Authorial Comment: It’s been quite some time since I posted the first part of my series about what it’s like to attend Charity Youth Bible School. As I was reading over the comments, I made a few notes I thought I would answer:
Of course you had a bad time, you lied on your application and so your guilty conscience just couldn’t stand going to such a spiritual place!
This made me chuckle, I’ll admit it. The reason that probably 99% of all applications to this school have lies or omissions is because Charity standards are deliberately high. They make standards that are impossible to follow because their religion relies on a constant cycle of heavy guilt, and a brief honeymoon period of bliss when they repent. Almost all cults rely on some form of this cycle. In order to create guilty members, they create standards that are impossible to follow, at least all the time.
So if I lied on my application form, it’s because I left off Enya as a singer I enjoyed. Seriously. Enya, who is probably seen as bland elevator music to most of the sane world, could be seen as some kind of New Age witch in these circles. If I lied, it’s because I was afraid that my enjoyment of mystery novels about a medieval monk might betray my secret desire to become a Catholic.
I just don’t understand why you didn’t like YBS. I went there, and I really loved it. Everyone was so spiritual!
YBS is used as a tool to lure families into the movement. In that sense, it is tailored heavily to appear in the best possible light. My own family was led into the movement because my oldest sister attended and returned with glowing reports about the amazing modesty of the girls and the genuine spirituality of everyone there. For people who may attend a church with no spiritual heart, the outward trappings may seem to indicate an actual rich inner spiritual life. For someone is hungry to connect with God, Youth Bible School may seem to be a haven, where people actually care about God and want to talk about his Word.
In reality, the reason for those heavily enforced modesty rules and hawk-like monitoring by creepy “principals” is because Charity churches are highly distrustful of young people. They are afraid of what could possibly occur if crazy young’uns are allowed to congregate and talk with each other. On one hand, it makes sense to keep an eye on hormonally-charged teenagers; no one wants someone to get hurt. On the other hand, one female monitor swooped in on me because I had braided my hair into one long plait and placed my covering on top. She said that I should place my hair “up” into a bun. I was feeling sick that day, and had been unable to find the bobby pins required to place my hair into a bun. In addition, there were no rules that indicated that braids were unacceptable ways of dressing ones hair. Even if someone can justify every single written rule that exists at YBS, there are a thousand more unspoken rules that no single human can follow. Believe me; these rules are enforced MORE heavily if they know your family is already in the movement. They are “easier” on teenagers attending who come from a worldly background, at least in some ways, because they know these teenagers have more ability to actually leave.
SO! Let’s get on to part two of the YBS experience.
Day Two: Monday
You wake up depending on how close your family lives to the school. If you’re lucky, they actually live nearby. If you’re unlucky, you’re 2 hours out in farm country with half a dozen other youngsters and you’ve gotta get up at 5 am if you need a shower. You rub the grit out of your eyes and get ready for a grueling day. After all, you’ve got the morning service, the mid-morning service, lunch, choir practice, another sermon, prayer group and finally, another sermon that usually has an evangelical theme.
So as you settle onto your chair, you can scan the list of speakers and sermon topics. Oh, goody. Every morning you get to listen to Brother Pontificus talk about the evils of Social Media. You remember Brother Pontificus from last year. He has a wagging grey beard, likes to pound the pulpit with his gnarled fist, and spittle starts to fly when he really gets going. Oh, you also remember another annoying fact. Although the head principal constantly reminds students to return ON TIME from breaks, and even suggests going to the restroom so much during sermons, pastors are freely allowed to run over their time limit. This frequently reduces breaks from the already paltry 10-15 minutes to 5. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to relieve your bladder. Lucky you!
Quiz question: what happens when you take hundreds of young people from all over the United States and cram them into a confined space during the middle of November? If you guessed fornication, you’re probably some kind of godless heathen. If you guessed TONS OF COLDS AND SICKNESS, thank God, you’ve probably been to YBS. Although the main auditorium is usually warm, prayer group meetings take place in a creepy, badly-lit backroom area that is always slightly chilly. Each prayer group meets in separate cubicles…on the floor, which is usually thin carpet over cold, cold concrete. Monday isn’t too bad, but wait until Wednesday, that’s when you’ll really starting to hear the sneezing and coughing and hacking.
Curiously, this wave of sickness has never caused Charity to move the weird timing of their school. Incidentally, it seems designed to interfere with normal life. Most teenagers to young adults should be in school, or they will be attending college. However, perhaps they don’t want to attract the kinds of adults who may have the critical thinking skills imparted by a college education. After all, they might bring in some worldly ideas like…uh…tape cassettes of Amy Grant or something. So if you were working a job or school and your parents forced you to go, have fun explaining why you’re missing a week of school or work in the middle of freaking November.
I forgot to mention mealtime. Because of the hundreds of people attending, the students are required to help set the table and wash dishes. In their traditionally sexist way, it is almost always female groups who must handle the messy task of washing trays and refilling water jugs. The male students typically handle setting out the tables, a task that, although tedious, is much quicker. Apparently kitchen work is female, and moving tables is not. None of these students are given gloves, masks or hair nets, so only God knows how many people get infected every year by a student with a cold who has been detailed to pour water. What could be a good lesson about serving others becomes a sexist, unsanitary mess.
If you’re lucky, you just get to sit down and eat whatever casserole or soup they made. The food, if boring, is at least filling. Seating is dictated, and male and female students are NEVER seated at the same round tables. They might be seated across from each other at long rectangular tables, but never next to each other. God knows that kind of evil might occur if Abner Miller and Hepsiba* Amschtuz brushed hands while reaching for the same water pitcher**.
So. Your second day at YBS is over. If you’re not sick with a cold, bronchial infection or the flu, good job. You’ve alive.
*Note: the uglier the name, the more spiritual the child
**If you’re having trouble imaging what might happen, it’s fornication. Fornication would happen.