Jesus Camp

My previous entry on Ava Lowery’s “What Would Jesus Do?” reminded me that I haven’t written a longer review of Jesus Camp (IMDB), which I caught at Silverdocs a few days ago. As I mentioned in my initial review, I found myself watching Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady’s documentary about an evangelical children’s camp through the lens of my own childhood experiences of attending similar evangelical churches and church youth camps, something that makes writing about this film somewhat more difficult. I do think that Ewing and Grady have crafted an insightful documentary that will provide its audience with a compelling depiction of evangelical culture, especially as it lays out in terms of educating children into that culture, but I would have liked to see a little more consideration of how children process–often in vastly different ways–what they learn from their pastors, their parents, and their Sunday School teachers.

Jesus Camp opens with a car driving down an interstate highway somehwere in “flyover country,” the sides of the road littered with fast food restaurants and chain stores while on the radio, we tune in to various AM radio talk shows where the hosts are conversing about national politics, notably the announcement that Sandra Day O’Connor had retired from the Supreme Court, with the radio hosts enthusiatsically hoping that an anti-choice candidate will be nominated in her place. The radio broadcasts establish the idea that these evangelical children’s camps cannot be separated from the larger “culture wars” that, for better or worse, have remained a major theme ever since the 2004 elections. Eventually we are introduced to the documentary’s central subjects, Pastor Becky Fischer, a children’s pastor who creatively teaches children Bible lessons using toys and other props, and three children, Levi, Rachael, and Tory, who plan to attend Fischer’s Kids on Fire summer camp in Devil’s Lake, North Dakota. Fischer has a charmismatic stage presence, and the children who attend her services are clearly spellbound as she narrates Bible stories and tells the children about her camp. During these scenes, Levi, especially emerges as a central figure. Articulate and pleasant, Levi–shown in the middle photo on the film’s official website–responds to many of Fischer’s questions, expressing enthusiasm for attending the camp so that he can become a more dedicated member of “God’s army.”

Fischer’s summer camp provides the backbone of the film, but we also encounter Levi, Rachael, and Tory in a variety of learning contexts. In several scenes, we see the children being home-schooled by parents who want to shield their children from public schools, with one mother teaching the creation story and dismissing evolution as “just a theory,” adding that “science doesn’t prove anything.” Elsewhere, we see another pastor instructing the children to reach their hands towards a life-sized cardboard cutout of George W. Bush so that they can pray for him in ways that are clearly politically inflected (though to be fair, it was not uncommon for the churches I attended to pray for political leaders regardless of party, although this was well before the emergence of the Christian Coalition as a political force). This pastor is especially interested in recruiting “warriors,” metaphorically speaking, in the fight against abortion, and in fact, later in the film, we see many of these children on the steps of the Supreme Court handing out fliers calling for the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Children also emulate their leaders by “witnessing” to others–Rachael somewhat nervously walks up to a stranger in a bowling alley to share her faith–or by learning to preach, with Levi delivering a short sermon at the camp. We also see Tory who enjoys dancing to Christian rock but worries about the sin of “dancing for the flesh.” All of these scenes suggest that the children are absorbing their lessons without really questioning them, and many of the children seem very eager to please the adults in their world, but to a degree they also seemed to suggest the children were trying on a role, figuring out something about themselves while participating in the camp and its related activities.

The only opposing voice to the conservative evangelical subjects of Jesus Camp belongs to (liberal) Air America host and Christian Mike Papantonio, who is shown taking phone calls and commenting broadly on evangelical Christianity. The scenes with Papantonio are beautifully filmed, showing him in a darkened Air America studio, the camera panning across to show him in the room broadcasting alone, while an on-air exchange between Papantonio and Fischer effectively tied the two worlds of the documentary together. While Papantonio’s comments about the sometimes troubling mix of religion and politics are helpful, the scenes also had the effect of implying that Papantonio was himself alone in his more progressive version of Christianity, which is, of course, hardly the case, but I’m also unsure what would have worked better here. During a Q&A at Silverdocs, one of the filmmakers addressed a similar question and explained that they conisdered showing a progressive church but felt that it would have provided a distraction from the specifics of the Kids on Fire camp, and I think they’re right about that. But at the same time, I did find myself wondering exactly how the children were processing their experiences at “Jesus Camp,” because in my experience what you see at the camp is probably significantly different than what you would see at soccer practice, say, or in some other context. Like Andrew LaFollette, commenting on IMDB, the most compelling scenes for me were the ones when we see the children alone. We see glimpses of that when a group of children are talking about Harry Potter (before they are reminded that Harry Potter “would have been stoned to death” if he’d lived in Old Testament times), and I wanted to see more of these moments where children were making sense of their world outside the “Jesus Camp” context because I think we’d see a much different picture of evangelical culture, one that is far more complicated and far less homogenous than what we see in the film. I would have also liked to have seen Jesus Camp depict other aspects of the Kids on Fire camp. Like most evangelical summer camps, Bible lessons only entail one (significant) part of the camps, and some of my strongest memories of the camps are playing softball and participating in other outdoor activities. On the whole, however, despite some reservations, I think that Jesus Camp raises some important questions in its depiction of these evangelical children’s camps and their relationship to political activism.

28 Comments »

  1. Chuck Said,

    July 31, 2006 @ 1:09 pm

    Happened to come across David Poland’s MCN review of Jesus Camp, and he addresses the one major problem I have with the film: the use of Air America’s Mike Papantonio to frame our perception of “Jesus Camp” as purely political (or even almost exclusively about abortion).

    I hope that my review illustrates the ways in which the camp–and the children’s interpretations of the messages from their pastors and parents–is far more complicated and heterogeneous than it appears, and for the most part, Jesus Camp captures those complications.

  2. George Said,

    August 7, 2006 @ 1:51 pm

    Check out David Byrne’s take on the film.

  3. Chuck Said,

    August 7, 2006 @ 3:15 pm

    Thanks for the link, George. Byrne’s review is interesting, especially in that it emphasizes the rhetoric of spiritual warfare that dominates the film (one of the audience members at Silverdocs picked up on this theme as well), but I think it’s important to recall that similar rhetoric has dominated the evangelical movement (“Onward Christian Soldiers!”) for some time, and mebers of my parents’ church routinely use the phrase “spiritual warrior” to describe someone who prays often (for example).

    Referring to the camp as “indoctrination” may also overstate how the children interpret the messages they hear. There’s a scene in which a church elder (Fischer?) cautions children against reading or watching Harry Potter because he represents a slippery slope into embracing witchcraft. The kids listen but later we see them emulating Potter again.

    That being said, I don’t want to dismiss Byrne’s concerns completely. The parents and pastors do use the pulpit to instill political conservatism including mistrust of evolution and global warming, and that’s obviously cause for concern, as is the retreat from public life represented by home schooling. Of course, even Pat Robertson is coming around on global warming I hope that jesus Camp provokes a much needed conversation about the role of religion in public life, but I worry that it will simply reinforce preconceived notions on both sides of the political fence.

  4. Chuck Said,

    August 7, 2006 @ 3:26 pm

    Byrne’s review might be usefully compared to this AlterNet review, which makes the important point that while the Kids on Fire camp is affiliated with Pentecostal churches, it is on the conservative edge of a much broader evangelical culture.

    As Powers notes, in perhaps the best review I’ve seen of Jesus Camp, “Statistics about the spectacular number of “evangelicals” in the United States are ominously flashed onscreen throughout the movie, implicitly suggesting that Becky and her assembled camp are giving us a peek into the inner workings of the “evangelical movement.” But it might be worth questioning the conventional wisdom that the 100 million Americans who call themselves evangelicals all march to the same beat. Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and James Dobson have a vested interest in presenting this group as a conservative monolith under their exclusive and unquestioned control. And while there is no denying the electoral power of the Religious Right, Democrats should not assume that all, or even a majority, of evangelicals naturally hew to the Republican line.”

  5. antony Said,

    August 10, 2006 @ 12:32 am

    Hi Chuck,

    I was reading your review and summation and it correlates with an idea I had while watching none other than America’s Funniest Home Videos.
    The winning video was a female child, about the age of four, praying for superficially material posessions; this being funny becuase of the take this child had on the powers of God. Again, This is an American show, and America is undoubtedly an unsaid (and sometimes tremendously said) Christian nation. I had seen videos of this before, and in childhood it is very common to talk to friends that say comments such as, “I swear to God” or I prayed to God…” usually for something that is materialistic or astutely desired for personal advancement much like this little girl in the winning video was doing.
    The amazing thought I had was that if this had been a Muslim American child, completely “Americanized” i.e. burgers and fries, Barbie, princess outfit, etc., praying to Allah for the same things, the audience would have felt extremely uncomfortable and the viewing audience at home might have thought it wrong to laugh due to some sort of ignorance towards diversity or perhaps appalled at a religion that would teach its children such things. It had never crossed my mind before that living in a nation with so much propaganda that isn’t even propaganda anymore, but actually po-mo societal norms, that watching a Christian child pray for horsies and lolli-pops is accepted enough to be winning a home video show, while other religions (such as Islam) is still so scrutinized that if a Muslim girl would have been doing the same thing it would have sparked debate about the intentions of the family or perhaps accusations concerning brainwashing. I saw a lot of what you said about the film documenting Christian camps with how Muslim extremists are born. In this country we seem to turn a blind eye to what a lot of organizations that are Christian do with their faith becuase there is an underlying current of trust that is born within all Americans concerning Christianity, even those that aren’t Christian at all (me). Although Americans assumes no pre-religious identity, greater scrutiny would be given to a Muslim doing very American things due to the fact that they aren’t Christian.

  6. Chuck Said,

    August 10, 2006 @ 1:36 am

    That’s an interesting read, Antony, and certainly it sounds as if “America’s Funniest Home Videos” naturalizes the child’s prayer, so perhaps–and I’m not sure this is the case–the controversy of “Jesus Camp” is precisely that it denaturalizes the Pentecostal youth camp through the documentary lens. And the hypothetical comparison to a video of a Muslim child praying is illustrative.

    Just to be clear, my comments aren’t meant to imply that we shouldn’t “scrutinize” these youth camps but that the film can lend itself to somewhat alarmist interpretations that need to be complicated.

  7. Shane Said,

    August 29, 2006 @ 3:16 pm

    As a former member of such religious cults, I can assure you the Pentacostal movement, faith, whatever you want to call it, is indeed very damaging to perception of society and reality to say the least. At the other end of the spectrum they are infact very politically active, at least this is true across the mid-west. The Pentacostals have a thing for traveling from church to church, so my opinion is not based on a small region. Every summer we would go to “revivals” across the state, sometimes to other states. I left that mess when I was a teen. They taught us racism and segregation of the classes. These are not christian (christ like) values. Most of them were pro-war, anti non-christan, very agressive people in general. Few of them had a mind of their own even in their daily activities, their lives revolved around pleasing the evangelists and pastors, up to but not limited to sexual favors. These people are a very powerfull force in our society now, and should be regarded as an extremeist entity.

  8. gerry corneau Said,

    September 7, 2006 @ 5:50 am

    As a person who has just spent two years making a movie that explores the evangelical “movement” and it’s influence on politics (and is born again) I can say with great confidence (whew) that we just don’t have much to worry about when it comes to the kids from Jesus Camp. No quibble here with any tactics, ideas, beliefs, God no… Just that those campers and their ilk represent such a small sample of Christian kids. We interviewed a group from Young Life, in Houston Texas. We assumed the worse; judgemental, brainwashed, etc… NOT A CHANCE. I knew it was going to be different when abortion came up early in the interview, and a girl said “I’m 16 years old, and I’m not gonna’ tell another girl my age that she has to keep a baby, Jesus would never do that, who am I to judge her?” Check us out at http://www.seeingredthemovie.com

  9. Chuck Said,

    September 7, 2006 @ 12:10 pm

    Gerry, this sounds like an interesting film–I’d enjoy seeing it at some point. As my review of Jesus Camp suggests, kids’s experiences of religion are far more complicated than adults assume.

    Here’s a direct link to Seeing Red.

  10. jameson Said,

    September 18, 2006 @ 1:37 pm

    this is alarming.. people who don’t share your faith hear these statements and become worried that your ignorance to the fact that preacher-politicians are BREEDING voters for oil industry war mongers. when you turn your back on politics, politics will turn on you.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JECP9qzjmF0

  11. Chuck Said,

    September 18, 2006 @ 2:01 pm

    Jameson, I’m not sure who the “you” is in your comment, but I think it’s worth noting that I’m troubled by the politics of the camp leaders and find the “us vs. them” rhetoric extremely disturbing, especially the references to Palestinians as “enemies” in the scene you quoted. And to correct something I said earlier, the references to “spiritual warfare” sometimes become disturbingly concrete when camp leaders take political sides.

    My main beef with the version of the documentary I saw at Silverdocs, which I believe has since been slightly modified, is that it doesn’t do enough to depict a far more complicated evangelical culture and focuses only on one relatively isolated case. It also tends to neglect the ways in which kids can have a more complicated understanding of the issues at stake in the documentary.

  12. Chuck Said,

    September 19, 2006 @ 12:00 pm

    I’ve written a short update on Jesus Camp, but couldn’t edit this entry for some reason. I’ve become fascinated by the controversy surrounding this film and look forward to hearing teh comments of others on it.

  13. Phred Said,

    September 19, 2006 @ 1:10 pm

    I agree with Chuck.
    It doesn’t do much to comfort me when I see that the rest of the Church is going to play apologist for this “Kiddie Cult.”
    Saudi has its madrasas, we have our “Warriors in a fun way.”

  14. Rich Tatum Said,

    September 22, 2006 @ 8:45 pm

    Chuck,

    You have some great observations about the film, which I watched last week, and wrote some extensive commentary about. Your summary of the film is about the best I’ve seen anywhere, and you didn’t fall prey to the twin evils of siding with the liberals or defending the Pentecostals.

    I thoroughly agree with you: The Evangelical culture is already rather diverse and this film focuses on such a small slice of Evangelical or even Pentecostal culture that there is hardly any room for common ground between the subjects in the film and the majority of Evangelicals.

    Incidentally, you’re also the only one I’ve found who cites the numbers of Evangelicals at 100 million–I number I also arrived at after lots of digging around. I’ve seen numbers low as .5% of the population, but the reality is, it’s hard to pin a label on exactly how many are Evangelicals. Evangelicalism doesn’t come with a creed you must sign to become a part of. There are mainline churches which are Evangelical–there are Evangelical Catholics for goodness’ sake.

    The film, I find, not only misrepresents Becky Fischer, her ministry, and the kids she ministers to, it misrepresents Pentecostalism, Evangelicalism, home schoolers, and Christianity as a whole. In fact, it’s record at accurate representation causes me to question whether Mike Papantonio is also fairly represented.

    If you or your readers are interested, I have further thoughts on the film:

    Jesus Camp: Brainwashed in the Blood – or Is it Spin? @ BlogRodent (longer)

    Jesus Camp: Brainwashed in the Blood @ Christianity Today (shorter)

    Guest Commentary: Jesus Camp @ MinistryToday Mag

    Regards,

    Rich
    BlogRodent

  15. Chuck Said,

    September 23, 2006 @ 9:29 am

    The number I cited was the one mentioned in the article in AlterNet. It’s not quite clear but that’s coming from someone else, and I’d guess that number to be a little high. Also to address your point about “siding with liberals,” I do consider myself to be politically very liberal, my position as a scholar of documentary film with some experience in Pentecostal cultures left me hoping for more. Still, I’m glad the filmmakers made the film, and I think it will provoke some important conversations.

  16. beepbeepitsme Said,

    September 25, 2006 @ 10:38 pm

    RE: More on the Jesus Camp video including Parody
    http://beepbeepitsme.blogspot.com/2006/09/jesus-camp.html

  17. Chuck Said,

    September 25, 2006 @ 11:18 pm

    Here’s a direct link to the trailer.

  18. aaron Said,

    October 5, 2006 @ 8:10 pm

    The bottom line is that this ‘film’ is nothing but propaganda. This camp is nothing like I ever grew up in. Be that as it may, the film makers intentionally made the argument/counter argument between a left wing mental infant against that of a group of children. As intellectually inept the Air America host was (who, by the way, never received one intelligent dissenting call that made it on film) it’s not exactly a fair fight pitting the grade schoolers against the middle aged moron with a radio show.

    If these children are guilty of anything, it is that they are only young, and children do an say strange things, especially when they are led in a strange direction. I don’t think many folks will say that some of the things that were caught on film were any thing less than odd. Heck, us Baptists don’t go to Charismatic churches because the adults do that tongue speak. The film makers wanted the meat of this propaganda sandwich to be that way. They show a scene of something crazy going on and cunningly flash a statistic of how 75% of home schooled children are “evangelical.” And the liberals say George Bush lies…They want the viewer to walk away believing 75% of Christians whoop and holler and carry on like those kids, of less than 100, did.

    The film makers take advantage of those who are for the most part, ignorant of Christianity, and they exploit that as much as they can. Do they go to any other camps in the nation? Hell no. That wouldn’t support their agenda. Do they interview Billy Graham, the biggest evangelical in the United States if not the world? Fuck no! Do they offer any kind of conservative radio counter point? Not on your life.

    What is their agenda? Quite simply, there are people out there who desperately want to believe that Christians are just as evil and religiously brainwashed as those who carry out acts of terrorism in the name of Islam. More specifically, they want to believe that Christians want a theocracy here in the United States. In addition, they believe that George Bush is a bigger terrorist than Bin Laden and they seek to lay that title on him to intentionally taint Christians as a whole.

    The film makers want the viewer to walk away from this film believing 7 things.

    1. Evangelicals are crazy.
    2. Most Christians are evangelicals who brainwash their children if for no other purpose than to vote for the Republican party.
    3. Islamics are involved in a holy war and so are the Christians.
    4. Islamics will kill and or be killed for Allah and Christians will lay down their lives as martyrs for God.
    5. Christians want to take away a woman’s right to choose.
    6. Christians worship or regard George Bush as holy man much in the same fashion as radical Islamics regard Osama as a holy man.
    7. Christians are to be feared and seen as the enemy.

    One more theme that was put forth in the film was the idea that Christianity itself is divisive and seeks to divide this nation. That’s an interesting assertion considering that the film makers took a fine scalpel to this nation and was able to cut apart, uproot, and expose a tiny sect of Christianity that lives somewhere in Missouri and represent those people as the whole. That’s devisive!

    The hypocrisy is that these film makers are much too concerned with hating Bush and hating anyone who doesn’t hate him to actually make a true documentary about Christianity & Evangelism. They believe themselves to be the open minded and compassionate ones. They don’t run camps, they make films. This is not to mention that these worms don’t have the courage to simply acknowledge the fact that the president of Iran has vowed to exterminate the Jewish state, they cower when confronted with the living breathing Islamic theocracies, and they bury their heads in the sand each time buildings are blown up, heads are cut off, women are beaten, and nations are held at the arm of terrorism. No, in their minds, George Bush is more of a threat to their way of life. A life of freedom that most of them didn’t fight to get and won’t fight to preserve.

    They see a direct parallel between the 13 year old anti abortion activist who stands peacefully with a piece of tape over his mouth that reads ‘LIFE.’ and the young man that straps a belt of dynamite and blows himself up on a crowded bus, filled with the elderly and the infantile. To them they are both the radical! Yeah, in their minds, wanting less abortions in this nation is a RADICAL notion.

    No wonder these people vote for Howard Dean.

    In my opinion, the fat crazy minister in the documentary left the film makers to want for little. However, they got greedy. I can’t prove this, but it’s my hunch that some ideas were fed to these children by the film makers in the form of a question in order to get these kids to say what the film makers wanted them to. In one scene near the end, a little brown haired girl said a word that is very common in Islamic circles but hardly ever uttered in connection with Christianity. That word is ‘martyr.’ That was the cherry in the Jesus Camp hot fudge sundae. That particular word covered every base these film makers ‘with no agenda’ intended to cover. However, they didn’t intend on the fact that people aren’t as stupid as they think we are.

    Truth has a ring to it, and this piece of work didn’t have a bell.

  19. Jesus Camper Said,

    December 17, 2006 @ 11:39 pm

    I realize this thread is somewhat old, but I just came across it and enjoyed reading some of Chuck and Rich’s thoughts. I am the father of Levi in the movie. My wife is the one who is filmed homeschooling our kids about science and global warming. Rachael, one of the girl’s highlighted in the film, is in my congregation. I am a pastor.

    This thread seems to give us the benefit of the doubt. I appreciate that. The film, was in fact, not what we expected. So much is out of context. So much needs to be explained. We were never given the opportunity to review the film before is showed at Tribeca.

    Some parts of the film were orchestrated. The film crew asked us if they could film our boys watching a cute animated video about creationism. In the movie it appears that we watch this kind of film as a common aspect of our homeschooling.

    My wife’s comment about “science doesn’t prove anything” was only a statement concerning the nature of science: that is, that science is a collection of evidence, not proofs. We don’t disparage science. We love science. I have an engineering degree and Levi wants to be a doctor (not a preacher or pastor as the media have assumed.)

    In the end, we are always happy to discuss any individual segment of the film, but also wish that the great amount of time we teach our kids about love, compassion, and just living life came out in the film.

  20. Chuck Said,

    December 18, 2006 @ 12:43 pm

    Jesus Camper, thanks for your comments. As a fan and student of documentary, I’m certainly aware that scenes can be orchestrated or taken out of context for effect. I also know the tremendous risk of placing yourself on a national (or international) stage as you have in this movie and I appreciate that.

    And while I no longer consier myself an evangelical, I realize that Jesus Camp offers an incomplete portrait of an incredibly diverse subculture.

    If I write in more detail about Jesus Camp, I may very well take you up on that offer to talk further about certain scenes.

  21. Robert Carmody Said,

    February 10, 2007 @ 1:17 pm

    I just wanted to say that I was shocked at the number of negative comments I have seen about the lifestyles and depictions in the documentary I have seen after viewing the film.

    It was a real boost to see a bunch of good kids on the screen for once. While other kids are oput there trying to be cool and worried about the right “bling” these kids are concerned and thoughtful.

    What made me mad was when the radio DJ started to tell the camp woman that there was a special place in hell for people who harm kids. To tell this lady she is as bad as a child molestor or abortionist was beyond a stretch !! In religious communities, children inherit their faith. They get it from their parents and God parents. This nonsense about programming…

    For me, as a semi-socialist Democrat Roman Catholic, I know that most of the people in the film probably would have no problem telling me I am going to hell. I voted for Bush only because of his stand against abortion. But I admire these Christians and the way they are raising their children. The example of their child rearing and the power of their children is a good example for all.

  22. Chuck Said,

    February 10, 2007 @ 2:17 pm

    Robert, I’m a little confused by your comment. On the one hand, you regard the training of these children as positive (“a bunch of god kids on the screen”), but on the other you suggest that the people depicted in the movie “probably would have no problem telling me I am going to hell.”

    While the Air America host may be guilty of polarizing people based on politics and religion, it sure looks like the people in the film are guilty of similar behavior. I don’t know if that is something I can “admire.” That being said, I found all of the children in the film to be smart, interesting, and charming, which is part of what makes the documentary work so well.

  23. Robert Carmody Said,

    February 13, 2007 @ 2:05 am

    To clear up the confusion, my mother was Evangelical and father, Catholic. I have respect for and understand both camps. I have great admiration for Christian denominations that recognize spiritual warfare… the fight between good and evil. It is a trait all the Saints have in common. Only God knows who is going to hell and who is not.

  24. Tony Said,

    February 22, 2007 @ 5:01 am

    Great review. Wonderfully provocative without being dismissive and evaluative on the exact level that I needed help with. I would love to have seen more footage of the kids alone. The image of a little girl speaking in tongues and tears streaming down her face is powerful, but tells an incomplete story. I remember being 5 years old and sitting in front of my gandmother’s record player crying over the Italian language opera coming out of it. I cried in church once thinking of the saddest situation one could possibly muster the strength to have faith in Jesus under, imagining a hungry, tattered family with no shoes arriving at Sunday School uner the disapproving eye of the other congregants. I thought intense emotional connection to my spiritual beliefs, evidenced by my solemn tears, was a perfectly reasonable occasion to cry my eyes out. An occasion my budding masculine aspirations could stick their tongue out at. An excuse to cry was an excuse to cry, especially when I was alone and/or justified. The dissatisfying aspect of this film is that it showed so little of the true personalities of the kids and what they thought was going on. It showed only their actions, in front of the camera. My life would have been so different if I’d have been able to see the cameras I insisted were there filming the movie about my life that would one day be available on VHS.

  25. jason Said,

    March 16, 2007 @ 3:53 am

    As about the farthest thing you can get from an Evangelical I have to say that this movie touched me. I don’t share these people’s beliefs, but I very much respect them and their conviction.

    And how can you not love this kid Levi? His passion and awareness. He’s amazing. He challenges me to be a better person (though not in the way that he’d like, I’m sure).

    Anyway, the movie reminded me that as much as I fear many of the Evangelical messages, I equally fear anyone who puts intolerance above compassion.

  26. Nikita Said,

    March 23, 2007 @ 2:49 pm

    Jesus Camper, I was really impressed with your son. He seemed very well-adjusted and grounded.

    As for the film and how it’s interpreted, I am not a practicing christian but I grew up in a pretty serious lutheran household and was cheerfully encouraged to go forth and enjoy other people’s religious experiences, many of which were evangelical. So I’m not ignorant of the beliefs of the group (in general) or even of evangelical summer camps, having been to a few.

    I felt as though the movie was made with a very secular audience in mind — the captions explained a lot of things that would have already been known by religious people in general, which the last time I checked are a huge portion of the population. I was a bit disturbed by some of the more political moments — but the crying, the preaching, the proselytizing, etc. strikes me as completely in keeping with my experience.

    I also felt some discomfort at the seeming lack of insight and genuine connection with the material that some of the kids (not your son, who came across as very genuine in his beliefs) seemed to have. That lack of comprehension, and the response to a very manipulative series of activities is probably what people think of when they accuse Pastor Becky of “indoctrinating” kids. Luckily, assuming that the kids in question are allowed to gain context through exposure to the world in general, most will decide what they believe as they age and move into a lifestyle in line with that.

  27. Jesus Camper Said,

    March 30, 2007 @ 1:45 pm

    Thank you all for your comments. You seem like really level-headed people. And you all express a spiritual side too. That’s encouraging. With the movie out on DVD now, we have gotten much more feedback from people who have already had some kind of Christian experience. We are blogging about the movie at http://www.jesuscampers.com. Blessings to all.

  28. Chuck Said,

    March 30, 2007 @ 2:01 pm

    Thanks for pointing to your blog. Whether you agree with Grady and Ewing’s depiction of the camp, it’s clear that the film has sparked a number of valuable discussions.

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