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. hottip

    Strange how we can comment on this and not on the images of Ramadan. To the point, why so angry when someone mention Jesus or God? Also, why some of you have to try to convince other there is no God?

    August 4, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • wgage

      Images of Ramadan is a crock. How's that for a comment?

      August 4, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics


      Strange how we can comment on this and not on the images of Ramadan. To the point, why so angry when someone mention Jesus or God? Also, why some of you have to try to convince other there is no God?


      Tex Rex, everybody knows muslims are too dumb and boring to insult. Like picking on handicapped people,...just not fun. Christians have always been the choice since early A.D.

      August 4, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
  2. John Delate

    HOLY COW!!!

    August 4, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
  3. Atheist

    I talk "bull, bull" cos i am so "full'
    I'll pull the wool if you listen to my "bull bull"


    August 4, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
    • bull king

      hey Atheist

      How dare your insult me...I'll see u in the bull ring. I'll ride u with my 1800 lbs bull weight

      August 4, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
    • call me

      oh no... Atheist give me a call when you are in the ring, will come and cheer you on!!!

      August 4, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
  4. NJBob

    What a crock! These people don't care how stupid they look or sound! I think I'll root for the bull.

    August 4, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      Same goes fro bull fighting which takes more cahonies than this. Always root for the bull because it is quite deserving. 🙂 Feel sorry when the cowboy gets trampled...???? nahhhh Plus + for the bull.

      August 4, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
  5. steelerguin

    All you haters of Christianity, my advice to you is just don't go to his ranch or send your kids to his ranch. I would also guess you're not doing anything to help the underpriveleged youth in Baltimore or your own area. Stop hating and start helping others before you deride Bisset.

    August 4, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      Lighten up Hondo, because we do not believe in your zombie christ and poke fun does not mean we "hate" you.

      August 4, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
    • Albert Camus

      One can really feel the love.

      August 4, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
    • reason

      I think ridding the world of Christianity would be doing all mankind a LOT of good.

      August 4, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
    • MrHanson

      Nope, you pretty much hate us.

      August 4, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • MrHanson

      Hey reason that's what Stalin said. But I find do find cowboys very annoying. Unfortunately this is the kind of story CNN likes to promote. Anything to make Christians to look stupid and atheists find more reasons to hate us.

      August 4, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics


      Nope, you pretty much hate us.

      Robbers Roost Hanson, get over your poor me bit. Strap some b@ lls and jump on that beast. Feel the thunder and hair between your legs and say I am a bull rider!.

      August 4, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
  6. Rufoscoe

    Ropin' steer and ridin' bulls. I could see how Jesus would be into that. Wonder what the Good Shepherd has to say 'bout tendin' sheep on Brokeback Mountain.

    August 4, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
  7. dirtystone

    Jesus must be so happy that these guys are doing this for him. Do you think the virgin Mary will also be happy or is she possibly not so into this type of thing?

    August 4, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • wgage

      Don't know about Mary but I understand Joseph was upset about the affair with God. He can create Adam and Eve but he needs a little **** to have a son.

      August 4, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
  8. wgage

    God talks to me. At least in my delusional state he does and since I have mental health issues I know those voices come from me so that means I AM GOD and I am about to dish out some punishment to some unsuspecting no-believers.

    August 4, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
  9. Wow

    wow – torturing animals for Jesus. What a brilliant concept

    August 4, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
    • Howard

      Yeah, how merciful is that?? Right up there with the "Christian" hunting groups.

      August 4, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
    • Stevie7

      Do you think that they also burn the animals afterward? You know, since the smell reaches heaven and god likes it so much.

      August 4, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
    • J3sus Sandals

      Well, they're only practicing what they preach...subjugation. Subjugation of an animal...subjugation of humankind under the shackles of christianity....subjugation of women as prescribed by scripture. They're consistent if nothing else.

      August 4, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
  10. Dana Crosby

    God bless that man and his heart...God bless the world.

    August 4, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
  11. Jim P.

    Well, I have to admit, I *do* associate "bull" and "religion" but probably not in the way these folks mean.

    August 4, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  12. ButterSquash

    Cowboys and Christianity... two of the most annoying concepts ever.

    August 4, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • Laughing

      Sounds more like the worst sequal to Cowboys & Aliens ever

      August 4, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  13. Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

    I want to see christians who wrestle lions. That takes faith and b@ lls.

    August 4, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      I wonder if they tasted like chicken in the Arena?

      August 4, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
    • ButterSquash

      lol, didn't the Romans catch flack for doing that?

      August 4, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • J3sus Sandals

      I want to see christians wrestle IDEAS and the hypocrisy of their faith.

      August 4, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
  14. Chris M

    Go thou and do likewise?

    August 4, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • J3sus Sandals

      Go thou and undo likewise. Then wash, rinse, repeat.

      August 4, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
  15. Emilio Dumphuque

    Jesus has a word for those who pray in public: Hypocrites!

    Mathew 6:5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

    6:6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

    August 4, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • molinaafo

      you have completely taken this verse out of context. Jesus said this to a group of annoying people who would do this to be pretentious and put themselves above people. Might be wrong, but from this video, I don't think these people are exactly doing that

      August 4, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • Unanimous300

      I prayed like that and God fixed my car. But, I still had to pay $3000.

      August 4, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
  16. The Lionly Lamb of God Does Roar

    abd wrote on August 4, 2011 at 3:50 pm, "If the base is false, everything build on it is false. if you belive in Jesus as your savior you will go to heaven, so whatever bad things you do don't worry, heaven is guranteed. This isillogical, but people believe it becasue it is cool. same thing is transferred to all aspects of christiantiy, non-sense, but people like it becasue it is cool, and great, believe and do whatever you want and you will end up in heaven. You can't find better than that, so people are living in this dream, and defending their dream with all the power, becasue it is the best dream ever, and they don't want anyone, whatsover, to wake them up. The moment you die you will realize you got screwed, and Jesus will spit in your face for treating him as God when he never asked you to worship him. so wait and see."

    Oh abd, how can I put it inwriting? The "King of the Gods, Christ Jesus did pay with his Life here upon the ancient Times, when Romanarians did have a firm foothold upon many lands that they did not "own" persay, but insisted on taxes being levied upon all people back then except (Not too sure) the free Roman people. Today's timeline is not much different then back then. Nor are all the many varying mindsets of the people. In all fairness abd, Atheism may well one day be our worldly culture of course only after a cataclismic event that throws mankind toward the brinks of genocidal self-imposed war, the www-3 as is said in many a movie is a revelation to be considered by all people and only by heeding such a catastrophy, can we hope to avert it.

    If however such a dire thing happens, The King of the Gods, Christ Jesus can only save that which is "inside" our bodies which are the Holy Temples of the Gods who dwell deep inside us on the cellular level of Fractal Cosmologi Relatives, or so to speak. Mankind is on a celestial plain outside the boundaries of the Godly Kingdom's reach.

    August 4, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • Not All Docs Play Golf

      Jon Bisset's last words on this earth will be..."Here, hold my beer, watch this!"

      August 4, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
  17. matt

    Yep I'm sure Jesus would be so happy you morons wrapped a belt around the bulls nuts just for him!

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

      Busting b@ lls for jesus. When the broke abck mountain boy is on the ground and the bull is jumping up and down...is that considered getting tea bagg ed by the bull?

      August 4, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • Katie K

      Exactly what I was going to say – thanks. How, exactly, does abusing animals make us closer to "god"?

      August 4, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  18. akahn

    Abusing animals for Christianity. Way to go Bisset, what a way to promote animal cruelty for religion...

    August 4, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      These christians like to fondle the b@lls and ride hairy things. Interesting. Kind of Broke Back Mountainish

      August 4, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
  19. hippypoet

    god is fake, just an idea when the human race had no power to look into the starie sky and understand what they were admiring. very simple to explain, you are very dumb, very low understanding level and your father just died, you want him to not die but you know that its a part of life so you create a story to make yourself feel better... k here goes – there is a thing that created everything and is so powerful that it has a place for all the people who have died to go. here is a major way in my OPINION to prove there is no god, ok we have god and satan correct. well hate to break it to you folks but the creature called satan only exists from around 900 -1300 a.d. and forever after that. yet before that point nothing, no mention of this so called eternal enemy of god. satan- the right hand of the lord turned away after man was created but before jesus, yet in the bible there is not even a word speaking of satan. why you ask because bad stuff was happening and the TRUE BELIEVERS didn't want to blame there ALL MIGHTY god, who apparently, if there is a satan, left him alive so he could reak havok on the human race, and you stupid people still follow this creature of convinence. its god when and only when its not anything bad, yet in the BIBLICAL days ( thats a joke in on itself) when crap went down, they saw it as them being bad in the eyes of there god/gods! "my beliefs have been the same for years" some other morons might say, ok so i pose a question then to all the believers whos faith has gotten them thru so much ( laughs) HOW OLD IS THE EARTH? time to read those bibles, as we all know it starts at the beganing of time, right? or was that just a really great of incest, 2 people have kids, they have kids ....WHOA...WAIT A MINUTE HERE!!! how can adam or cain have kids if theres noone else on the planet. oh i forgot that cain kills adam and gets exiled to the land of NOD east of eden where he met/knew his wife and she bore him kids... how the f- is that possible if its just you, your parents and your dead brother??? o and one more question, if the great flood which covered the earth happened, and Noah saved ALL the animals of the world then why does the bible very clearly describe the animals that would not be making the voyage, as if another one of gods creature wasn't good enough, but i thought this "god" was all knownig and never makes a mistake!

    lets not forget that if your god exists, i don't very much that he wants your dumb @ss riding and killing his animals!

    August 4, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • dirtystone

      Leaving aside the merit of your case for a moment, your lack of punctuation, paragraph separation, and proper grammar, along with your poor spelling, tell most people that you are either very poorly educated, or very troubled. In either case, you don't help your cause.

      August 4, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
  20. Awake America

    May God bless his good heart and ministry.. God bless America

    August 4, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • Not All Docs Play Golf

      What are you, Shirly Temple singing the Good Ship Lollipop?

      August 4, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
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About this blog

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.