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Rant #346
(published September 6, 2007)
Internet Miracles and Church Camp
by Alan Benard

From 1975 to 1978 — ages 9 to 12 — I attended Northern Grace Youth Camp each summer. They tried very hard to make fundamentalist, Grace Bible Church doctrine stick in my head through twice-daily chapel and Bible study. At the time, I considered myself "born again."

I don't regret a moment of being at the camp. I was well treated and had a lot of fun. Regular reading of the King James Bible is excellent training for writing and reading English, seeing as it is the base text for the entire culture. And I love Jesus Christ's message and still believe in it and try to follow it.

But I didn' t remain a Christian. Today, I'm something of a quasi-involved- Unitarian Universalist — I'm in total agreement with the whole thing, studied the religion in depth and even contribute time to raise funds for my congregation, but cannot make myself go on Sunday morning. And Universalism as a belief is the issue, as outlined by Northern Grace Youth Camp's own Doctrinal Statement:

STATE OF THE DEAD Nowhere does Scripture extend the hope of salvation to the unsaved dead, but instead reveals that they will ever continue to exist in a state of conscious suffering (Luke 16:23-28; Rev. 14:11; 20:14-15; Col. 3:6; Rom 1:21-32; John 3:36; Phil 3:19; II Thes. 1:9). The teachings of Universalism, of probation after death, of annihilation of the unsaved dead, and of the unconscious state of the dead, saved or unsaved (Luke 16:23-28; Phil. 1:23; II Cor. 5:6-80, are opposed by us as being thoroughly unscriptural and dangerous doctrines.

Fair enough. I don't believe the unsaved are damned. So I can't be that sort of Christian. I do respect Christians' belief that they are, if that's what they believe. Someday, we'll all find out.

It is pretty funny that, barring actually worshiping Satan, I managed to grow into an antipodal religious philosophy. To all the folks who subsidized my inexpensive church-camp experience in the hope of saving me, what can I say? Thank you and better luck with the next kid. Should I know anyone in the mid-west need a camp like yours, I will heartily endorse it.

I bring this up mainly because, if there are miracles in this day and age, they are Internet miracles, I am convinced of that. Last night I got an itch to see if my old summer camp had a Web site and BANG! Suddenly, I'm staring back at myself, age 9, standing in front of Cabin 5, in mid-July, 1975. And then found the next two years' photos, with me getting progressively chunkier and more sad. (Stuff happened like we had to move out of our house all of a sudden, general stress; church and camp had nothing to do with it.

Generally speaking, the time just pre-Web has proven to be something of a blank spot in my online research. For example, the Bible church I attended that sent me to Northern Grace imploded and closed in the early 1990s. As far as Google is concerned, it never existed. But someone in Wisconsin, with the patience and love of the devoted, Flickred up hundreds of photos of the camp's life from 1954 on, and so it was there for me to find.


Alan Benard is a frequent contributor to Poor Mojo's Newswire, where this piece first appeared on Aug. 21, 2007. You are welcome to leave the author comments.

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