[Easter 2008 Flashback] I am scared.
Two grown men are standing on a makeshift stage in Lone Peak Park, Sandy, huffing and puffing into red hot water bottles. The idea is to make them explode. The bottles resemble enormously swollen, hairless testicles.
What scares me is not the elephantitis of the nuts image, or waiting for the bottles to explode, but rather that something as apparently innocent as an Easter egg hunt—which is what this event was billed as in a local Sandy paper—is actually a stalking horse cum recruitment drive for what appears to be a religious group called, with suitable overtones of right-wing militarism, The Fellowship.
The blowhards are two members of the Strength Team, ex-pro football players and athletes. These self-proclaimed Christians go around the country and perform feats of strength. One of them is also a rapper with his new Christian cd coming out in July. They seek to demonstrate that while they maybe superb physical specimens of humanity, their true strength comes from the gift of Christ's love.
What struck me as odd, if not downright disturbing, was not only that Wal-Mart and Albertsons according to The Fellowship's leader had donated hot dogs and free coke and possibly also the expensive giveaways—bikes, even an iPod—but more that my two little girls, aged 5 and 7, were sucked into chanting, "Go Strength Team, Go!" This while one man broke baseball bats over his knee, another hammered nails through wood with the flat of his hand.
At the end The Strength Team leader, Mike Hagen, had us all bow our heads and pray. At one point he asked us to raise our hand if we needed Mike to intervene spiritually on our behalf if we had a troubled relationship with God. Meanwhile the Prayer Zone was available a few yards away where you could have recurring dreams interpreted.
I should have known the whole thing stank when I got there and they announced free hot dogs and Coke. Nothing's for free. Then there was a name like The Fellowship, the military-esque efficiency with which the quadrangles of Easter eggs [all containing raffle tickets so you had to then go and sit at the feet of the Strength Team while the winners were called out] were laid out. Could there be a more obvious and blatant set-up?
Of course Easter egg hunts come laden with their own symbolism and mainstream religious use. But if I go to a Catholic Easter egg hunt I know what to expect. This little community event left me reeling. As I walked away, many of the crowd were queuing up to meet The Strength Team. I could only wonder about The Fellowship. What kind of a church would have to act in so duplicitous a manner in order to get punters through its front door? (Stephen Dark)