Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Challenge Team

As mentioned before, I toured with The Challenge Team, promoting a chaste lifestyle among the youth of the world.

I went on a total of four tours, and each was 6 weeks long. The first one was in the spring of 1995, and second in spring of 1997, the third to Ireland in the winter of 1997, and the fourth and final one in spring of 1998.

Most of the tours were right here in Canada; in '95 I was in the 905 area code (SW Ontario). '97 and '98 I went to Western Canada (BC, Alberta, Saskatchewa, and Northwest Territories).

Those tours were a fabulous learning experience. Our presentation was largely the same each year, with only the skits we did changing.

We would start out with a sketch called "The Dating Nerd" - usually played by me (sigh). We had 3 characters; the nerd, the girl, and the narrator. The narrator would accounce, "How to get a date" and I would enter, all "nerded-up" with one pant leg tucked into my sock, my hair askew, my shirt not fully tucked in... you get the picture. He would then read off instructions "Identify subject of interest," "Approach subject of interest," "Sit down next to..." and I would follow through literally what the instructions were.

The funny parts were when the instruction was "Place hand on knee" and I'd put my hand on my own knee. The whole skit was just an ice-breaker; the students had usually been told what our topic was, and it was a good idea to get on their good side and break the tension right away by making them laugh.

Introductions would follow, and we'd jump into the purpose of sexuality - to unify, and to procreate. "Fun" is not considered a purpose, but rather a pleasant by-product. We'd then ask, that considering that sex is for unity and procreation, what's the best context? Answer: a committed, lifelong relationship open to children, AKA marriage.

We'd then get into some of the stuff that happens when sexuality is used outside of that context; unplanned pregnancies, STD's, broken hearts. We would back this up with personal stories (we had a healthy sampling of people from many different backgrounds who could often speak to many of these issues).

But we didn't leave it there; our object wasn't to scare people into chastity. We spent the last half of the presentation talking about the benefits & freedoms that chaste living brings. This too, was often filled with personal stories, and could be quite funny. Then we'd present tips on how to practice chastity; things like avoiding situations that make it difficult (too much time along together, pornography, etc) and making the commitment together with a friend and keeping each other accountable to it.

One thing that we didn't bring up in the presentation was religion or God. Most (but not all) of us that wanted to promote this message came from religious perspectives (of many different varieties), but we all agreed that to ensure the message had broad appeal and that we were denied access to no public schools, that we should present it from a secular, common sense approach. This was also useful when we did presentations in religious schools or to youth groups, as it enabled those young people to see the real, practical reasons behind the Sixth Commandment.

Obviously there's a lot more detail to the presentation than I'm doing justice to here. We would end off with the funnest part: Ways to Say No. This was done with us standing in a line with our backs to the crowd, and one at a time we'd turn around and say one. Some of them could only be delivered by the relevant gender. Included were:

I've decided not have sex on days of the week that end in the letter Y.
I'm saving myself for a stronger man.
(William Shatner impression) I'd rather not boldly go where every man has gone before.
(Leonard Nimoy impression) That would be illogical.
[nothing like quoting Star Trek to turn a girl off!]
Do I want to back to your place? Hmm... do you really think we'd both fit under a rock?

There were many others... it's been 7 years since I last did one of these tours, so my memory's a bit foggy.

Sadly, the Challenge Team is no longer touring in Canada. We did help set up some groups in England and Ireland to tour there, but we reached a point of saturation in Canadian schools, partly because we visited mostly the same schools from year to year, and partly because the message was largely unchanged each year. With successive tours, it got harder to book the number of presentations we needed to make it worthwhile.

As well, since the Team held no religious affiliation, we weren't eligible for charitable status. We tried obtaining it under educational grounds, and fought that battle with Revenue Canada all the way to the Federal Court of Appeals, but they held that since the message was essentially one-sided (we avoided entirely the concept of "safer sex"), the Team didn't qualify. After the decison, someone asked the judges if an educational program advocating healthy nutrition, and disregarding safe ways to eat unhealthy foods, would also be denied charitable status due to a one-sided bias. They reluctantly (probably with silly looks on their faces) agreed that it would.

So without an easy way to raise funds and a declining interest from our increasingly liberal public school system, the Challenge Team folded a few years ago. Rumour has it, though, that something is stirring underneath those ashes...

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