Saturday, May 24, 2008

Jesus Camp

Documentary: Jesus Camp
Like/Don't Like: I liked it, but was very unsettled by it

This one is tough to categorize because it was an excellent documentary but very hard to watch. I thought it was fair and accurate, and sadly, that only made the people in it look very real and very scary. Being Christian, and a comparatively conservative one at that, and coming from a faith that is easily misunderstood and often misrepresented, I have a lot of sympathy for the people that were portrayed here. It's tough to get a solid view of anything that has been filmed then edited out of context. But it's also tough to argue what was shown and said and done, in or out of context.

The film followed three kids to Bible camp. More specifically, a fundamentalist Evangelical camp for kids. It showed them arriving and meeting up with friends and talking like kids do, then going to hear sermons on how it's their duty as Christians to take back America for Jesus and be a driving force for future changes in the government - specifically in regards to abortion and prayer in school - in a pretty hard-core fashion. I'm talking about them speaking in tongues and laying hands on them and working them up into such a frenzy that the kids were huddled on the floor sobbing over their sins and the sins of the world. Some that looked as young as five.

It wasn't what was being taught to these kids that bothered me. It was how they were taught and what the end-goal was. This camp, essentially, is making fanatics for Christ, and that's scary, especially when two of the kids were talking about how cool it would be to be a martyr. I had a hard time seeing much of a difference between these kids and kids shown on videos of al Qaeda training camps. The only real difference was that these kids didn't have weapons in their hands. Well, unless you count the hammer they were wielding to smash a cup that had "the government" written on it. They both speak the same language of fanaticism, that it's a war they're fighting, that they're right and everyone else is wrong, and that they have to take action now, even dramatic action. It's fanatics who take the true principles that religions have and warp them into something horrifying. That was the unsettling part. The uncontrollable fervor in their eyes. The ministers and parents at the camp were hoping that they were training kids who would one day grow up to be world leaders, but it looked more like they were training kids who would one day grow up to bomb an abortion clinic.

*I feel like I should put a disclaimer here since I've already received (and deleted. I'm the only loon who can post on this site.) one comment that started out, "You sound as if you think bombing or burning abortion clinics is wrong." Um, yes. I actually do. I think abortion is wrong too. But fighting against it with acts of terrorism seems, I don't know, a little hypocritical.

1 comment:

Valerie said...

Hmm, this does sound alarming. Your review reminds me of a documentary called Hell House, which is about a "haunted house" put on by born-again type faiths during Halloween, which features various sins and their respective punishments, culminating in a Columbine-esque school shooting. Again, who's to know how much editing is done, but, I think you make a great point, the fact that the material is there, no matter how it's put together, is certainly noteworthy.