Posts Tagged ‘religion’

Freshman year of college some friends and I were pre-gaming a frat party (naturally), when one of the girls took a call from her mom. As they talked, the rest of us continued to drink, and I, trying to be thoughtful, kept an eye on Jules. I figured she wouldn’t want her mom to know she’d been drinking, and I didn’t want her to give herself away.

Everything was going swimmingly when all of a sudden I heard Jules say, “Happy New Year!” and I snapped to attention.

No one else noticed.

Crap! I thought. Her mom’s totally going to know! It’s only September – not even close to the new year! Seriously, how drunk is she?

As soon as she got off the phone I asked her about it, wondering if her mom was upset.

Elizabeth,” she said, “it’s okay. You know I’m Jewish, right? And that Rosh Hashanah starts tonight? As in…the Jewish New Year?

No, no, and yes.

Color me embarrassed.

But, since that night, I’ve paid much closer attention to all religious holidays – out of both genuine interest and a desire to not get caught off guard.

So, in that spirit, learn from my past ignorance and don’t be confused if you hear wishes of a happy new year today and tomorrow.

Trust me: no one’s that drunk.

L’shanah tovah!

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Every year around this time I give you a heads up that I’ll be taking a blogging break for a week, in order to go hang out with several hundred middle schoolers. This year, as I was thinking about and getting excited for the upcoming week, I also realized that I hadn’t done my July donation yet. And I wondered why I had never donated money to a camp that has been so influential and so important in my life.

YCM, the organization that sponsors The Great Escape (the official God camp name), also allows you to designate your donation to a scholarship fund that allows students the chance to attend camp. And that is where I want my money to go this month.

Being a camper meant the world to me as a 7th and 8th grader. And considering that this is my 12th summer actually working there, I’d say it left a lasting impression.

A little taste of camp: costumes, human foosball, dancing, and skits.

Or I’m just a really bad quitter.

So, in honor of my leaving for camp, and hopefully helping someone else to go in the future, I’ve decided to revisit my very first blog post – the one that got me into blogging in the first place.

Enjoy, and have a great week!

When most people say they’re going away for a week, they’re going on vacation. When I say I’m going away for a week, I’m going to God camp. As a counselor. With 500 middle schoolers.

I don’t think that qualifies as a vacation.

The camp takes place in middle-of-nowhere Pennsylvania. The cool place to hang out is the Super Wal-Mart.

On the one hand, I think it’s great that we can bring all these kids together in a place with minimal distractions. On the other hand, I’m reminded that my very first kiss happened at this same camp over 10 years ago. Middle schoolers only need one another to be distracted.

Maybe because of this, one of the first rules we teach horny teenagers at God camp is as follows: NO PURPLING.

What does that mean, exactly? It’s simple: boys are blue and girls are red. Clever, right?

Now, considering even I grew up with this rule (pretty much every church camp/retreat has it), I never thought much of it. In fact, I figured it made perfect sense when you’re at a religious event — talk to whomever you want, but no making out, etc.

I only realized that this “purple rule” was unique to Christian camps (maybe even specifically to Presbyterian ones), when I was talking to one of my college friends who works at a Jewish sleepaway camp every summer.

She was talking about the summer romances as a camper and as a counselor and I asked, “But what about the no purpling thing?” The look she gave me was one of confusion, and as I started to explain the “boys are blue…” analogy, she started to laugh.

“Well, of course it’s not encouraged,” she said, “but there’s no rule.” (Her past three relationships have started at camp.)

Listen, I’m not naive. I know what goes on when you put over 500 middle schoolers in the same place. There are bound to be hormonal attractions and there are bound to be those bold enough to act on them.

If I had merely my first kiss at camp over 10 years ago, I can’t imagine what’s going on now. Actually, I can, I just don’t want to.

One of the girls I work with at the camp told me about a conversation she’d had with her boyfriend the night before. He, having never been to one of these camps, asked, “So, do you have any ‘one time at God camp’ stories?” And she had to say yes.

She’d been caught making out with a boy from another church — by his leader. It actually came back to bite her in the ass when her little brother was spotted making out with another camper later in the week.

“How am I supposed to tell him to stop, when I got caught doing the same thing?” she asked us.

As wise as we are, collectively, not one of us had a good answer — perhaps because we all have one of those “one time at God camp” stories that prevent us from chiding someone else.

Working at these camps is kind of like being a parent: you lay out the rules, but you know the kids will find a way around them, because that’s exactly what you did when you were their age.

You know (or think you know) all the tricks, and when they come up with new, ingenious way around the rules, you’re annoyed, but also a little bit impressed. (Coupled with that feeling of “Oh man, why didn’t I think of that? Of course the side stairs are better for sneaking out.”)

Sometimes I think, at this point, the purple rule is just tradition. It’s been said at every camp, conference, and retreat, for at least the past 20 years -– a classic.

That doesn’t mean that we don’t try to enforce it (for instance, there are no slow songs at the end of the week dance), but we all know that it will get broken.

It’s just a matter of finding out how.

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A week from today is Ash Wednesday, which marks the start of Lent – 40 days of sacrifice leading up to Easter. And despite what it may sound like from some of the stories I share here, I do consider myself fairly religious. Therefore, come next Wednesday, I’ll be giving something up. I’m just not sure what yet.

Now, I’m a WASP to the max, so I have it a little easier: I don’t have to fast at all, or give up meat on Fridays. And if I do mess up, I don’t have to go to confession. (Which really works out fine, considering I already carry around an ample amount of guilt – vestiges from my grandmother’s guilt trips, you see.) But every year I try to sacrifice something different, with varying degrees of success.


  • There was the year I gave up chocolate – and had hot cocoa by accident on a Girl Scout retreat.
  • Once I gave up beer, but not alcohol in general. (Let me tell you, playing flip cup and beirut with mixed drinks…not the best idea I’ve ever had.)
  • Another time I gave up trash-talking/gossiping about a specific person (who totally had it coming), and my friends celebrated with cake and a party when I was done.
  • And another, I gave up T.V. – which made it awkward when I walked out of the room while someone else had it on.

But this year? I’m out. I have no idea what to give up. I asked Cla about it and she said, “Don’t do alcohol! We’ll be in Argentina!” Duly noted.

That being said, I’m open to suggestions. Regardless of your religious or non inclinations, what would you (or have you) sacrifice(d) for 40 days and nights? (Or even a week – I’m not picky, I just need ideas.)

I really can’t do chocolate again. It might be better for my waistline, but it totally makes me cranky.

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I’d been seeing a lot of commentary regarding Bill Maher’s new movie (I’m hesitant to call it a straight up documentary), and had been reading things about it that both piqued my interested and annoyed me at the same time. So, of course, I had to see it. To be honest, there were a few moments in the beginning when I wanted to get up and walk out of the theater. But once I resolved myself to stay, I was glad I did. In all fairness, I laughed out loud nearly as much as I cringed. And when I cringed, it wasn’t so much because I was offended, but because Maher had clearly found (in several cases) interviews solely designed to prove his point.

After coming home and processing, I remembered a conversation in which a friend had recommended I see Jesus Camp. So, being on my religious movie kick, I decided to Netflix it. I watched it the other night with, what had to be, an incredulous look on my face the entire time. While Religulous made me cringe and laugh, Jesus Camp made me cringe and cry. It actually pained me a little bit to see kids crying after being yelled at by an adult for being hypocrites and sinners. I’ve been to God camp (I never called it Jesus camp before, and I especially won’t, after this) for the past ten years and have had extremely positive experiences – that don’t involve tears.

I won’t get into every detail that bothered me (we don’t have all day), but I was astounded when the pastor stood up and said, “Okay, now it’s time to speak in tongues. Ready, go.” (I’m paraphrasing, but it’s not too far off.) The last time I checked, you can’t force yourself to speak in tongues. But hey, what do I know?

I figure that there has to be a happy medium to the two extremes of Religulous and Jesus Camp – something that gently pokes fun at the religiously intense but doesn’t make a total mockery of believers. And then it hit me: Saved!

What a fabulous movie. You have super goody-two-shoes Hilary Faye who is “a warrior on the front line for God.” You have her brother, Roland, who doesn’t believe in God and consistently mocks his sister and her friends. And you have Mary, who gets pregnant in high school (trying to turn her gay boyfriend straight) and comments on the virgin birth: “I know this is wrong, but do you ever wonder if she just made the whole thing up? I mean, it’s a pretty good one. It’s not like anyone can ever use virgin birth as an excuse again. I don’t really think she made it up, but I can understand why a girl would.

Honestly, I think Saved! reflects more reality than either of the other two films. People doubt. They question. They turn away, and sometimes they come back. Sometimes they don’t. And it’s all a personal decision. If you believe, you don’t need Maher telling you that you’re either stupid or arrogant. And if you don’t believe, you don’t need Pastor Becky Fischer telling you you’re going to hell.

Watching Mandy Moore ruthlessly trying to save everyone she meets, and throwing the Bible at them when “necessary,” though? That makes me laugh, every time.

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