So, we dropped Fenya off at bible camp tonight, about an hour west of town. This was not something we had really planned on doing, but when some friends of ours decided to send their daughter and asked if Fenya could come along (and were willing to front the fees in this Summer of Our Single Income (TM), God bless 'em), we took a look, established the camp's legitimacy and said, "sure, why not?"
Further, post-committal research revealed that although the camp is non-denominational (good), they are fairly evangelical in their approach (spider-sense tingling). This unease was enhanced somewhat when we found that her Harry Potter books were not welcome additions at camp. This could be because hey, some kids are going to be rabidly pro-Potter and others vehemently anti-Potter, and this is without even getting into the whole "the movies are great adaptations" vs. "good grief, you can't give Harry the Firebolt at the end of the film!" conflict, so why provoke a donnybrook without need, right? It could be like serving pork at a multi-faith dinner. However, having heard the words "Nothing which glorifies the occult," at registration tonight, I don't think that is the case.
Now, while I personally may take objection to that, it is their camp and their rules, and I am perfectly willing to respect them, if not the rationale behind them. What, you're going to miss out on a fantastic children's adventure story, complete with tremendous lessons in values like honesty, loyalty and friendship, because you are afraid of children being drawn into 'actual' witchcraft? You don't think they'll wise up the moment they turn over a year's allowance for a stick whose only ability is depriving the owner of depth perception after they try to violently shake a charm out of it and poke themselves in the eye? For crying out loud, even the Vatican newspaper gave the latest film a Rosary-calloused thumbs up, what does that tell you? Truth be told, I can't help but feel this kind of knee-jerk reaction, whether it is to Harry Potter, Dungeons & Dragons, rock music or same-sex marriages, is borne out of insecurity in one's faith. But I digress...
So, for the past week, we have been trying to prepare Fenya for, let's call them, alternative views to the scriptures and how they relate to our daily lives. I think the Bible is a great book which is instrumental to providing some extremely good insights into our limited understanding of our limitless Creator, but that it makes an incredibly poor science text (The sun is literally a lamp in the sky? Who knew?)and/or rule book (I'm looking at you, Leviticus!), despite numerous attempts to do so. The challenge, obviously, is how do you explain this to a smart and sensitive 10 year old, who, like Rodney King and her dad, just wants everybody to get along, without putting her on her guard to such a degree that she feels dishonest or incapable of enjoying herself?
Well, it turns out you don't. We had a couple of chats about the perils of judging folk, and told her that when she came home, if she had any questions, we would sit down and sort out what they all mean. We told her that she is to be honest at all times, but to feel free to bow out of any conversation that makes her uncomfortable. That said, I did suggest that her new friends might not be ready to hear that our new minister is gay. (Oh, not just a little gay either; this dude does not hide his light under a bushel. He rolls into his first sermon with an earring in each ear and mentions how much he and his partner loves show tunes as a segue into "Getting to Know You". As a person of Irish descent who likes beer and the occasional pulling of a cork, I found his embracing of what many might consider 'stereotypes' both refreshing and disarming. I think he's going to work out just fine.) I also suggested that her recent foray into D&D be left on the stoop as well.
Having been to the place now, I feel a little more at ease. The camp director came out prior to registration and outlined how that process would go, and there was way more time spent on talking about health issues (we got therma-scanned on the way in to make sure no one had a fever, which I thought was wicked smart in light of the H1N1 pandemic) and cell phones ("Keep 'em; in our experience, they don't help, and they always get stolen. But if you want them to have them, go right ahead.") than about prohibited materials. We met both of Fenya and Carissa's cabin counsellors and some of their bunkmates, and they seemed really good, very outgoing and excited.
The quick and informal t-shirt survey I took tonight leads me to believe I am not the only one in the "I'm keen on the bible but not so much with the thumpin'" crowd. I Googled the slogan from the back of one gent ("The closer you get to the meaning, the sooner you'll find you're dreaming"), and found out it was the latest in shirts from (wait for it...) Black Sabbath. That's right, Ozzy Osbourne's old band. And yet, with the front of the shirt having "Heaven and Hell" in 2" letters on top of some medieval wood cut imagery of the damned, and no sign of the band's name, who's to know?
The same goes for the lady I saw wearing a "Lamb of God" sweatshirt. I recognized it as a band's name, but knowing nothing about them, I thought perhaps they were one of those Christian metal bands. ("Honey I know it has the same grunty vocals and screaming thrash guitars as that devil music little Johnny used to listen to, but at the end of the day, they're singing about Jesus, so that makes it okay...") A quick trip to Wikipedia reveals that LoG's original name was "Burn the Priest", so I figure we can chalk this one up to another instance of crypto-adolescent rebellion.
As a result of this, a certain portion of my cognitive processing power that should be worried about my eldest daughter's first week at camp is instead wondering, "What sort of shirt should I wear when I pick her up?" Suggestions are encouraged in the Comments section.