VBS 3 –  Why I Can’t Drink Kool-Aid

VBS 3 –  Why I Can’t Drink Kool-Aid August 16, 2018

Editor’s Note: Trusty TCP blog associate and reliable commenter, Mason Lane, cleverly re-interprets my Vacation Bible Story assignment to his own liking. /Linda LaScola, Editor


By Mason Lane

Editor LaScola’s assignment was for a Bible story remembered from Vacation Bible School, with a secular twist.  Vacation Bible School:  as if I needed another week or two of three hours a day learning how to say stupid things about and to a non-existent God? And what a heartless way to waste my priceless summer vacation time.  My memories of VBS lessons are lacking because it required me to use the daydreaming skills I’d developed at Muessel elementary school (pronounced like the disease).  But I liked Muessel School, not VBS.

While patiently waiting with writer’s block for one of the daughters of Zeus to arrive with inspiration,

three vivid memories did occur to me: the lousy snacks, the gospel magic show on Friday night of the last VBS day, and what happened to new kids over the first few days of VBS.

At the hour-and-a-half mark, we VBS captives, all under mandated parental attendance orders, were given our daily cheap snack consisting of an animal cracker cookie and a plastic glass of sickeningly sweet orange Kool-Aid. A bitty bite and stingy sip were all I could stomach. Such training might have served me well as a Jim Jones Guyana survivor, had circumstances brought us together. (We were both Hoosiers).

The magic show was good – it was done by a paid professional who knew how to invade credulous kids’ brains with a toxic mix of magic and theistic blood sacrifice false dilemma dialogue. I know it sounds disgusting, but this guy somehow made the scam believable.

Every trick ended with an emotional plea about how we needed to get blood washed or else our dirty little selves would bake in hell like clay pots in a 2400-Fahrenheit kiln. It was terrifying entertainment at its best! An excellent tutorial for watching horror movies.

During the seven years that I suffered through VBS, I noticed a pattern. When VBS started there would always be two or three kids in my class who did not attend our Baptist church – mostly strangers, but sometimes someone I’d seen at school. Then, after the second or third day, they mysteriously disappeared, like transient alien visitors.

One day, the case of the vanished children was solved when I overheard some teachers talking:

“Oh, they won’t be back. When their parents learn we’re teaching them the real true gospel, they’ll never let em’ attend anymore.”

At the time I thought:

“How terrible that these kids would end up lost and be tossed into God’s extra-large kiln for all eternity.”

All eternity was a very popular Evangelical phrase that never made sense to me. Can there be a half of eternity?

Years later, after I’d deprogramed my fundamentalist Christian brainwashing, I imagined how the scenario went  — how the alien kids would go home and excitedly say things like,

“You know Mom, Dad, we have to get saved by Jesus’s blood or we’re all going to burn in hell!”

Those sure were good parents who yanked their children out of the Baptist VBS classes and promptly stopped the brainwashing.

Evangelical mental abuse of children still continues summer after summer. There are kits available for sale to make the VBS brainwashing more entertaining for the victims.

But there are also groups and individuals who are finally pushing back and exposing VBS and Child Evangelism International for the potential damage they pose to a young human brain.

This is truly  “Good News” and I await more of it, while I continue to suppress those bad memories and wait for inspiration.


Bio: Mason Lane: As a credulous child, I was raised Christian fundamentalist Baptist. I later became a glory-shouting Pentecostal and was ordained by the Christian Faith Church Pentecostal in Mishawaka Indiana. I ceased believing in the irrational and supernatural at age 30, thanks primarily to reading the Bible while thinking.  At the time of my de-supernaturalizing, I was General Manager of WHME-FM radio station, a Christian radio station, and Pastor of Christian Faith Church in Mishawaka, Indiana. I resigned both positions and moved to Phoenix, Arizona where I became dean of students at DeVry University.

I’m still a person of faith. My faith is now in science, nature, love, friends, family, music, humor, art, The US Constitution, the 5,000 year old Golden Rule and Separation of Religion and State.

>>>>>Photo Credits: By Wolfgang Sauber – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6555488; By Unknown – Universal Studios, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17161363


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  • carolyntclark

    Mason, you’re a superb example of total recovery from “Alleternity”.

    • mason

      Thanks Carolyn, I find great satisfaction in helping people with their recovery process.

  • Sure enough, this is what got you into trouble: “thanks primarily to reading the Bible while thinking.” I too am a Hoosier, and I guess I’m fortunate to have no memory whatever of Vacation Bible School.

    • mason

      David, the way you feel fortunate about escaping VBS is the way my wife feels about escaping life in the Evangelical cult world. 🙂

  • Kevin K

    Of all of the abuses witnessed upon children; the worst is the vision of hell.

    I see dozens upon dozens of commenters here and elsewhere declare that they still have trouble overcoming this notion, even though they no longer believe in any of the rest of it.

    I’m not much of a Dawkins fan (to put it mildly), but I think he was exactly right when he said children should not be indoctrinated into their religion at a young age. This is why.

    • mason

      True, and I suspect there are millions who still deal with hellfire childhood trauma.
      I’ve communicated with several TCP members who are exactly as you describe. They are long time freethinkers, non-believers, but they were so traumatized as children, they still have bad flashbacks or dreams about hellfire, much like the PTSD of a rape victim. I don’t think that hellfire should be part of indoctrination even for adults.

      • Otto

        I have told a story about my 12 yr old son seeing a show for 20 minutes on TV about demon possession (he has been raised without religion and I have talked to him many times about why Christianity is nonsensical), and his immediate horror and terror about what he saw. It only then made me realize how it affected me through years of that abuse. Luckily for me once I realized it was all bunk it was over, I am sorry many people suffered so bad that they may never be free of that.

        • Linda_LaScola

          Me too — so relieved that I never took it very seriously. I just memorized the catechism, regurgitated it when asked and pretty much ignored it otherwise. What luck.

        • Liz

          So much of the Bible is R rated, and yet it’s considered noble and sweet to give a child their own copy. We get leaflets about “Bible poverty” asking for money to give Bibles to children in places where they can’t easily get hold of them, stuff like that. But you wouldn’t give a five year old a novel which had that level of violence in it, even if it was an accurate representation of a true event.

          • Otto

            Everyone likes to use the Sodom and Gomorrah story for an example of sexual depravity…but it is funny how they all stop the story there and no one mentions Lot in the cave with his daughters. I have heard someone use this example…how about if I read the Bible to your children but I get to pick which parts…would you take me up on that offer?

          • Liz

            Or the part where they offer their daughters as an alternative to the crowd raping the angels. Fun times!

    • Jim Jones

      “We all know that any emotional bias — irrespective of truth or falsity — can be implanted by suggestion in the emotions of the young, hence the inherited traditions of an orthodox community are absolutely without evidential value…. If religion were true, its followers would not try to bludgeon their young into an artificial conformity; but would merely insist on their unbending quest for truth, irrespective of artificial backgrounds or practical consequences. With such an honest and inflexible openness to evidence, they could not fail to receive any real truth which might be manifesting itself around them. The fact that religionists do not follow this honourable course, but cheat at their game by invoking juvenile quasi-hypnosis, is enough to destroy their pretensions in my eyes even if their absurdity were not manifest in every other direction.”

      ― H.P. Lovecraft

  • Jennny

    In the UK, before deconverting, I can’t count the number of ‘Holiday Clubs’ (what we called VBS) I ran over 40 years. They were fundy, but we didn’t do ‘altar calls’ or ask children to sign on the dotted line…we saw it as a teaching ministry so that children learned bible stories and bible verses that the holy spirit would use, that week or even years later to bring conversion. (And new bums on seats in our church). Parents up to a decade or so ago were pleased their children went to Sunday School, and by extension to Holiday Clubs, it was kind of cultural. They recalled enjoying bible stories from their young days and dimly, perhaps, felt we were teaching a sound moral basis for life. I recall some excellent musicians, some good storytellers talented artists’ visual aids And for afternoon ‘fun’, skilled crafters, enthusiastic sports players etc. So our stuff was professional and entertaining. Churches were largely the only source of childminding back then, but gradually, all sorts of organisations began to offer exciting holiday programmes for working parents to send kids to. The last clubs I did, more than one parent said, seeing the craft item I’d helped their child make ‘Oh, they did one of those in Scouts’ and ‘Would you like me to give you the pattern for that doll?’ (implying the Brownies one was better than mine). Now I’m pleased the present generation of parents holds no brief for the church teaching its children at all. The pedophile scandals – though none near us – mean they don’t think churches are safe places for kids anymore. And why would you need to know about bible stories? When a local church advertised a kids club on the local FB page, 2 parents commented ‘Religious indoctrination is child abuse.’ Up to 5-10yrs ago, parents seemed to respect church kids programmes, no longer fortunately…the clock’s not going back on that one, ever again I’m sure.

    • Linda_LaScola

      Interesting history of UK “holiday clubs”– thanks. But I wouldn’t be so confident that the clock won’t be turned back — look what’s happened here in the US!

      • Jennny

        But the UK has so few younger folk attending churches to staff any sort of evangelistic outreach. (Discounting, as we P/NR folk do, the possibility of supernatural revival breaking out). In large swathes of the UK, especially rural areas, churches are dying, closing by the dozen. Many more are clinging on by their fingertips, just a handful of over 60s. I’m not exaggerating… Reasons may include fear of pedophile clergy, disapproval of most churches’ homophobia or sometimes seeing the hypocrisy of the lives of the faithful. A 90yo in my welsh village and I were talking in the main street of our village. He pointed at a chapel, long since sold off as a private home, roughly translated from welsh, he said ‘That was my chapel, we went 3 times on Sundays, but now it’s closed, I see it made no difference, those outside the church are as good as those inside’. Implying there was no difference in how folk lived whether x-tians or not so why bother to transfer to another chapel. He’d seen the light, what had been an all-consuming social and cultural way of life to his generation, was empty and based on fiction.

        • mason

          Thanks for sharing the good news …

          “He pointed at a chapel, long since sold off as a private home, roughly translated from welsh, he said ‘That was my chapel, we went 3 times on Sundays, but now it’s closed, I see it made no difference, those outside the church are as good as those inside” Yep, sure is the truth … I noticed that even when in the Evangelical cult, and how many outside were in many ways better … but like the blind faith follower I was, I suppressed what I saw, like I did with so many other things.

          Churches are being converted to homes, businesses, night clubs all across the US. This is a good start. https://www.cbsnews.com/media/5-churches-transformed-into-homes/

        • Geoff Benson

          The ‘Grand Designs’ TV show is forever featuring church conversions to fantastic homes. I’m just waiting for the church (CoE) next door to where I live to shut for the last time so I can turn it into apartments!

        • Wesley Mahan

          I was actually a missionary in the UK: many years with Operation Mobilisation, in Bromley, Kent, and also on the MV Doulos, their gospel ship! Married me a British woman and had two sons born there. If I see a Brit here on this forum, I must take the opportunity to apologize for trying to evangelize you lot! I know the “born-againers” are fare less present in the UK than in the USA, probably because you Brits are quite a lot more intelligent than the average American. Wales was always a little more evangelical than the rest of the UK, but I’m glad to hear those wise words from the guy who used to to to that “free church” chapel when it was open.

          • Jennny

            Not sure about the ‘Wales was more evangelical,’ Chapels filled in the much-vaunted 1904 revival but emptied again soon afterwards. It was a cultural thing, the only source of entertainment in rural areas, the best place to sing, the welsh love their choral singing..a relief from the harsh working conditions in quarries and mines. The elderly folk in my village tell me of the rivalry between chapels in choral competions, they poached the best singers from one another. There are 15+ closed chapels in my village, some almost next door to one another and they never spoke to each other. My dad told of preachers’ hellfire sermons against ‘the demon drink’ but the preacher was known to got to the back door of the pub in the week with a jug to buy ale, and to abuse their wives when drunk. So, even when fundy, I never bought into the belief that Wales was a wonderful x-tian nation…a lot of what went on was hardly ‘god-honouring.’

    • mason

      Jenny, thanks so much for your story. I had no idea there was a VBS-lite version had its era in UK as “Holiday Clubs.” I”m looking forward to the day when the social consciousness evolution that produced UK parents who understand religious indoctrination is child abuse, make its way across the Atlantic; it’s just beginning to happen here. And that revolution happened over such a relatively short time period.

      • Liz

        They do still exist, but they’re generally poorly attended. Often several churches in one area will get together to do something because individually they couldn’t get enough kids to come along, or enough people to run it. Or they will do a lame “family fun day” which is best avoided.

  • Jim Jones

    (They didn’t have Kool Aid in Guyana. It was some local stuff IIRC.)

    As for bible camp, I saw a post by someone who went to one every year as a kid. It offered all sorts of extra fun things for extra fees, and parents were pushed to also pay for extras for one or more poorer kids.

    But every year some kids would break the rules by petting etc. and they would all spend the whole time studying the bible instead as punishment for sin.

    Later, she found out none of the extras existed. The woman who ran it left the lights on at night until she could catch kids breaking the rules and have an excuse to not provide any of the extras.