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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. Tom

    All rodeo events are inhumane, cruel and heartless.

    August 4, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
    • Lee

      Yes. A bucking bronco or a bull can be down right heartless. But remember, every rider is a consenting adult.

      August 4, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
  2. William Demuth

    It seems strange, with my not being Christian, but why I am the one to remember the warning about tempting the Lord thy God that Jesus provided during his conversation with Satan?

    I guess these Rednecks are the more common illiterate strain of Christian!

    August 4, 2011 at 11:53 am |
    • TheTruth72

      Tempting how? If you mean tempting God by riding bulls that could trample you any minute, then I don't think you understand what that Bible passage means.

      August 4, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • William Demuth

      I think you haven't a CLUE.

      You parrot whatever you are told because your parents toasted your brain.

      August 5, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
  3. heat0

    Immigrating? I think you mean emigrating...

    August 4, 2011 at 11:27 am |
  4. William Demuth

    I guess torturing a bull is better than buggering altar boys, but I must point out I prefer when the Christians used to take on lions in the Coloseium!

    Now THAT was sport!

    August 4, 2011 at 11:25 am |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      No kidding....sigh...we missed the good ole days.

      August 4, 2011 at 11:40 am |
    • G Culver

      Amen!

      August 4, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • LouAz

      Too many christians . . . not enough lions.

      August 4, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      LouAz

      Too many christians . . . not enough lions.

      ------
      Aint that the truth!!!!!!!!!!!

      August 4, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • Atheist

      Well if there aren't enough lions we could always use the other christians as roman candles. That's what the Romans did

      August 4, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • Laughing

      C'mon y'all! We can be more creative than the Romans! now if we really put our heads together I'm sure we'll figure out something, I mean, look at at all the marvelous machinery we have nowadays. Maybe we can have a "most dangerous game" situation, then we won't need lions at all.

      August 4, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
    • Civiloutside

      You guys are disturbing...

      August 4, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
    • President C.

      Is it wrong that I've been furiously mas-tur-ba-ting while reading this comment?

      August 4, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      Laughing

      C'mon y'all! We can be more creative than the Romans! now if we really put our heads together I'm sure we'll figure out something, I mean, look at at all the marvelous machinery we have nowadays. Maybe we can have a "most dangerous game" situation, then we won't need lions at all.
      ------–
      "Who can hang on the cross longest" game
      .
      Create "Soylent Green" the new alternative for consumers
      .
      Mine field racing
      .
      Replace the pumpkins in "Pumkin Chunkin" with christians and rename to "Chunkin for Jesus"
      .
      Tie rocks to their feet and drop them in water and see who can stay alive the longest. Also wager to see if their god rescues them.
      .
      Bungee jumping for Jesus. (instead around their feet it is around their necks)
      .
      I think Adelina, FairGarden etc might be up for some of these.

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

      I think I like the "tie stones around their feet and drop in water" game. or maybe mine field racing, that would be so great just watching people scatter and then all of a sudden.... BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!

      August 5, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      "Walking on air for Jesus" Let them step off a roof top building to walk to another one. They get bonus points for yelling "Praise Jesus" on the way down. And bonus points on who bounces the highest.

      August 5, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      Of course other mythical believers are invited to participate.

      August 5, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      Could christians be used as a source of alternative fuel? If the Adelina's of the world portray people not christian as evil and wish to do christians harm, then lets play the part.
      .
      Can anybody else think of uses for christians? I mean we stone them to death here in America already according to some delusional zealots.

      August 5, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • herbert juarez

      I see the names that these comments are posted under ,and wonder isn't this how the Nazis talked about the Jews?william demuth? no, adolph hitler, i hear goebbels ,spear, himmler,goering,kaltenbrunner,eichmann and a host of others speaking in these posts.Is this the legacy we have come to?

      August 5, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
  5. Al

    " Dear Jesus ... forgive me for getting on this bull and risking my life. I am assuming that 1 or 2 things are going to happen :
    That you are putting me there because its " my time to go " , or you guys "are in control" and this animal canot kill me with you pulling the stings, no matter if I head butted him 100 times. Thank you

    August 4, 2011 at 11:18 am |
    • Peace2All

      LOL ! 😀

      Peace...

      August 4, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
  6. Mel

    Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28. If two of you agree on earth concerning anything, that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in Heaven. Matt. 18:19 For where two or three are gathered altogether in My name, I AM there in the midst of them. Matt 18:20.
    I have had God answer many of my prayers especially the ones that my church was in agreement with me on because of a serious illness that I have had most of my life. The doctors did not give me a good prognosis, several doctors that I did not tell what the other doctors had said to me about the illness, and thought that I would not be here after 5-10 years. I am still here, though I do battle pain. I know God answers prayer and that He is real because I have experienced Him.

    August 4, 2011 at 11:03 am |
    • Peace2All

      @Mel

      While I'm certainly happy for you that you recovered from your illness... you must know that it is certainly a huge leap to "God did it."

      Peace...

      August 4, 2011 at 11:15 am |
    • David Johnson

      @Mel

      If god did it, why does He leave you in pain?

      Curious in Arizona

      August 4, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Relax Mel, he will still kill you eventually, he just wants you to suffer more.

      August 4, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
    • J.W

      Mel, keep your faith in God. Do not worry about the pain. God will make it all go away in time.

      August 4, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
    • Kyle

      @William, May you rot in a living hell for the rest of your life for that comment.

      August 4, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Kyle

      Your heaven is my hell, so I guess I will see you there!

      August 5, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
  7. Peace2All

    From the Article:

    " 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."

    Good to know that it isn't tied to 'any denomination' although it is 'evangelical.'
    ------------------
    Also from the Article:

    "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. "

    O.K... is there some reason that prayer needs to happen just because you're risking your own life potentially by riding on a bull...?

    I mean does God really hear this and go..."oh, yes... I will protect you now... or maybe I won't...?

    If it does something to help the rider feel better or more empowered... that at least I get.

    -------------------
    Also from the Article:

    "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."

    Does anyone else find this last part of the article quoting this guy a bit funny, or is it just me...?

    Peace...

    August 4, 2011 at 10:38 am |
    • Frogist

      It's not just you. But then again I find the whole article a bit silly. I was wondering though, what do Christians have against swearing and drinking? Cowboy seems to make a big deal of that. Just wondering whether it's biblical or what...

      August 4, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
  8. J.W

    You people need to start following the Bible because it says you should in the Bible. And the Bible is right, because if the Bible wasnt right then the Bible would be wrong, but I believe that the Bible is right. It says so in the Bible.

    August 4, 2011 at 10:18 am |
    • Laughing

      Isn't it sad that some people actually completely agree with your statement? Also to answer your question from the post below, they've taken away the "awaiting moderation" thing and now if you have a naughty word buried in your post it just disappears into the ether.

      August 4, 2011 at 10:27 am |
    • J.W

      LOL sometimes I have to make fun of my fellow Christians. I think they will still accept me as one of them.

      August 4, 2011 at 11:45 am |
    • Frogist

      @JW: You greatly overestimate certain believers' apt!tude for humor and forgiveness.

      August 4, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
  9. J.W

    Why is it not showing my posts about how stupid this is

    August 4, 2011 at 10:15 am |
    • LinCA

      The following words or word fragments will get your post censored (list is incomplete):
      arse
      bastard
      bitch
      cock
      coon
      cum
      cunt
      douche
      effing
      fag
      ftw
      fuck
      homo
      horny
      jackass
      jap
      jism
      kooch
      nipple
      orgy
      pis
      porn
      poo
      prick
      rape
      sex
      shit
      slut
      snatch
      spic
      tit
      twat
      vag
      whore
      wtf

      To fix that you can break up the word by putting an extra character in, like consti.tution (breaking the oh so naughty "tit").

      August 4, 2011 at 10:19 am |
    • J.W

      It wasnt that it didnt say awaiting moderation it was just disappearing. I dont think it had any of those words. All I was saying is this article looks so stupid I wont even read it.

      August 4, 2011 at 10:22 am |
    • LinCA

      CNN appears to have done away with the "Your comment is awaiting moderation." ruse. Posts just don't show up anymore if they don't make it past the filters.

      August 4, 2011 at 10:25 am |
    • J.W

      Really? I didnt know that well I will have to be more careful

      August 4, 2011 at 10:26 am |
    • Lettuce Prey

      @LinCA, this may be the dumb question of the day, but . . . how did you manage to post all those forbidden words?

      August 4, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • LinCA

      @Lettuce Prey

      The comment board allows some HTML text formatting tags. When entered within a "bad" word, it is rendered harmless without affecting readability

      So, typing "consti<b></b>tution" will print as "constitution", and
      "<b>bold</b>" will print as "bold", and
      "<i>italics</i>" will print as "italics"

      August 5, 2011 at 12:29 am |
  10. Summary

    Christianity is all bull, all the time. I like to feed on what comes out of bulls, like an insect.

    August 4, 2011 at 9:33 am |
    • Lettuce Prey

      So ESAD already.

      August 4, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
  11. Sherminator

    Silly rednecks Jesus wasn't really a mangod. His myth was exaggerated to tell society to follow these rules or else. We really should educate are young so they don't jump on the backs of dangerous wild animals that will snap their neck in a matter of 8 seconds for a fictional character in literature.

    August 4, 2011 at 8:50 am |
    • Lettuce Prey

      Perhaps we should educate our young so they know the difference between "our" and "are."

      Gotcha! 🙂

      August 4, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
  12. Richard S Kaiser

    I sense this Blog is a well intended Post. Bull-riding does appease to the “country” in many a person who wants to challenge the very natures of a physically stronger bestial adversary. Coming together in prayer before they challenge wavering haughtiness, the riders of bull put themselves into a very real and dangerous practice that has long been a part and parcel of the American nation’s “country cow-folk”.

    It’s a shame that people may find this Blog in a negative light. It was well-written and on a religious side; does show to the riders of bull that prayer before going into the arena may well give them a mental sense of empathy between the natures of natural relativity and a godly presence unknown to most people. As for myself, I would never put myself into a position of being quite possibly being physically injured or even killed by such a forceful beast of burden as bull riding enunciates to the folks who put their life in dangers beyond normality’s constant. It isn’t the riding of bull but the Fall that becomes the challenge.

    August 4, 2011 at 8:40 am |
  13. Summary

    It's nice NOBODY cares atheists embarrass themselves for all day long, spewing their evil for all year round. They only get Christian prayers for blessings(repentance/salvation) from the viewing Christians. It's such an easy business to be stupid and evil in the land of America because of all those compassionate Christians' unconditional love.

    August 4, 2011 at 7:18 am |
    • Peace2All

      Well, we certainly appreciate your non-judgemental humility and kindness that you show us as we are unworthy for your prayers... only the ones that you are willing to offer, and certainly to Jeeeeesus.

      Peace...

      August 4, 2011 at 10:41 am |
    • I_get_it

      Summary,

      Either you are praying wrong, or there is no-one there...(or in the far out chance that there is a supreme ent.ity, it just doesn't care or doesn't have any power past that first sneeze that got us here).

      August 4, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
    • Lettuce Prey

      @Summary: From one side of your mouth you call yourself a loving, forgiving Christian, and from the other side of that same mouth you call atheists stupid and evil. If you can't see the hypocrisy in your own comment, there's no hope for you.

      August 4, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
  14. doctore0

    Lucky for Je$u$ he does not exist, his fanboys are so embarrassing 😛

    August 4, 2011 at 6:49 am |
    • jimbo, st. louis mo

      I have noticed on the Versus channel the american cowboys thank their god after each ride. The Brazilian cowboys don't. Go team Brazil ! They know that an invisible man in the sky has nothing to do with it.

      August 4, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
  15. Trog

    Oh I get it! What comes out of the camp are Christians, and what comes out of the bulls is religion,

    August 4, 2011 at 6:28 am |
  16. Nostalgia

    I feel something is not right with this CNN article, as usual. Liberals can't report religion news fair and balanced. Interviewees should edit the CNN news articles instead of interviewers.

    August 4, 2011 at 6:26 am |
    • bulger

      Something is not right with your brain.

      August 4, 2011 at 9:59 am |
    • Aezel

      There is no such thing as "fair and balanced" reporting of religion. If you are sane you don't give any credence to imaginary invisible men in the sky that goat herders made up 2000 years ago.

      August 4, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
  17. Nostalgia

    When Jesus returns, no creature will suffer at the hands of humans.

    August 4, 2011 at 4:20 am |
    • bulger

      Even if that were to happen, it wouldn't make up for all the animals that were cruelly slaughtered and burned to make a nice smell for god. The bible says god wants you to kill and burn animals to make him happy. See Leviticus. What an as-shole you worship. Get a brain and get past your horrid religious delusion.

      August 4, 2011 at 9:57 am |
    • William Demuth

      But humans will suffer at the hands of Jesus! Try and explain that one!

      And if God didn't want man to eat cows, why did he make them out of beef?

      August 4, 2011 at 11:27 am |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      Yep 2000 + years and counting.....ANY DAY NOW I AM TELLING YOU. When the counter reaches 4000+ years I assume some out there will be screaming ANY DAY NOW.. then perhaps when we hit the 5000 year mark some will realize the party is over. Zombie jesus is not a zombie but rather quite dead and dust.

      August 4, 2011 at 11:43 am |
  18. Nostalgia

    CNN, can't you feature American missinaries abroad instead of this?

    August 4, 2011 at 4:17 am |
    • bulger

      Yeah, let's hear about more missionaries spreading the evil words of religion and abusing kids.

      August 4, 2011 at 9:58 am |
    • William Demuth

      I prefer missionaries in the missionary position if they are broads.

      As for the males, I prefer them roasted with garlic and olive oill.

      August 5, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
  19. Nostalgia

    Christian camp is one of the best things in this world! I'm not for bull-riding, however; I don't think Christians should engage in such dangerous sports. There are better ways to die than that. And can't creatures like bulls be left alone by mankind?

    August 4, 2011 at 4:16 am |
    • Laughing

      So friend, but the jews sort of have a monopoly on camp. It's just the way it is, jews do camp right and christians are still trying to figure it out. It's ok though, I'm sure if you want to attend you can, as long as you're cool with being kosher and being ridiculed for a couple of weeks.

      August 4, 2011 at 9:38 am |
    • William Demuth

      But if Christians stop going to camp, where will the priests bugger them?

      I mean the rugs on the altars are already so stained from their secretions, the peasents can't scrub them cleam no matter how hard they are beaten!

      August 4, 2011 at 11:29 am |
  20. rudraksha

    Bull Riding is really exciting. And "You could go out and get your head stepped on and die like that,"
    rudraksha

    August 4, 2011 at 4:11 am |
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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.