Jesus Camp (2006) – Netflix Highlight

I spend my childhood pretending to be Robocop, what did you do?
I spend my childhood pretending to be Robocop, what did you do?

Saturday afternoon at Screenkicker headquarters is usually reserved for watching a horror movie. Mainly due to occasional Screenkicker intern Suzy P’s reluctance to watch anything remotely scary before it gets dark. However this week we couldn’t settle on a good scary movie so instead we chose the documentary Jesus Camp. Ironically the film was more frightening than any gory flick you could imagine. I first heard about this movie from Anna from Film Grimoire who introduced us all to the classic rap song ‘JC in da house’ featured in Jesus Camp (they might not be the official song title). Here’s what I thought:

Jesus Camp focuses on evangelical families who send their kids to a bible camp in North Dakota. What follows is a documentary that straddles the line between funny and frightening. A film that explores the link between extreme Christianity and American patriotism. George W. Bush is mentioned frequently as an inspiration as part of the conflagration of religion and American exceptional-ism. And it’s scary shit.

Life
Super creepy!

I’m of the opinion that Christianity is a force for good and should be allowed a place in culture. However when parents deny their kids a proper education to keep them at home and teach them to deny global warming and hate gays then I have a huge problem with it. The word ‘indoctrination’ is used positively throughout the film.

At one point a 10 year old child says “America is supposed to be God’s nation”. This phrase sums up the attitude of this fundamentalist movement. This is hammered home when a cardboard cutout of George Bush backed by a huge stars and stripes is wheeled out in front of the entire group. The children are then urged to talks to and bless. Whatever you think of Bush I personally would not hold him up as a paragon of goodness (due to the whole war thing).

Movie-review-Jesus-Camp
There’s a joke to be made here about Bush’s intelligence but I can’t be bothered

You might be thinking “this is all pretty funny” but then you meet the kids that attend the camp. These are lovely, kind, curious children so when you see them crying, confused, and being shouted at about abortion it becomes depressing. These nice, bright, children are even used as pawns to protest abortion at the US Supreme Court.

As the film goes on this worship of their country becomes relentlessly disturbing. The use of the words ‘America’ and ‘God’ are swapped in and out of phrases and chants in a way that moderate Christians would probably be disgusted by.

Jesus Camp is essentially a movie about America’s politicization of religion. It makes you think about where the words of The Bible have been corrupted and used to mobilize a political movement. But most of all this is a film about indoctrination of children who should be allowed to be kids. These are impressionable little kids and it’s heartbreaking to see them having no balance in life. This is a documentary that essentially just points the camera at the camp and lets them do their thing. Its fascinating yet upsetting but whatever you feel about the movement’s beliefs it all comes back to worrying about the little kids being denied the life a child deserves.

Haggard New Allegations
This is homophobic pastor Ted Haggard. He later admitted to having sex with a load of men

Wow that all sounds very depressing so I’ll leave you with a quote from Becky Fischer the founder of this bible camp:

“Harry Potter is a warlock who should be put to death”

I agree, I’m more of a Lord of the Rings fans myself. Potter must burn!

8/10

 

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31 comments

  1. I found how open the church leaders were about the fact that they were actively targeting children because they are so open to indoctrination the most disturbing.

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  2. It really does sound disturbing and depressing. I hate it when people use their religion and children to achieve political goals like that. Like Abbi said, it actually is a horror movie, although probably unintentionally. I haven’t seen the documentary, and I don’t know if I want to because it sounds like it will make me sad for the rest of the day.
    On a lighter note, as a huge Harry Potter fan, how dare you say that Harry Potter must burn?! That’s too light a sentence. He should be strung up by his entrails for how annoying he got in Order of the Pheonix and the Half Blood Prince! 🙂

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      • I agree completely. Let kids be kids and choose their own path. It’s disgusting how they use children and religion to further their political agenda. I’m okay with Harry Potter though, his entrails can stay exactly where they are. And I’d much rather go to Hogwarts than that camp. 🙂

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  3. Great review, but I don’t think I want to see this one – the behaviour you’ve outlined here makes me 50% sad and 50% furious. It’s sickening to use religion for such terrible ends. Truly frightening.

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  4. These kinds of people really make me want to claw my skin off. But in all honesty the title of this docu is kinda funny. Maybe I’ll give it a sarcastic watch. I’ve done that before. Tried to give people my fair attention, but when things get so ridiculously stupid (another example being the docu I watched of the crazies at Westboro Baptist Church here in the good ol U.S.of A.) I just find myself tuning out, even if I still technically have my eyes turned towards a tv screen. lol. Some seriously crazy peeps out there, aren’t there?

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  5. Awesome write-up Mikey. I was so angry after finishing this that I couldn’t form coherent sentences! And thanks for the shout out, I think we can all agree that ‘JC in da house’ is a classic for everyone to enjoy.

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  6. I’ve seen this film in Netflix and wondered what it was like so I’m glad you’ve reviewed it. I would probably get too angry watching it so I’d probably give it a miss. Great review though!
    As for the Harry Potter quote-what is wrong with that lady? Harry Potter is hardly the most dangerous thing for kids to read-he must be the only boy in the world that would try and save his school! Can’t she make herself useful and try getting Twilight banned instead?

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  7. “this week we couldn’t settle on a good scary movie so instead we chose the documentary Jesus Camp.” → new definition of irony. Also, I have no need to watch this film as I’ve seen this stuff happen for real! Many times! I dare you to visit a megachurch while you’re in Texas.

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  8. Agree with you bro. I hate it when the system exploits and indoctrinates poor innocent people who don’t know any better.

    Shame on you AL GORE!!!!!

    Seriously I did see that Jesus Camp movie a few years ago and it was very disturbing. I think the it was intentionally edited to make it worse but still a freak show none the less. I don’t like this hate preaching….hate muslims, hate gays….all fear based, it goes against everything Jesus stood for. Lets pray these kids make a full recovery.

    You better be ready for GAVIN CAMP in October. You ain’t seen nothing yet. He he he

    P.S. The polar ice caps are expanding (an inconvenient truth Pastor Gore.)

    Oh and polar bear numbers are increasing and they can swim.

    Global Warming works in mysterious ways. Lol.

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  9. I remember I watched this and was both amused and appalled. The fundamentalism in the documentary is staggering. I found the Levi character to actually be the most tragic. He actually was quite intelligent but his homeschooling was ridiculous and his evangelicalism was just frightening. Great documentary though.

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