| Culture » Art » Sacrilegous films
Jesus Camp: A Children's Boot Camp for the Culture WarsAuthor of this text: Bernard Katz
"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.
Like the Jesuits, Ms. Fischer understands full well the importance of the
indoctrination of children when they are most impressionable (under 13 and preferably between 7 and
9). The key to the movement's future growth is the dogmas of evangelical
Christianity. She compares Kids on Fire to militant Palestinian training camps
in the Middle East that instill an aggressive Islamic 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 the Holy Spirit seizes them. And we see them in Washington at an
Filmed during the Senate confirmation of S.C. Justice Alito, Children's
Boot Camp forthe Culture Wars 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.
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
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 is upsetting to liberal Christians not
to mention us secular humanists. The message flies in the face of studies that
show the inferiority of home schooling. The purpose is certainly inimical to the
tolerance demanded by democracy.
The agenda of Ms. Fischer reminds us of the same tactics that were
practiced by Mussolini, Hitler and Stalin. It reflects the same attitude as
expressed by Pope Pius XI in his encyclical on Education delivered in 1929:
„Where education is considered, it is the right, or rather duty, of
the State to protect with its laws the prior rights… of families over the
Christian education of their offspring. As a consequence, it is the duty of the
State to respect the supernatural rights of the Church over Christian education.
From this it follows that the so-called neutral or lay schools from which
religion is excluded are contrary to the fundamental principles of education."
And it mirrors the diabolical voice of Hitler: "Universal education
is the most corrodingand disintegrating poison that
liberalism has ever invented for its own destruction."
Published in the 2006 November/December issue of
the American Rationalist.
« Sacrilegous films (Published: 30-03-2008 )
All rights reserved. Copyrights belongs to author and/or Racjonalista.pl portal. No part of the content may be copied, reproducted nor use in any form without copyright holder's consent. Any breach of these rights is subject to Polish and international law.