JESUS CAMP (2006) — Documentary Review

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Jesus Camp posterDon’t mistake Jesus Camp for Godspell! Even though it’s not a thriller, Jesus Camp is a truly terrifying film. It is, in fact, a purely observational documentary, one that serves as a galvanizing cautionary revelation about Evangelical indoctrination of children in heartland America.

Framed by Justice Sandra Day O¬íConnor’s resignation and confirmation of ultraconservative Samuel Alito as her successor, we witness home-schooled preteens, Levi (12), Rachael (9) and Victoria (10) delivered by their Evangelical parents unto Bible camp at Devil¬ís Lake, ND, where Pentecostal Children’s Minister Becky Fischer ‘hooks them up’ (her words) with Jesus.

While physically prepping the camp, Fischer actually admonishes the devil not to disable auditorium lights. She boasts she can “have kids ‘saved’ in minutes because they’re so open” and comments “they’re so useful to Christianity.”

Scared yet? Wait ’til ya meet the kids. Levi, ‘saved’ at age five, knows Creationism is the only possibility and science doesn’t prove anything. Rachael thinks martyrdom’s ‘really cool.’ Victoria owns guilt about dancing ‘for the flesh,’ which leads to damnation.

Worse, these and other campers are conditioned to believe they’re soldiers of God, ready to die for Jesus.

Fischer preaches about how Al Qaeda’s kids fast, bare arms, sacrifice themselves for Islam, informing and warning kids just what Christian America is up against. Juxtapose such fear-invoking propaganda with Fischer’s “they’re so useful to Christianity” statements and draw your own conclusions.

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Filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady don’t preach. To their credit, Jesus Camp is so devoid of Michael Moore-ishness, you’re not sure where their beliefs and personal convictions lie. Fischer may think Jesus Camp glorifies her. The film gives statistics: 75% of home-schooled children are Evangelicals, 43% of Evangelicals were ‘saved’ before age 13, 25% of our population — or 80-million people — are Evangelicals.

But there is only one opposing presence, Christian talk radio host Michael Papantonio, who expresses alarm about Evangelical fanaticism, as he chats with callers and conducts on-air discourse with Fischer — during which she asserts her program is apolitical.

Apolitical?

Why, then, are campers instructed to pray – in tongues — over a cardboard cutout of GW? And why stir them into such frenzied chanting about banning abortion and creating a Christian America that they enter trance-like states, some falling convulsively to the floor?

These hair-raising moments are reminiscent of scenes from Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. Think about the ending of that cautionary tale while watching Levi receive preacher-to-preacher advice from Ted Haggard, Evangelical pastor to 30-million people, who frequently visits GW, assails homosexuality and boasts he has the numbers to elect our government.

If you care about our civil rights and democracy, you must see Jesus Camp and let it open your eyes to what’s happening on our home front.

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