In the coming weeks the documentary film Jesus Camp opens nationwide, in limited release. It’s importance demands an audience. There have been just a handful of films this year that I would say have to be seen. Like Syriana and Good Night, and Good Luck were before them, this latest crop needs to be seen by anyone concerned about the future of America and her place in the world.
This year, if you haven’t already, you need to see V for Vendetta. It tells a tale of a fictional futuristic England, where freedom is stifled and a fascist-style corporate theocracy rules without mercy or conscience. It is a vital motion picture in that it isn’t all that hard to imagine if one is living in America today, and looks at trends with both eyes open. More scary than any of the horror films put out this year, it forces the person who sees it to either be completely indifferent or to begin to question.
The second must see to come down the line in Al Gore’s move, An Inconvenient Truth. Again, if you have not seen this film, you must. It frames the question of global warming in a way that is impossible to deny. Again, the person who sees it is forced to make a choice. Disregard it, and continue as before. Or begin to change. And to demand our governments to change, and to accept that some things in our life need to change now.
And now, let’s talk about the next one. Jesus Camp. Although I haven’t seen it yet, I have viewed the trailers and read what I can find about it. Admittedly, I cannot offer a complete review yet, so I intent to update this article if needed. What I am writing now is more an invitation to everyone who thinks they know what pentecostal evangelism is all about. This film may well shock you. It is causing a rift with some evangelicals who seem to either come down saying the movie is trying to portray their movement badly or that the particular camp is over the top. On the other side are those who are fully behind what the film is showing.
I first learned about the upcoming film a few weeks ago, and today I saw more coverage on ABC News this Sunday. As someone who had attended church camps as a youth, I am familiar with some of the techniques of indoctrination used. They weren’t all that different from what the military does in boot camp, just on a more age-appropriate level. That seems to have changed. The bible camp in the movie Kids on Fire scares the hell out of me. And makes me ask, just what are so many parents doing to their kids, and why?
As far as I can see, the only differences between these camps and the Wahhabi schools in many Muslim countries are purely semantical. Sure, they are screaming to the rafters for different gods to destroy their enemies. And in the Jesus camp the kids used sticks instead of actual rifles, but the intent of the mental indoctrination is the same. The clip on ABC even showed kids raising their arms in a gesture that-if it was in black-and-white instead of color-would look like a Hitler Youth rally.
And far from shying away from the militaristic nationalism image that the clip gave, the leaders involved with the camp embrace that image. According to Pastor Becky Fisher (looking something like a crazed Valkyrie, but more conservatively dressed) the kids are being groomed to be “soldiers in God’s army.” There is one scene where the bellowing Pastor is screaming, “this means war.” She says to the interviewer, “I want to see them as radically laying down their lives for the gospel as they are over in Pakistan, in Israel, in Palestine, and all those different places.” One child says “you know, alot of people died for God and stuff, and their not even afraid.” Another poor little girl says “we’re kind of being trained as warriors, only in a much funner way.” That is the evil home schooling hath brought us! Frankly, what is going on looks an awful like child abuse to me.
Author Lauren Sandler, commenting about the film from her background of research for her book “Righteous” reports that the youth evangelical movement sweeping America is “an absolute straight up, us against them. You are with us, or against us.” She believes the youth evangelical movement is enormous, and will have a negative impact on the future of the country for some time because of the hard line taken. Polarization is welcome, compromise is discouraged.
The movement is strong, and growing. What is clear is that the youth camps and the movement behind them will (and already do) have great political influence. In one scene, children are prostate, praying and crying. To God? No, to a cardboard cut-out of President Bush-can I get a “Sieg Heil?” One child said “we are a key generation for bringing Jesus back.” For those who don’t know anything about End Time Christianity, they believe that to do so requires Armageddon. Here are some quotes from Ted Haggard, a pastor featured in the film and also the head of the National Association of Evangelicals. “There’s a new church like this every two days.” He continues “It’s got enough growth to essentially sway every election. If the evangelicals vote, they determine the election.” And that, my good friends is precisely why America is now where it is. And where it is going? Scary, indeed.