The Separation of Church and Skate
Recently I was skateboarding at Lincoln High School in downtown Portland with a few of my friends. There are no lights at Lincoln and it was getting dark, but we still wanted to continue skating. Though there is a new indoor skatepark opening on Hawthorne on Saturday, there still remains a lack of indoor, well lit places to skateboard in Portland. The only place my friends could think of to go to was the Skate Church, an indoor skatepark on 82nd that I had never been to but they have skated at since junior high school.
We parked in a large lot with a warehouse in front of it. There was a port-a-potty in front of a heavy metal door. Inside there was a full skatepark with a street course with a seven stair handrail and ledge, flatboxes and manual pads on the ground, and a mini-ramp in the corner. By the time we got there it was already crowded, mostly with other over-18 year olds that I either know or recognized from seeing at skate spots. Upon entering we had to go to a table situated in front manned by a teenage girl, a young boy, and a man wearing an Altamont sweatshirt and then sign insurance waivers and pay four dollars. We then skated for about forty five minutes before the lights were turned off and everyone grabbed white plastic chairs and assembled into the flatground section of the park. A young man in his late twenties began explaining that he was going to discuss Christianity. In his half-hour presentation he reiterated words and phrases like “dude”, “stoked”, and “trips me out.” Most of the skaters seemed to not be paying much attention, and after asking us to consider accepting God into our lives and offering free bibles, they let us skate for another hour and a half.
This was interesting to me because of the way that religion, especially Christianity, tries to recruit youth members using current trends. Skateboarding is seen as cool and as a popular way to sell products to young teens. Examples of these include pictures of skaters on Right Guard deodorant and the MTV skateboard offerings Fantasy Factory and Ryan Sheckler’s Life of Ryan, which in between clown-like antics and teenage drama present a depiction of skateboarding as being something cool and MTV as cool by association.
Churches like the ones my friends and I attended that day use a similar tactic, except they look for people who already skateboard. Though I doubt few were affected by the sermon that day, that’s also because we were at an eighteen year old and over session. Most of the Skate Church’s events are for high-schoolers and even younger skaters. Many of these young kids come from trouble families and consider skateboarding to be their lives. When I was in junior high I felt the same way. The churches know this, and by connecting the skateboarding lifestyle to religion, can try to have the skater find meaning in the connections between their passions for skateboarding and Christianity.