When I was around 12 years old, I went to a week-long, non-denominational Christian camp with a buddy of mine called “Camp Willow Run.”
I had never gone to a camp before, or spent more than a night away from home. So it was a new thing for me. It was new for my mom too. Oddly enough, she packed only a set of sheets and no blankets for me. I think she thought I would lose them. We didn’t know that the cabins were air conditioned, and I froze my butt off every night I was there.
This is an image from the camp's web site. We stayed in the red cars behind the engine
But it was a fun week. You live out of a train car with bunk beds. It would have been disturbing had I known more about the holocaust.
The activities were hands down some of the funnest things I’d ever done.
There was this huge field that we played capture the flag on. The game went epic, as we couldn’t get a strategy together to capture each others flags.
We played soccer. Did archery.
There was a ropes course. At the time I was really afraid of heights (now only a little), but I was able to push through, sweaty hands, white knuckles and all.
And each night there was a “vespers” service. We did skits and sang songs. Some guy talked about Jesus, and we’d head back to our train-car cabins after they tried to bore us to sleep with prayers and quiet time, so we’d go back to our bunks and fall fast asleep.
One night, we learned a song called “Shut the Door, Keep out the Devil.” It’s a song to be sung with a Jamaican accent … which is always great coming out of the mouths of the whitest group of kids with wealthy, Christian believing parents.
YouTube it and about 1 million versions of the song will turn up. Here’s one:
One night recently while cooking with my brothers in law and Tina, someone said, “Shut the door!” to Michael as he was going in and out of the house. It triggered that song, and I sung its chorus all the way through.
With the accent, you sound ethnic-ish. It comes out, “Shut de do, keep out de deble.”
Everyone laughed and laughed. They thought I was making it up. I told them it wasn’t. We got in a huge fight, and someone lost an eye.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the Deble. I think a lot about religion in general. But how excruciatingly silly is it to believe in the devil. I mean, belief in god, I’ll give you something there. That’s fine. There’s a big feeling that comes from thinking about one’s place in the universe. I get that. Identifying that being as the god of the holy bible, or the koran, or whatever book you believe in, that’s odd.
Scientifically and culturally it’s too common of a phenomenon to think that the one way you were raised in is somehow the right way.
But the devil? Come on. There’s an invisible being out there tormenting your thoughts with lust or temptations to do natural activities? He’s causing pestilence and catastrophes?
That’s the best the devil’s got. If he’s so powerful, and he’s so rebellious against god, you’d think he’d rear his face to humanity. Maybe throw in more distinctive indications of his existence. The whole thing is a sham.
The more you think about religion, the more it can be explained by natural phenomenon.
Once things are explained things naturally, you can’t go back to supernatural.
There’s a racist joke here, but I’m going to leave it at that.
Last thing then stick a fork in me. I imagine every camp counselor had to make sure each one of the kids in his train car was a Christian by the end of the week if they weren’t already. They were required to pull each kid aside and witness to them one by one.
I don’t remember his name, but during a rest time, my counselor called me down to his bunk. In a creepy exchange, he asked me what I think about before I go to bed at night. I lied to him and told him that I think about that day’s events until I fell asleep. For fucksake, I was a kid. What I really thought about was kid stuff. I thought about being a superhero and I had sexual fantasies. Then I’d think about being slaughtered by demons and going to hell, so I’d pray for the forgiveness of sins. Admitting that out loud would have probably put me in some solitary confinement train caboose car. It would have been some sort of pre-teen suicide. I don’t know what you thought about as a kid, but I was human.
Of course his response to me saying that about the day’s events was, “I hope you think about Jesus and his love for you.” I said, “Oh, yeah. Of course. That’s part of it.” My routine at home was to pray and ask god for forgiveness as to avoid hell’s gates in the event devils murdered me in the middle of the night. I’ve retained some of the worst demonic-induced nightmares because of religion and I resent it completely.
When I told the camp guy about my prayers, he seemed pleased enough to stop witnessing to me. He said a short prayer for me, and I guiltily walked back to my bunk and asked god for forgiveness for lying to him.
I should have said to myself, “That was bunk.”
I look back at all that, and I think, “What a cruel joke.” What was cool about the camp were the games, the activities and the friendships. All of the god stuff had negative connotations, even then. I wasn’t old enough or wise enough to question it thoroughly. The religion parts of the camp were uncomfortable and contrived. I feel like I knew it then, but it took years to accept it.
Not to mention, the dumb racist song that white people seem to love to sing in an effort to be something they aren’t.
Swing low sweet chariot, anybody?