Not Bible Camp Ch. 01bydiggypop©
Copyright 2010 By Donald R. Barber aka Diggypop.
Notice: This story is set at what the protagonist initially believes is a fundamentalist/evangelical Bible Camp and contains many religious references and themes. If you dislike mixing religious themes with sexual ones please do not read. This story is not meant to convey any particular message about any particular religion, but major themes are the impact of religious repression, and how a submissive attitude towards authority can lead to unethical manipulations. So reader beware!
I'm not too sure what to write here. I've never kept a diary before. I always thought they were for girls, but Counselor Jeremy says we all need to keep track of our spiritual progress. Just because our names are written in the Book of Life doesn't mean Jesus is our secretary. Counselor Jeremy said that. I liked it so I wrote it down. He said it's OK to write down stuff other people say as long as I give them the credit and don't do it too much. This is about my journey, he said, not the signs I read on the road. (Darn it! He just says all these great things. I guess I'm kind of envious.)
I guess I should really start with where I'm at now. Gotta start somewhere. My name is Chris Stewart and I'm 18. I graduated from high school this May, but the Illinois State Supreme Court said we weren't a real high school so now if I want to go to a regular college I have to take an equivalency test, but I won't hurry about that because for the next couple of years I'll be getting my A. B. S. (Associate in Bible Studies) at William Walker University, which is funded by Mr. Rex Jordan himself.
My dad says I should probably get a certificate in welding or something when I'm done, even if I go on to be a preacher like him. When I was five, I remembered him looking at the collection plate and shaking his head, and all he'd say to me was, "God likes to keep me guessing sometimes." I asked Mom and she said back then Dad made more money mowing lawns than saving souls, but it never hurts having Reverend on your resume.
Anyway, this my first day at Bible Camp, and it still feels weird to think of it. At my age, I assumed I'd be a counselor if I went to any camp at all, not a camper. But this place is specifically for young adults (and 'Adult' means 18), young Christian adults who want to forge a faith of steel in the fires of discipline, which I should mention is on the camp brochure.. I just remembered I can't take credit if someone else said it.
If I'd had to pay for it, or if Dad had, I wouldn't be here. But I was given a scholarship by an anonymous donor, which they made sure to let me know soon as they contacted me, so I'd know it was OK. Heck, with them taking care of my meals all summer, it'll help out around the house, too.
Some folks are too proud to take charity, but Dad always says helping hands ought to be encouraged, and I you can forgive your enemies, you ought to be able to take a gift from a friend. But there I go, using my dads words.
Course I'm also getting a scholarship to college, same as everyone that went to my high school, Sunday High, which was named after Billy Sunday, also they wanted parents to think it was like sending their kids to Sunday school during the week. Anyhow, they heard the state was 'discrediting' us, so they offered the scholarships to express solidarity. They also suggested a donation, but Dad said that could wait till I was an alumnus, and that degree had earned me some money.
Dad seems like he's not that happy I'm not following in his footsteps, but he's afraid to say so. Mom told me on the side that being a pastor kept us from being homeless and kept Dad out of jail, but it never was gonna make him famous or even successful, so he just gets kind of sick of it after a while.
I'd never dishonor Dad by saying this to his face or in public, but I don't think his faith is what it ought to be. That's why the Bible Camp offer appealed to me. I want to really bolster up my faith, maybe even get enough for me and Dad. Except I don't know if you can store up faith for someone else, or if it's even OK to want to do that. I guess I need to remember to ask a counselor when I get a chance.
So I guess I'm not sure just where I am, spiritually. I mean, I believe in the Bible and everything, but I don't know what God wants me to do with my life. My Dad's advice is pretty practical, but he says if God doesn't tell me directly, it's not for him to say what God wants. I hate to tell him, but that's what people go to pastors for.
I guess I'll write again tomorrow. I hope I'm doing this right.
I guess I need some practice on this whole diary thing. I just realized yesterday's first entry didn't have word one about what happened to me yesterday. It's kind of funny how the words just seem to come out, and then they go all over the place. Well, from now on I'll make sure to put in stuff that happened that day. (We write these just before we go to bed, so nothing worth writing down is likely to happen until we wake up in the morning.)
So. Today we got up at 6, which seemed early to some people here; their families must not have had cows or chickens growing up. That's one advantage to preaching to farmers; if they don't feel like giving you money, you get livestock.
This place has running water, but to keep expenses low, we all take a dip in the lake before breakfast. It's a pretty good-sized lake, so the guys and the girls just go in far enough from each other so we aren't looking at each other with lust. It's weird, cause it's still obvious we're naked; it's not like we're invisible to each other. But Counselor Jeremy says if we get worked up by girls when they're a half-mile away, naked or clothed, we got troubles a privacy curtain can't fix.
One rule they gave us right off the bat is no masturbation. They said there were reasons for it they'll explain as we go, and they aren't saying it's a sin, but we need to find out what our bodies will do if we aren't playing tricks on them, and to talk to a counselor if we think we can't go another minute without taking matters into our own hands. A lot of us laughed at that one, which made Counselor Spears grin, which is good cause I hate it when people don't know what they said was funny.
So after breakfast (which was pretty good even though I heard a couple people griping they didn't have a special meal for vegetarians) we met for the Morning Thought, which was more like a mini-sermon, but it was supposed to guide our Morning Meditation later on.
This first one was about Adam and Eve, which makes sense. And Counselor Steele asked us to imagine what it would be like to live in the Garden of Eden. To imagine ourselves completely naked but completely comfortable, and have every need and want be satisfied by something just within reach. Then imagine how the serpent got them to want things they never even heard of, and said they could get it if they ate a fruit.
He said, Don't just imagine it, feel it in your body, which got a lot of puzzled looks.
We each go off by ourselves for Morning Meditation, and I sat under a big oak tree and tried to feel what it was like. I figure it's kind of like being a kid in the summertime but otherwise I didn't feel anything special. Then I had a crazy thought that if I took off my clothes I'd know, sort of. But the bark was rough and there were bugs and if somebody walked by how could I explain myself? So I didn't get naked and I'm still not sure how it felt to be Adam and Eve.
We then split up into activity teams, and when they say activity they don't mean sports. For four and a half hours we do something productive. It has to be with our hands, although we have at least one disabled camper who doesn't have hands, but I'm sure they'll find something for him to do. My group did gardening.
Luckily they have a pretty good garden, so my job (weeding) was pretty easy. There were a few weeds, but I spent more time looking for them than pulling them. Other people had to check for pests, or blight, make sure the soil has enough moisture, and even dig at the soil to prepare it for seeds. I didn't know anyone planted this time of year, but I guess I don't know enough about gardening. Maybe I should have paid more attention when Mom talked about it.
Anyway, four hours isn't so bad, just a half a days work really, but it was hot today, so I was glad we had a rest period afterwards.
Then we had recreation time. That sounds like it ought to be fun and I guess it was but it was more effort than I expected. According to Counselor Jameson, the most important part of recreation is 'creation.' That means God wants us to be creative in the ways we share him with others. If we have a specific gift for music or poetry or even sports, if we don't nurture it, it's like we're spitting in God's face. And that goes for anything we're good at.
So this week my group gets storytelling. We each had to come up with an idea for a story. My first one wasn't that original, I guess. I decided my story would be about a teenager whose friend offers him drugs. Counselor Jameson said I could do better, and asked me to think of something that would take ninety minutes to an hour to tell, and something that didn't read like an after-school special.
So I remembered something that happened with one of my dad's parishioners. His son Roy went into the army, and everyone was real proud. But he came back from Iraq, and he wasn't hurt or anything, but he'd really changed. I guess he wasn't such a good Christian before he left, but he acted like one, as far as anyone could tell.
When he got back, he swore a lot, and he was always going out to bars, and he got his girlfriend, Cindy, to move in with him but not get married. And so Roy's dad wouldn't talk to him, and Cindy's parents wouldn't talk to her, and one Sunday Cindy and Roy showed up at church in jeans and t-shirts, and their parents didn't say anything during the service but afterwards they yelled at them and told them church was for Christians and to get out.
Well, my dad had a talk with all of them after asking everyone to leave (including me and Mom) and he wouldn't tell me what was said just that it was real sad and he wished the Bible had more about how to be a good parent.
Anyway, I shortened it to: "A son comes back from war changed, and his parents don't know how to deal with it." She said it's been done before but that doesn't mean I can't work with it, especially once I admitted it was based on a true story, and that I knew the people, sort of.
She gave me a packet that she said would help me flesh out my idea into a plot outline. She said she wasn't making any promises and didn't want to get anyone's hopes up, but we should all work on it the way we'd want it done if it were gonna be a real film.
So I worked on it. I had to write two endings, though, cause what really happened is a sad ending, and I don't know if Christians should write sad endings. Plus if I end with Dad saying the Bible doesn't teach you how to be a parent, well, there's lots in Proverbs about it. You instruct your children in righteousness, and they turn out OK. I don't know where the McCourts went wrong, but you can't blame the Bible for it.
So I also wrote a happy ending where my dad came up with bible verses that convinced the kids to repent and their parents to take them back and it ends up with them getting married by my dad. I almost want to tear up the sad ending and not show it to the counselor, but I would feel like I was cheating, so I won't do it.
It's perfectly all right if we want to work on our projects with others, but I decided to work by myself, at least at first. I do want to meet some of my fellow campers, especially the females. It's dawned on me that God might use this opportunity to introduce me to my future bride. I just hope I'm not expected to walk up to someone I don't even know and introduce myself. I'm terrible at that.
Well, anyway, that was my day, even if it doesn't feel like anything spiritual happened. And I can tell already how much I'm going to miss masturbation. I never looked at any porno or anything like that; it's just easier to fall asleep. And I'm kind of worried I'll start having sexy dreams. Oh well, if it gets too crazy, I hope the counselors can help.
I guess I'm feeling a little bit cocky now. Counselor Jameson told me I should get ready to write my story up as a full screenplay! She doesn't want the happy ending either. She says part of Christian faith is believing God can make things right even when we can't see how it's possible.
She says inventing a happy ending would be like second-guessing God, and writing one that's unbelievable would just make unbelievers laugh, which wouldn't hurt us any (I didn't contradict her; maybe that's a fib) but would hurt them plenty, cause then they'd think Christians believe silly things, which isn't true. We just believe nothing is impossible with God, which isn't a bit silly.
Counselor Jameson is really pretty, with blonde hair and blue eyes. She reminds me a little bit of that actress who played Jeannie, on I Dream of Jeannie. She's got a really cute figure, with long legs that look really good in shorts.
But I know better than to think she's going to be my girlfriend or my wife. She told me she's 23, which I know is too old for me.
But I really like it when she tells me things like how much she likes my ideas (well, just one idea so far) and how she thinks I can be a really good writer if I work at it. I'm not stupid; I know it's her job to be encouraging. I just like how good she is at it.
Plus Counselor Jeremy said every guy gets a crush on her, and she's used to it. He says we just all need to keep in mind that we're here for the Lord, and if we can't behave ourselves with one beautiful woman, we're in trouble, because there's a world full of beautiful women out there, but only a few have enough love in their hearts to help us out the way she does, so let's treasure her.
I hope I wasn't the only guy who got that speech. I can't help looking at someone who's so pretty, but I should probably watch myself anyway. So far, though, she hasn't acted the least bit uncomfortable around me.
Our morning meditation was on Cain and Abel. Counselor Steele said we need to imagine things from Cain's point of view. Specifically we should imagine how we feel when someone else gets approval and we don't. If it makes us hurt or angry; would it be enough to make us hit someone; could we kill someone?
Counselor Steele is a tall, black man who talks like a teacher. I expected him to sound more like a black preacher, but I was surprised. He doesn't try to stir people up or get them to say, "Amen!" He just lays out what he wants us to do real matter-of-fact. He said people that never felt disapproved should try to feel what it's like anyway. He said if they can't manage it, he'll be disappointed, and THEN maybe they'll know what it's like.
We all laughed, but he said just remember some jokes are true, and we should all really try, and he hoped nobody thought they'd be happier being somewhere else, doing something else, cause that's why this camp only has adults, so nobody's parents chose it for them.
I thought about it and (this is embarrassing) I can imagine crying about it, and even cussing someone out or getting in a fight, but I don't think it would make me kill someone. My dad said since the Old Testament days God doesn't ask us to kill, and I hope that's true, cause I don't think I have it in me, but maybe if God wants you to do it he puts it in you.
It's a little harder to make friends here than I thought it would be. They haven't done any of those things where you go around and introduce yourselves. The counselors are real friendly, but it seems like every 'group' activity I've been in they've given me something to do, and it's been easier to focus on whatever it is than to try to meet people I don't know.
It's probably just early days yet but I think I'll ask Counselor Jeremy. I'll also tell him how antsy I'm getting; I must've laid awake for a couple of hours last night, but I don't know for sure cause we don't get watches and they only announce the time from when we get up in the morning to lights out. Even if I can't masturbate maybe they'll let me go for a walk in the woods or work some more on my story -- I don't know how long it takes to write a screenplay but I'm sure every hour helps.
Well, I hope tomorrow is a good day. I'm definitely having a good time here; being out in the woods all summer seems to take a lot of the worries away. I just hope I start making friends, especially girls.
Well, I met one person. Her name is Jill. It was during breakfast.
She has red hair, freckles, is really small and skinny. I almost can't believe she's 18, cause she's got kind of a high, scratchy voice, and you can't even see her breasts, probably cause she was wearing a baggy shirt but also I bet they aren't very large.
She also was wearing a skirt that came down to her calves and was pretty loose, so you can't really see much of her figure at all, even if she has one. She has skinny calves and I caught a glimpse of her knee and it was knobby.
I don't know why I keep thinking about the way she looked. She isn't very ugly but she certainly isn't beautiful like Counselor Jameson. And she dresses -- well, she says she dresses modestly. I think shorts and a t-shirt are plenty modest but I'm not her.
Anyhow, I met her mainly because I wasn't minding my own business, but I don't think she minded. She was asking this really dark-skinned girl, Kendra, if she was Catholic. (This was at breakfast. Jill was next to me, and Kendra was sitting across from me.) She'd noticed that Kendra was wearing a crucifix, which is what Catholics wear.
Kendra said she was Pentecostal, but that she wore the crucifix because it reminded her of Jesus's death on the cross, unlike the cross all by itself. She said she'd heard a cross without Jesus wasn't anything but a 'T,' and she didn't worship Mr. T.
Jill seemed OK with that, and she went back to eating her breakfast. But I was curious. So I asked her what the deal was with Catholics. (You should have heard the way she asked this girl if she was Catholic. A "yes" would have ticked her off, I could tell.)
She said she didn't think she could stand to be at a camp where they let Catholics in. She was told there'd only be real Christians here, and she was already overlooking that almost everybody here worshiped on Sundays.
So I asked her if she was Seventh-Day Adventist, and she said, "Yes," like she was proud, and so I asked her what the problem was with Catholics. So she told me they worship Mary, and the Pope, which I'd already heard before, but she said also it was their fault people don't observe the Lord's Day like it says in the Ten Commandments.
I kind of dawned on me then how much I didn't know about all the other campers. What if there were Catholics? I guess they're Christians, but if all that stuff about worshiping Mary is true, maybe they aren't. And they say a priest has to forgive your sins, instead of Jesus. So I think there's some problems.
I'm sure they wouldn't have Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses. I saw a broadcast on CBN, and they flat-out said they don't think Jesus is God. Plus they have a different Bible. But nobody ever told me if Seventh-Day is OK. Going to church on Saturday sure SEEMS wrong, but I guess I should check the Bible.
At least Jill seems real eager to talk to me about all that stuff. Maybe we can help each other with our projects; it seems like the only real free time we have to talk with each other, except for meals.
Oh, and our meditation was on the story of Lot. We got the PG version in Sunday School, it turns out. Turns out the townspeople wanted to rape the angels (which is why 'sodomy' means gay sex) but Lot tried to offer them his own daughters. Then, after they'd escaped the city, Lot's daughters got him drunk and raped him.