-Pastor Melissa Fain-
My daughter, son, and I are in Scouts BSA. Last weekend was Spring Fling for Cub Scouts, and Camporee for the full on Scouts.
The three of us packed up.
My daughter and I had initially planned to go to Spring Fling the weekend of April 8th. I don’t know if you remember that weekend in the way long ago of a few weeks, but it wasn’t pleasant.
Thankfully, they canceled it, and we were moved to the campout on the 22nd.
Most of my daughter’s Pack chose not to move to the new time and location. I was, but only if we could upgrade up to the adventure tents.
What are adventure tents? Well, I’m glad you “pretend-asked” me.
Every Summer, Council Camps host Summer Camps for the Scouts BSA and Cub Scouts. Those happen in prefabricated tents. Most of these tents are taken down at the conclusion of Summer. The rest are permanent tents. They are relabeled “Adventure Tents,” and cost a little extra to use. They have wood floors and a cot already built in. They go fast.
That’s not the reason I want them.
The general camping area is far from the nice bathrooms.
I know this sounds elitist. It’s not. I can camp with the best of them with a weekend set of porta potties.
I know I’m losing you, so I need you to stay with me here, and trust it will be worth it, especially with my next sentence.
The bathrooms in the general camping area have systemic issues that make it more difficult for the girls to camp.
How longevity can play against you:
I know there are those of you who read the word “systemic” and big alarms go off in your brain. “Systemic” is neither scary nor bad. Let me explain.
Systems exist. We create systems to make our world easier. For example, the Drive Thru is a system. Systems contain rules. Treat the drive thru box like an order line. Stay to the left, closest to the building so cars can drive around. Drive around to pay. Pick up your food at the window closest to the opposite side of the building.
In good systems, the rules change as the world around it changes. Two drive thru windows were cumbersome and confusing. The restaurants that had them, closed down the first in favor of only having the second. It altered the system of using the drive thru without completely destroying it.
When girls, who were already part of the BSA through Venture Crews and leaders, were expanded into the Cub Scouts and Scouts BSA, there were some systemic changes that took place.
First of all, it wasn’t to the program, which beyond a few gender terms remained exactly the same, (“boys” became “boys and girls”). Right after the BSA made their announcement to include girls, there were people who made uneducated statements regarding the future of the program. I’m here to say, the program might actually be more intense since the girls joined, as they encourage sportsmanship.
The systemic changes I’m talking about were related to other things.
With Chartered Organizations, the Churches took it upon themselves to be the last beacon of hope for the souls of these boys and girls. Many included girls, but made very hard line rules about single gender dens. The systemic issue, in this situation, was a leniency for the boys that didn’t exist for the girls. Basically, if there was a lone girl in an age bracket, she was forced to be a lone scout or drop out. Conversely, if there was a lone boy in an age bracket, the rules suddenly changed to incorporate mixed genders into the Packs.
That’s not because the systemic issue was rooted in sexism. (Thought I was going there? You don’t know me very well.) The system of Cub Scouts is rooted in preparing the kids for full on Scouts. It’s not to “have fun.” Having fun is what you do to create a desire to continue in a program.
When girls were added, there were no Troops for them. As Girl Troops were added, they were few and far between.
Almost all of the Cub Scout programs were the roots to a Boy Troop. The systemic issue is the Boy Troops need new boys. That’s not against the girls. It just pushes them out of the system to get the thing they really want.
Back to the campout
The bathrooms at these summer camps are old and were created for the boys.
When the BSA allowed girls, Camp Comer was in a great situation. They had just built bath houses with closing doors. Once the door was closed to the bathroom or shower there was complete privacy. They were not going to build another bath house for the girls. Instead, they tore down the outside walls. It gives the girls and boys equal access to the facilities.
Meanwhile, Camp Bert Adams doesn’t have the same luxury. They have these permanent port-a-potties in the camping area. Boys don’t have to sit to pee, so they are really for emergency poop issues. The boys just pee out the back of the tent. They have for generations. Girls cannot do that. “Pop a squat” is a real thing, and has a learning curve, and not something you wanna do at 3 in the morning.
That’s what makes the whole thing systemic. The system, which was created for the boys, doesn’t work as well for the girls. I will pay a little more to be near the bath houses, where three of the adult entrances have been relabeled for the girls. At least, until the council can fix the systemic issue. To name that issue doesn’t mean I hate the program or the people running the program. I love Scouts, and I am so grateful my daughter has been able to participate within it. It doesn’t change the truth that the system must change with the changes.
Broken systems and church
Sometimes I think I can talk gently about another topic, and you can put the dots together. I think many of us have pretty big blinders when it comes to the Church, so let me explain one of the systemic issues there.
Back in the 1950’s, fresh off the back of WWII, people wanted community. They didn’t know their neighbor before the war. They saw that as a problem. Therefore, the organizations that grew were organizations that gathered the community together. It was passive growth. We simply existed, and people came to it.
It also meant the most important job in the Christian world was the lead pastor job. If everyone is willingly going to Church, you put someone in a church to lead them.
Then society began to change.
Then people began to define a relationship with God outside the Church.
Then people began to justify our relationship with God as we didn't need a communal identity.
The whole while- the Church still defined the most important job in the Christian world as being the lead pastor.
This is a systemic issue. Close to no one in our lifetime has ever done Evangelism the way it was intended. They took advantage of a religious climate that played in their favor. As the energy of that event began to fade, no one did anything differently.
Now we have denominations that refuse to see any ministry disassociated with the church building. You have to either be leading the people within it, or one of the people worshiping to maintain standing. More and more ministers are crying out, “I’m a minister too, even though I’m not in the Church building!”
We are far closer to the 1920’s where people were disassociating with one another, and we scorned the idea of community. There is no energy to draw people into your buildings, yet you keep trying.
I love the people trying to save those buildings. It doesn’t change that there are systemic issues that must be resolved. It’s a much more difficult problem than fixing the bathrooms at a Scout Camp. That’s what has me worried. I feel time is running out, and no one is listening. Even if they were listening, no one is acting.
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
You know what happens when you die in Christ?
I have knowingly witnessed the undeath of a Zombie Church twice in my lifetime. Both times were terrifying. I saw the dying church sit on the precipice of choice, die or be undead, and choose undeath. I watched their collective brains work up the old songs, and do the old movements, unaware that the only reason the manic desires were working was because of the new undeath they were choosing. The muscles hadn’t begun to atrophy and rot yet. Only it was coming, and it came, and it will always come if a church chooses undeath over death.
Easter this year was a nationwide Zombie event.
Let me say this first: I sincerely hope I’m wrong, but I haven’t been yet. Please keep that in mind. I want to be wrong, but I don’t see this going any other way.
I’m going to lay out some bitter truths none of y’all want to hear. Gird up your loins, because here it comes:
On Easter Sunday 2022, we used it as our chance to bring it all back. We wanted the lilies and the banners, the preludes and the choirs. We wanted the past, and God wouldn’t keep us from something we loved. Right?! … Right? As a Nation we became the Holy Undead Church.
By the way, I’m okay with you scoffing at my words right now, if that’s what you’re doing. In return, you need to be okay that I can’t get too close. Undead, when they finally realize what they did, will bite. They won’t understand why things went the way it did, and blame will be thrown in all directions but themselves. I get it. It’s not fair. You just want your normal experience back. You just want the songs. You just want [insert selfish want here].
If now you’re bristling because I’m calling last Sunday a selfish desire- check yourself. Did you want an Easter Cantata because it would help a greater need for the human race? Did you do it because you knew the community needed it? Or, did you do it because you wanted to wear your fancy outfit, and sing the songs you haven’t sung in two years? Did you want a “normal” Easter because you’re afraid of what would happen to YOUR church if you didn’t?
The Ace Up Your Sleeve is Really a Snake
You need to know I’ve spent my lifetime in the Church. I gave my soul to the system, and I know it forwards, backwards and sideways.
I have watched church after church use Children’s and Youth programming as evangelism tools. If you have a counter, that’s it. “But my children need the church, and I’m willing to sacrifice my experience to give it to them.”
Do you know how many grown up adults would probably say that now? Way more than any of us should be comfortable with. That’s not healthy, and that’s not church. Church needs to be for the entire family or it ceases to function as a working Body of Christ.
Let me say what you are really thinking. “I want a Church for all of us, but I see that most of them are not really working, so I’ll find something for the kids because I’m afraid what will happen if I try to fix the problem myself.” Namely, you’ll have to start seriously considering what churches are spiritually feeding your children. You will also have to work, and that’s where God’s Wilderness comes back into play. When we choose to not follow the call to die and be reborn, we become undead, and now we’ve brought our kids into it too.
We communally knew there was a problem. We chose to ignore the problem, and choose to live into the lie. We wanted the lie.
For those who’ve been sitting in those dwindling sanctuaries, and found hope at the full pews last Sunday: Don’t.
Another way to see last Sunday as a Nationwide Palm Sunday. We were the crowds. We were the manic screamers singing a “Hallelujah” that we didn’t realize meant, “Save us!”
If last Sunday was a modern Palm Sunday… Well, it’s going to be a rough ride.
You know what happens when an undead church finally dies?
It stays dead.