Saturday, January 26, 2008
What would Jesus hunt????
Some of my Binghamton experiences are so ridiculous that I don't even know where to begin describing them. Today probably takes the cake, so I'll just start: this Saturday afternoon, I attended this, too good to make up:
"Men's Venison Dinner & Workshops; with speaker R.G. Bernier, legendary whitetail buck hunter, consultant, writer, photographer and author from Maine, topic "In Pursuit of Big Whitetails," also door prizes; 2:00-8:00 p.m.; $3; First Assembly of God Family Center; Call to reserve, 723-7417"
Last weekend I was reading Sunday's local paper and trying to find something interesting to do this week. This gem caught my eye, initially, because it was a "Men's" dinner, and I do not like to be excluded from anything because I am a woman, and certainly not by a bunch of red neck hunters, dammit. But it also caught my eye because, WTF? I did not understand how there is a venison dinner, that lasts for 6 hours, excludes women, costs $3, and is held in a church. Soooooooo confusing!
I called the phone number to RSVP the day before the event, and the secretary who answered the phone was very cagey. She seemed to not know much about the event and/or didn't want to answer my questions. She told me she thought they were all full up, and kept trying to pass me off to the pastor. I got his voicemail, chickened out, and called John. Suspicious that she was acting strange because I was a woman, John offered to try. The good news is that he got the same treatment, so it wasn't my gender that was the problem. So John asked if you had to be a member of the church to attend. No, she said, but be sure to tell the pastor that you are "unchurched." ?????
Hunting. This is something I know nothing about, so I thought it might be interesting to get a glimpse into this world. I think I saw too much. Wow. When I arrived at about 4:30 pm (about mid-way into the inexplicable, undifferentiated 6-hour event period), I found a few guys manning a reception table, and beyond them, a church dining hall with paper plates and plastic utensils, set for easily a hundred people at 3 impossibly-long tables. But no people.
I was worried that these men would see me and freak out, suspicious of the young woman armed with a cell phone camera, bum-rushing the door at the Men's Venison Dinner. But I got my mojo up and approached the reception table, "Where are all the people who are going to fill that hall?" Silly question, it turned out. "Downstairs, in the meeting rooms." DUH. I forgot. The newspaper advertised for the dinner and workshops. I think I had forgotten that part because I could not comprehend what it meant.
I scurried downstairs to find a half dozen rooms, labeled with the sweet signs you see in the photos. I think the photos say it all. As I peeked in one of the rooms, labeled "The Wild Turkey," I was greeted by a large map of New York state. All the counties were shown with various colors indicating something. The caption read "Turkey Population by County." That's helpful, thanks.
The other workshops are fairly represented in the photos, so you get the idea. As I wandered around the hallway outside these rooms, pressing my nose to the windows and taking photos with my little pink camera phone, I worried I would attract attention. NOPE!! These guys were waaaaaay too engrossed. And they were going to get their $3 worth, yessirree.
I had seen enough, anyway. I headed back upstairs, thinking that this was the best-organized Men's Venison Dinner & Workshops that THIS Angeleno had EVER attended. But I couldn't leave well enough alone. On the way out, I stopped at the reception table to inquire about the "Men's" aspect- "Are women allowed to participate?" The answer was tooooo good: "Womens are allowed in. We got lots of womens downstairs. REAL womens." I am not making that quote up- "REAL womens." Priceless. At least he was welcoming.
The church itself warrants an entire blog entry. First Assembly of God is the local church that is so heavy into marketing- and converting the "unchurched"- that it bought a recurring TV spot so that, every morning at 7:30 am, I get a motivational minute/life lesson from this guy. And it's definitely cheezy.
So you can imagine that such a church- located not far from a big highway- would want its name writ large on the prominent historic auditorium (Kalurah Temple), right? Fine, except that "First Assembly of God" apparently put up a huge, red, electric sign reading "FAG" on several facades of the building. Yeah, the City had something to say about that, and now it just says "AG" (but you can vaguely make out where the "F" once proudly stood.) You'll notice that their website is "binghamton1ag.com" and not "binghamtonfag.com"- smart choice there, at least.
Still, I'm a bit slow to understand what hunting bucks and Jesus Christ have to do with each other. Here is where my ignorance shines brightly, for it seems that churches will use any strategy to squeeze a little Jesus into people's lives, as evidenced by groups like the Christian Deerhunters Association, or the Outdoor Ministry Network, with its clever angle:
Most churches want to reach outdoorsmen . . .
they just don't know where to start.
Most outdoorsmen want to share their faith . . .
they just need a way to do it.
Who knew that Jesus was such a marketing genius!!