Thursday, October 06, 2005
Ala. church youth swallow live goldfish
FLORENCE, Ala. (AP) -- The First Assembly of God Church has a Fear Factor ministry that lets youths swallow live goldfish in order to teach them about fear.
"We need to be realistic about what the Bible says about fear and not be afraid to share our faith in school," youth minister Anthony Martin told the TimesDaily in a story Thursday. "We can't let that fear rule our lives."
Martin said the ministry's participants are between the ages of 14 and 21 and that they had to get their parents to sign a waiver to be involved.
"Fear Factor" is a reality TV show in which contestants compete by participating in dangerous activities or by eating stomach-turning foods for cash prizes.
"Through this ministry, kids are surrendering their lives to Jesus and developing a deeper relationship with Jesus," Martin said. "The method of the ministry that we use to bring people is going to change, but the message is going to stay consistent."
In teaching the lesson about fear, participants in last week's round were asked to pull a number - between one and three - from a bowl that would indicate how many live Comet goldfish would be swallowed.
Martin said 12 of the almost 20 young people who participated advanced to this week's round of activities, which involved undoing chains and getting out of a real coffin, with the eight fastest advancing. The final four will compete for $250 by the ministry's final week.
Paula Keeton, manager of Pet Depot, which sold the fish, said she considers the church's action as animal cruelty.
"It's against our policy to sell to people if the animal will be killed," Keeton told the TimesDaily. "To me, it's the same as taking a dog or cat and killing it in front of a group of children."
Martin maintains that the children are not forced to participate and there is no peer pressure involved.