Church Proud of Brainwashing 140 Children Aged 4-9
In contrast to the wonderful secular summer camp, called Camp Quest, PZ mentioned on Pharyngula, I have a rather sad story about an Evangelical summer camp that took place at my wife's church a week or so ago.
My wife's church just wrapped up a week-long program where children are introduced to Jesus at a summer camp. These kids are from families who have just started to take Christianity more seriously (ie. Usually the mother starts becoming more than just "Christian in title only" and starts attending church regularly, then she enrolls her kids in such a program to "bring up the children right.") So these kids, who have only some very basic level of Christian knowledge, come in and are indoctrinated with Christian juju. In this case, it's called Fiesta, and is Mexican themed. (Not really wanting to pile-on here realizing full-well that this is just a week-long kids' program, but, from the PowerPoint slide-show, "Mexican-themed" seems to mean just giving every 3rd kid a sombrero.)
According to the announcement the head organizer of the camp gave at church this week, God blessed the program because they could accommodate 140 kids only. God was so wonderful that even more children than that tried to sign up so a couple dozen had to be turned away. Seems to me that if God were really blessing the program, exactly 140 kids would have signed up, no more, no less, but that's beside the point.
The point is, at the end of the week, each child was given a white paper cross, and told that, if they accepted Jesus as their friend and saviour, they could colour in the cross whatever colour they wanted, write their name on it, and put it up on the board. And the head organizer was really proud that every single child coloured in the cross and accepted Jesus.
Now what really grates me is the ages of the kids involved. The program is a summer camp for kids from junior kindergarten to grade 4. These are young, impressionable kids. They are a captive audience. They are doing fun camp activities. And when the camp leaders insert "Jesus loves you" into every other sentence, then ask the children if they "want to accept Jesus as their friend forever", the church organizers have no right to claim to be blessed by God when every single child says yes. These kids are less than 9 years old! Nine year old kids will regurgitate and believe anything you tell them if you make it sound good. Most of them still believe in Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy, for crying out loud!
You tell them that not only will they have a friend forever, get to live in heaven, and avoid hell, but that Jesus is associated with fun camp activities, plus you have the peer pressure of having everyone else do it, so of course they’ll agree with you.
These little kids aren't being convinced of the existence of the loving Christian god by the logic of the arguments presented. They certainly aren't being directed by the Holy Spirit to accept Jesus, as the head organizer believes. They are being brainwashed by the church, and at that age, they have no intellectual defense against it at all.
Additional (31 July, 2006)
-By the way, the secular Camp Quest "minimum age" of 8 roughly coincides with the Christian camp's "maximum grade" of grade 4, roughly age 9. That sure allows these poor, brainwashed little kids the ability to critically-think about Jesus, eh?
-If it makes anyone feel any better, during the organizer's announcement, the power went out in the church for about a minute. Of course, they praised God when the power came back on, but didn't denigrate him when it went out in the first place.
Additional (4 August, 2006)
-At least this Fiesta camp isn't as bad as the fundie camp PZ mentions here.