PETA, goldfish, and stupidity … or ‘Why I eat animals and don’t brag about it in the press.’

PETA, goldfish, and stupidity … or ‘Why I eat animals and don’t brag about it in the press.’

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 lazy spiritual kids in my youth group, but the youth group isn’t growing they’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 while watching Reality TV. That’s what they’re doing. Let’s see, how can I use that to wake them up promote 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 make encourage 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 out overcome 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.

See articles: “Church Agrees to Ban Swallowing Goldfish,” “Alabama Church Youth Swallow Live Goldfish,” “PETA News Releases: PETA Complaint Prompts Church To Ban Goldfish Swallowing.”

[tags]BlogRodent, fish, goldfish, PETA, Assembly-of-God, Assemblies-of-God, Pentecostal, youth, youth-ministry, weird[/tags]

7 thoughts on “PETA, goldfish, and stupidity … or ‘Why I eat animals and don’t brag about it in the press.’

  1. Pingback: Anonymous

  2. Curt Dalaba

    When I was a kid I ate 10 minnows for a dime a piece in order to buy a beach ball. My aunt dared me. My younger cousin was amazed. Will PETA be after me?

  3. Marc V

    People Eating Tasty Animals

    As an “intelligent, sensitive animal who has developed cognitive abilities”, I take umbrage (yes, umbrage!) at the attempted “equivalating” of my life to a goldfish. A Comet goldfish at that.

    It should not be surprising we have such a problem with abortion and euthanasia, when people like the PETA folks get all worked up over fish “rights” to the detriment of human rights.

  4. Rich Post author

    Curt, since my blog is so backwater and below PETA’s radar, I think you are still safe. You might want to write a letter to the editor of the New York Times, or something, if you want to get prosecuted.

    Marc, your umbrage is duly noted. But resorting to verbing nouns … c’mon man! Get ahold of yourself! (Equivalating? Didn’t you know that word was ?)

  5. Marc V

    In my righteous indignation, I got all worked up and touched my “inner Jesse Jackson”. Ewww, that doesn’t sound so good. He’s one of the “disads” to living in the Chicago area.
    [Actually, in that comment I had originally typed “equivocating”, but it didn’t sound right and after looking it up it wasn’t what I wanted to say. Equivalating was.]

    Rich, I went and “experienced the Superior difference”. At the end of the day, remember to ask for it by name. You da man!

  6. eleanor gibbons

    Unfortunately, many youth pastors and their superiors feel that the youth pastors can only identify with the youth if they are on the same maturity level. Kids need and really want guidance from adults. They don’t need the youth pastor to be another kid.

    And whether they like it or not, the youthpastor is accountable to the parents and the church for what goes on. Unfortunately for all their griping about lax parenting many youth pastors have decided they know what is best for the the kids, not their parents and are in the process of further anlienating kids from their parents, by criticising or disagreeing with parental decisions. Our family made the decsion to leave a church and the youth pastor and his wife even went so far as to pull up behind my car at a school function–Christian school- engage my child ion conversation and totally ignored me. The wife caught my child at school- she teaches there- in the library and questioned her about why we were leaving.

    The number of calls I got from anyone about this? ZERO. They all went for my daughter who was subjected to gossip passed by the kids who were telling her what adult were saying about me and my decsion. As the adults are- so are the kids. The youth pastor and his wife made things 20 times worse for my child by making her feel guilty and criticising me. All I wanted to do was join another congregation but you would have thought we were joining the communist party.

    Youth pastors need to be careful about falling into the trap of trying to be friends with the extent they come off as just another peer of the kids, instead of a responsible adult.thanks to our previous youth pastor and his actions and the actions and attitudes of the elder in charge of the ministry our whole family had to go into counselling — it almost destroyed our family because the youth pastor, the elder and several other good people of the church were angry we were leaving going to another congregation they didn’t approve of.The youth pastors were having a feud between them at the two congregations, unknown to me at the time. All could have been prevented by wise oversight by some spiritually mature men, but it was not there.

    I am about sick of organized religion.

    Where in the world did we all get the idea that youth pastors have to be as inexperinced at life and immature as the kids they are pastoring? Kids need spiritual guidance from spiritually wise and experienced men and women, not to be shuttled off to people barely older than they are. Disaster wating to happen.

    give us some older youth pastors who know what they are talking about when they teach our kids.

  7. Rich Post author

    Eleanor, you just elevated my cheesy attempt at humor and forced umbrage (at PETA) into the kind of thoughtful, incisive post I should have written in the first place. I only hinted at my disparagment of youth pastor’s tactics in my post, but you articulated the crux of the problem nicely.

    PETA would have nothing on us if we actually went about the work of discipling teens instead of entertaining them.

    Your criticism and outrage is right on.



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