Mar 4, 2007

REVIEW: Jesus Camp

Jesus Camp is a documentary that was released in 2006 and was recently nominated for an Academy Award for best documentary feature. It portrays the lives of young children who attend an evangelical fundamentalist kids camp ("Kids on Fire") in North Dakota, led by chldren's Pastor Becky Fischer.

Overall, I thought the film itself was well done, but disturbing on many levels. First, I don't think "Jesus Camp" does a very good job at representing Jesus. It seems to have more of a political agenda than anything. For someone like me who's had little contact with the Pentecostal traditions of evangelicalism, I felt uncomfortable, angry, and emotionally exhausted. Both my wife and I felt this tension that I think most people feel, that it's okay to discuss issues like pro-life, the decline of moralism in society, and spiritual warfare, but we felt sick to our stomachs in the way these issues were portrayed.

I honestly felt sorry for the kids in this film. Although they are very passionate, they seemed "brainwashed and indoctrinated" (as the radio host on the documentary suggests). Other aspects of the camp included emotional times of prayer, speaking in tongues, smashing mugs with a hammer that had "government" written on them (they were trying to invoke God to bring our nation back to Christian values again). At one point, they brought out a cardboard cut-out of President George W. Bush and started laying hands on it and praying for him. Other scenes include a worship service at Ted Haggard's former church in Colorado Springs. This was obviously filmed before his sex scandal.

I think it's important to watch Jesus Camp because it helps us see how much damage and confusion fundamentalism causes, but it also exposes a need for balance in how religion and politics should interact with one another. For those who are already disgruntled with the church, I'm not sure how much this film will help. It could, if they pay attention to the rebuttal that takes place from the radio host that is dispersed throughout the film.

By the way, because of the negative reaction this film has caused, "Kids on Fire" camp has closed down for the time being.

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