I sat, frozen stiff in fear, the low tone reverberating in my skull, the image of the young girl praying in front of me. I was afraid, and as I sat there paralyzed by the horror, I slowly realized the one truth that had escaped me: maybe I should press the play button as the menu onscreen was prompting me to do.
I knew I was in for a ride just by looking into the glazed eyes of a brainwashed young girl enraptured by whatever thought of God she was experiencing. But nothing could prepare me for the scene from which this still is taken.
Jesus Camp is simply the first horror documentary ever produced. It sent more chills down my spine than watching Regan mutilating her genitalia with a crucifix in The Exorcist. Never have I seen anything more revolting than what goes on in this movie. This is the neo-conservative/evangelical version of the Hitler-Jugend (Hitler Youth), but worse because they begin brainwashing these children when they are at a stage when most children can be made to believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.
And the film comes out swinging. It begins with Levi, a home-schooled boy watching a cartoon explaining that the world was created 6000 years ago where humans and dinosaurs lived together. We learn that 75% of home-schooled children are evangelicals whose parents have become disenchanted with the separation of church and state and truly believe in creationism and that the Bible is the only true answer to any question about the world. You see, Levi was saved at the age of five. What does a five-year-old need to be saved from anyway? For touching his peepee?
We also meet Rachel, and we learn from deleted scenes on the DVD that she believes she has the gifts of prophecy and speaking in tongues, and can speak directly to God. She also believes that God has preferences for certain churches. Roman Catholic churches are way too boring for God. He likes the ones where the folks are dancing and screaming His name.
Another young girl, ten years old, practices her dancing to Christian heavy metal. She talks about the Britneys and how sinful they are because all they sing about are boys and sex. She goes on to say that she must dance for God and not for the flesh and that sometimes she does dance for the flesh and she must repent and that she also is a sinner; such a little tramp — I jest. Ten years old and she's already consumed by Christian guilt over flesh. I wonder what will happen when she gets all hot and bothered over a boy when she gets a little older. The therapy bills are going to be through the roof.
We didn't even get to the camp part yet. This is where things start to get weird. The camp, called Kids on Fire, at Devil's Lake – kids, fire, devil — coincidence? – is basically a brainwashing camp for young kids that begins by scaring the crap out of them by telling them that the devil is always after young kids because they are easy to sway. Yeah, that will get their attention. At their age, they'll believe you if you tell them there's a monster under their bed, even if they see none as they look under it.
What's really grotesque is the camp counselors all seem to believe in this entire BS. Before the kids get there, they bless the hall, the seats, the stage, they even ask that the devil not meddle with the PowerPoint presentations — which tell that sins are punished with death complete with a blood dripping font.
They also bring out some Sunday school teacher or speaker to tell them about the evil of abortion. These kids are 6 to 9 years old, they don't even know about sex (because sex education is evil because it will teach them to want to have sex) but they know about abortion and that's evil also. And they are being trained to oppose abortion before even understanding what it is. A cardboard cut-out of George W. Bush is brought out so that they can pray to him — like he's some saint — to have him select conservative judges so that Roe v. Wade can be overturned and render abortion illegal. During all this chanting of "righteous judges, righteous judges" the girl, from the menu, raises her hands, with streams of tears flowing from her eyes — the most dramatic and gripping scene of the entire movie and most likely the most worrisome. At this point, I'm in total shock.
These kids are being indoctrinated for a culture that doesn’t exist. When they come of age, they won't fit anywhere and they will self-destruct. When nature kicks in, where will they turn? Because we all know how well Ted Haggard turned out, don't we? These poor children are being programmed for a war they think is coming. An "end of days" war. They are taught that they are the generation that will bring about this end of days and save the righteous. These sorry kids are going to crash when they will have to meet real world responsibilities after being raised as warriors in God's army for a war that never comes.
A disturbing film indeed. I couldn't take my eyes away from it. It's beautifully crafted, produced, and executed. It doesn’t concentrate solely on the children and the camp. It also sidetracks to a radio host for Air America who is undoubtedly a Christian but one who opposes the evangelicals as being off-message and a danger to American society. Having kids in camouflage make-up with weapons chanting songs about being God's army, well that's definitely being off-message, I should say. Why not let them have AK-47s while we're at it?
The film reinforces the now almost stereotypical image outsiders have of America, which is one of extremism and contrasts. One should fear expressing one's opinions in America for fear of reprisal from whichever group would begrudge said opinion even though America claims to be the land of the free, home of the brave. After watching Jesus Camp and other such documentaries, you come to believe that the U.S. is a Christian fundamentalist country in the same sense that Afghanistan is a Muslim fundamentalist country; only the theocracy hasn't been established yet — though not that far off. But it seems it's only a matter of time.
I think Jesus Camp serves as a dire warning to the rest of America, and the world also, that it is wake up time. These extremists have had enough time and that maybe now would be the right time to pull the plug on them before things start getting really creepy. Just like Ted Haggard says in the film: "If the evangelicals vote, they determine the election." Well maybe the non-evangelicals need to rock the vote.
If this movie doesn't scare the crap out of you, you are one of them. A disturbingly perfect 5 out of 5.