In my novel The Nightmare Thief, an adventure company stages mock kidnappings during role-playing games. Players pay for the privilege. They warn the cops ahead of time. They know the kidnapping’s coming, and that it’s only make-believe.
But that’s not the way it worked for a bunch of kids at one Pennsylvania church.
Teenagers at the Glad Tidings Assembly of God Church in Middletown, Pa., were surprised when they attended a youth group meeting at the church on March 21 and were ambushed by what seemed to be real kidnappers.
Adults, including an off-duty cop, brandished weapons and put bags over the heads of the children, ages 13 through 18, and forced them into a church van. The group was driven to the home of an assistant pastor, who was presented before the group with a seemingly bloodied and bruised face, according to Dauphin County District Attorney Fran Chardo.
One of the adults used a real AK-47, though the gun was unloaded.
Yeah, the men came in screaming and waving an actual Kalashnikov at the kids before they shoved them to the floor, tied them up, bagged their heads, dragged them to a van, and drove them to a basement where they were isolated and interrogated. The kids didn’t know the kidnapping was fake. And their parents were not informed of the church’s plans.
The church leaders who organized the fake hostage situation later told law enforcement that the event was meant to be a lesson to the children on how Christians are persecuted in places around the world, but the “educational” event may actually constitute a crime.
At the very least it constitutes stupid, deliberate cruelty. The church “leaders” (I use the term as snidely as possible) did everything possible to convince the teens this was an actual kidnapping. They wanted them to experience real terror and a genuine fear for their lives.
Camouflaged men screaming in a 13-year-old’s face while waving an AK-47 at her. This isn’t education. It’s sadism.
As a parent, I’m horrified. And if this is modern Christianity in action, God help it. Somebody fire these bullies.