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.
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).
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.
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!
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