There’s a rash of fishy news stories on Google lately about a minor skirmish between a 300-member Assembly of God church and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA—not to be confused with “People for the Eating of Tasty Animals”).
The score: PETA 1, People 0, Comet Goldfish -12.
Look, it’s common knowledge that youth pastors have crazy ideas and are compelled to pull stunts. Even when it’s accidental, it’s still a big hit (see my post about young Blake Bergstrom, the “tent pitching” youth pastor—that post more than doubled the traffic to this lonely blog!). The crazier the idea and the more outrageous the stunt, the more hopped-up the kids get. And it’s a fundamental truth that hopped-up chirren is exactly what Jesus needs more of.
So, young, unsuspecting, youth pastor, Anthony Martin, over at the First Assembly of God church in Florence, Alabama, got to thinking about the kids under his charge. (Yes, we’re already courting disaster!)
I can imagine the thought-bubbles went something like this:
“I have all these great, really
lazyspiritual kids in my youth group, but the youth group isn’t growingthey’re not spending any time witnessing or evangelizing their friends. What to do, what to do?
Wait, what’re they doing instead? They’re staying at home,
fattening themselves on cola whilewatching Reality TV. That’s what they’re doing. Let’s see, how can I use that to wake them uppromote spiritual growth? How about MTV’s “Real World” … uh … “Christ’s Real World!” No, that’s lame. Survivor? How about “Be More than a Survivor in Christ!” No … that won’t help them spread the Word. “Amazing Race?” No, same problem.
Wait a minute, isn’t that guy from “NewsRadio” hosting a reality show now? Yeah, “Fear Factor!”
That’s it! I can make that work. They’re afraid of witnessing, that’s all that’s holding them back! Fear! Let’s see, if I can
makeencourage them to go through a really nasty series of gross-out obstacles, they’ll have a blast and invite all their friends to get grossed outovercome their fears of rejection and the youth group will finally grow plus the pastor will get off my case!share Christ with everybody!”
(Note: I respect youth pastors and the hard work they do, and the bad rap they get from parents. I’m just being snarky at Martin’s unfortunate expense in the hopes that it will amuse my readership and increase my page views and line the pockets of my Google AdSense account with cash. I’m cheap, I know.—Rich)
And so it went. He designed a waiver for the parents to sign, allowing their kids to participate (“We have nothing to fear but ‘Fear Factor’ itself!” Intoned the nervous pastor.) Then off to get the props. One week it was chains and coffins. Last week it was little Comet goldfish.
Wait a second, coffins I understand. But goldfish? Who’s afraid of a little goldfish?
I guess you are, if you are required to eat it live.
Or maybe the goldfish was afraid—that was PETA’s point anyhow: “fish are intelligent, sensitive animals who have developed cognitive abilities and who experience pain and fear, just as all animals do.” Apparently, to PETA and Martin’s pastor, they’re a step above youth pastors, since this one got crucified on the altar of political correctness.
I like the Fear Factor idea: at least it’s fun even if it does absolutely nothing to help teenagers experience spiritual transformation and learn the fundamentals of their faith or the reasons why they believe. Youth pastors have to be creative to keep their captive audience … well … captivated. Poor Anthony Martin was just trying to do his job, saved a few unwitting goldfish from life imprisonment in a cruel crystalline prison, and wham! PETA falls on him like a ton of crushed aquaria. (BTW: Rome is now banning goldfish bowls. See? PETA should target entrepenurial pet store owners, not revolutionary youth pastors)
Unfortunately, Martin’s pastor, Greg Woodall, caved and issued an apology for the church: “I do appreciate your concern and just wanted to let you know that this will never happen again. … My views are a reflection of yours. We love God’s creatures and would never want to show them harm.” Well, there goes next summer’s fish fry. Better pencil in a vegan potluck instead.
We need a few more pastors who are like PETA’s goldfish: “intelligent, sensitive animals who have developed cognitive abilities.” Perhaps an injection of courage would help, too.
[tags]BlogRodent, fish, goldfish, PETA, Assembly-of-God, Assemblies-of-God, Pentecostal, youth, youth-ministry, weird[/tags]