My family got together with another family this week and took a trip to a campground here in New Hampshire. This campground has been one of the top rated campgrounds in New England for years and for good reason. It is nicely maintained and they offer a lot of activities to do there. They discourage drunkenness and foul language which is a plus for a family vacation destination. This post is not a negative review of the resort, as our trip was quite pleasant. In fact, overall it was one of the top 2 campgrounds I’ve been to and my family and friends rather enjoyed our time there. This is a post about subliminal and not so subliminal messages.
My family enjoys camping quite a bit. By camping, of course I mean in a camper with electricity, tv, DVD player, two screenhouses (one for cooking under and one for eating under) and modern shower and restroom facilities. No way any of us is “roughing it” in my family. That’s why this “resort” was just the right fit for us.
After reading several reviews online, I was made aware that this place was owned by Christians. No big deal really. I know many good Christian people. I don’t care what you believe in as long as I can still have fun. In their brochure, they mention a chapel service on Saturdays and have this verse attached: Romans 10:17 “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” On their website, they use John 3:16 instead. I can write an entire post just about the problems with having faith solely based on hearing something someone said about something a long time ago without evidence, but that’s not what I’m going to do with my time here. Having a chapel service doesn’t bother me if that is what people choose to do. I mean, even hospitals offer that. Having a Bible verse on your website or brochure is also harmless enough. But then there’s “the gift” we got upon checking in…
My wife went into the office to check in for us and I waited in the car with the kids. When she came out she had a brochure, wristbands (we had to wear these every day we were there), a tag for our car and a free gift. When she had checked in, the woman at the counter said, “enjoy your stay and here’s a free gift from the owners.” The free gift was a Bible tract. This was our gift:
I won’t show the whole thing, and I apologize for the blurriness of it, but this was on the back of it:
So right from the start of our trip, we were told we were sinners and that only one group of people knew how to save us. We have heard (and once believed) this before and just blew it off and went about enjoying our trip. I think that most people (at least according to reviews) do the same. Some people ho reviewed this place were really turned off by this and I guess I can see why some people would feel that way.
One of the main attractions is their swimming pool. It is the “largest heated campground swimming pool in New England” according to the brochure. My oldest son and my middle son (13 and almost 4 years old respectively) were both excited to use it. I mean, who doesn’t love a giant Pirate ship swimming pool with water slides, right?
As we walked up to the pool, I could hear them playing loud music. “Jamming” by Bob Marley was on and I was thinking, “Yikes, this is going to be a long day.” Then another very familiar song came on. It was a song I played over and over again in my Christian life. The speakers began blaring out “I can only imagine” by MercyMe. This is one of the most well-known worship songs of all time. Then I heard another Christian song, and another, and another. That’s when I realized that the owners weren’t simply Christians. They were evangelists. I found out later from my son that Matthew 6:19-21 was written inside the Pirate ship. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” That was the “treasure” inside the ship for the kids to find.
I used to listen to Christian music exclusively for several years. Today’s Christian music has the same sound as many of the most popular music on the radio today, just with very different lyrics. That’s why most people wouldn’t even notice it playing in the background at a swimming pool. Most people there were just playing in the water or playing on their phones on the perimeter of the pool. No one seemed to be just sitting there listening to the music…except for me it seemed. This music stands out to me like a sore thumb. It is church set to a beat and most people didn’t even know it. Subliminal messages were filling their ears as they splashed and laughed in the sun.
This music is, for the most part, somewhat harmless I suppose. Some of it just talks about trying to be better people. Not a big deal, really. A lot of it, however talks about how sinful we are. It talks about how lost we are. It talks about how much we need Jesus. Jesus, of course, is the Christian God of choice. Billions of people (about 2 billion or so) follow him. Even more billions don’t though, as there are nearly 8 billion people now in the world. So there is a huge need for them to gain new recruits.
The Christian owners of this park are using their 1st amendment rights of free speech to promote their beliefs and they are certainly allowed to do so. I don’t really care that they do. What I do care about is the sneaky way that they do it. They do not market their campground as a Christian campground. Their website certainly doesn’t make you think it is. But from the moment you check in, you are aware. At that point, it’s too late to get a refund so you are forced to hear their sales pitch or go home having lost your money. What they are using as a “witnessing opportunity”, I see as an “I gotcha now” opportunity.
You want a nice camping trip? You can’t do that without learning about Jesus. You want to swim in one of the nicest pools around? You need to hear songs about Jesus. Look, when I was a Christian, I would have loved this. I would have thought, “Haha, great. Get these songs in the heathens’ heads. make them think about how sinful they are. This is what the world needs so why not let the lost sheep enjoy themselves a little bit while we fill their heads with truth and knowledge of God?” But those ideas are wrong. Very wrong.
I don’t care if you have a Christian campground. I went to one years ago just because it was Christian. It was my choice and all the activities and music were expected. This was different. It seems quite wrong to give you the information once you check in and cannot get a refund. If I was a Muslim, a Jew, a Buddhist, or even an atheist, I might feel really out of place and feel angry. As a recent deconvert from Christianity (and not knowing what I am yet), I just dealt with it and had a pretty good time. But it kept eating at me how they gave me church literature and snuck in worship songs with the other songs. Not just generic worship songs to a generic god, but Christian songs for a Christian god.
If you are a Christian campground, then tell people that. I’m not saying if you are a Christian campground owner, let people know. That’s your business, not mine or anyone else’s. But if you hand out Christian literature and blast Christian music at the pool where most people gather, you should let people know ahead of time it is a Christian resort. But of course, that might turn people away. It’s best not to say anything until after people show up. That way you can still get all the money you can get and then go all Jehovah’s witness on them. Again, believe what you want, but do not trick people into hearing your religious beliefs when they just want to relax. Money still drives people, even Christians. They can do “God’s work” while still raking it in.
Once more, I did have a good time on my trip. I liked my campsite. I liked the pool. The facilities and the overall experience were enjoyable. My kids and friends had fun as well. I just don’t like people withholding information as important as religious indoctrination from consumers. It seems sleazy and totally against what Christians are supposed to be. They are supposed to be unashamed of the gospel (Romans 1:16) and proudly proclaim what they believe. Not waiting…and waiting…and waiting…and then….Bam! Free Gift! Why not just let people know ahead of time? Like I said, personally I could overlook it and still have fun, but I know many people who probably couldn’t and could feel unbelievably out of place there. People shouldn’t be paying more to stay here than most other campgrounds in the area without knowing what they’re getting into. That’s all.