27 June 2007

A different kind of summer camp

I suppose it was only a matter of time before we would see the development of secular summer camps as a response to the growing number of religious camps for kids, some of which are nothing more than engines of indoctrination to create "faith warriors" out of kids as young as six or seven.

While I am pleased to see that kids are being encouraged to seek answers with an open mind (and to question the answers they find themselves), I can see the argument from opponents who believe that such a camp would be dangerous to kids, giving them a skewed grasp of morality and ethics, endangering their immortal souls, etc.

To those critics I would simply ask that they read the article, and in particular take a look at the photos featured in the Tribune article. Now, juxtapose those images with some taken from Becky Fischer's Kids on Fire (sponsored by Kids In Ministry International, also run by Fischer) which was featured on ABC News and in the 2006 documentary "Jesus Camp."

The images of children playing and interacting at the atheist Camp Quest contrast sharply with Fischer's brainwashed kids who are training to be literal "soldiers of Christ": they sing martial hymns while wearing camouflage paint, speak in jibberish (sorry, I mean they "speak in tongues"), and pray before a cardboard cutout of George W. Bush.

This nascent movement to give non-religious kids a summer camp of their own is heartening, especially given the rise of such brainwiping camps like Fischer's and Ron Luce's hypocritical "Battlecry" movement (which mixes elements of old-fashioned religious revivals and televangelist charlatanry in a rock concert-like setting). Both serve only to make unquestioning drones of children, a new generation of religious automatons ready to do the "will of God."

But the rise of atheist summer camps also betrays a darker side to the current culture over children: while it is indeed heartening to know that these kids have a place where they can be themselves and be with others like themselves, the separation of children into different camps (literally and figuratively) is hurtful. Summer camps for children should be open to all, regardless of belief or creed. Should it not be possible to have a summer camp that simply teaches kids skills and crafts in an encouraging community setting that encourages nothing more than human fellowship? Is it not possible to do that without addressing belief or non-belief? The current cultural climate is not very conducive to that at this moment, I know, which is why there is a need for camps like Camp Quest. I know that there will also continue to be Christian, Muslim, and other religious camps But I do hope that, in the future, instead of being "Christian" or "Atheist" or what have you, children will be able to go to summer camp and just be KIDS!


Lynn said...

My two children attended Camp Quest last year, and are returning this year. During each summer, my kids attend lots of different weekly camps, but the camp they look forward to all year is Camp Quest. During the school year, when kids at school ask them, "what religion are you?", they either try to change the subject, or say, "it's not something I talk about." They know that if they reveal they don't attend church or reveal they have been raised to be non-theistic, that they could lose friends, be bullied, stop being invited to playdates, etc (since it's happened before). And, since we don't want to raise our children as hypocrites, we aren't going to just join a church "to fit in". Because of the lack of tolerance shown to them by their peer group, as well as adults, thankfully, they are fortunately extremely tolerant of others.

Camp Quest, for its brief one week, gives my kids a chance to uncork and really explore their thoughts with other kids who have been raised similarly as them. My kids tell me it's like a weight is taken off their shoulders for that one week period, knowing that the weight will settle back down for the next 51 weeks. My kids need peers, and Camp Quest gives them that.

William Cowan said...

Thanks for the comment!

I'm sorry to hear that your kids have to deal with the kind of pressure being different from the majority brings, but it's an all-too-familiar story across the world when atheists have to confront the chorus of damnation from the religious.

I am glad that they have found a place at Camp Quest where they can enjoy a brief respite from having to endure the social exclusion and bullying for their beliefs. I wish you and your children all the best, and thanks for reading!