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 "Jesus Camp"

I really dont know what to make of this: this ia review of a new documentary: the link after one can view a trailer. Let me put it this way, i would NOT want to show friends who do not know Christ this film.

September 22, 2006
Children’s Boot Camp for the Culture Wars
“Extreme liberals who look at this should be quaking in their boots,” declares Pastor Becky Fischer with jovial satisfaction in the riveting documentary “Jesus Camp.” Ms. Fischer, an evangelical Christian, helps run Kids on Fire, a summer camp in Devils Lake, N.D., that grooms children to be soldiers in “God’s army.”

A mountainous woman of indefatigable good cheer, Ms. Fischer makes no bones about her expectation that the growing evangelical movement in the United States will one day end the constitutional ban separating church and state. And as the movie explores her highly effective methods of mobilizing God’s army, that expectation seems reasonable.

Ms. Fischer understands full well that the indoctrination of children when they are most impressionable (under 13 and preferably between 7 and 9) with evangelical dogma is the key to the movement’s future growth, and she compares Kids on Fire to militant Palestinian training camps in the Middle East that instill an aggressive Islamist fundamentalism. The term war, as in culture war, is repeatedly invoked to describe the fighting spirit of a movement already embraced by 30 million Americans, mostly in the heartland.

At Kids on Fire we see children in camouflage and face paint practicing war dances with wooden swords and making straight-armed salutes to a soundtrack of Christian heavy metal. We see them weeping and speaking in tongues as they are seized by the Holy Spirit. And we see them in Washington at an anti-abortion demonstration.

Filmed during the Senate confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., the movie visits a church at which the congregation prays in front of a life-size cardboard cutout of President Bush. Justice Alito’s eventual approval is hailed as another step forward in the movement’s eventual goal of outlawing abortion, the No. 1 issue on its agenda.

“Jesus Camp” is the second film by the documentary team of Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady to explore the molding of young minds. The first, “The Boys of Baraka,” followed a group of “at-risk” African-American boys from a decaying Baltimore middle school to an austere wilderness school in rural Kenya. Removed from a toxic urban environment, they flourish, until tribal conflict in the region forces the school to suspend operation.

The majority of the children in “Jesus Camp” are home-schooled by evangelical parents who teach them creationism and dismiss science. Handsome 12-year-old Levi, who wears his hair in a mullet, is being groomed as a future evangelical preacher. Already exuding star quality, he strides through a group of children, waving his arms and mouthing dogma about how his generation is so important.

Pretty 10-year-old Tory speaks earnestly of dancing “for God” and not “for the flesh.” Nine-year-old Rachael is already an evangelical recruiter who fearlessly approaches adult strangers.

Ms. Fischer speaks of “dead churches” (traditional Protestant churches in which the congregations sit passively and listen to a sermon) and declares these are places that Jesus doesn’t visit. In evangelical churches where people jump, shout, weep and speak in tongues, she contends, the spirit is present.

The great unanswered question is what will happen to these poised, attractive children when their hormones kick in and they venture beyond their sheltered home and church environments.

“Jesus Camp” includes one articulate and alarmed dissenting voice: Mike Papantonio, a talk show personality for Air America. A self-professed Christian of the dead church variety, he engages in a pointed but friendly debate with Ms. Fischer when she calls in to his show. But the only moment of real tension occurs during a side trip to a megachurch in Colorado Springs where the preacher Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals (and a Bush friend), turns to address the camera in a tone of suspicion and hostility. It is the movie’s only glimpse of the evangelical movement’s ugly, vindictive side.

“Jesus Camp” doesn’t pretend to be a comprehensive survey of the charismatic-evangelical phenomenon. It offers no history or sociology and only scattered statistics about its growth. It analyzes the political agenda only glancingly, centering on abortion but not on homosexuality or other items. Because it focuses on the education of children, Ms. Fischer speaks of the evils of Harry Potter. But there is no analysis of Biblical teaching nor mention of “end times” or the rapture.

Who would deny that the movement’s surging vitality is partly a response to the steady coarsening of mass culture, in which the dominant values are commercial and the worldview is Darwinian in its amorality? Spread globally by television, the least-common-denominator brand of “secular humanism” — the evangelicals’ perceived enemy — is indeed repugnant.

It wasn’t so long ago that another puritanical youth army, Mao Zedong’s Red Guards, turned the world’s most populous country inside out. Nowadays the possibility of a right-wing Christian American version of what happened in China no longer seems entirely far-fetched.

“Jesus Camp” is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned). Its frank discussion of politics and religion could upset

 2006/9/22 12:44

Joined: 2005/4/19
Posts: 772

 Re: "Jesus Camp"

Becky Fischer Comments on Jesus Camp

Do you think you were treated fairly by the filmmakers?

When we began the production of this film, it was to be on an entirely different subject--children and faith. Our expectations as subjects in the film were that the film would be even more pointed than that--children and the supernatural aspect of their faith, which is why we were quite anxious to see the film made. It wasn't until we were already nine months into the program that I realized for the first time that the film had taken a turn into the political arena when I was asked to do a radio interview with Mike Papantonio, the representative, if you will, for the liberal or left wing mindset.

If you know anything at all about our ministry, you can imagine I was in shock because I have never viewed what we do with children as political in any way. It wasn't until I had some long conversations with the filmmakers, Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady of Loki Films, and began to see what we were doing and saying through the lens of secular eyes that I understood why they went the route they did.

I say that because I did go through a season where I wondered just what hit me. It was a blow and I have been on a roller-coaster emotionally over it, but not having any editorial rights to the film there was not much I could do about it.

But in defense of the filmmakers whom I regard as friends and highly respect as people after having been around them for almost a year and a half, let me share some of our journey. The ladies had produced a first version of the film and took the time spending their own money to fly out to each of our homes to personally show us the film before anyone else could see it. All of the families were initially as concerned and upset as I was.

We complained and expressed our disapproval of a number of things in the movie including the music which we felt was almost sinister and gave the movie a very dark feeling. To their credit these ladies listened to us and went back into the editing mode and revamped an number of the scenes that had us frustrated. Then they literally took a huge sum of money out of their own pockets (they had already sold the rights to the film to A&E and they were receiving no further funding or payment from that point) and hired a new composer to redo the music in the film just because we didn't like the other music.

That spoke volumes to me about their integrity and that they cared about us as friends and people! All of the families and people associated with the film have now seen the new version of the film and we all agreed there's like a night and day difference in the movie. We came away feeling as good about it as you can knowing the controversy that is surrounding the film.

Am I saying I like everything in the film and 100% of the way we've been portrayed? Of course not. This movie is merely a snapshot of what we do with children and does not in any way represent our entire ministry. There's no way you can do that in an 84 minute documentary and still have a movie people want to go and see. But we feel it's fair. They show both sides of the issue without making judgments on either side. They let us speak for ourselves, even if you don't get to hear complete thoughts and sentences and concepts.

I am just as sick and tired of secular media painting Christians in a skewed, negative light as every other Christian is. And when I watch the trailer I know what it must seem like to Christians---"Here we go again! One more movie that bashes Christians!"

But I'm asking you to give the movie a chance. At least see it before you make a judgment. I honestly feel it's a fair look into what we do.

To get a better idea of our philosophy of children's ministry and why we do what we do, please read the first chapter out of my book Redefining Children's Ministry in the 21st Century by clicking here>>


 2006/9/22 13:51Profile

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