Youth Group with Baptists
If you recall from my very first post here on Teen Skepchick, A Weenie Roast with Baptists (if you don’t recall because you haven’t read it I suggest you do before reading this) where I described an up-close and personal encounter with a group of people that were my political and religious opposites in every way. I’m pro-science. They’re anti-science. I’m an Atheist. They’re devote Christians. I don’t believe in magic. They do and so on.
Although my friends encompass a large political spectrum and I have quite a few after school activities, skeptical topics don’t come up as often as I’d like for more regular blogging. I could seek out craziness on the internet but somehow things on the internet just don’t feel real. There’s a certain separation between the person writing and the person reading that allows things to be said that would otherwise never get said. I remembered my weenie roast fun and all the blogging fuel I got from it and I made a polite inquiry to my friend (dubbed for this blog) Sarah about her youth group. She said they were having a game night at a certain date and time. Another friend of mine and I go to this game night with Sarah and surprisingly nothing out of the ordinary is said.
The next school day I tell Sarah I had fun but I was disappointed that nobody said anything crazy. She said if I wanted to hear something crazy I could go to her youth group meeting (I’m not paraphrasing, she used the word crazy). This sounded like just my sort of thing so I did some schedule rearranging to work it in.
On the night of the event I went to the church. Most of Sarah’s youth group remembered me while I wasn’t sure which ones I had met before. (Hey, they were all wearing coats last time.) We filed into the youth group room. The youth group leader came in, a man with dark hair, in his twenties, who insisted upon being called Jack. (Hey, look, I’m one of you. I’ve got a first name!) The meeting started with making a list of joys and concerns. This was uneventful.
Afterward, a youth mentioned something they saw on the history channel. This set Jack off on a rant. What I could make of it was that the people who make those shows (about research to see if the events of the Bible could and did really happen) are a bunch of intellectuals that don’t start with the premise that the Bible is the true word of God and that’s why they’re wrong. I wanted to say to him that he’s just dismissing the evidence those shows present because it conflicts with his ideology. But I didn’t want to reveal myself as being a staunch skeptic too soon.
Next he asked us if we wanted to talk about anything we read in our Bibles. The youth group got quiet and looked at their shoes. (As teenagers do when asked to participate.) I went through a phase where I had every intent of reading the Bible all the way through and then the Koran and so on. I made through the first 15 pages. I’m really glad I did because now I can use it to ask a really thorough question. I say to him that I was reading my Bible one day and it said “Suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over a man, but to be in silence.” (I didn’t really get that far. I saw that passage on a t-shirt but what I said is almost true.) I asked him what it meant. I had a pretty good idea of what it meant I just wanted to see how he would attempt justify it.
Jack, in a round-a-bout and tongue fumbling sort of way (I don’t blame him, he was put on the spot), explained that at the very beginning Adam was created to be dominant over Eve. That’s why God went to Adam when he discovered the fruit from the tree of knowledge had been eaten. Went on to say that, in a marriage, if the man wasn’t dominant over the woman it would be chaos. Like how the youth group would be chaos if he wasn’t there to lead it. I asked him if a man always had to be the leader or if a woman was incapable of leading. He said something along the lines of a woman could if they had to but a man being dominant was God’s will. He went on to tell the boys in the room that being the head of the household was a heavy responsibility. They had to answer for their family. There’s a lot more of this conversation that I’m leaving out since I have article length to think about. It took up most of the time they had for talking about things we read in the Bible.
The youth group has a thing called “Talents for Christ” where they sing and play instruments in the name of their lord. They practice during youth group and I was invited to sing along with the choir. As the music was brought out I asked Sarah, who I was sitting next to, if she agreed with the stuff Jake said. She did. I was a little surprised that a woman would have that opinion but not very considering Sarah’s other odd beliefs. I asked her that, if she got married, and her husband became abusive, would she still submit to him? First she said that she would never marry someone like that. I volunteered that he was nice at first and became abusive later. She said she would stay with him and hope that things would get better: “Have they been telling you that?” I said, “Dear God!” She just looks at me uncomprehendingly.
I asked Bethany, the same Bethany I debated with the whole weenie roast, good times, the same question I asked Sarah. She said that she’d get help from her church. An alright answer, better than Sarah’s. Next I am given free ice cream by the youth group leaders. Which I thank them for. Then, after everyone is finished, a folder with music. I very quietly sang along, hoping not to ruin the beautiful harmony. After choir practice was over, and youth group as well, I think of a really good question to ask Jack. Assured that he won’t mind, I went over to him where he was standing in the back of the room.
I knew this would be my last chance so I pull out the really big guns: “Something has been bothering me for a while.” I said, “How can a loving god allow so much suffering?” I know I’m not the first to think of this, but it’s still a really good question. He says it has to do with free will. I asked him to explain. He told me to image little robots living on a near by table top. He asked me, if I was there god and I forced them to love me, would I be satisfied with that? I told him that what he claims God does isn’t free will at all. It’s like a husband saying to his wife or children, “Love me or I’ll beat you.” It’s not a choice at all. What God does is even worse because he says, “Love me or I’ll torture you forever.” But Jack seemed to think that choosing between loving God and spending an eternity screaming in a fiery lake is free will.
There was really no point in trying to convince him. Though I was going to try, but my mother had come in without my noticing. She told me it was time to go. Slightly embarrassed I thanked Jack and left. It seems like every time I spend time with Baptists I encounter beliefs I thought were reserved for the ancient past and internet crazies.