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August 4th, 2011
04:00 AM ET

Bull riding for Jesus

By Ken Tuohey, CNN

Carroll County, Maryland (CNN) –Jon Bisset, who is one part cowboy and one part Christian missionary, is the owner of River Valley Ranch in Carroll County, Maryland.

It is a family business. Bisset's grandfather started the ranch after immigrating to the United States from Scotland in the 1920s, he said.

"He always had a fondness for the American cowboy, and he was a minister down in Baltimore city," Bisset said. "He saw a lot of kids getting in trouble during the summer time and thought this might be an opportunity to reach out to the kids of Baltimore city in a unique way."

So his grandfather started RVR, the first dude ranch on the East Coast, reaching out with the gospel to kids who ordinarily wouldn't step foot in a church, Bisset said.

His grandfather's legacy continues today at the ranch, where they offer a Christian-themed summer camp, rodeos, horseback riding and even bull riding.

The ranch is not formally tied to any denomination or church. On its website it calls itself an "organization in the evangelical Christian tradition." It also notes that its summer camps "present the simple message of the Gospel as found in the Bible and teach Christian values without promoting nor condemning any denomination or church."

"You won't see too many cowboys that when you call for a word of prayer, don't come around and circle up," said Matt Schock, RVR's rodeo coordinator. That could be because these cowboys are getting ready to strap themselves onto the back of a snarling three-quarter-ton horned bull that could kill them in any number of ways.

Schock takes care of the bulls on the ranch, oversees the rodeos and leads Thursday night bull riding practice sessions. He also makes sure that everyone maintains a Christian environment.

On this night, as Schock rounded the bulls up into the corrals, the cowboys prepared their gear.

Clad in denim and leather, the riders donned cowboy hats and boots, and readied their ropes like soldiers preparing for battle.

When Schock called them over to gather for a word of prayer, everyone joined in. After seeing the size of the immense bovines they were up against, it was easy to see why.

"These bulls are bred to buck," Schock said. "They weigh 16, 17 hundred pounds. You can't make them do anything they don't want to do."

One big tan bull slammed his head against the cage, knocking in the steel dividing door that kept him in his pen. Then he jumped in the air and smacked a camera before it could be pulled out of the way.

"It's the world's most dangerous sport for a reason. You get on that bull, you have a good shot at dying," Schock said.

Penned behind a gate, the bulls would charge like a derailed locomotive, showing no mercy as their riders tried to get settled. And once the bulls were released, the riders were tossed off like rag dolls.

The cowboys would amble to their feet, brush themselves off and get ready to ride again.

"You could go out and get your head stepped on and die like that," Schock said as he snapped his fingers. "(When) you stand before the Lord and finding out where you go ... that's what's important right there."

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity

soundoff (521 Responses)
  1. Christina

    River Valley Ranch is a great youth camp. It was founded with a western theme in the 50's because that was one of the youth-culture rages of the day. Today, while the camp still offers horseback riding, kids come for skateboarding, paintball, adventure initiatives, and drama camp and more–you can check it out on their website. The bull-riding is a 4x-per-summer outreach to local cowboys. While I'd have to give some thought to my feelings about bull-riding and whether or not it glorifies God, I'm glad that my kids have a camp to attend that is safe, beautiful, well-run, well-staffed, & focused on sharing God's love to all who come.

    August 9, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
  2. Lee Cherry

    God dont care anything about "Bull riding for Jesus" They're crazy. If anything, God hates animal abuse

    August 6, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
    • ya

      Ya you know exactly what God likes right?

      August 12, 2011 at 11:25 am |
  3. Paula

    Christian should not practice bull-riding. Though for cruelty and brutality, atheists are always the #1.

    August 6, 2011 at 3:11 am |
    • Evolved DNA

      Paula...how come that believers in Jesus feel it ok to lie for him? You know that religion has a very black past and even today we are still seeing the love of god being practiced around the world....starvation, god wars, terrorism.. church burning y other religious groups. You achieve nothing by pretending that you are all squeaky clean, you have as much muck on you as the rest of society.

      August 6, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
    • UnevolveDNA

      We are clean and you are filthy, no need to say it coz it's pretty obvious.

      August 7, 2011 at 9:45 am |
  4. Reality

    Riding bu-lls for Jesus? It is time we stop all this bu-ll about Jesus!!

    Some observations in the 21st century:

    After careful review my fellow Christians, it is apparent that we have been fed significant mu-mbo-jumbo with respect to the life of Jesus.

    Brothers and Sisters stop and read about the real Jesus. Develop the new view!!! Jesus was a simple, illiterate, 1st century, preacher/magic man. The Beat-itudes are pure Jesus. His giving to Caesar what was Caesars is pure Jesus. The rest was embellishment upon embellishment of the life of said simple preacher man!!! The "miracles" were added to compete with the local "voodooers of the hoodoo". The resurrection was added to compete with Roman and Greek gods and the "pretty wingie thingies" and "de-mons of the de-mented added to continue the fear and superst-itions of the ancients!!!!!"

    August 5, 2011 at 11:56 pm |
    • Jesus is Lord!!!!!!!!!!

      "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt , they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. 2 The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand , and seek God. 3 They are all gone aside , they are all together become filthy : there is none that doeth good, no, not one. 4 Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge ? who eat up my people as they eat bread, and call not upon the LORD. 5 There were they in great fear : for God is in the generation of the righteous. 6 Ye have shamed the counsel of the poor, because the LORD is his refuge." Psalm 14: 1-6

      August 8, 2011 at 10:29 am |
    • The Bobinator

      1 The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.

      Yes, because that would go against the whole concept of believing in one.

      > They are corrupt , they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.

      So a baby is an atheist. It doesn't believe in a God, so is it corrupt? Does it do abominable works?

      2 The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand , and seek God.

      To believe in Christianity you have to believe that God has an important message for humanity and to give it to us, relies on languages that die out, relies on 40 year testimony from the actual date of the resurrection and relies on faith instead of evidence. If God wants to achieve it's goal of having everone worship him/her, then God is incredibly stupid.

      3 They are all gone aside , they are all together become filthy : there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

      Villifying again. To prevent the faithful from even considering what they have to say.

      4 Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge ? who eat up my people as they eat bread, and call not upon the LORD.

      5 There were they in great fear : for God is in the generation of the righteous.

      Rambling to make people in awe of the words, instead of proving them.

      6 Ye have shamed the counsel of the poor, because the LORD is his refuge." Psalm 14: 1-6

      I don't get why people think quoting the bible is great. I've read the bible, back to front and it hasn't made me believe in God. It has had the opposite in fact, that is to say, forced me to see what the christian God was. An infantile character created by primitive men.

      August 8, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • Jesus is Lord!!!!!!!!!!

      Without FAITH it is impossible to please Him for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

      August 8, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
  5. ReasonIsBelief

    Thanks to RVR for all they have done for the past 50+ years! Tens of thousands of kids have had a wonderful camp experience. Learning to care about others, work as a team and how to give back to those around them! There is more to this life!

    August 5, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
  6. *SIGH*

    If you go bullriding, have a good time and no one gets hurt, that is fine and dandy and I hope you have fun. But bullriding for Jesus? REALLY? How about simply helping/feeding your fellow man. That would do more and be more in line with what Jesus would do than bullriding.

    August 5, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • Joe

      I think Jesus wants us to minister to those with whom we have influence. There are needy people in all facets of society, including bullriders. I give this place props for choosing to make a difference in the cowboy community, even if you think they aren't worth it.

      August 5, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
  7. Jay

    I have a relative who works at RVR and she, along with all the other workers, have helped hundreds of children who have been the victims of a society filled with people who follow "that guy (who) seems to be a lot cooler" and lets them "...do what they want". Kids no more than 11 or 12 who cut them selves, bully others or want to take their own lives have found loving support, hope and a future at The Ranch. Letting the Atheists revel in their own self-righteous delusions would be easy were it not for the tremendous amount of harm their inflict upon so many.

    August 5, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • The Bobinator

      I have a question for you.

      Do you disbelieve in leprechauns until you're shown evidence? Or do you accept the existence of leprechauns until they're proven not to exist.

      That's atheism. Replace leprechauns with God.

      It's not self-righteous, it's logical.

      August 8, 2011 at 11:56 am |
    • whatever

      sounds like circular reasoning to me, not logic

      August 8, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @Jay

      " Letting the Atheists revel in their own self-righteous delusions would be easy were it not for the tremendous amount of harm their (sic) inflict upon so many. "

      W T F ?

      Peace...

      August 8, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
  8. Ashley

    River Valley Ranch was a great place to go for camp. The counselors were kind and encouraging. The Ranch gives back to the community through food drives and helps military families. It's a great place.

    August 5, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
  9. Ben

    Although I hope it never happens, it would be interesting to see how these cowboys would react if a bull did kill someone, as the Bible clearly states in Exodus 21:29 that when a bull kills someone, the bull and its owner should be put to death.

    August 5, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
    • GodPot

      They will say they are no longer required to follow Mosaic law and now follow Christs law of loving your neighbor & loving your God, though how they reconcile loving their neighbor if their bull killed the neighbor I'll never know.

      August 5, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • Ben

      @ GodPot – Isn't that viewpoint what Martin Luther called antinomianism and branded a heresy? After all, Christ did not come to destroy the law.

      August 5, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • Civiloutside

      Well, you see Ben, that verse can't be understood by nonbelievers. It can only be understood spiritually. And when understood spiritually, you will see that it really means that the bull should be put to real death and its owner should suffer the "financial death" of a lawsuit.

      August 8, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • Jesus is Lord!!!!!!!!!!

      Under the laws of Moses, you are correct. however, we do not live in the age of Law, but the age of Grace... thanks to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Creator of the Earth, Heavens and the Universe!

      August 8, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      Jesus is Lord!!!!!!!!!!

      Under the laws of Moses, you are correct. however, we do not live in the age of Law, but the age of Grace... thanks to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Creator of the Earth, Heavens and the Universe!.
      .
      This is based on what??????????????????????

      August 8, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
    • Jesus is Lord!!!!!!!!!!

      Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. By faith we (believers) understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God (He spoke it into existence), so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.
      God, the Father, The Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit created all!! Glory to God! Evidence of his great and wonderous creation is all around us! Eternal life is for everyone!

      August 8, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
  10. Atheist

    Free will doesn't exist. If someone wired up your brain to do what they wanted to, then you would have no power to stop them, or even want to if they really knew what they were doing.
    My point is, you don't choose to do the things that you do, they're just reactions in the brain. It's the same thing when someone goes into brain surgery and they come out a different person, same memories, just a different personality.

    If there is no free will then we can assume there is no soul because if a persons personality changes with just a slight tweek in the brain then that would mean their soul changed too and is not immortal and in all probability nonexistant.

    With no free will, there is no soul, there is no afterlife, and there is no god.

    (there was a long converstion about free will on the previous comment page and I thought I'd add to the overall thought by putting it back on the front page)

    August 5, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
    • ReasonIsBelief

      How many more times will you need to be on the front page before your brain has decided that you have had enough exposure?

      August 5, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
    • Atheist

      Just this once is good, thanks

      August 5, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @Atheist,
      From a practical standpoint, if there is no free will then how do you, or society, hold individuals responsible for their own behavior?

      August 8, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
  11. Ron

    this article is on par with the story..."Pole dancers for Jesus". shakes head...and people are discussing this, why?

    August 5, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
  12. TruthMatters

    Atheists mock and blaspheme. They are sick.

    August 5, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
    • David Johnson

      Believers are idiots.

      There is no god.

      Cheers!

      August 5, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      Christians are sick and satanic for worshipping a zombie christ

      August 5, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • Rub-a-dub-dub

      All religion is a form of mental illness.

      August 5, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
    • Martin T

      Truth does not matter to you, my friend. What matters to you is that EVERYONE see things YOUR way or they are idiots or heathens, or condemned. You probably know more Atheists than you know, many of them you have no idea they are atheists. If you met me in my role as a college administrator, you would think that I was a good man, I would help you and your children get a degree, start a life, and you would seek me out. Then, if you found out I was an atheist, what would have changed? NOTHING, I would still be the same person you just LOVED for doing what you needed done. See the Hypocricy YET?

      August 5, 2011 at 8:09 pm |
  13. TruthMatters

    Atheists need humility and authentic knowledge on other peoples' serious religions. They are blinded by immorality and their own hatred of religion. They should canonize those fellow atheists who don't falsely bash religions. But then, there is none. Atheists need the Christian truth and Christian love more than anyone does.

    August 5, 2011 at 11:07 am |
    • Laughing

      Is that so? I'll stick with Satan thanks, that guy seems to be a lot cooler and lets me do what I want instead of that total bummer, god.

      Thanks for the love though!

      August 5, 2011 at 11:50 am |
    • David Johnson

      @TruthMatters

      Jesus was a myth. He was made up.

      Cheers!

      August 5, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @TruthMatters

      You said: "Atheists need humility and authentic knowledge on other peoples' serious religions. They are blinded by immorality and their own hatred of religion."

      Atheists are at least as moral as believers. We believe in the golden rule. But, we don't follow the golden rule because we fear a god or a bad afterlife.

      Cheers!

      August 5, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • GodPot

      "Atheists need humility"

      Um, we are not the ones claiming to know who made the universe & that we have a direct line to the creator and expect to live on in some fanciful cloudy heaven for eternity after death because we said a few hail mary's or donated to our Church. Now a person who believes that might want to work on their humility...

      August 5, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
    • Spiffy

      It has been proven that Atheists actually know more about other people's religions then those who actually practice said religions. But don't worry ignore facts. Who needs those?

      August 5, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • herbert juarez

      here is a fact
      there is no spiffy,spiffy does not exist

      August 5, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
    • Magic

      herbert juarez,

      Thanks to your moronic trolling (and stalking) @spiffy's posts pop up on the "Most Recent" list more often and I'll bet that they get more mileage that way. It's great, really, since he is correct so much of the time... and you are not.

      August 5, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • Laughing

      Careful magic, you might get added to the "does not exist list" by herbie here if you don't watch out

      August 5, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • herbert juarez

      @ i have dealt with spiffites and spiffy disciples for a long time.eventually all will benefit from the freedom that comes from knowing there is no spiffy.there may always be those who need a crutch and so cling to spiffy.can't enlighten them all but i will try".magic" try greasing your neck it may help getting your head back out of your colon.
      nothing but love for ya
      there is no spiffy

      August 5, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
    • herbert juarez

      I am insecure and find it entertaining to belittle someone else so I can feel better about myself. I suffer from low self esteem and depression so stop insulting me, I need help. I didn't graduate from high school because I couldn't handle it but that doesn't mean I aint smart. So cut me some slack, I am just a red neck that believes you have to take the bible literally otherwise you will all go to hell.

      August 5, 2011 at 9:28 pm |
    • herbert juarez

      Maybe if I say "Spiffy does not exist" another 1,000 times, it will somehow become witty and less easily disprovable, and then it will have a point or amuse somebody besides my own mentally deficient monkey asss.
      Maybe if I keep at it, I will become a second-rate troll instead of a third-rate one.
      Maybe if I keep using this penis enlarger pump, I will not be hung like a Yorkshire terrier.
      Amen.

      August 5, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
    • herbert juarez

      ode to the last two posters

      those who impersonate on these blogs
      roll their crap in little logs
      they hide and think they're such a wit
      let them eat those logs of ...

      August 14, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.