If you haven’t yet read about the Maryville, TN church that is being sued for $2 million for an incident involving a “persecution simulation” event with their youth group, here is a good summary. After reading it, read the Maryville Daily Times article, which is more in-depth.
First of all, it’s difficult to make a judgment on this from such little information, even though the articles are pretty in-depth. More information can be gained by looking at some Knoxville bloggers, such as this one, but it’s still hazy because there is so much hysteria over the whole thing. I haven’t yet talked to my brother who lives in Maryville about the incident–perhaps he can enlighten me more.
Second, the most obvious observation I have here is that the folks that filed the suit are in it for the money. One doesn’t have to know all the facts to realize this. So your kid got scared at a youth event that was probably over-the-top, this does not entitle you to two million dollars. Also, these church members(?) are not quite acting in accordance with 1 Corinthians 6 either, so I have little sympathy for their “plight.”
So, the question remains, did the church do anything wrong? My initial hunch is yes, and not for the reason you might think. As I said before, the sheer enormity of the lawsuit generates little sympathy from me for the youth who was disturbed by the event. I think that the wrongdoing here might lie somewhere in the event itself.
Current thinking in many youth ministries goes something like this: we need the youth in church rather than out in the streets vandalizing something, so we need to make the church more appealing than the streets. Therefore youth “events” should be big, bold, and appealing. While this is not necessarily wrong, this thinking can elevate the event over and above the discipleship that is supposed to be happening.
In this case, it can’t really be said that those who are speaking out against this church are presecuting it for its beliefs, although there may be some of that involved. To make a long story short, a church should take risks only on the things that matter. The church should take a risk at getting sued for not baptising those actively involved in sexual immorality. The church should take a risk in preaching the gospel in places where it is illegal to speak the name of Christ. The church should not take a risk of being sued for the sake of having a big event.
Those are just some initial thoughts. I may have more to say about this as it develops.