Going Soul-o: one young atheist’s week at Christian camp (Day Three)

My first night’s sleep at camp is less than adequate. After witnessing conversion en masse at the evening’s meeting and falling back to my tent to blog, I pull my sleeping bag around me, now regretting that I didn’t bring a mat as heat is sucked out of my body; for late July, it’s a surprisingly cold night. The camp is expected to be quiet by midnight, but the group of adolescent boys camped next to me natter on for several hours. Amongst the banter, various comments make me uneasy. I hear several boisterous references to men sharing tents, some of which refer disgustedly to being “buggered” and paint men who like men as sexual predators. (Earlier, I’d heard both them and the teenagers opposite use “gay” as a word for for “crap”.) I think about reporting them to someone, but the site rules never mention homophobia.

In the end, I get what must be three or four hours’ sleep. While I’d planned to attend a seminar this morning on how to read Leviticus, followed by a morning meeting like last night’s, I decide to stay away from both and catch up on some sleep. The day begins to warm, and by half past eleven I feel more or less rested, so buy lunch and work for a while on a book review I’m writing. As I head toward the buildings in search of food, I’m glad to be missing the main meeting. This isn’t just for the reasons you’d expect; it also tells me something new about Soul Survivor. In the run-up to this series, people who’d gone before often told me guests “hung out”, avoiding the central sessions. This isn’t my experience. Strolling around with my teeth in a pastry, the place is quiet. Apart from a couple of teenagers playing swingball and some people charging phones inside, it seems obvious most of the 3000 delegates are worshipping.

My iPhone died last night at the end of the meeting, and my iPad – I’m an Apple fan, okay? – is almost out of battery, so I head into the “office”, an assembly of aged desktop computers, and pay for some internet time while I plug in my devices to the sound of more Christian rock. With any luck, this means I’ll be able to live-tweet throughout the day as I did in last night’s gathering. Today there are two more seminars, and these I won’t miss. The first, given by Mike, Andy and a third speaker named Esther Davenport, is titled “Soul man meets soul sista: sex”.

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