Sunday, May 22, 2005

Crazy Crusaders

I just finished the NY Times article on evangelical ministries in Ivy League institutions. Fascinating stuff, and brought back some memories.

I went on my first youth group trip summer before freshman year of high school. It was a beach trip, we drove all the way from Kansas City to Jekyll Island, GA (a two day drive) in 15 passenger vans. Needless to say, tt was enormously fun. I was one of the youngest on the trip, so I felt all cool hanging out with upperclassmen. Mostly I played in the ocean and awkwardly flirted with this 17 year old guy. And on the side there was worship, which consisted of fun songs, games, and a little prayer and bible study.

This trip is the genius of evangelical institutions. You become completely indoctrinated without really noticing it; because, hey, you were there for the beach and the cute guys. Upon my return to Kansas City, I began attending youth group an average of three days a week. I loved it. Mostly because I got to see my best friends so often, the cute guys so often, and there were food and ridiculous games and songs. It was a bit like part-time camp.

Now, those same insitutions (well not quite the same; I attended youth group at my local church) are taking a similar tact and injecting it into all aspects of life. Truly, making church part of every sector of your life (home, work, vacations, school) is brilliant. It's made God inescapable. It also makes turning away from the church nearly impossible. At one time (say 20 years ago, I don't mean in the 50's) you could divorce yourself from God by just leaving your church. Now your entire social fabric, your colleagues, your education -- it's all steeped in Evangelicalism, which is good if you want it, but damned how you'll get out of it should you change your mind.

It's all a bit scary to me. The knowledge that Evangelicals are building these networks backed by millions of dollars feels distinctly threatening. But I guess I should feel comforted that their percent of the population (a whopping 25) has remained unchanged. For now...


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