This is my most recent Greenville News column.  I hope you enjoy!

It is one million degrees outside with high humidity.  At the lake, young people impervious to the heat bounce off of an inflatable trampoline and climb an inflatable iceberg.  In the pool they laugh and scream, splashing and smiling all the while.  There are teens here, so the noise is almost incessant.  From the quiet of my room, under the lamp, with the air-conditioner running, I feel like a member of the adult resistance, writing an intelligence report for the free world, secretly tapping out the encrypted warning that an invasion of cell-phone carrying, sandal-wearing, silly joke-making aliens is about to begin.

Nah, I’m just at church camp.  Specifically, I’m at Summersalt with my entire family.  Summersalt is a youth camp run by the South Carolina Baptist Convention at White Oak Conference Center, in Winnsboro, SC.  The camp includes music, games and water-sports.  There are Bible lessons and excellent classes, taught by pastors, youth directors and college-aged counselors.  My wife and I came with a few other adult members of our church as assistants to our most excellent youth minister, Mrs. Amanda Bannister.

Our job here is to help guide the little teen darlings by ensuring that they behave like civilized Baptists, get to classes and obey curfew.  Our job is also to be available if they just need someone to talk with.  It’s really not difficult, since they’re all good kids.  Loud, laughing, goofy, hormonal, brilliant, compassionate, flirty, moody, competitive, smiling, God-fearing, singing, wrestling, God-loving good kids.

I recall church camp as a youth.  Back in the Pleistocene, our church camp was fun; but not this fun.  Furthermore our facilities weren’t as nice, our church friends were not above filling your nostrils with toothpaste in the night and we were far too consumed with whether the shaving cream battles were fought with Menthol or non-Menthol.  (Tip:  Menthol burns your eyes).

This church camp is light-years ahead of all that.  The campers are learning about their faith and how it can impact their lives. They’re learning how to handle dating relationships, how to engage in service to the world around them, how to have a personal time of devotion to God and how to view their lives through the lens of a Christian worldview.  And perhaps most important, they are learning that they are valuable to, and loved by, God, no matter what they have done or what they may do.  In short, these young men and women are being given access to joy, acceptance and meaning, as well as preparation for challenging roads ahead.

A camp like this involves evangelism of young people who aren’t yet believers, and discipleship training (think faith education) for those who are.  I know that there are those who think that the best way to give children and adolescents beliefs is to wait and let them pick one for themselves.  Lots of folks think that it’s wrong to ‘impose one’s beliefs’ on young minds.

I can only answer by saying that indoctrination isn’t all bad.  See, I’ve been around the block a few times.  And I can say with absolute certainty that, at various times and in various ways, every person is evangelized and indoctrinated.

They may be evangelized to believe humans are worthless parasites on the earth.  They may be evangelized by reckless sexuality.  They may be evangelized and indoctrinated by users of illegal drugs.  Internet pornography is evangelizing and indoctrinating users day and night.  Young and old can be indoctrinated and enslaved by cults.  Humans are evangelized by political or social viewpoints, by cultural icons, charitable causes, trends and peer groups.  Some are indoctrinated by the nihilism that says nothing is good and nothing matters.

There are certainly aggressive evangelistic efforts being made by prominent atheists.  Furthermore, religions other than Christianity are openly evangelistic, as evidenced by the worldwide growth of Islam.

It’s a free country and I’m glad.  The market-place of ideas is filled with belief systems.  But for this week, my children and the kids with them are getting messages based on our faith in a personal, caring, redemptive Creator who values them inestimably.  And if screaming teens and water-games will help convey those truths, then so be it.

You see, I believe it’s my duty to plant the right ideas in my children’s minds, the right hope in their hearts.  But I don’t feel guilty about it; because if I don’t show them the path to follow, then someone else surely will.

And the results may be tragic.

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