`Jesus Camp' is a revealing document of the right-wing evangelical movement. Like many people of any political or religious group, the old addage, "God is on our side," is worn on most players' sleeves. In the crossfire is Becky Fischer, Pentecostal evangelical children's minister and Mike Papantonio, radio host of the "Ring of Fire" program. They are both at the heart of the left/right, red/blue, theocracy vs. oligarchy divide in our nation. At the time of the filming, Sandra Day O'Connor retired and was about to be replaced on the Supreme Court by Samuel Alito. The event anchors the focus of the documentary. Not simply showing a series of observations, there are points that do come full circle. One of the best scenes in the movie is when Fischer and Papartonio square off on his radio program. Here he grills her about the difference between children learning and being indoctrinated. He believes they've been brainwashed. She asserts they need to be indoctrinated by her beliefs; otherwise, someone else will. The developments that come before this confrontation give ample reasons to view this movie.
There's a zealousness in the children that is pervasive throughout the DVD. Showing great emotional trajectory, the children are seen raising their hands, crying, and speaking in tongues. One articulate girl says that the quiet churches are dead churches, and the living churches are the ones that are active and lively. (No one has shown her places where true believers pray quietly.) In another scene, Fischer brings out a cardboard figure of President Bush that is nearly actual size. She invokes all the young faithful to pray for their President. (My mind kept going to churches where saints and medallions are blessed, and people are accused of idolatry.) It is from the pulpit the children get fire and brimstone sermons that seethe at the secular culture and a war between Satan and Jesus. The children are invoked to be key participants in this crusade. They at first establish self-worth when quoting scripture, "You were knit in your mother's womb;" then they pass around plastic replicas of fetuses at different stages of development. In passion they start to inflame the children. One scene that particularly smacked of emotions is when a young girl evangelizing people goes to a park and asks one African-American man where he thought he'd go after he dies. The man replies, "To heaven." She then insists, "Are you sure?" He replies affirmative. She leaves, only to be heard saying, "I think that man's a Muslim," in disparaging tones.
`Jesus Camp' has many sharp observations. However, its import can give us much to ponder. If Becky Fischer had her way, what would happen? How many freedoms would people have? Would we have to publically confess our sins and have policemen at our front doorstep, like the "God Squad" on patrol? On the other hand, if Mike Papantonio had his way, would evangelicals be able to vote, run for office, or take part in the political process? Would his vision of division of church and state be one where atheists are the only ones objective enough to make decisions and define morality? I for one am almost glad for the divide, for it is better than having either alternative in the driver's seat.
Controversy in promotion of this video was largely generated by media hype in order to advertise it as a shocking exposé. If you're a sheltered suburbanite who receives all of their news via NPR, believes everything they see on TV and thrills to elections paid by the public featuring candidates purchased by special interest groups, then this is sure to disturb you. I watched this to see insane Christers doing outrageous things for my amusement, and while their conduct is embarrassing, … more
I wasn't even done with the film when I started writing this. This is more than a documentary, this is a horror movie. I first want to explain my own impressions of the subject of the film and then the documentary itself. First, it is disturbing to me seeing this kind of, shall we say brainwashing? The adults in this film brainwashed and indoctrinated into several disturbing beliefs. First of all, they regarded George Bush as a sort of saviour, an ideal of morality. They taught creationism … more
Pros: Still too shocked to say Cons: Still too shocked to say The Bottom Line: Because they are children, this is one of the most difficult documentaries I have ever watched. Plot Details: This opinion reveals everything about the movie''s plot. I had to watch the documentary Jesus Camp in pieces. It is a 75 minute piece that took me hours to watch because of the anger and confusion it caused. … more
Pros: Provides glimpses into the Evangelical movement Cons: Marked lack of Scripture; irrelevant comments by Papantonio The Bottom Line: This is a good film, but could use some Scripture references. Plot Details: This opinion reveals everything about the movie's plot. INTRODUCTION: I rented this film from Blockbuster approximately one month ago and had mixed feelings about it, though not in the areas … more
"JESUS CAMP" Oddly American Amos Lassen and Cinema Pride "Jesus Camp" (Magnolia) is built around a Pentecostal minister who runs a summer camp for young children and the families that send their children there. This is a "right-on" look at an American subculture and I found it particularly alarming. The moving is both a damning and sublet look about a religious movement that isolates children from the mainstream and brainwashes … more
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The feverish spectacle of a summer camp for evangelical Christian kids is the focus of Jesus Camp, a fascinating if sometimes alarming documentary. (Shortly after its release, the movie gained a new notoriety when Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, who appears near the end of the film, resigned his post amid a male prostitute's allegations of drug use and sexual misconduct.) For most of the film, we follow a charismatic teacher, Becky Fischer, as she trains young soldiers in "God's Army" at a camp in North Dakota. Some of the kids emerge as likable and bright, and eager to continue their work as pint-sized preachers; elsewhere, the visions of children speaking in tongues and falling to the floor in ecstasy are more troubling. Even more arresting is the vision of a generation of children home-schooled to believe that the Bible is science, or Fischer's certainty that America's flawed system of democracy will someday be replaced by a theocracy. (In one scene, a cardboard cut-out of George W. Bush is presented to the children, who react by laying their hands on the figure as though in a religious procession.) Filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady maintain neutrality about all this, maybe too much so (they throw in some interviews with radio host Mike Papantonio to provide a liberal-Christian viewpoint) and one would like to know more about the grown-ups presented here. Power broker Haggard is the creepiest person in the...