Monday, July 14, 2008

Jesus Camp

Last night, Neill and I watched the documentary Jesus Camp by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady. The film is centered on following a few Evangelical Christian children attending pastor Becky Fischer's "Kids On Fire Summer Camp"--a summer camp that takes kids that are already growing up in scarily conservative homes and teaches them how to (supposedly) be god's warriors. Eww. The film is super creepy and made me really sad for these children. I'm not saying that it is wrong to raise your children with certain beliefs, but we've got a problem when parents and religious figures are purposefully trying to indoctrinate youth to such an extent that they are: shaking around on the ground with the "spirit of christ", walking up to strangers on the street telling them about god's mission, distrustful of nonchristians, worshiping a cardboard cut out of george bush, standing in front of the white house with red tape over their mouths to protest abortion, and hopeful to one day become the sort of person that will have the opportunity to die for jesus. Its seriously sick shit.

The christian right scares the fuck out of me and I don't want to live in a world with people like that. And the truly sad thing is, these kids never had a chance. They never had a chance to think for themselves or say no or question what they are being told. They are fed these awful lies from such a young age and sheltered from people who might introduce "sin" (a.k.a alternative points of view) that they never have an opportunity to develop a system of beliefs that truly makes sense to them. Little kids will believe in santa clause, the tooth fairy, and monsters underneath the bed--it is no surprise that they will believe in jesus if you tell them to. And while most kids grow out of their childhood beliefs, Fischer preaches in such a way to permanently ingrain each child with her message. Her scary threats of hell would make an impression on any 5 year old. She wants to get them when they are young because young kids never forget. And the kids in this documentary get it from all sides--their parents are telling them the same things at home. Most of them don't even go to school! Instead, they are "home schooled". In the movie, there is actually a scene where one of the moms is teaching her children that evolution is just a belief based on bogus science and that creationsim is really the only logical answers to all of the questions. There really is no chance for these kids to believe anything other than what their fanatical parents want them to.

I thought the film raised a lot of important questions about religion and youth. To what extent is it a positive thing to raise children to be religious (whatever that religion may be)? Where is the line between being religious and being fanatical? Can children truly believe in or understand what is means to be religious? Should they have a choice at that age?

I know that this film only follows a few children attending one camp. Obviously, there are thousands and thousands of Christians in the United States that are totally noncreepy and wonderful people. BUT, I can't help but have a little fear and distrust of the church (interestingly, my fear of christians is somewhat related to my fear of the suburbs and the country. I don't think it is a coincidence that jesus camp is located in South Dakota). While sometimes my fears of creepy christians seem totally illogical and crazy, if there truly are people out there such as those highlighted in Jesus Camp I feel completely justified in my concerns.

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