I rented this film from Blockbuster approximately one month ago and had mixed feelings about it, though not in the areas that one might expect. After reading several reviews on this controversial film, I resolved that I would review it myself upon becoming a member. I suppose that one could say that this film was my inspiration for joining Epinions. So, here comes a controversial essay!
I am an Evangelical, Spirit-filled Christian. This means that I believe in the gifts of tongues, healing, prophecy, etc (see 1 Corinthians 12.) However, I consistently attempt to test all things to see whether they are fruit-bearing, as the Scriptures direct. If joyful services are not tempered with Scripture, I find myself questioning their leaders validity.
I became a Christian at the age of five, with no coercion. During the next two years, wonderful things took place in my life; I shall not here relate them, except to state that Gods spiritual gifts can, indeed, be for children to whatever extent is within Gods will. By the age of eight, I had begun to drift a bit. When I found myself realizing this, I did weep in repentance. Although I may write more on this at another time, I include my experience here in order to provide the reader with a glimpse into how I view children, Christianity, and the Charismatic gifts.
As the film opens, the viewer is introduced to Mike Papantonio, a radio show host who strongly disagrees with Christian Conservatives in the political realm. Although he was raised a Methodist, Papantonio believes that many Evangelical Christians are unnecessarily zealous. I shall return to him later.
Becky Fischer, the leader of a North Dakotan Pentecostal church, next addresses children and their parents regarding the upcoming summer camp. When speaking to the children, Fischer says something to this effect: How many of you know that this is a sick world were living in? Well, lets just get out our toolbox and fix it! We can fix it.
This is where the film becomes rather un-Biblical. The Bible states that immorality will increase in the last days; many Christians believe that we are nearing the end times. Consequently, although God does here prayers (the toolbox that Christians have for fixing the world), it may not be His will to simply improve humanitys immoral condition. Moreover, Fischers message may well have confused some of the children. We cannot fix things of ourselves; prayers may be heard, but only God could improve the human condition, if that were His will.
Throughout the first half of the video, Fischer interviews several children and introduces the viewer to their home lives. Levi, Tori, and Rachel are twelve, ten, and nine. Their home-schooling experience consists of lessons teaching creationism as more scientific than evolution. Here, too, few Scriptures are used. The childrens mother uses a curriculum to state that evolution is not Biblical and stupid (the films wording), but does not support her claims through either Scripture or archaeological evidence.
The childrens mother believes that home-schooling is a Christian privilege, as the Bible says nothing about sending your child to school for eight hours a day and letting them be taught things that go against God (paraphrase of film). Another reviewer pointed out that this may have decreased the childrens social network. However, Tori does attend dance classes, and the children seem well-adjusted.
Speaking of Toris dance classes, it is imperative that the reader know a bit about the children. Levi is a strong Christian who preaches a bit during the camps meetings. Although Tori loves to dance, she often feels that she performs from the flesh rather than attempting to glorify God. Rachel actually seems to know a great deal about the Scriptures. She cares little about what man thinks and loves Jesus with all of her heart. I wanted to reach into the film, give her a hug, and tell her that the Lord loved her!
Before the children arrive at camp, Fischer prays over all of the sound equipment and projectors. Yes, she does use her prayer language. I am not distressed by this, but wonder whether it is necessary to pray over electronic equipment at all. Were the speakers not to function, would this have detracted from the overall worship experience? If it is the case that God is able to be present at any time, is it necessary to be so concerned with the functioning of temporal devices?
Many of Fischers messages are quite arousing. Another reviewer stated that, after calling for repentance, Fischer did not minister to a youngster who was in tears and obviously distressed. Indeed, someone should have been available to talk to him, pray with him, read him some Scriptures that dealt with Gods forgiveness, or just rejoice with him regarding Gods mercy.
Also included in Fischers messages is a word about the Harry Potter series. Although she states emphatically that the series is evil and teaches witchcraft, she refrains from providing any Scriptural references. Her words seem added as an after-thought. Besides her premise that children should not read Rowlings books, she does not explain that, for example, witchcraft involves the worship of demons.
Fischer incorporates several object lessons into her messages. One that truly impressed me consisted of the use of sticky hands to illustrate how unrighteous thoughts can stick to a person. Though a nice touch, I do not believe that messages should consist solely of these sorts of demonstrations.
Toward the end of the film, Levi is introduced to Ted Haggard, who has been present at the camp and spoken quite candidly about the ill affects of homosexuality, as seen from a Fundamentalist point of view. The children also pray for President Bush and his political decisions. A group of youngsters even protests against abortion, placing tape over their mouths in order to symbolize the innumerable babies whose lives have been silenced.
DISCREPANCIES, PART I: UN-BIBLICAL
As afore-stated, I felt that this film displayed a marked lack of Scripture. Most children do not wish to be inundated with a plethora of Scriptural references. However, Fischer ought to have stated that the Bible says something, if she did not wish to read Scriptures in their entirety to her restless audience.
DISCREPANCIES, PART II: MIKE PAPANTONIO
The radio show host appears several times throughout the film. The conclusion finds him caustically interviewing Fischer and insinuating that she is in sin and may not go to heaven. It seems that Papantonios inclusion was intended to provide an opposing view to Fischers. However, his comments seemed irrelevant to the films themes.
Some may believe that Haggards preaching against homosexuality was hypocritical. However, I understand that many individuals, though they dislike their actions, are still quite tempted to perform them. Pastor Haggard was quite encouraging to the children; though he must be rehabilitated now, his words remain true.
INTENSE PRAISE: FOR CHILDREN?
It seems that many individuals are disturbed by the use of spiritual gifts and the childrens association with them. I shall here attempt to address both. At one point, one of the children approaches a woman and tells her that she has received a message from God. She then proceeds to inform the woman that the Lord truly loves her. Both Fischer and the children pray in tongues very frequently. During the camp meetings, many individuals are slain in the Spirit; this is an experience of Gods gloryfalling down in worship before the Lord. These gifts and other manifestations of the Holy Spirit are thoroughly discussed in Scripture, but that topic is a piece for the Writers Corner. Suffice it to say that I have no difficulty with these occurrences.
Some viewers have objected to children in this sort of worship. Of particular concern is Fischers remark, I can go into a playground of kids that dont know anything about Christianity; lead them to the Lord in a matter of just no time at all and just moments later they can be seeing visions and hearing the voice of God. Jesus, however, enthusiastically welcomed children to Himself. If one accepts the premise that the gifts of the Spirit are still available to Christians today, the fact that children experience the same things that adults do is not unusual. Moreover, recruiting youngsters for Gods kingdom can be truly wonderful, as children are generally trusting individuals.
It is rather difficult to create an unbiased documentary on Christianity, particularly the Evangelical branches thereof. The producers efforts, though commendable, were not extraordinarily successful. This film ought to have been presented from an Evangelical view or a liberal one; Papantonios remarks, however, detracted greatly from this film.
The lack of Scripture disturbs me greatly. Children must be grounded in Biblical truths while being taught to worship.
Papantonios remarks and the lack of Biblical reasoning render this film somewhat confusing. However, it does include valuable lessons and features a worship experience at an informative camp. I give this film my cautious recommendation. Watch it with an open heartand a Bible concordance, to see if you can find solid information amid Fischers abstract thoughts.
Please feel free to leave comments. The fact that I may disagree does not make me closed-minded, but an individual who enjoys debating and expressing opinions. I may clarify my own points, but do not let this put you off, as I do enjoy hearing others' views.
Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Good for Groups
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older
What did you think of this review?