Sunday, January 06, 2008

Jesus Camp, you must see it.

I finally rented “Jesus Camp” last night. I see this video nearly each time I visit Blockbuster; it has tempted me but each time I consider it I get this sick feeling that it will either be another syrupy Christian movie or another attack on my faith. But this time I rented it and I’m glad I did, although I came away from it with many differing emotions, and some confusion; but it made me think and that is good.
It is a documentary about a children’s ministry in Missouri. It is a charismatic church and they have a strong children’s program. The movie is filmed through an unbeliever’s camera lens. That in itself is interesting; there are many things that as Christians we do in worship and in ministry that would take some context to understand. The context was not supplied in the movie, and I think they documented honestly from their perspective. It may have been more biased than I think, and if I were in the editing room with them I may have seen that bias.
That really wasn’t my concern but rather what are we teaching our children?

In this movie there are some great Christian children, and they are very devoted and charming as well. I just wanted to hug them over and over again. But, the thing that I found disappointing is it appeared to me that the children, in many ways, were taught their parents theology and concerns, and that limited the children’s vision. There was a big focus portrayed in the film regarding political issues. Now this is certainly of concern to all Christians, but it can dominate the conversation of some Christians, and the focus becomes so narrowed you would think Jesus came only to stop abortion and elect a Christian President as well as hand out a track to lead to salvation. Now, all these things are good, and I would like to see abortion stopped, a Christian elected to President and the way of salvation presented to all; that being said, it is not the whole counsel of God, it reduces Christianity to an impersonal level which I think is what most troubled me about the film.
One example was when a sweet little girl about ten approached three men in a park and asked them if they were to die today did they think they would go to heaven. I won’t get into the wisdom of young children approaching adults, but when the man said he thought he would, her abilities were exhausted.
She left and her comment to her friends was, “They are probably Muslims.”
The way it struck me, and I may be wrong, is she knew what to say, but not what to do. She approached them out of a devotion to God, doing what she thought was her duty, but what she lacked was a concern for the man. And I couldn’t help but wonder what she had been taught about Muslims.

I thought to myself, does she care if he’s lonely, sick, poor, happy, hungry, or if he would enjoy talking with her? It appeared to me, from the content they were taught in the movie, that people are souls that need to be saved and not people to be loved.
I thought if I were sitting in the park and a nice young girl approached me and began to talk first, that I would be happy to talk with her, listen to what she thought and believed, I would have soaked up her youthful joy and energy and thoroughly enjoy her visit. It would make an impact on me and whether I believed the way she did or not she would have been a delightful blessing.

Another part of the children’s ministry that was heavily emphasized was the defeat of sin. I think these four things are the total emphasis, victory over sin, defeat abortion, get the salvation message out, and vote in Christian leaders.
Again, all good, but not all I would teach my children.
Let me use this illustration from James Dobson, he used a sport analogy saying we should teach our children to play offense as well as defense, meaning, if our focus is always about what we shouldn’t do instead of what we should do, or be involved with, we will have much less of a faith.
All Christians need to be taught to look for the needs in our fellow man. If we come to the conclusion that we know what the need is before we even meet the person, we will miss many an opportunity and allow faith to become impersonal. Christianity is learning to hear the mind and heart of Christ; He was busy doing many things, what ever the task at hand was, healing the sick, forgiving the adulteress, feeding the hungry, teaching about the Kingdom, correcting, reproving, encouraging.

I liked the fact that they got some of the children involved in demonstrating; the issue was abortion, and I thought, this is what the parents should do and the children should be visiting a children’s hospital, a nursing home, raising money for the hungry, and let the high school kids and parents march on Washington.

It was a movie all about subtleties, and it is difficult to describe all the things I saw, just watch it and see what you think. This is one movie I wouldn’t miss.

Here is another opinion on the movie.

February 15, 2007Written by Cara de Pescado
Jesus Camp is one of the Oscar nominated documentaries this year. I found it both fascinating and terrifying at the same time. It is the only nominated documentary I have seen so far, but I can certainly understand why it earned a nomination. If it is anything to judge the others by, the documentaries this past year have been excellent.
The documentary is exemplary in that there is no commentary from the filmmakers. I have no idea what their stance is on the subject, if they are from an Evangelical Christian background or a nonreligious one. It is truly a documentary in the sense that only what is filmed is presented, and there is no agreement or disagreement with what is being shown.
The only disagreement was from an Air America radio host who happened to be a former minister and against the particular type of Christianity being taught at this camp. These clips are probably the only things that didn’t seem to work within the documentary. There wasn’t equal time spent with the radio host, nor much explaining what exactly his views are. The film would have been just as well made and unbiased without them, if not more so. But he is as “intolerant” in his views as the children at the Christian camp are taught to be in theirs, just reversely so.
Jesus Camp documents a camp in North Dakota that children (and some of their families) attend to get closer to God. It is an evangelical Christian camp with guest speakers and a few select child speakers. The film focuses on a few children and the camp director, documenting their experiences at camp and following them into their lives away from camp.
What is frightening is that this film is a documentary and these things are real. Don’t get me wrong — I grew up Christian, that isn’t what makes it frightening. But it is the extreme to which the people – the children – are taking their faith. They only listen to Christian music, watch Christian television, and read Christian books. They are taught science has no answers and is stupid.
They are forming a bubble around their lives and developing a world view that can only prove to hurt them later. When they are in their teens and someone offers them a square, will they know enough to reject the offer or will they be so ignorant about life outside their bubble to not know and take it? There is a difference between having a strong faith and denying the existence of anything not a part of that faith.
At the camp, no messages of God’s love are shared. Instead the speakers share messages of politics through a religious avenue – smashing mugs to demonstrate the breaking of the power of evil over our government or duct taping mouths to demonstrate the value of life. The mix of religion and politics is what makes this film terrifying. Our future generations are growing up being fed this hodge-podge under the guise of Christianity and not being taught to think for themselves.
No longer are Christian children taught messages of the Good Samaritan or how faith as small as a mustard seed can move mountains. No longer is God our shepherd and we his flock. Now children are being raised to be warriors for Christ, part of God’s army. Uncontrollable convulsions, hysterical tears, and speaking in tongues are badges of honor – the proof of one’s faith.
But in showing all of this, Jesus Camp strangely has a tinge of hope about it. Hope that these children will grow up and become more compassionate in their passionate faith. Without saying a word, that is the only hope you can come away from the documentary thinking. We can hope these children give up their desire to be martyrs and instead hope to be beacons of light and hope, helping those in need – like the Christ they worship.


HAINAngel2000 said...

Fred, This was a moving post to read. I must say I agree on so many levels with you. Very well said. Your thoughts are moving and has me thinking!!! Thank you for posting about this. I am def curious now about this film. Hum............... We can all learn something and this post gets me thinking

Anonymous said...

Hi Mary,
It was quite an experience watching this show, and also realizing that is was watched by more non-Christians than about any other Christian project to date.
I kept thinking while watching, not enough context and winced through about half of it.
I'd like to see a good Christian movie done about all the wonderful ministries within the church. The Church of Christ is ministering world wide in every concievable way, including your ministry as well as thousands of cottage ministries, it would blow the non-believer away to see how God is working for good in this world through his faithful, loving servants.
Love Fred

patrick said...

i appreciate that the makers of Jesus Camp let the people interviewed do all the talking; over all, there is some truth in this flick as long as it's taken with a grain (or maybe a bucket) of salt