For my 600th post, I've decided to do something a little different and tell an entertaining story. I was once kicked out of a church youth group. Why, you ask? Well, it's not exactly a simple story, so this will take some explanation. My younger brother was always a creative sort, but his creativity usually got him in trouble. I very rarely did anything to get in trouble, but when I did it was usually something that caused real damage. One time I sat on a fence at school that everyone sat on all the time, and it happened to break while I was on it. Another time, I decided to set a clock back after school to screw with the teachers' sense of time the next day. The clock stopped moving altogether. I was playing dodge-apple once, and a window broke. I don't think I threw the apple that broke the window, but my dodge led to its breaking. I think the only time I didn't cause actual damage was when I was trying to figure out how credit cards were supposed to open locked doors, and a teacher caught me. There may not have been more than a few other times that I got in trouble between 6th grade and high school graduation. One of them was the MFD incident, and it probably got the most attention out of any of them.
The original idea came about when my brother and his friend had both independently been dumped by their girlfriends. To commiserate, they decided to form a brotherhood. The gag was that such brotherhoods usually were about women being inferior or evil or some such thing, but this one decided to have women not being inferior. The slogan was that men are inferior. They decided to put a name to the particular disorder they were suffering from, since they'd seen women putting a name to whenever they don't feel like dealing with people in a loving way. To be symmetrical, they gave it three initials -- MFD, for Masculine Feminine Disorder. This didn't have anything to do with homosexuality or being effeminate. It was simply a way to have a parallel to PMS without really having any such thing. The joke got more elaborate as they wrote some fake medical experts' statements of such a disorder and put them together in a book.
Then there was the kicker. They decided to call this brotherhood a cult. I'm not quite sure why, but they figured it would be more funny. At this point they decided to involve others, since a brotherhood of two was kind of lame. They requested my help in putting together an initiation ceremony for new members, and they counted me as a founding member even though I wasn't a founder. I was the only person to get that honor. Everyone else had to be initiated properly. So we decided to figure out what the initiation ceremony needed to involve.
Since many such ceremonies had people putting their hand on a Bible, we found a Spanish Bible that none of us could read, and (yes, I know that many people would find this a little disrespectful) decided to have people put their foot on it instead of their hand. You can't have an initiation ceremony without a disgusting concoction for people to drink, so we got an empty bottle and mixed some interesting things together. It started as coke, but we added vanilla extract, prune juice, vinegar, and some other things we found around the kitchen. Then we had to figure out when to do this. We were going to a few youth groups at the time, and there was a gathering of three different youth groups, two which he had been going to, for a volleyball tournament. This was the perfect opportunity. Everyone we wanted to induct would already be there. The only issue would be figuring out how to get some privacy for the ceremony and how to have it be the sort of thing that feels really exclusive. It would be excellent to do it in the bathroom, but that wasn't quite secretive and rule-breaking enough, so we ended up deciding to use the women's bathroom. If we did it in the middle of the volleyball playing, people would be less likely to want to use the bathroom, and if we got the sister of someone involved to wait outside the door and not let anyone in, we'd be all set.
So we showed up with the cult manual, the disgusting concoction, and the Spanish Bible, gathered all the inductees, and headed into the women's bathroom for the inintiation ceremony. We did some silly explanations of the cult and didn't get very far into the rituals we'd agreed to do when someone needed to use the bathroom. The sister placed at the door tried to keep her out, but she was getting so loud and insistent that she finally gave in and let her in, only to find us there. When she saw us, she shrieked "There are boys in the girls' bathroom!" We started to pack our things up to head out, but one of the women who helped lead one of the youth groups stormed in and commanded us to get out. She confiscated our gear and led us as a drill instructor would to go sit along a wall that led down a dark corridor that got little use and had us sit in a line. Some of the other leaders arrived. One of them asked what we were doing. My brother, who was always quick to speak before thinking, promptly replied "We were having a cult meeting".
Now this went over so well that they decided to ask us nothing else. I don't really remember what else happened that evening. Maybe we were told to go home. I just don't remember. I do remember that we heard back from the elders of one of the churches involved, saying that we were not allowed to go to their youth group anymore. One of those elders was the father of our band's singer, and he was told he had to quit the band. My brother's friend, who was part of that church, was given a couple months' suspension from going to youth group, probably the worst thing someone who wasn't solid in his faith could have been given. I don't think he has any interest in Christianity at this point, and I think that was the start of it. Our former singer told us that his dad's major concern was that the cult manual took verses out of context to say false things. The only thing I can think of was the satirical "men are inferior" stuff. They obviously missed the joke. Some of it was really well-written and quite funny, but the confiscated cult manual never got returned.
The other of the two churches where we'd been involved that were at the gathering talked to us about it at the next meeting of their youth group. They wanted us to know that they thought what we were doing was stupid. They said there had been worries that we were drinking, but when one of them smelled what was in the bottle they didn't think anyone would really have wanted to drink that stuff, which led them to believe our story more. They said that the other church had been concerned about the music we listened to, especially that we might influence others to listen to it, which was kind of funny, because the kids in that youth group listened to much worse stuff than we did, and we ended up being the ones who turned out to be more faithful to our Christian faith by college. The people at this youth group realized that we were a good influence on their own kids, though, so they welcomed us to continue to be involved but warned us not to do anything so stupid again.
The funniest reaction, though, was when my parents and brothers heard about it. Apparently they called my home and talked to my dad before we'd gotten home that night. When we got home, he acted serious and asked us to explain it to him. As we went along, he broke out into laughter more than once. In fact, he thought it was so outrageously funny that he told the story quite a few times to people in our church. The youth leaders at our church also thought it was quite hilarious and couldn't believe anyone might act the way those leaders had.
Perhaps another time I'll explain how I got fired as a Sunday school teacher when I went to ask the pastor for help in putting together a series of lessons. That one's not so funny, though, just sad.
[You can read the comments on the original post at the Wayback Machine's archive of it.]
Jeremy Pierce is a philosophy professor, Uber/Lyft driver, and father of five.