I’m in Santa Cruz this week hanging out with senior leaders from several Christian conference centers around the country. They’ve all been involved in Christian camping for a long time, and they’re full of fascinating stories. I may poach one or two on occasion because they’re just too fun to pass up.
Probably the best (i.e. most disturbing) little tidbit of information, though, has to do with a piece of evangelical-ese I’d never run across before. I’m sure we’re all familiar with the famous “campfire experience” that closes many summer youth camps. Everyone gathers around, commits or recommits their lives to Christ, cries, hugs everyone within reach, and leaves feeling invincible and ready to take the Gospel to all nations. A common element in the campfires that I’ve been a part of is burning something as a token of releasing to God your sins, your past, or anything else holding you back from him. We usually wrote these things down on little pieces of paper and then took turns throwing them into the fire to demonstrate that we were really serious about our new commitment.
So far, so good.
Apparently, though, it used to be very common for Christian campers to throw pieces of wood into the fire as the token of what they were letting go. And, it also used to be fairly common to call such pieces of wood “fagots.” You can probably see where this is going now. So, the person leading the campfire experience would often exhort the group with things like “Come down and burn your fagot” or “Throw your fagot in the fire.” How’s that for a rallying cry? Try it at church this Sunday; see how it goes.
Now, I realize that “fagot” (small stick or bundle of sticks) is different than “faggot” (derogatory term for a homosexual). But, since I can’t hear the extra “g”, there’s just no way to avoid the shock value of having someone say “Come, burn your fagot for God!”
So, this is now officially going on my list of things that Christians just shouldn’t ever say.