The Free Gift

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:gift

I won’t show the whole thing, and I apologize for the blurriness of it, but this was on the back of it:gift 2

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?SONY DSC

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.

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18 thoughts on “The Free Gift

  1. I live about 15 minutes away from Lake Winnipesaukee. It’s pretty nice up that way but I like to go a little further away for vacations. I do much prefer peace and quiet but with young kids, I no longer have that luxury.

    What bothered me the most about the place we went was that the pool there was the biggest attraction. It is clearly designed for children. It has a Pirate theme. The pool is only 2 to 4 feet deep and there is music playing all day long there. It seems quite intentional that they are trying to teach the kids about Jesus. Hidden verses in the ship? Jesus music all day? Not unusual for a Christian business, but they don’t tell you that up front and I think that is wrong. It’d be like making reservations at a fancy French restaurant only to find out once you got there that the owners are outspoken Jews. So not only is all the food kosher, but the menus are in Hebrew and the music playing is Yiddish. It’d be okay if you knew ahead of time and agreed to it, but not okay to find out once you got there.

    Next time I’m just going where I want to go and the kids will have to entertain themselves.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ron and I spent the summer of 2001 at a small cabin / motel at Lake Winnipesaukee. The name of the place was The Great Escape. Was a wonderful summer. Went to the Castle In The Clouds several times. It was a beautiful area. Hugs

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree the owners should include some kind of indication on their website that they are Christian-oriented. I also agree that handing out the “tract” was bad news. Had it been me, I would have done one of two things: (1) Hand back the tract and tell them about my “non-belief”, or (2) throw the tract on the ground so the owners would notice how little value I placed on it.

    I know … the second option is sort of tacky, but so were they to be handing out Christian propaganda.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Being non-confrontational as I am, I just bit my tongue and enjoyed my trip. I just find it somewhat ridiculous that a business that is so obviously Christian in nature when you arrive is so neutral on their website and in their brochures. Seems almost like entrapment to me.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Maybe next time I’ll walk in with my friend John (the male half of our married friends) and pretend that we’re checking in together. I could hold his hand and rest my head on his shoulder. I wonder what their response might be to that? Would they be as gentle as Jesus or as wrathful as his father? Hmm….that’d be an interesting experiment.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. I agree this seems dishonest. I grew up in Southern Vermont. During my youth my adoptive parents had RV’s. They and their friends went to many campgrounds in New Hampshire and Mass. Never did we face this situation, and if we had there would have been serious problems from the hard drinking redneck partiers this group was. I think there is a proportion of religious hard wing people that are far more in your face now than ever before. They see it as a goal, as a thing they must do to force their religious views on everyone. To them the ends justify the means. I really worry at the what I see as the militant religious people today. They will save your soul even if you do not wish them too. Hugs

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Like I said in my post, I don’t care if you are a Christian business owner. That’s fine. You can do what you want in your personal life. It’s when it becomes the mission of your business that’s the issue. Let people know up front what they are going to be confronted with beforehand. It’s a campground. It shouldn’t feel like an intervention, where they are trying to save everyone because they are concerned for our souls. You want a Christian campground? Great. Have one. But let people know what it is. That’s all.

      Southern Vermont is quite close to me. Beautiful place to visit. Lots of peace and quiet round here. Can be relaxing, but also boring at times.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree, I guess I was not clear in what I wrote. I grew up in Vernon Vermont. My adoptive parents and their friends camped every weekend of the summer at different campgrounds in Vermont, New Hampshire and Mass, even into New York. My point is these were not very tolerant people. Not at all. If they had gotten to a campground that had not been upfront about their nature, there would have been big trouble. Sadly my adoptive father was a big brawler, he loved to fight, and he was good at it. His friends were the same. It wouldn’t have gone down well.

        If a place such as you describe had been advertised they wouldn’t have gone there. That is really the point, the place you talk about is ambushing people, claiming to be one thing while really being another. That is wrong, but far too often done today. It seems the religious right feels that lying in the name of their god is OK and even a saving grace. That is what bothers me about religious zealots today. Everything goes as long as they get their own way in the end. Hugs

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I think a lot of people would avoid this place, as nice as it is, simply because of the religious nature of it. Very sneaky and dishonest to not make it known ahead of time.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Your post got me wondering, how can we avoid religious propaganda with as little effort as possible? Or will it always be this difficult? And they are getting craftier! Some of the best stuff (like this camping ground) is religiously motivated and it is hard to say no to that.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I don’t know. I would like to think it will die out sooner than later but I’m sure it won’t. I was a Christian for 25 of my 40 years (officially) but raised in a Christian home even before I became one at age 14. I know how easily we can be manipulated and corrupted, especially as children. I believed what my parents taught me and my children believed what I taught them. It’s all about trust and kids are very trusting.

    That’s why this place bothered me so much. It was geared towards children and the busiest place in the whole campground was the pool. So naturally that’s where the Christian message was the strongest. To be fair, they may not even know how underhanded and sneaky they are. They may just think that they’re taking a laid-back, gentle approach. That’s what I would have though as recently as a year ago. now I see things differently and I see how wrong it is. But, I think that they actually did know what they were doing so that makes it more disturbing.

    Thanks for the comment.

    Like

  6. Even when I believed 100% with no doubts, I still thought this crap was tacky. And I hate tracks! That’s not a gift. It’s toilet paper or kindling for a fire. The music probably bugs me less. All music seems to have some message in it and often it’s political, sexual, or religious. But I see your point with how shifty they were. It’s why I refuse to visit Noah’s ark exhibit or go to that Christian amusement park in Missouri. If you really cared about my soul, why you charging so much money to get me to ride some ride with Jesus’s name on it?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The music wasn’t horrible, but to some people, it could be quite offensive. To a Muslim, it could be considered bad, as they don’t agree with the message. Also to some atheists I suppose….or anyone who isn’t Christian. I agree that all music has some message that some will like and some won’t. But as you asked with your other comment, what if someone went there thinking it was just a normal campground and it was all Muslim music playing? Or Jewish? Or anything else. Someone, no matter what, will take offense to it.

      It just seemed to be a little too…shifty, as you said. It is all about money in the end though and that’s a shame.

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  7. Another thing… Can you imagine if a Muslim created a campground and gave out free gifts that tried to indoctrinate children along with music and verses that supported their ideas but you had no idea that’s what you paid for! They’d get alot if heat for that I’m sure!

    Liked by 1 person

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