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. Chris

    Joe, before you start telling the world how "painful flank straps around the bulls testicles" are being used you should find out facts first. The strap doesn't touch the testicle in any way.if you knew the anatomy of livestock you would know that the flank is an area in front of the back leg. Every animal has a reflex there. The flank strap inflicts no pain to the bull at all. And yes there is a very strng Christian following in rodeo. Try looking up Fellowship of Christian Cowboys and Cowboys for Christ. The prayer before the rodeo is significant because as rodeo cowboys and cowgirls travel at all hours of the day and night it is most likely the only "church" that they get. After being in rodeo my whole life and heading the wrong derection at times its those pre-rodeo prayers that have meant the most to me

    August 4, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • The Lionly Lamb of God Does Roar

      Such a well-meaning post Chris! I just do so Love hearing words of Truthfulness being posted here and what such Claity of wordage you do write! May the King of all Gods, Christ Jesus ever keep your mind set with a strait vocabulary of penmanship!

      August 4, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
  2. Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

    I don't think bullriders are known for their IQ

    August 4, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • Hi5

      You do deserve the Taliban.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
    • The Lionly Lamb of God Does Roar

      Think you say? What is your Truth be told? The IQ of pundancies permeate your redundantcies!

      August 4, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
    • Laughing


      First of all, lay off the thersaurus, it actually hurts your case when you use so much jargon to try and sound smart, you're achieving just that, TRYING to sound smart.

      It's not exactly a genius idea to strap yourself onto a bull and get bucked off in the first place, do you agree? I'm sure there are some smart kids who like to bull-ride, coming from the west rodeos are always a source of good ole fashioned FUN! But like ACTS says, bullriders aren't exactly known for being genius', geddit?

      August 4, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
  3. cyberCMDR

    Probably easier to evangelize if your targets are dumb enough to strap themselves on top of a bull. Not much critical thinking going on there.

    August 4, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • The Lionly Lamb of God Does Roar

      What do you know about "dumbness"? Or, is it your "critical thinking" getting in your way toward undeerstanding all that may or might not happen when bull-riders get thrown off a bull? There is a lot of "critical thinking" going on in a riders prior to their strapping themselves on and taking the proverbial plunge into the arena!

      August 4, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
  4. Lovely Mishra

    Animal abuse in the name of God.

    Shame on you stupid "Macho" moron rodeos.

    August 4, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • Hi5

      We eat cow too.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • Disagree

      God works in mysterious ways! Don't say a bad word or you will be damned!

      Besides, Anything you do in the name of god is good.. Be it a war (Crusades) or genocide(inquisitions) or spreading the "Love" (to the alterboys).. didn't you get the memo?

      August 4, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • Hi5

      Go ask the Catholics about Alter boys. Did Jesus ask anyone to do anything bad, ever? Have you even read the Bible for yourself?

      August 4, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
    • gupsphoo

      Jesus was a hippie, but his dad was certainly evil. Read your OT.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • The Lionly Lamb of God Does Roar

      Lovely Mishra writes; "Animal abuse in the name of God. Shame on you stupid "Macho" moron rodeos."

      Animal abuse you preach? What about tha hamburger you ate? What about the hot dog the other day? What about a chicken your now roasting? Who's Macho now, you are such an infantile and are so lame in your hypothetical jargon, its speaks volumes to my idealisms regarding your detrimentalist perceptions about Life! They eat dogs and cats in asian countries, China included. Should one spout out; " Animal abuse animal abuse!" Get a Life Unloved Mishra and stop such profane and pointlessness except to ridicula one's pastimes!

      August 4, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  5. james

    Perhaps the rodeo bull should be the new Christian sign of suffering too. Like the cross – once used as an implement of torture – the bucking straps are there to irritate and enrage the defenseless rodeo animal. I'm sure Jesus would be a big supporter of this wholesome entertainment.

    August 4, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • Hi5

      Chronic hatred towards Christians must be in the water these folks drink.

      August 4, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • Disagree

      Well, he got science to prove that there is nothing in his water.. whats in your water that's making you sprout drivel?

      August 4, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
    • Hi5

      @ Disagree – calm down, its ok, go look up the answer I gave to your other question, and take a deep breath.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • james

      Hi5, you need to check your information as you live in a bubble. My friends in the Red Cross and the United Nations refugee departmet are actually composed of many Aetheists, Christians and Muslims. You don't need religion to do good works. You need compassion. Your postings suggest some form of tribalism as your area of experience.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  6. wgage

    The Age Of Reason is at an end.

    August 4, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • Nathan

      Immortal Technique line.

      Very well.

      August 4, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
  7. Tony

    Cristians suffer from MENTAL ILLNESS ... GOD DAMN.

    August 4, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • Hi5

      Traditional Christian Haters...and yet, when the Tornadoes come, Drought hits, its the Christians who go out and offer aid. I guess you guys must be looking forward to a hate filled state. Just equal opportunity hate. Take a step back guys and look at yourself.

      August 4, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
    • Disagree

      Well, give me some numbers.. Otherwise, I can even say the green martians from planet zuma helped more than Christians when there are natural calamities.

      August 4, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics


      Cristians suffer from MENTAL ILLNESS ... GOD DAMN.

      perhasp from this:
      Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that makes it difficult to tell the difference between real and unreal experiences, to think logically, to have normal emotional responses, and to behave normally in social situations.
      As the illness continues, psychotic symptoms develop:
      • False beliefs or thoughts that are not based in reality (delusions)
      • Hearing, seeing, or feeling things that are not there (hallucinations)

      August 4, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
    • Hi5

      You must have been hiding under the rock somewhere – every good charity out there is a Christian charity or affiliated with Christianity. Even RED CROSS started out with Christian convictions. Look up the life of Gustave Moynier and Henry Dunant

      August 4, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics


      Traditional Christian Haters...and yet, when the Tornadoes come, Drought hits, its the Christians who go out and offer aid. I guess you guys must be looking forward to a hate filled state. Just equal opportunity hate. Take a step back guys and look at yourself.

      We expect you to...it was your b@ st ard god that killed everybody

      August 4, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • Spiffy

      Actually there are plenty of secular charities out there. Non-Believers Giving Aid and the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science are just two such charities but there are plenty more. Like UNICEF.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • Hi5

      For every one secular charity you can name I will give you 10 Christian ones.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
    • Spiffy

      Your point? There are a lot more Christians then there are Atheists there should be more.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
  8. truth2power

    Kinda like snake handling...

    August 4, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  9. Chris

    Harvesting bull semen for Jesus

    August 4, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  10. billabong

    Straight Pimpin' for Jesus....

    August 4, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
    • Laughing

      dealing drugs for Jesus

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

    What a bunch of bull..............idiots.....anything for money!!!!!!!!

    August 4, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
  12. jojo

    What a bunch of bull..............idiots.....

    August 4, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
  13. anderson

    I agree totally with Name. Some of the atheists go a little too far.

    August 4, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
    • Laughing

      Just wondering, How exactly?

      Why is religion, specifically christianity but religion in general, a protected group when it comes to ridicule?

      August 4, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • KlausVos

      Yeah, some do, but they are not representative of most atheists, they're just the loudest. Just as Fred Phelps is not representative of Christians.

      August 4, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
    • Spiffy

      Why should religion get a free pass from ridicule. When it comes to Islam Christians sure don't hold back.

      August 4, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
  14. Nathan

    Can we have an article about Raptors and their relationship with Jesus?

    I'm interested to know when they started using lasers, among other things.

    August 4, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
  15. Local Yokel

    Horrible place. Was sent there as a kid for summer camp. Talk about brainwashing and indoctrination!

    August 4, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
    • Been There

      Did they do the trick where someone cuts a piece of paper held in another's mouth...with a bullwhip

      August 4, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
  16. Pinolera

    This tops ridiculous list like riding for Jesus or motorcycling for Jesus. People will do everything and anything instead of being obedient to the word and they do it to ease their conscience. They do things they want to do and call it "for Jesus" but it is actually for themselves. Is like people saying the Lord has blessed me because I am well off and don't have to suffer. So does that mean that the Lord isn't with the poor because they are poor? Very hypocritical concept. You are well off because you work hard and you chose a certain lifestyle, not because the Lord has blessed you.

    August 4, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
    • Nathan

      Think I can pull off "Stripping for Jesus"?

      August 4, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
    • PossumHunter

      The problem is that you are trying to apply logic to something that doesn't have any. Jesus is not much different than Little Red Riding Hood.

      August 4, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
  17. Nancy M. B.

    I'm rooting for the bulls...

    August 4, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
  18. QS

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

    Guess this shows that most believers in some god or another honestly believe that their god forgives stupidity.

    August 4, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
  19. Misha Gastonai

    Looking to CNN's "Belief Blog" for fair and interesting reporting on Christianity (or any other religion for that matter) is like watching "Jersey Shore" to study Italian history.

    August 4, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Love it!

      August 4, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
    • Lettuce Prey

      I'm not a Christian myself, but I thought the article was interesting and fair. However, some of the comments are uncalled for. I like a good rodeo, and bull riders are an interesting bunch regardless of what god they believe in.

      August 4, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
    • Mr Trololol

      I totally agree! You, Misha, deserve a standing ovation!


      August 4, 2011 at 2:06 pm |

    through Jesus Christ first estate saviour all shall know Amen thy Father who art in Heaven Holy be his name thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

    August 4, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
    • Me,Too

      HA! HAHA!!

      August 4, 2011 at 2:31 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.