Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Paintball for Jesus

The Contra Costa Times reported yesterday on a controversy raging in Mariposa, California.

This is a mountain town where there's a Bible verse painted over a pizza parlor door and a local politician keeps a cardboard cutout of John Wayne holding a Winchester rifle in his office as proof of fealty to the NRA.

But a proposal to bring "Paintball for Jesus" to public land has some people riled.

"I'm sorry, maybe I'm missing something in my upbringing as a Methodist, but Paintball for Jesus? God help us all. Seriously, this teaches bad habits of shooting each other," said Mariposa County Supervisor Brad Aborn, 71, the John Wayne fan who is a former Vietnam War Navy helicopter pilot.

Church youth leader Jeff Tomerlin contends, however, that paintball is the perfect ministry.

His church, New Life Christian Fellowship, wants to play paintball on 15 acres of county land.

"I really wanted to do something for the youth where they could see godly adults acting as mentors. We thought about going the skateboard route, but none of us are skateboarders," said Tomerlin, 45.

After church on the third Sunday of every month, a group of teens and adults from New Life cook up a big meal of hot dogs, give testimonies about Jesus in their life, suit up in camouflage and grab donated paint-shooting guns ("markers" in paintball terms).

Everything was fine when they played on private property, but when they asked permission to use public land, that's when the challenges came.

It's county-owned and the site of a future regional sports complex. About $40 million from now at an unspecified date, a swimming pool, baseball and soccer fields and other recreational opportunities are envisioned on the land.

But for now, it's a shrub-dotted hillside north of town off Highway 49.

"They needed a place to play. We have this land sitting there. I thought it was a no-brainer," [Supervisor Bob] Pickard said with a rueful laugh.

"But the people who don't like the idea really don't like the idea."

The problem isn't the idea of promoting guns, which is the usual argument paintballers get, since Mariposa is a gun-owning community.

Members of the church's youth group recently e-mailed supervisors, inviting them to a game of paintball so they could experience it personally.

"Good Lord," said Supervisor Dianne Fritz. "I'm 57 and fat. I'm not going to run around dodging paintballs."

Fritz, owner of Happy Burger Diner, sees no chance of success for the proposal.

"Mariposa is down-to-earth. We like churches, guns and family. But we're just not ready to combine them all with paintball and Jesus and public lands."

That's such a shame for the church's youth group. But all may not be lost.

Pickard said he thinks the church could dodge critics by finding a piece of private property.

He may have even found a landowner who is interested.

So far, only one hurdle has surfaced.

"He's concerned his cattle could be adversely affected by munching on paintballs," Pickard said.

"But my dog once ate a bucket full of paintballs, and she was fine."

You gotta love it!

1 comment:

Jacob said...

I think that's a great idea. If it were anything but a religious figure nobody would care: why should Jesus/Mohammed/FSM be off limits?