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Playground Predators

There’s a friendly music festival just up the road from where I live this weekend, so I wasn’t surprised to see a group of teenage girls under a tent at a nearby state park this afternoon, holding a sign that read, “Free face painting”. I also took it for granted that I could trust them when a couple of the girls approached me and asked me if they could tell my 5 year-old daughter, who was over on the playground, a story. She was within my line of sight, and an easy 5 seconds away if she started to look uncomfortable. But, why would she feel uncomfortable? I figured that the girls just wanted to tell a story about a bunch of friendly barnyard animals, or something like that.

I hate to think about how naive I was in that assumption.

5 minutes later, the story was done, and my daughter walked over to where I had been sitting under a tree, watching her.

“Hi daddy,” she said.

“Did you have a good time with those girls?”

“Yes, daddy.”

“What kind of story did they tell you?”

“It was a story about God?”

“What kind of story about God?”

“It was a story about how God is my real father.”

My daughter and I then had a short talk about stories. We talked about how there are all kinds of stories that talk about a lot of fanciful things, silly things, but that we don’t really believe what those stories say. “It’s like with Not The Hippopotamus,” I told her. “There aren’t really hippopotamuses who go to restaurants to drink juice, but we tell stories that pretend that they do, because it’s fun.”

My daughter understood what I was getting at, and she looked disappointed. I didn’t like to disappoint my daughter, but then, I didn’t really feel that I had a choice, after these strangers told her a story in which I wasn’t her real father. The thought came into my mind, though I didn’t speak it to my daughter, that if there really is a supernatural being that’s her real father, he ought to come over to our house sometime, because there are a lot of bills that need to be paid, and he needs to start pulling his weight.

After I was done talking with my daughter, I took a keener interest in what was going on near the playground. It turns out that there was a pretty slick operation going on. Some of the girls would stay at the facepainting tent, and proselytize the children they had lured there. At the same time, other girls were scouring the playground, looking for new prospects, and waiting for the chance to spread their religious message about God the “real father” to other small children. They were cultural hunters, using little kids as prey in order to fulfill their mission.

The worst part of it was the coordination. There was a man who looked to be about 50 years old, hanging around the tent, taking photographs of the children with the girls. The girls would report back to him every few minutes, and he would give them new directions.

I’ve heard a lot of Christians complaining about how they feel excluded from the public sphere. Today’s experience confirms to me that, in fact, the public sphere is swarming with Christians. Often, these Christians in the public sphere aren’t just practicing their religion for themselves. They’re out there, pushing their religion on other people who are just trying to use the public sphere in peace.

I’m all for freedom of speech, and freedom of religion. We adults simply have to learn to deal with people that we find to be annoying. It’s not against the law to be annoying, after all. There’s a line that’s crossed when it comes to dealing with other people’s children, however. Walking up to other people’s children and telling them that their fathers aren’t really their fathers isn’t freedom of religion. It’s fraud. It’s a violation of the trust that we have in creating public spaces where we’re supposed to bring our children to play.

Go ahead and believe whatever crazy stuff you want to believe about spirits with super powers. Just keep it away from my kids.

16 comments to Playground Predators

  • Jim

    What’s really creepy is that some 50 year old man is hanging out in the park, skulking on the sidelines and using girls to prey on little kids under false pretenses. People who are willing to use kids like that tend to be willing to do a lot of things to get what they want. Saying you’re doing it for some Lord doesn’t make it any better.

  • Tom

    Oh, but if YOU were maybe having teenage girls come over to your balloon ensconsed tent to take their pictures and you know maybe ask them if they were interested in, oh, say, “modeling” some, well, let’s say “swimwear” . . . oh then it’s a big deal and you’re a “predator” and all. Effing bible thumpers can get away with anything if its “fer the lard.” Yeah, those Christian values are really something aren’t they?

  • Jacob

    Good for them. I pray there message moves in your life as well as your daughters. The truth is profound and has eternal consequences

    • Zinnia

      Yep, the truth is profound and the consequences are eternal. Wait you did mean ‘There’s probably no god so stop worrying and enjoy your life’ right?…

    • You seriously don’t see a problem with a 50 year-old man sending a group of teenage girls out onto a State Park playground to go tell little kids that someone else besides their Daddies is their “real father”, taking photographs of the girls and the children together?

      Their message is moving in my life, all right. It’s making me seriously creeped out.

      By the way, Jacob, I am my children’s real father. That’s profound and has real consequences.

      • Jacob

        No, your children are on loan to you. They came from your seed, but you did not give them life.

        • If only all theocrats could be as forthcoming — I wouldn’t have to worry so much about them getting elected.

          • Jacob

            thats funny, the guys who founded the country believed the same…

            • Cindy

              Jacob, what this guy is doing is unethical and could actually be illegal. Not only has he persuaded his teenage followers that it is perfectly fine to mislead adults and proselytize to their children, if he publishes those pictures than he could be sued unless he has a signed consent form. I don’t know what church you belong to that makes you believe that this type of behavior is perfectly fine, but I know that mine would not allow it. As a parent, we have to protect our children. I know no pastor, reverend or rabbi that would feel otherwise. Remember, there is also a Church of Satan. It is just as easy for them to paint faces and tell tales as well.

        • Jacob, my religion says that all your household electronics are only on loan to you. You can turn them on, but whenever I say so, you have to give them to me. I’ll contact you when I’ve rented a moving van. Prepare the way!

  • Jim Winchester

    Funny, that’s how I first began pondering Christianity seriously – a group of teenage girls talked to me while they were all on some sort of treasure hunt. The father of one of them was a minister.

    I don’t follow how there was something wrong with him. Even if he arranged the treasure hunt I don’t see how it follows there was something wrong with him.

    By the time they’re teenagers, the time has come for them to think about who they are, where they’re going, and what they’ll stand for. If you’re worried about what somebody says to them during face-painting, then NO WAY are they prepared for what somebody’s going to say to them at their senior prom next year: you’ve already failed to give them the instruction you should have while they were much younger.

    And for the record, YES; I think if you’ll do just a WEE BIT of reading that really won’t hurt you, I think you can verify without too much brain pain that one of the new & profound points of Jesus’ message is that he introduced God to the multitudes as a Father.

    • Jim

      If you’ll do a wee bit of reading, you’ll notice that the little girl targeted by this scheme isn’t going to her senior prom next year. She’s five years old.

      Sick.

    • Cindy

      It is not only creepy, but potentially actionable, to photograph a minor without written consent from the parent. This is to protect the child. What was he going to use the photographs for? If he prints them, that’s considered publishing, in which case he has broken the law. You should do some reading.

    • A father is very different from the real father of my daughter, Jim. Until your great spirit comes by with a DNA paternity test and starts paying the bills in my house, I’ll not accept strangers sending groups of teenage girls out to tell my daughter otherwise.

  • Steve

    So, instead of setting up a booth that claimed to be a ministry or a source for stories about god, they made it seems like innocuous face painting? And instead of telling you what they wanted to talk with your daughter about, they just claimed it was “a story”?

    From this, I take that these Christians believe it’s perfectly justified to deceive people, so long as it leads to the spreading of their doctrine. I’m no expert, but deception of strangers doesn’t sound very Christian to me. It certainly shows a great deal of disrespect.

    Since your story didn’t mention it, I’m assuming that you did not confront them, or at least the 50 year-old guy. If that’s the case, I’m wondering why. I would have given him a piece of my mind.

  • The overly right wing religious nutjobs prey on children. They’re no different than pedophiles.

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