US Church stages kidnap of teens to teach them about Christian persecution

US Church stages kidnap of teens to teach them about Christian persecution March 26, 2012

A Pennsylvanian church has attracted a great deal of flak, and may possibly be prosecuted for subjecting members of a youth group to a mock kidnapping without telling them it was staged – and the outraged mother of one 14-year-old girl has filed a complaint with police.
According to this report, the pastor of the Glad Tidings Assembly of God in Middletown said the church is “so saddened” that the girl was traumatised following the incident last week.

John Lanza said the teens that were taken in the mock raid had their heads covered with pillow cases before they were led to a van, which transported them to his home, where they were interrogated in a dark corner of the basement. Photo: Joe Hermitt, The Patriot-News
But pastor John Lanza said he had received emails of support from other students at the church, about 10 miles southeast of Harrisburg, because the intent was to prepare them for what they might encounter as missionaries. He didn’t disclose the names of those involved but said the mock kidnappers included an off-duty police officer and a retired Army captain.

It was a youth event, to illustrate what others have encountered on a regular basis.

He added that the focus of the lesson was “the persecuted church” in other countries.
Lanza said there were about 17 students at the meeting and the mock kidnappers covered the students’ heads, put them in a van and interrogated them. Neither the students nor their parents were told about the raid beforehand, he said, though it was discussed with the parents of one youth who might have health issues.
TV station WHTM interviewed the girl who complained. She said:

They pulled my chair out from underneath me, and then they told me to get on the ground. I had my hands behind my back. They said, ‘Just do as I say, and you won’t be hurt’.

The girl said the teens were taken to the pastor’s house, where it appeared he was being assaulted. Eventually, she said, the adults in charge revealed it was a staged event.
The girl added:

They heard me crying. Why not right then and there tell us it was a joke, when you see me crying?

Lanza said the church has conducted similar events at least twice before, adding that:

There was much thought given to the safety aspect. If anyone was ever uncomfortable, they would be removed from the exercise.

But he acknowledged that part of the idea was to shock the students with the experience.
Lower Swatara Township police Chief Richard Wiley declined to comment until an investigation into the raid is complete. The names of the mother and daughter who complained haven’t been made public.
Lanza said he “would love to” apologise to the girl and her mother but feels he can’t until the police investigation is done. He said the church wants to keep doing the programme but would make changes.

I would find a way that we could continue to keep the shock value, but I would find a way to inform the parents beforehand.

An ABC News report of the incident drew many negative comments, but one supporter of Lanza’s little jape was “Last Man Standing”, who wrote:

After reading most of these comments I can clearly see why this church is teaching about persecution of Christians. Sounds to me like one spoiled mommy and her spoiled brat need a wake up call. Its not all about their dainty little feelings. Its about reality. When this happens to them in real life who will they call on to help them? “oh GOD please help me” will be the first words out of their mouth.

Hat tip: Gasputin

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