I rented that movie "Jesus Camp" the other day. I thought it would be a look at those quirky fundamentalists and their kids. Instead, I felt like I had lifted up a rock and seen all the scary things squirming beneath.
I couldn't watch the whole thing. It felt like I was watching child abuse, and it got too uncomfortable for me to see.
It is a documentary about a camp in North Dakota where Pentacostals take their children to get indoctrinated to become little robots for religion, and they do it, as Malcolm X said "By any means necessary."
The camp is run by Becky, a woman with a perky hairdo and the same kind of glassy-eyed determination that one might see, say, on an al-Qaeda bomber. In fact, Becky mentions several times that the Muslims can train their kids to go out and blow themselves up, and what are Christian kids doing? Having fun and living like normal peaceful Americans? Why, they need to be willing to die for God, too! She seems envious of fanatical Muslims.
The children in the film are constantly manipulated by the adults in their lives. The adults choreograph dramas that spin into emotional frenzies where the children are told that they are terrible sinners that need to repent, and they do, sobbing until they are almost sick, their little faces twisted in agony.
The kids live in a world where facts aren't important because you can introduce an element of doubt into almost any fact. Beliefs are superior, because if you just believe strongly enough, no one can disprove you. It sounds strange, but in their world, it makes perfect sense.
It was all very, very disturbing to me. Disturbing to see what I consider child abuse practiced in the name of religion. Disturbing to see Jesus' teachings stood on their head and used to promote intolerance and insane behavior. Disturbing to see good little kids being used as pawns in a sick game of "My religion is better than your religion."
I also have a quibble with the filmmaker. I don't know why, but they felt it necessary to cut the Jesus camp scenes with scenes of a moderate radio host talking about the same subjects. It would go from these frenzies at the camp back to this radio host using warm vocal tones in a quiet, dark studio. I think she did it to give the audience some relief from the horror of the camp scenes, but it just ads a feel of bias against the camp people - "And now, here's what reasonable people think." She should have let the camp people hang themselves with their own words and actions and have left it at that.
Anyway, consider yourself warned.
Please send out a prayer or good thought for my sister, Laura, who is in the ICU with pneumonia. She has another health issue that already makes it hard for her to breathe, so this is rough on her. Thank you.