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Movie Review: Jesus Camp

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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.

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About David Desjardins

  • casey

    let he who is without sin cast the first stone

    love thy neighbor

  • Here’s the deal: I believe in a higher power. And I believe that higher power looking down on stuff like this, and THAT HIGHER POWER IS PISSED at us for screwing it up as badly as we have.

    I’ve seen Jesus Camp several times now, and find something that scares the shit out of me every time I see it. It’s that powerful.

  • Attention. This is Jesus speaking. I have three things to say:
    1) I want all dialog on this matter to stop
    2) I need to have worldwide peace. I will give you till April
    3) I need someone to send me a sandwhich with REAL Rye bread.
    4)And 4…Up here the number 3 is really 4) I need everyone to visit the true blog of Jesus (That Blue Yak) as noted here.

  • AlexaLaessig

    ok women, lets get out our fake beards and get to the stoning. Follow me!

  • I’ve been watching that documentary on CNN for 6 years now, and I still sing cooler than you.

  • To Cahokia

    If you replace Jesus with Mohamed and everything else in this doc with with Islam instead of Evangelical, you’d be crapping your pants and singing another song.

  • To Dave:

    I don’t think your ‘pull the plug’ theory goes far enough. What we need to do is put all these religious fanatics into camps and have them do light labor until we figure a ‘final solution’ for them. Hmmm… I’ve heard that term before, wonder where. And since they are such ignorant morons, we may as well put anyone below a 70 IQ there also. Uh, make that 80. Or! Maybe, just maybe, we can give people a break when they want to get a little weird about their religion or whatever, and not react like paranoid morons lest we do something pretty stupid ourselves.

  • Mark Saleski

    Leviticus 18:22 – “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.”

    i always thought that had to do with makin’ sure she doesn’t steal the covers & stuff.

  • duane

    jaz says: that would be Leviticus 18:22 – “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.”

    I’m covered. I often lie to women, but never to men.

  • jaz

    now JJ hits one of my own pet peeves…

    the Sabbath

    here we have an assertion from the OT that a DIRECT communication was made between Hashem and Moshe (god and Moses)..and Laws were given in the form of the Commandments tablets

    ever take a look at just how different the Jewish ones are from Catholics and those are different than Protestants?

    nowhere is this dichotomy more apparent than the Sabbath…the Church changed it from Saturday (Saturn’s day in Rome), to Sunday (yep, just what it says, was the day of Roman “sun worship” at the time of Constantine) by pure decree…not even pretending that”god said so”

    so, what justification is there for the changes to not only the Sabbath, but to the Commandments in general?

    simple Answer…politics, and power…nothing to do with theology or “what god said”

    the Tao of D’oh.

  • J.J. Hunsecker

    and those darned beard trimmers.

  • J.J. Hunsecker

    Forget homosexuality. Let’s start killing people who work on the Sabbath as God ordered.

  • jaz

    not going to go there, but in the link i provided for looking at, they do talk about the possibility that the translation has been garbled, and that it was talking about certain pagan rituals at the time…and the “abomination” had to do with those rituals..

    also to note, terming it “homosexuality” is fallacious…all translations of the literal clearly indicate it is only about anal sex between men…so girls, and those who “just do oral” are not included in the “abomination”…according to the OT

  • zingzing

    isn’t there hints of homosexual incest earlier in the bible? casual homosexual incest even?

  • jaz

    that would be Leviticus 18:22 – “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.”

    for a bit of a look at it, try this link for some reasonable discussion of the topic

    glad ya liked the link

    the Tao of D’oh.

  • zingzing

    what does it say about homosexuality? (that it doesn’t contradict later.)

    also, that clip was wonderful! so much fun. christians need to be beaten and made to eat their own skin. yes. mmm. tasty.

  • jaz

    well zing, to be fair, it does say stuff about a lot of things, including homosexuality, in the Old Testament

    which is where quite a bit of bullshit comes from that flows out of the mouths of false prophets who seek more McMansions and the like…

    Funny that when those types get confronted with the REST of Leviticus, and some of the very silly shit said therein, they shut up and fold like accordians

    Next time some Literalist starts with Leviticus based bullshit, ask them how much is a reasonable price to sell their daughter for, or if you need the entire village to stone your mother for wearing cloth woven from two different fabrics…what they think of going to hell for eating those shellfish…or more…

    try this clip for some real fun concerning this exact bullshit.

  • zingzing

    it doesn’t really say anything about homosexuality in the bible… but it does say something about loving your neighbor/enemy… i think the good rev here is in more danger of BURNING IN A LAKE OF HOT, HOT FIRE (OUCH) than any other people here. hypocrisy is a bad, bad thing. so sayeth the lawd.

  • Wow, you’ve really got that spirit of love thing working for you there, Rev Spitz, way to go.

  • Rev. Donald Spitz

    The brain washing is going on in the government schools. You are an example of that. You stand for everything that is against the LORD God and when your short pathic life is over, you will be cast into a lake of fire to pay for your sins of rejecting Jesus Christ and the Holy Bible. Look whose brainwashing who.
    Judge orders ‘gay’ agenda
    taught to Christian children
    Rules kids need teachings to be
    ‘engaged and productive citizens’
    By Bob Unruh

    A federal judge in Massachusetts has ordered the “gay” agenda taught to Christians who attend a public school in Massachusetts, finding that they need the teachings to be “engaged and productive citizens.”

    U.S. District Judge Mark L. Wolf yesterday dismissed a civil rights lawsuit brought by David Parker, ordering that it is reasonable, indeed there is an obligation, for public schools to teach young children to accept and endorse homosexuality.

    Wolf essentially adopted the reasoning in a brief submitted by a number of homosexual-advocacy groups, who said “the rights of religious freedom and parental control over the upbringing of children … would undermine teaching and learning…”

    David and Tonia Parker and Joseph and Robin Wirthlin, who have children of school age in Lexington, Mass., brought the lawsuit. They alleged district officials and staff at Estabrook Elementary School violated state law and civil rights by indoctrinating their children about a lifestyle they, as Christians, teach is immoral.

    “Wolf’s ruling is every parent’s nightmare. It goes to extraordinary lengths to legitimize and reinforce the ‘right’ (and even the duty) of schools to normalize homosexual behavior to even the youngest of children,” said a statement from the pro-family group Mass Resistance.

    It also is making available background information about the lengthy dispute.

    David Parker in handcuffs

    “In the ruling, Wolf makes the absurd claim that normalizing homosexuality to young children is ‘reasonably related to the goals of preparing students to become engaged and productive citizens in our democracy.’ According to Wolf, this means teaching ‘diversity’ which includes ‘differences in sexual orientation.’

    “In addition, Wolf makes the odious statement that the Parkers’ only options are (1) send their kids to a private school, (2) home-school their kids, or (3) elect a majority of people to the School Committee who agree with them. Can you imagine a federal judge in the Civil Rights era telling blacks the same thing – that if they can’t be served at a lunch counter they should just start their own restaurant, or elect a city council to pass laws that reflect the U.S. Constitution?” the organization said.

    Lawyers for the families said they already had planned an appeal of the judge’s opinion.

    But Wolf’s claims followed very closely the reasoning submitted earlier in a brief by Human Rights Campaign, the ACLU, Massachusetts Teachers Association, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders and other advocates for the “gay” agenda.

    Earlier, Mass Resistance President Brian Camenker had wondered why such national groups were “so interested in a parent’s right to decide what moral issues are taught to his children by adults in elementary schools, especially regarding homosexuality.”

    “They must see David Parker’s case as quite a threat to their ability to push their message on children,” he had said. His organization has posted information about the judge’s ruling on the Internet for readers to review.

    But the judge concluded that even allowing Christians to withdraw their children from classes or portions of classes where the religious beliefs were being violated wasn’t a reasonable expectation.

    “An exodus from class when issues of homosexuality or same-sex marriage are to be discussed could send the message that gays, lesbians, and the children of same-sex parents are inferior and, therefore, have a damaging effect on those students,” he opined.

    “Under the Constitution public schools are entitled to teach anything that is reasonably related to the goals of preparing students to become engaged and productive citizens in our democracy,” the judge wrote. “Diversity is a hallmark of our nation. It is increasingly evident that our diversity includes differences in sexual orientation.”

    And, he said, since history “includes instances of … official discrimination against gays and lesbians … it is reasonable for public educators to teach elementary school students … different sexual orientations.”

    If they disagree, “the Parkers and Wirthlins may send their children to a private school …[or] may also educate their children at home,” the judge said.

    Parker was arrested and jailed in Lexington in April 2005 over his request – and the school’s refusal – to notify him when adults discuss homosexuality or transgenderism with his 6-year-old kindergartner. That despite a state law requiring such notification.

    The incident made news around the nation and even Gov. Mitt Romney agreed with Parker.

    However, in April 2006 the same school presented the book “King and King,” about homosexual romances and marriage, to second-graders and again refused to provide notification.

    Parker and other parents followed with the federal civil rights lawsuit, alleging school officials were refusing to follow state law.

    Just days later, David Parker’s son, Jacob, was beaten up at Estabrook Elementary, officials said. MassResistance said a group of 8-10 kids surrounded him and took him out of sight of “patrolling aides,” then pummeled and beat him.

    “The state must fight ‘discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation’ in ways that ‘do not perpetuate stereotypes,'” the lawyers for the school district had argued at an earlier motions hearing. They also explained to the judge that, in their opinion, parents have no right to control what ideas the school presents to elementary schoolchildren.

    “David Parker’s dilemma … threatens the parental rights and religious freedom of every Massachusetts parent, and indirectly every parent in America,” said John Haskins of the Parents’ Rights Coalition.

    “As the Lexington schools themselves are arguing, the state’s right to force pro-homosexuality indoctrination on other people’s children arises directly from former Gov. Mitt Romney’s nakedly false and unconstitutional declaration that homosexual marriage is now legal.”

    Haskins said when the Massachusetts state Supreme Court demanded homosexual marriages in the state, it didn’t have the constitutional or legal authority to order the governor to act or to order the Legislature to make any changes, and the creation of same-sex marriages in Massachusetts actually was accomplished by executive order from Romney.

  • Yeah and this was more than indoctrination… it was sadistic brainwashing to ensure “unbendable soldiers” in their ideological fight against the evil left wing conspiracy to overthrow America.

    I think it was Goebbels who said something about, not convincing this generation, but rather getting them to convince the next…

  • RebelMacaque

    Children will do anything to belong. The more self-absorbed the adults in their lives are, the more likely they will fall into lockstep with this kind of stuff. And by “this kind of stuff” I mean any form of extremist ideology. Left or right is immaterial. Children are not Catholic or Republican or Marxists or Shiites, they’re just children. They’re not ready to BE something, they’re ready to try things on. They’re ready to try being an astronaut or a princess or firefighter or whatever captures their imagination.

    Indoctrinating children into “The Truth” is egotistical, abusive and inconsiderate no matter what the ideology.

  • John Snowden

    I was disappointed with the film. It seemed to me an over the top attempt to display every two penny cliche about the Christian right while not even understanding some basics of the church at large (such as the fact that a Pentecostal is not the same as an Evangelical).

    The scene at the camp had the preacher woman seriously discussing sin (in a theologically sound manner, IMHO) and cuts mid sentence to her saying “AND while I’m on the subject” then rails about Harry Potter and she’s wearing an entirely different shirt. After the Harry Potter rant, she’s back to her old shirt. The film is manipulative at best, and incredibly frustrating in its assumption that there is no Christian left, Christian center, or even mid-right.

    (Note: Ted Haggard made himself look bad, he didn’t need a film to do it…)

    Ultimately what I’m left with though is an uncredible eye upon everything I attempt to do as a youth pastor for fear of being accused of brainwashing and manipulating kids to sway them into a right wing voting block, when really all I want to do is share my faith which I believe to be good enough to want to share.

    In love and respect,

  • cyndi

    What a coincidence! I had just watched this movie yesterday and shared the same horror in seeing the disturbing indoctrination taking place. In a slightly amusing bit of irony, the Ted Haggard bit was one for the books, yes?

  • Phillip, JC was indeed a cool and most groovy dude and a great example to us all but some of the more hardcore fans are wack!

    *sings* Where is the love?

  • Nancy

    Ah yes, dear Pastor Spitz showing the world how Christian christianity is. Ever consider, Donnie ol’ boy, that it’s christians like you who give true Christianity a bad name? No, of course not. Well, that’s OK. Just don’t be surprised when you go leaping towards JC & he says ‘get away from me – I don’t know you!’.

  • Pilgrim

    Jesus please spare us from these self important idol worshippers, show them the Way and the Light and bring them Enlightenment rather than the rabid cult of personality evangelicals and their heretical ways.

    Deliver us from the puerile exploitations that demand earthly tithes from the poor so they can build another mansion by distorting your teachings.

  • Wow, Spitz, that’s the way to ensure that people believe David got the right idea!

    I give up. Christians do suck. I am a Christ-follower myself, but I may give up the label “Christian” to idiots like Rev Spitz and adopt something else.

  • Rev. Donald Spitz

    Re: Jesus Camp Christians have as much right to vote as you pro-sodomite, pro-abortion anti-Christian bigots like you.

    SAY THIS PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I am a sinner and am headed to eternal hell because of my sins. I believe you died on the cross to take away my sins and to take me to heaven. Jesus, I ask you now to come into my heart and take away my sins and give me eternal life.

  • I think you’re misinterpreting several things in the film, whether deliberately or out of honest ignorance, I don’t know. In any case, I don’t think it affects the overall creepiness, or your overall horror. 🙂