Recently a youth pastor attempted to pull off the ultimate of teaching illustrations: a live kidnapping. A group of youth were led to believe that terrorist-types were taking them as hostages.
Now, I think that we need to educate North American Christians about issues that other parts of the globe have to deal with. It is not legal in many places to worship God. Doing so can lead to various forms of harassment such as kidnapping, foul play, imprisonment, and even death. We ought to regularly pray for such sisters and brothers around the world and speak the “truth in love” to the principalities and powers (both seen and unseen) on the injustice of this sort of policy toward any religion, group, or sect.
Having spent 7 years in youth ministry, I love that it often experiments with forms of church that the “big church” often would not think up on its own. Much of the innovation in mission in the past two decades can be directly traced to youth ministry innovation. And to be sure, as an experimental laboratory, we must expect that there will be some ideas that “go bad” or fall flat on their face. I’m certainly no exception. I’ve made several mistakes in my short ministry career (now about 10 years). But then there are the things that just go too far. Kidnapping kids is one of those areas.
Here’s what one article says:
PITTSBURGH — A southeastern Pennsylvania church and a youth pastor are facing criminal charges for a mock kidnapping of a youth group that was meant to be a lesson in religious persecution.
The Glad Tidings Assembly of God in Middletown and 28-year-old Andrew David Jordan of Elizabethtown were charged Friday with false imprisonment and simple assault, said Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico.
The church staged the event in March. Mock kidnappers covered the teenagers’ heads, put them in a van and interrogated them. Neither the young people nor their parents were told beforehand that it wasn’t real. The mother of a 14-year-old girl filed a complaint with police.
“This is a sad case for all those involved,” Marsico said, adding that while the church’s and Jordan’s intentions were not necessarily harmful, “they in essence terrorized several children.”
“We need to protect children, no matter where the harm occurs,” Marsico said, adding that a grand jury recommended the charges. He noted that some of the teenagers in the group were not members of the church, and that a semi-automatic rifle was displayed in the exercise.
I can’t help but think that beyond being a dumb idea, that this was only made possible by creating a church culture that glorifies violence as redemptive. You wont find semi-auto rifles in a church of pacifist (well, not likely). If fact, why should anyone have automatic rifles in any setting? And, why do we want to create the sorts of emotions (which are real emotions in the moment) in order to create concern? We should care even if we cannot relate to the “other.” In fact, admitting that we cannot relate actually is the first step towards authentic empathy.
Consider some further details from another article:
The mock kidnapping occurred in March. During a youth group meeting, teens were taken at gunpoint (with an unloaded gun) with their heads covered and loaded into a van.
A 14-year-old girl who filed a complaint against the church told ABC News earlier that she was terrified and unaware that it was not real….
“I thought ‘why not tell us that it was a joke?'”
The teens were taken to the pastor’s house where they found the pastor covered in blood.
The staged event was designed to teach the youths about the persecution Christians often face in other countries and to prepare them for such situations should they serve as missionaries.
Beyond the issue of violence, lets not forget that this sort of assault potentially creates real memories of emotional trauma similar to *actually* being kidnapped. The psychological effects could be residual for some students, depending on the amount of trauma they had already experienced during their lifetime.
Let’s use common sense and let’s quit creating a culture that glorifies violence. Yes, it was to help students “understand,” but perhaps walking through the radical call to discipleship as modeled in the Sermon on the Mount would be a better place to start.