I finally saw Jesus Camp last night. (Yes, I know I'm late to the party.) While some of it was absolutely unsurprising, some of it did indeed send chills down my spine. There were certainly shades of my own summer indoctrination camp[PDF - thanks R.D.] but it went much farther. I recognize some of the brainwashing tactics, as they were used on us at bible camp, in particular the shame and the peer pressure to convert and repent (extra points for squeezing out some tears). While we didn't speak in tongues and writhe on the ground, the main difference was the political element featured at Jesus Camp.
One of the weirdest scenes was when a giant cardboard dummy (heh) of President George Bush was brought to the front of the chapel and all the kids had to pray over him. One of the scariest was the whole abortion thing. They gave the little kids tiny fetuses to hold in their soft little hands (of course they looked like wee toy babies, and nothing like a real fetus at 7 weeks - if the kids saw what a real one looks like they would probably have nightmares). They put "Life" tape over the kids mouths - there was even a scene in front of the white house. Many of these kids were far too young to understand sex, pregnancy, or any of that, so surely they had no idea what abortion actually is. In their minds abortion is baby murder, plain and simple, and it must be stopped.
In order to justify what they are doing, the camp director and some parents say they were training their little army of God as a response to how Muslims train their kids into an Islamic army.
It's no wonder, with that kind of intense training and discipling, that those young people are ready to kill themselves for the cause of Islam. I wanna see young people who are as committed to the cause of Jesus Christ as the young people are to the cause of Islam. I wanna see them as radically laying down their lives for the Gospel as they are over in Pakistan and Israel and Palestine and all those different places, you know, because we have... excuse me, but we have the truth!The kids who were interviewed spoke about being warriors and not being afraid to die for God. I think they meant it metaphorically, but I'm not really sure.
The camp did an excellent job at reaching the kids' tender little minds - using stories and props that really reach the kids, making them feel special ("You are the most important generation", "God wrote the book of your life"), even letting them smash things with a hammer (coffee mugs labeled "government") - and if there's one things kids love, it's smashing things!
The children are not raised to be freethinking individuals, but vessels of God to be used. The frames in which they can think are extremely tight, and there is no respect for science or critical thought. Many of the kids are homeschooled: global warming isn't a big deal, science doesn't prove anything, evolution is a belief... One of the families did a sort of pledge of allegiance to Jesus, and the USA, and oddly enough, the Israeli flag.
Overall, it was an excellent movie, with no commentary from the directors at all. The interviews let the camp director, parents, and kids speak for themselves.
Worth watching: the deleted scenes.
Most embarassing guest appearance: Pastor Ted Haggard.
Funniest line of the movie: "We pray over these powerpoint presentations".
Crossposted at Red Jenny