Jesus Camp The Movie: Expose of Fundamental Evangelicals or Left Wing Criticism of Conservative Politics?
By Chris Vaughn
On September 15th 2006, Magnolia Pictures with A&E IndeFilms released the documentary “Jesus Camp” in a handful of theaters nationwide. This documentary chronicles the lives of three “fundamental Christian” children who attend a summer camp to be taught about God and be radically discipled as the next generation of Christian “warriors.” The documentary shows many extreme Pentecostal scenes, interviews of the families participating in the documentary, and the political advantage that evangelicals are gaining in all the branches of our government.
Given the subject matter discussed, one might expect a slant from the filmmakers to one side or the other given the important mid-term elections coming up this November however, the slant shows fundamental Christians somewhat fairly, but still from a liberal point of view. Numerous scenes are dedicated to portraying evangelicals as a political force in America and a reviving movement on the national and world scene. There is heavy discussion as to the evangelical’s role in the election of President George W. Bush and the nomination of Samuel A, Alito to the Supreme Court’s bench. Though the filmmakers do not come out and say that the fundamental Christians are driving the political agenda, there is a definite feeling that the parties involved feel that way. Other scenes along the lines of a political movement involve the march to Washington D.C. to protest abortion (roe v. wade), and a prayer service for the President in which a cardboard cutout picture of the President Bush was placed in the center as the kids laid hands on it.
Politics is overshadowed by the kid’s fervent spirituality and prolonged services in which the children’s pastor preaches for over an hour at a time. These services are very Pentecostal and intense as the children practice corporate confession, prayer, speaking in tongues, and prophesy. The need for pure religion is expressed thoroughly as the kids are driven to the altars weeping and convulsing in repentance and submission to the Holy Spirit. Hypocrisy is purged from the children (ages 5–12) as Becky Fischer, the camp’s leader and children’s pastor, exhorts the children to cleanse themselves from pride, sexual immorality, and filthy language (traits I had before thought of as uncommon to many young children). Interestingly, Harry Potter is declared by Ms. Fischer, as an “enemy of God”; and had he lived in the Old Testament he “would have been stoned.” These are quite strong statements for her to make given the fact that Harry Potter is a fictional character. Nevertheless, strong opposition is displayed towards anything that is not found in the pages of the Bible, which is funny seeing that most of the Biblical references in the documentary are either pulled out of context or misquoted. Furthermore, intensity and spirituality are encouraged in their services, as the thinking is that God is only in these services. Rachel, one of the children interviewed in the documentary gives an excellent reflection of the camp’s philosophy in her statement that God does not visit quiet churches, but is present in churches where loudness and shouting are the norms. Her statement(s) describing a “dead church” however, could include almost every “Christian” church outside her particular Pentecostal domination.
The Jesus Camp documentary is the first of its kind in showing Christians as fundamentals who compare themselves, in certain ways, to fundamental Islam, but for a higher and better cause. Frequently, references are made to battle, war, revolution, and conquering in the name of Christ and the idea seems to be that the camp leaders are training Christian kids for a political and governmental overthrow through the evangelical voting/political might. I would encourage everyone who wants to see a more radical side of Christianity to see this film; however, I discourage anyone from seeing this if you do not have a good understanding of Pentecostalism and/or if you cannot handle what, at best, appears to be manipulation and brainwashing tactics used on the children. The documentary is however, a good eye-opener to the upcoming Christian movements (both religious and political) that America will see in the next few years. For more information about the documentary go to www.jesuscampthemovie.com
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