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My Cruise Ship Captivity

By undercover agnostic ~

This is not a polished, well-scripted piece. I just need to vent. I hope that’s okay.

A few weeks ago my in-laws invited my husband and I along with siblings and nieces and nephews to go on a “free” cruise to Alaska. The catch? A Christian organization called Convoy of Hope was doing a fundraising campaign for their ministry and we had to listen to their spiel AND go to a church service on Sunday, while on vacation! I know. Poor me, right? I was trapped on a ship with super right wing fundamentalist Christians for the entire week who looked and sounded like Bart Simpson’s religious neighbor, Mr. Flanders. Basically, I had to try and not come unglued as Convoy talked about preying on victims of disaster in order to proselytize. They don’t feed hungry people because of a moral obligation. They feed them in order to tell them about Jesus. They absolutely won’t do one without the other. And if there is a major disaster, like a typhoon, or tsunami, the first buildings that get restored are the churches. Really? Of all the urgent needs, they think “God’s house” is top priority? If he owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and has magic powers to create exnihilo, I would think he could fend for himself.

In addition to disaster relief, they also have long term interests in third world countries where they feed, clothe and care for the kids attending the Christian schools, while the rest of the starving and impoverished kids are overlooked because they haven’t ascribed to the right belief system. Screw them, right? The more I listened, the more upset I felt because literally everyone around me was awestruck by this incredible tool of evangelism. It’s one thing to help others in the name of Jesus, with no strings attached, but to impose that faith on others as a condition for offering assistance, to me was deplorable. I listened with a mixture of disgust and anger, knowing, that as payment for my free cruise I would have to donate to this organization, whose philosophy of mission I opposed. Side note: They raised over 3.5 million dollars on that ship!

I couldn’t bring myself to stand, let alone clap. I think I was the only one who stayed in my seat. But I just couldn’t do it. If I weren’t uncomfortable enough, I certainly was when they paraded the Greens, (owners of Hobby Lobby) up to the stage as the entire auditorium stood to their feet applauding them and thanking them for fighting the good fight. I couldn’t bring myself to stand, let alone clap. I think I was the only one who stayed in my seat. But I just couldn’t do it. I pretended to fix my shoe or something so as not to draw undue attention to myself.

Every dinner was spent listening to the leaders, who were strategically planted at each table to talk about their “God” stories. I just smiled politely and nodded my head in fake agreement.

One of the spokeswomen, Anne, shared a personal story of “God’s amazing goodness and grace.” I have yet to see how such attributes could be inferred from her tragic story. She had two little girls, a four year old and a 19 month old. Anne’s sister accidentally ran over the baby, killing her, while the four year old watched in horror. Anne, her sister and daughter went to counseling at their church because they were so distraught. The pastor was a pedophile and molested the four year old daughter in addition to seducing both women, claiming God wanted them to have sex with him! This went on for 6 years. But then she bought a small pretzel business that turned into an international franchise and became rich, which in her words, “was all God.” So apparently, God cares about her getting wealthy and intervenes by showing her a perfect recipe (a miracle, she insists), but chooses not to help when the baby is getting run over by a bobcat tractor.

When I hear stories like this, I can’t help but think that this god, whom everyone seems to go gaga over, isn’t very powerful. And if he is, he’s pretty damn lazy and has poor judgment to boot. With Convoy, God is credited with raising up an organization in his name to help victims after the fact, but he’s not able to actually prevent the disaster. The survivors have lost literally everything including loved ones, pets, homes etc. and yet, the best God can do is give them rice, water and a gospel tract. Another irony is that they have to avoid some places where there is a strong Muslim presence, for fear of getting killed. Again, God is entirely inadequate when it comes to warding off enemies.

I realized, after we got off the ship, how much I have changed. The fundamental Christian world where I used to feel so comfortable and safe has become alien to me and I find it increasingly difficult to remain neutral amidst the crazy nonsense.

 Thank you for letting me get this off my chest!