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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Movie Review: JESUS CAMP


You can watch the trailer here

Jesus Camp is a 2006 documentary directed by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady that follows an Evangelical woman named Becky Fischer who runs a week-long summer camp in North Dakota every year. This camp is centered around preaching Christianity to children in a most radical fashion. Throughout the documentary, we hear Fischer's theological perspective and how it relates to the children that she's "teaching." At the same time, we get to know some of the children (especially a boy named Levi and girls named Rachael and Tory) who are well on their way to stepping into Becky's shoes once they're old enough.

Now, I have a lot of strong feelings about this film at the moment, and I'm going to try to get them all out in a clear and concise manner, but forgive me if I seem a little rattled and ramble. I'd like to start by saying that I myself am a lifelong Christian, having been baptized Catholic before I hit two months of age. I went through the trials and tribulations of being a child, blindly following what my parents and teachers (I went to a Catholic school for nine years) and clergy told me I should believe. I hit adolescence and started to question a lot of what I had been taught but eventually came back to the faith and have been volunteering as a peer leader and youth minister at my church for over six years. Simply put, I've been down this road.

That being said, what is done to the children in Jesus Camp is absolutely horrific and utterly terrifying. I could go on and on about the political involvement and ramifications with how this camp is being run, but I think it all goes down to a more basic level: Becky Fischer and her cronies are corrupting and brainwashing children. They are taking them aside and placing very adult themes and concepts into their young minds, telling them that they are the future as long as they want to run their future the way they're being told they should do so. They are taking away these children's childhood, and it's absolutely devastating.

What makes this documentary even tougher for me to swallow is that I believe quite a bit of the religious stuff that's being said. Sure, Catholics and Evangelicals have their differences here and there, but it all comes down to being a good person and living the way that Christ would want us to live. But the way that these people are throwing this to the children is absolutely horrific, and I wish with everything I have that I could stop it. I don't believe that tactics this extreme should ever be used on children because they don't know any better than to follow. All the work I've done with my church has been with high school-aged teens who are in the stage of their life where they can actually question what's being told to them. If there's a time to teach, that's the time because they can take what they learn and make their own decisions. With children, you're writing on a blank slate and setting them off without the entire story, and that's simply not fair.

I'm sure this isn't concise, and I can't really write more at the moment. I may come back and add bits in the coming days, so if you're really interested, then you can check back. I don't think I've ever been as angry with people as I was while I watched this film, and that's saying quite a bit. It might be a must-see simply because it's hauntingly tragic.

Movie Review Summary:
Grade: A
Current All-Time Rank: Best - #72
1.5 Thumbs Up

(Note: I only give it 1.5 thumbs up because of how angry it made me feel; if you don't want that feeling, maybe you shouldn't watch it.)

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