NVBC website. Generally, they seem well-meaning, and tone-deaf.
Then there are concerns number 2 and 2 1/2: The killing of the caterpillar for a joke and a deeper meaning to that gesture. (Yes. I definitely think too much, though most of my friends would never accuse me of heightened insight.) Here’s the event’s video where Brother Russ eats a live caterpillar to make a point that could have been made a thousand other ways, most funnier. “If you will promise to come and attend, I will… I will eat this caterpillar.”
Or don’t watch it.
“Now you’re gonna promise to come, right? ‘Cuz I’m really gonna eat it.”
And since it’s grade-school extortion, he goes ahead with no provocation or way to stop him, and tries to eat the caterpillar, biting it in two and then spitting it out. (For survival reasons, caterpillars are intensely unpleasant to eat, to discourage predators. I’m guessing Brother Russ won’t try that again.)
I’m not squeamish nor do I have a problem with one creature eating another creature because, you know, food. But how do they expect to instill a respect for the more vulnerable of God’s creatures when one of these ministers eats a live caterpillar for a joke? It would have been funny if he’d just threatened to eat the caterpillar. Or if it was a fake caterpillar. Or he’d offered to eat tree bark.
My subsequent question was this: On what level did he choose this particular “bug” to eat? Does he not know that this particular caterpillar, left to its natural process, turns into a moth or butterfly? (I tried to identify it using this awesome ID site, and I think it would have been a moth.)
Then as I got worked up in more of an over-thinking lather, wondered: Is keeping my young girl relative from maturing part of their male-dominated program? Attend and they’ll do their damnedest to see you don’t grow wings? Do I overestimate their influence? Do I underestimate my girl relative’s bullshit detector? I hope so on that last one.
Good lord. My head hurts. I think I’ll go have a nice shot of Mezcal. Oops. Not Mezcal. Never mind.
(And by the way, I just realized I might have a flying theme going on… see Urban Geese and Their Fake Migration)
So my girl relative went after all. The church has live sessioin video for each service, which I appreciate. There was a special session just for the “ladies” where one pastor’s wife spoke on body image. If someone there didn’t have body image issues, they probably do now, she was so thorough. Generally, though, it was a good little sermon. She did go into a story about her own experiences as a girl at a church conference, where they were challenged to eat live goldfish, and how she ate 20 of them. Which is far more horrifying to me than the whole caterpillar killing thing. If she’d been camping or hungry or… oh, never mind. They no doubt have zero remorse for their random cruelty.