I'm not great at this sort of thing, but here goes. Becky Fisher is the focal point of this new film by Magnolia Pictures. She's a Pentecostal children's pastor who runs a summer camp in North Dakota that uses mind control and the Gospel to take her evangelical teachings to a very disturbing playground, that of a child's mind. She boasts that she can easily turn a very young child into a Christian Warrior. I thought we have laws against such corruption. In reality, she's a brainwashing--a master manipulator that preys on the innocence of these children and her practices turn them into a Bible-thumping, judge-hating, Bush-loving army that she hopes will turn this country into Jesus Land.
The movie grabs you from the opening credits and keeps you there as the director lets Becky and the kids do the preaching. And preach they do. Fisher never misses an opportunity to find a toy or a phrase that she can use to trick the kids into submission. I cringed at every tear these children shed for sins they never committed. They screamed and talked in tongues--stretching their arms in the air--grasping at nothing--pledging their devotion to GOD. I wonder what sins a five year old could possibly have committed, and then sat stunned as Becky tells them that Harry Potter is evil. Fisher says that if Islamic extremists can train their kids then why can't Evangelicals do the same? That's a cheery thought. To the evangelical homeschooling moms that send their kids to Becky's camp, global warming is a myth and science is a fraud to keep oneself separated from the Lord.
The alternate voice in the film is Mike Papantonio of the "Ring of Fire" talk show. He gets only a few minutes, but his message is crystal clear: What are these people doing to our country and to the kids they prey upon? The film then cuts to the Mega-churches in Colorado Springs and you really understand that this movement is much larger than you thought possible. Go see "Jesus Camp." It may not open your soul, but it will open your eyes.
Here's a good article in the Denver Post about the movie and of course, Christian outrage: Fire, brimstone around "Jesus" film.
Christianity Today: Is Jesus Camp Objective? Or Unfair?
Matt wrote a long and well thought out email after he saw the movie and I'll add some of it to the post:
Some things the directors said that would be of value to the discussion:
1. The sections with Ted Haggard, President of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), left out (if you can believe it) even more damning footage than was in the movie. The directors mentioned that he had made some anti-Catholic remarks that they felt would have reflected badly on them (the directors) if they had left it in.
2. The non-white kids in the group did not actually come from non-white families. They reflect a growing tendency within Evangelical circles to adopt children from other countries. The black children in the movie, for instance, belonged to white families.
3. The inclusion of Mike Papontonio (Air America/Ring of Fire) in the movie was because the directors thought there "wasn't a protagonist" in the film after nine months of editing. In talking with my peers, we are split as to whether this detracts from or adds to the movie. For me, Papantonio was justified when Becky called his show. Otherwise, a protagonist wasn't needed and smacked of a framing bias; after all, the protagonist would have been the audience for the most part! Others point out that this film is also being shown to churches with groups that have strong affinities to the characters in the movie. Including Papontonio gives them a chance to hear another side.
4. The directors claim that, among those who see the movie, cracks can be spotted within this conservative Christian movement (though they feel the movement "hasn't peaked"). Their claim was that the cracks are represented by individuals who say "My faith is not represented by these people; I don't think my faith should be a part of politics." However, I would STRONGLY suggest that cracks are more likely identified in groups (like Jim Wallis' group, Sojourners) that say "this kind of politics does not represent my faith." I want to be as straightforward as possible about this, Jim. I'm with Amy Sullivan on this one: if Dems feel it necessary to take the "separation of church and state" argument to defend their position -- where separation of church and state means that the state has been bleached of all remnants of religion (which I call a fundamentalist secularism), WE WILL LOSE and LOSE BADLY for a long time. Not only that, but we will have to undo the gains of a more humanistic government in the last century and a half: abolition, suffrage, child labor laws, and the civil rights movement, to name a few, will have to also be bleached of the critical public voices of religious activists (try scrubbing MLK of his religious overtones, for instance).
The debate should not be whether faith should be in the public arena or not. The debate, rather, should be what kind of faith should be in the public arena: one that preserves the rights and power of the majority or that seeks to give voice to the disenfranchised, in the Christian faith, the least of these?
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