Should Christian kids play soldiers?
In my recent visit to a Californian Christian campsite I discovered that paintball is a popular activity for high school kids.
Unlike our US friends, this is not an option for NSW kids under 16, due to our gun laws.
Nonetheless, it's still possible to do a laser skirmish alternative, which enables participants to get dressed in camouflage and run around the bush shooting pretend guns at each other (with the accompanying sound effects).
As I've raised this as an option for our Youthworks Outdoors school and church camps I've had a mixed reaction. Many people like the idea of using laser skirmish to provide a technological 'upgrade' to classic wide games such as 'Capture the Flag'. However, some people have raised concerns at the idea of promoting shooting games in a Christian environment.
On the one hand, this kind of activity is really just an extension of the boyish fascination with toy guns. My sons have been pointing stick 'guns' at each other since they've been out of nappies.
What's more, they've been playing laser-shooting console games for a number of years, even though they are the versions made for kids (such as the 'Wall-E' Disney game).
In fact, it's been interesting to see that the indoor 'laser tag' games seem to be less controversial. My seven-year-old son has been to two 'laser tag' birthday parties in the past month, and they have been run by Christian parents with kids from a Christian parent-controlled school.
I wonder if the concern with Christian kids with toy guns is related to the fact that the notion of 'Onward Christian Soldier' has been politically corrected to the extent that it has emasculated an upcoming generation of young men?
Or, is this a helpful correction to the brutality of our past, and an attempt to promote a more helpful reaction to conflict and armoury?
Either way, I'd consider the idea of creating a purpose-built laser skirmish battlefield with the latest simulation weapons for those who might like to take advantage of it, and to offer an alternative activity for groups whose leaders or teachers find this unappealing.
But, would it be grossly unpopular and potentially offensive to the majority? Would you let your school or youth group dress up in camouflage and play war games in the bush? Or would you find the very notion to be antisocial and insensitive?
Jodie McNeill is the Executive Director of Youthworks Outdoors, the camping and conferencing arm of Youthworks.