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A Trip To Camp Leviticus
In The Beginning
As rough waves pounded the side of the tiny ship, I could just make out a small island waiting for us in the distance. The dark clouds and pouring rain made it very difficult to see, but occasionally lightning would flash, illuminating the sky in a sudden explosion of light. “Now kids, this is a very similar to a situation Jesus once faced” began Reverend Bluchart. In the hull of the ship, the evangelistic camp counselor began to regale 20 semi-terrified fifth graders (and me) with the story of Jesus getting so annoyed at the wind that it stopped blowing. Because the storm rocking our boat was only a squall, I knew the storm would end fairly soon anyway, but Mr. Bluchart got everyone to pray for the wind to stop. Sure enough, after 5 minutes of praying, the sky cleared up. A miracle. Praise God.
I probably sound like a pessimistic atheist. I’m not. I believe in God and miracles. I like religion; I just dislike the zealots who try to brainwash people into never finding God for themselves. My opinion didn’t matter though. Not for 14 days, anyway.
“Son, do you realize that tampering with a mailbox is a felony?” asked the judge. I had already explained to him that I hit the mailbox while trying to avoid hitting a deer which was pleasantly strolling through the boulevard, but he seemed uninterested. “Furthermore, the mailbox was religiously themed and displayed an incandescent cross on its front.” Plopped on his perch, he pontificated about my flagrant attack on federal property and religion. “You don’t need jail” he said. “Boy, you need Jesus. And a haircut.” So, with that, I was sentenced to a drastic haircut and a two week stay at Camp Leviticus, a religious summer camp for 5th graders located on a deserted island somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. After getting over the shock losing my quite a bit of hair and letting my eyes adjust to the sudden plethora of light, I packed my toothbrush, sunscreen, several 2 liters of Fanta (why not) and an NRSV; there I was, ready for 14 days of hell in an attempt to keep me out of hell. I really do detest irony.
“Alright campers, we’re going to be having our first meal here in a little while.” We had settled into our cabins and had been waiting to eat all day. As the clock struck 8, 20 very excited 5th grades and one agitated 17 year old gathered around Rev. Bluchart, hoping he would be distributing something edible instead of little bible verses to ‘feed our souls.’ “This will be the greatest meal you will ever eat boys and girls.
“Will there be waffles?” asked one kid, hope gleaming in his eyes.
“No, much better than waffles” replied Mr. Bluchart, looking more excited than ever. You’ll be eating the flesh and blood of Jesus!”
Several children screamed. Most just looked disgusted. I stood watching the insanity, trying my hardest to distance myself from the children who wanted desperately to avoid becoming cannibals. “No no, boys and girls. It is only a symbol. Jesus wants us to eat bread and drink the wine to remind us of his sacrifice on the cross for our sins.”
The children breathed a collective sigh of relief. Despite the fact that Rev. Bluchart was Catholic, he decided to neglect mentioning the idea of transubstantiation. Seeing as none of the other campers had taken communion before, the priest asked me to assist him with the sacrament.
“I’d like you to bless the meal Mr. Tanden” said Rev. Bluchart. Knees bended and eyes snapped shut. “Let us pray,” I began solemnly.
“Dear God, we thank you for this camp. God, you made people out of dirt; if you can make something cool out of something dirty, like dirt, I’m sure that you can make this camp something spectacular, or at least decent. Please mend our souls, and the dirty, derelict cabins dotting the campground. Please cleanse our spirits, and the putrid facilities we are forced to shower in. Please purge the sin from our souls, and the spiders from the camp. Finally, please bless this Eucharist with Jesus’ holiness, and us with Job’s patience. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, Amen.
After the Reverend picked up holy wafers and came up next to me, a line formed to take the Eucharist. The 5th graders were pleasantly surprised when they realized that they were dipping their styrofoam wafers into Grape Fanta thanks to a little Eucharistic prestidigitation. Because I had grown up using grape juice, I couldn’t in good conscience let those children be corrupted with cheap clearance-rack-of-the-drug-store wine. Besides, now I had a little something for later. You know, just in case things got really bad.
I Can Hardly Bear It
Things got really bad. On my 3rd night at camp, a bear wandered into our cabin because that kid who had been hoping for waffles in the Eucharist brought waffles back to our primitive dorms. The shaky structure dropped an air conditioning unit from the ceiling onto the animal, thereby subduing it, (pinning it to the concrete floor). When Reverend Bluchart came in and saw the bear and the 5th grades petrified with fear at the enraged, roaring animal, he declared that the thing was possessed, sighting an obscure passage of the Gospels in which demons make their home in a herd of pigs.
He then attempted to cast out the unclean spirits in the form of an exorcism. Instead of sedating the bear and freeing it of its unclean spirit, the animal swiped a long-nailed paw at reverend; perhaps it was shameful, but as the bear began to free itself from its restraint and menacingly approach the priest, we all ran out of the cabin, leaving him to fight the bear.
After I started feeling somewhat guilty, I got resourceful and borrowed an Ambien tablet from a 5th grader insomniac’s overnight bag and threw it at the bear. It ate the pill out of curiosity, and was within 30 seconds was too sedate to maul the reverend, and the priest escaped with only minor injuries. See? I told you I believed in miracles.
God Bless You
As the camp drew on, I found myself no farther from God then before, but not much closer either, that is, until I was re-baptized. You see, after I saved the reverend from death by bear, he became convinced the Holy Spirit was with me, which made him all the more upset when I turned out to be a Protestant. He begged me to let him “un-baptize” me out of the Protestant church and re-baptize me into the Catholic, but I refused, which convinced him that a Spanish Inquisition of my soul was necessary.
The evening I was there, a baptism ceremony inaugurated everyone except me into the catholic church. Each was doused with water from a pitcher which normally held lemonade at dinner. After the ceremony was over, I found myself being kidnapped on the way back to the cabin.
When the burlap sack was removed from my head, I found myself on a dock with the reverend approaching me ominously. “The greek word “Baptitzo” which means to immerse,” he said. “Normally, we Catholics like to ignore our inferior symbolism and just perform baptism by pouring. But tonight, I believe you need to be fully immersed in the power of Christ. After all, a soul without Catholicism is even worse than a soul without Christ; we must never be lukewarm in our faith.
With that, he shoved me from the dock as he declaimed “I now baptize you in the name of God, for the glory of Him, and the glory of the Catholic Church.”
It’s certainly a shame that the dock wasn’t very sturdy.
It’s also a shame the eels were attracted to his reflective white robe.
The next morning I began filling out paperwork to get my Catholicism annulled, while coroner began filling out paperwork to certify that although he was legally dead for 8 minutes, the electric eels, after electrocuting the priest, served as defibrillators as well, leaving Revered Bluchart alive but hospitalized. I left that morning for home, where I decided I really like Methodism.
I dropped by Reverend Bluchart’s ER room one afternoon. I left him a a very cheap bottle of wine. He asked if I’d pray over it. I told him it was already blessed.