Category Archives: documentary

Jesus Camp on A&E

Watching the OneThing conference on the web, and Jesus Camp on A&E.

I wrote about the buzz concerning this PG-13 documentary before, but hadn’t seen it until now. So far I’m not exactly sure what the hype is all about, unless the thought of children speaking in tongues scares the pants off you. Then again, it probably does.

Perhaps I’m too far in the prayer subculture, and perhaps I take the current plight of America (terror, precarious economics, spiritual apathy) too seriously, but I’m not sure what the big deal is here. I’m thankful for these concerned filmmakers who will probably end up popularizing a more passionate brand of active spirituality in the younger generation.

In short, this documentary seems to be created due to the filmmakers’ alarm about three main things –

  1. Extreme Charismatic worship / social action
  2. “Indoctrinating” Children in Evangelism
  3. Religious Right overtones

I do object to the one kid’s mullet – now that IS scary.

Observations & Point-by-Point subjective summary

  1. Global Warming dismissed at the homeschooler class lesson
    • evangelicals portrayed with head in the sand (this can be somewhat true in my experience)
    • why knock the homeschool movement? Should loving parents be forced to relegate their kids to be indoctrinated by strangers???
  2. Why is the moderate DJ objecting to creationism taught along evolutionism? I don’t get that. Why not portray the moderate DJ as more open minded than that?
  3. Is there a law that says that 9 year olds shouldn’t tell people God loves them in a bowling alley? And of course it’s awkward – it’s evangelism in post-modern USA.
  4. Judgmental young girl bashes Britney and other pop tarts. Smart girl, although perhaps not very tactful. Still, she is capable of discerning between using your talents to worship God instead of performing for people!
  5. Pledge to the Christian flag – it’s different than the one I had to say. This altered version had something about a “brotherhood”, which I admit is potentially disturbing! I just need to listen to that again.
  6. Critical portrayal of Carmen rap: “Who’s in Da House?… J.C!” Can’t fault them too much for this one. Tacky.
  7. Talking to kids about how sin grows in our lives – starts with a cute lion cub stuffed animal, and grows into a big stuffed lion. Thought it was a pretty good analogy. Then some strong words about Harry Potter.
  8. Group repentance by the kids. It looks coerced, because this is a revival type meeting, and there is certainly potential for this – it is a revival meeting. That’s what you do at these things, you repent! Our culture is far enough away from this that it looks aberrant to them, but it is “old time religion” in a sense.
  9. Some sort of “Lord of the Flies” type montage with prepubescent boys playing with flashlights and ghost stories. They are summarily rebuked in a surprisingly loving manner by their counselor. Yeah, wrong camp to be doing creepy stories!
  10. They said the “Life” prayer to end abortion. Somebody tell me why a little kid wouldn’t want to pray this prayer?
  11. Some poor kid in the lunchroom looks like Harry Potter and is called on it.
  12. Sharp, yet tactless kid talks about “dead churches” where the people don’t jump up and down screaming, etc. Probably not the right kid to lead your inter-faith prayer meeting… (and apologies to all the people who love Jesus just as sincerely in your churches without being quite as demonstrative)
  13. Showing the mullet kid practicing his preaching. He preaches a whole lot better than I could.
  14. Kids praying for righteous government. There’s some sort of symbolism with breaking dinnerware that is never explained to the viewer. Coffee mugs getting the living crud smashed out of them. It certainly looks strange. And it gets a bit intense here too, these sorts of meetings offend me whenever I sit in them, and frankly I have found that God usually exposes something in me that needs to be adjusted through my offendedness. This sequence is spliced together in a way that makes the meeting look even more offensive/scary than it may have been. All of the sudden the kids have warpaint on doing another dance skit. I surmise the reality is that the meeting would probably offend most of us, just due to the intensity of it.
  15. Mullet kid (who is becoming the protagonist) shares his view that US is God’s nation but something has gone wrong. This is a bit oversimplified and I wouldn’t agree with the implication, but then again it’s not too far off either
  16. Ah, the famous George W Bush worship scene – they took a life size cutout of GWB and prayed for him with their hands stretched out. A lot of other believers see this and might think that the kids were worshipping him. This is a typical way a lot of charismatics pray, (stretching out your hand when you pray) as opposed to praying with one’s hands in their pockets. Just a tad more active than that, keeps your mind from wandering off – like folding your hands at the dinner table. However, I have never heard of a cutout cardboard being used as a prop (they would probably call this a “point of contact” 🙂 )
  17. Lou Engle cameo. He’s wearing a LIFE shirt and I can’t see any grey hair on him. He quotes Dr. Seuss and shows them life sized fetus models. I’ve stood with this guy in Philly and in DC, and he is the real deal. He leads the kids in the LiFE prayer, loudly. He is also shockeling (rocking back and forth), which he always does, a bit odd if you’ve never seen it before. But it is really how he prays – like he is standing before the Wailing Wall. A girl blinks and like 7 tears gush out of her eyes.
  18. This DJ articulates the “threat” of christian voters. Uh – last I checked, the US was still a democracy. What is his problem? It is the same thing as right-wing christians like us belly aching about some other group that organized in greater unity and passed their opposing agenda in the government.
  19. New Life Church / Ted Haggard cameo – the mullet protaganist apparently goes here. Question – are you praying for Ted, or did you condemn him when he was disgraced like everyone else in the media? Taken in the context of this film, the clips I saw on youtube from Jesus Camp are not quite as awful as out of the context on youtube. They’re certainly not pleasant though.
  20. Someone needs to show the documentary creators the verse about how we are commanded to pray for our political leaders, since Haggard was also praying for Bush. Apparently this really scares them. For us, it’s obeying God, and it’s also plain smart to support your leaders.
  21. The DJ grills the camp director on his show, accusing her of “indoctrination“. She responds by saying that everyone else is indoctrinating kids for their purposes, which I thought was a pretty valid retort. The DJ accuses her of brainwashing kids for the Republicans, and says God will judge her for “messing with kids”. I love this one – he says “I respect your right as a fundamentalist” and in the same breath forbids her from spilling it into the public sector. The DJ is aghast.

So that’s my summary of Jesus Camp. Much ado about something, these kids are radical enough to rightfully scare the pants off of relativists, Sunday morning churchgoers, and political pundits.