Friday, July 08, 2005

Never Retreat, Never Surrender

The Rev. Jeff Lambert of La Union, N.M. turned an old house adjacent to his church into the "La Casa de La Paz St. Luke’s Retreat Center". Now he rents it out to other churches to do "retreats". A retreat at La Casa is an activity in which religious folks check into the 4 bedroom, 2 bath remodeled home and spend a day sharing their faith with other religious folks from their church. Sometimes they stay overnight.

"Retreats" are a pretty common way for Christian folks to justify taking a little overnight or weekend vacation with their friends, away from their kids. My parents used to go on "retreats" with the other adults in the church, leaving us teenagers with the daunting logistical task of throwing a huge party on Friday night, then getting the whole house spic-and-span before they returned Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning. Mom and Dad seemed to enjoy the retreats, but they also enjoyed regular vacations. I could never really tell the difference, to be honest with you.

So, pardon my skepticism when it comes to Reverend Lambert hawking a remodeled four-bedroom house for "retreats". The truth is that he has set himself up with a Christian-themed Bed & Breakfast with a built-in customer base. Smart and profitable, yes. Spiritual, no. It's a quick, affordable vacation from the kids that can be easily rationalized and is actually looked at as a good thing by your peers in the Church. That's marketing gold, baby!

Retreats were often pushed on us teenagers as well. The teenager "retreat" is typically called a "lock-in". This is where you lock a bunch of hormonally-charged 13 to 17 year-olds into a gymnasium. All night. With each other. With chaperons who haven't stayed up all night since they were hormonally-charged adolescents locked into a gymnasium thirty years previously. It's a disaster just begging to happen. It's such a joke. I got laid for the second time in my life on the floor of a gymnasium at a Christian teenager lock-in - at a church. Hell, half the kids there were groping each other. Our "chaperons" were busy drooling on themselves and snoring after sternly admonishing everyone that there was an invisible line that God would watch over, splitting the girls from the boys. They would waggle a finger at the halfway-point in the gym and try to look serious and intimidating. Woe be unto any bad, evil, Satan-possessed kid who crossed that line. And we really, really mean it! *snore*

Let the party begin!

Hector Clemente, another New Mexico retreat organizer (this is obviously a very lucrative business), puts his retreats together for teens as the director of "Life Teen" at St. Pius X Catholic Community.

[link] "I do a lot of praying that the message we receive will take on a special meaning. When I'm putting on a retreat, I pray God gives us strength to give them what they need spiritually through God. Prayer is important in both aspects; you just pray for different things."

Yup. I'll bet most of the teens pray to get a little hot action during the retreat - and that that creepy Hector guy will quit wandering around during the lock-in shining his flashlight on all the girls' nightgowns.

[link] Clemente said retreats have a powerful impact on youths.

"We had a two-and-a-half-day retreat and this one young man proclaimed he was an atheist," Clemente said. "Later in the retreat, he was praying and God was in his life. It was just amazing."

Uh-huh. A teenage atheist is going to go to a Catholic youth retreat - and "proclaim" that he is an atheist. Sounds a heck of a lot like your typical teenage rebellion against overly-religious parents to me. I wonder if Hector could produce this kid's name, or somehow confirm that this kid was indeed an atheist. I doubt it. Again, this is a marketing strategy designed to sucker parents with rebellious teens into paying Hector and the St. Pius X Catholic Community a bunch of dough so that they won't have to actually parent their own kids. Let God do it for them. Plus, they get the added bonus of two glorious days away from the kids. Time enough to take in a movie, just Mom & Dad, or go fishing. Maybe they could, I don't know, go on a retreat of their own?

I gotta tell you, from experience, that God's a lousy parent. However, he does appear to be a marketing genius.


Anonymous said...

My wife goes on the annual retreat with her church every year, and every year I ask the same question: What exactly are you retreating from, reality?

Then she punches me in the arm.

So much for all that other cheek nonsense.


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