From the “scaring kids for Jesus” department comes this tale out of Middletown, PA:
County prosecutors have begun an investigation into a church function where members of a youth group were tied up and blindfolded as part of a lesson in religious persecution.
Fran Chardo, First Deputy District Attorney of Dauphin County, said there could be consequences if teens didn’t know what was going to happen, and didn’t agree to be a part of the event at the Glad Tidings Assembly of God Church in Lower Swatara Township.
“It’s actually quite serious,” Chardo said. “False imprisonment of a child, someone under the age of 18, is a second-degree felony punishable up to 10 years on prison.”
ABC27 News has learned that an off-duty police officer acted as one of two kidnappers who raided the Wednesday night meeting. The gun used by the officer in the fake raid was unloaded, but real.
I was once involved in a church youth group skit involving a real, loaded gun, but I’ll get to that.
Lower Swatara Township police began their own investigation when the mother of a 14-year-old girl complained that her daughter, a guest of a youth group member, had her legs bruised during the event.
The teen told abc27 News she thought she was going to die when the men burst into the room, put pillow cases over some of the people’s heads and led them into a van.
“They pulled my chair out from underneath me and then they told me to get on the ground,” she said. “I was the first person to go into the van. I had my hands behind my back they said ‘just do as I say and you won’t be hurt’.”
The teens were taken to the pastor’s house, where it appeared he was being assaulted. Eventually, she said the adults in charge revealed it was a staged event.
“They heard me crying,” she said. “Why not right then and there tell us it was a joke, when you see me crying?”
Pastor John Lanza said the lesson was a surprise “to secure the shock value of it and make it much more real.”
“There are people in other countries that live under this environment on a regular daily basis,” Lanza said. “They’re not warned that their persecutors are coming in.”
Church officials said the exercise has been done before and they would not shy away from doing it again, but would tell parents first. They added that they never had any indication that the teen was in such distress.
“I’m pretty sure she was laughing at some point and having fun with the other students,” youth pastor Andrew Jordan said. “I can’t confirm that, but that’s what I’ve heard from friends of hers that were there.”
Because there is no better way to teach American teenagers how people elsewhere in the world are traumatized than to traumatize them. Not to quibble with Pastor Lanza, but it does not sound like these children were “warned that their persecutors are coming in,” either. They were just told it was all fake after the fact. I’m sure it was no different than a fraternity prank, right?
Whatever the rationale for this, I hope someone high up gets something more than a slap on the wrist. After all is said and done, these are the adults that these kids are supposed to trust–to rely on for guidance–and this is how the adults treat them? Plus, the whole point of the exercise, by the pastor’s own admission, is to scare the kids, so how does he also suggest they were having fun?
Here’s the deal, Pastor Lanza, either you succeeded in your goal of scaring them (“to secure the shock value”), or the kids were having fun with it. There really is no middle ground here. Either way, you are one sick puppy, pastor.
It puts my loaded (with blanks) gun experience in perspective. Rewind to my high school days, circa 1992. To act out the “full armor of God” bit from Ephesians 6:10-18, my youth director had me put on some baseball catcher’s equipment (to represent the armor) and gave me a .357 loaded with blanks (to represent prayer.) We acted out a skit where a bully was tormenting me, and an angel equipped me with the titular armor. The armor protected me from a bully (played by one of my friends) and the “prayer” took his ass out. I fired slightly to his right (my left), because a tiny bit of common sense and human decency must have crept into my brain in that moment.
But at least no one put a bag over my head and kidnapped me.
(h/t to sinidentidades for the story)
Photo credit: Taurus .357 Magnum by SoulRider.222 on Flickr.