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Jesus Camp

A movie directed by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady

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...kind of being trained to be warriors, only IN A MUCH FUNNER WAY

  • Aug 12, 2011
  • by
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, it's hardly as ludicrous as anything I could have expected. This documentary exhibits activities at Kids on Fire, an evangelical children's summer camp. Both the people who run this camp and their charges are dedicatedly obnoxious. Here's what you'll see:

  • The blandest rural landscapes in North America
  • Goofy children performing interpretive dances to hokey Christian music
  • An abundance of typically unsightly, obese American women
  • Hilariously capacious chairs for those women
  • Hysterical spiritual freakouts, man
  • Christian products peddled mid-sermon
  • The imbecile spectacle of praying in tongues, probably the most comical activity shot for this movie
  • A congregation dancing to a lightweight Christer hip-hop song, which nearly drove me into some sort of bewildered frenzy
  • Anti-Harry Potter propaganda that I almost want to endorse
  • One pushy, annoying boy topped with a godforsaken mullet who expresses ministerial aspirations
  • Kids smashing cups with hammers
  • Revered cardboard cut-out of Dubya
  • A Christian rock performance, which somebody ought do something about
  • Ted Haggard, making an ass of himself onstage (betwixt queer flings, no doubt)
  • Aforementioned kiddies staging an anti-abortion protest with their parents in Washington, D.C.

These troglodytes' antics are periodically interspersed with footage of Mike Papantonio, an invertebrate Christian liberal, as he conducts his radio show. He spends most of his screen time bleating about mean-spirited fundies, their intolerance and the enormous political clout that they ostensibly possess. Never mind that they're too preoccupied with relatively unimportant topics (gay marriage, abortion, promotion of creationism) and too ignorant of urgent, essential issues (nuclear proliferation, immigration, international conflict centered in west Asia, external Federal debt, etc.) to actually achieve anything important. To hear Papantonio tell it, these hicks aren't exploited by a government bought and sold by multinational enterprises, Israel and insurance, finance and pharmaceutical industries with the deepest imaginable pockets via interest groups. No, they're running the show because they voted for George Bush, who promised them little and delivered even less. Ultimately, these are only more dumb Americans who've turned to religion in lieu of a moronic subculture as an outlet for their idiocy and a means to distance themselves from what they rightly perceive (for all the wrong reasons) as America's vapid, degenerate, ever-declining mainstream culture.

Of course, directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady daren't concentrate on anything that might provoke substantive controversy. In one scene, an overbearing Missourian hausfrau leads her children in a Christer pledge of allegiance derivative of Francis Bellamy's absurd oath while they clutch miniatures of Charles Overton's ridiculous Christian Flag, the flag of the United States and the flag of Israel. This was shot and cut so that the former of these is featured in a close-up and the latter is afforded minimal screen time; after all, it's acceptable (though in fact, wholly passé) to offer a negative examination of kids throwing their lives away on Christianity, but to take hard note that they're also being raised to be unobtrusive, compliant little Zionists might offend some in the choir that Ewing and Grady are preaching to, and they can't have that.

If you're unfamiliar with trite, noisy evangelicals and want to learn about how they operate, this is a suitable (albeit shallow) first-hand examination of some genuine lunatics. If you're looking for unintentional humor, don't bother because it's really not that interesting; you'll get more mileage out of Jack Chick tracts.

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December 01, 2011
I've heard many things about this one, and I saw bits and pieces of it while I was at a friend's house, but it never really grab me to sit down and give it my full attention. I don't think I caught that 'oath' by the Christian flag. Thanks for the review.
December 03, 2011
As a means to pass 87 minutes, it's moderately entertaining, but hardly so outrageous as it's reputed to be. Most of its subjects are merely dumb, culturally vacant Americans whose devotion to a perpetually bastardized religion is expressed in the silliest possible ways. That so many viewers were convinced of this as a document of any especial extremity only indicates a severe susceptibility to advertisement, extremely tame standards of mayhem or both.
More Jesus Camp reviews
Quick Tip by . July 27, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
A crazy crazy crazy documentary.. you have to see it to believe it. They def. believe in something.
Quick Tip by . January 28, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Freakiest part is when they haul out a standee of George Dubya and have the kids all praying at him...or is it to him? Hard to tell. =)
Quick Tip by . September 08, 2009
I'm not an evangelist, nor religious for that matter, so this movie creeps me out. Interesting to see the insider perspective though.
Quick Tip by . September 08, 2009
This is really really creepy. Especially since the Christian Right is neither.
review by . February 06, 2008
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 …
review by . March 11, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
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.   …
review by . July 03, 2007
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 …
review by . February 01, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
`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 …
review by . January 25, 2007
"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 …
About the reviewer
Robert Buchanan ()
Ranked #29
I'm a bibliophile, ailurophile, inveterate aggregator, dedicated middlebrow and anastrophizing syntax addict. My personality type is that of superlative INTJ.
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About this movie


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...
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Genre: Documentary
Release Date: September 15, 2006
MPAA Rating: PG-13
DVD Release Date: January 23, 2007
Runtime: 87 minutes
Studio: A&E IndieFilms, Loki Films
First to Review

"Oddly American"
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