Jesus Camp: Belief or Brainwash

         Jesus Camp, a documentary directed by Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing and released in 2006, is an in-depth look at the evangelical movement and their persistent focus on the youth of America. The film was nominated for an Oscar in 2007 for best documentary. The feeling from watching the film raises the question: is the evangelical push to “save” the youth and thus the future of America a push to educate and allow the children to find their way to a savior, or just a brain-washing of children young and susceptible enough to believe anything that they are told.

         Becky Fisher, along with her summer camp, “Kids on Fire School of Ministry,” is the focus of the film, yet the documentary follows three children, Levi, Rachael and Troy, in order to show the lives and habits of the youth that attend the camp. In the opening scene a congregation of children is seen attending church, yet instead of joy, smiles and reverence to the beauty of God and the world, the children are seen bawling and crying over the sorrows of the world. Many of them begin speaking in tongues. The thought that crosses many viewers’ minds is as follows: “How do children so young truly know of the sorrows and atrocities of the world at the age of 9-13?”

         Becky says she is creating a “Army of God,” a tactic she says is also being used by the “enemy,” aka Muslims, and her ministry is the forefront for these future fighters of Christendom. Even Levi, a child with a rattail haircut that has aspirations to become a preacher, says, “We are being trained to be God’s army…We are being trained to be warriors, just in a much funnier way.”

         The documentary also shows the day-to-day activities of the children. The children followed are all home-schooled, and the film tells of how seventy-five percent of all home-schooled children are evangelicals. Their studies include praying for President Bush, saying that he was anointed by God, teaching that global warming is a lie, and proclaiming that the U.S. is based on Christianity. They even have their own version of the Pledge of Allegiance. It goes, “I pledge allegiance, to the Christian flag, to whose savior and kingdom it stands, one brotherhood uniting all Christians in unity and in love. I pledge allegiance to the Bible, God’s only word, I will make it a lamp unto my feet and a light onto my path. I will hold it in my heart so I will not sin against God.”

         There is nothing wrong with faith, yet faith only comes from understanding, not memorization, and that unfortunately is exactly what these camps are preaching to the children; not to think, to just believe what they are told. The children attempt to pass the word of God on, respectable of any religion; yet, when they are ignored, the children comment: "They must be Muslims," and "We're kids; what could we be selling?"

         The hypocrisy culminates with an appearance by Ted Haggard, the former pastor of the New Life Church, a man who two months after the release of the film was caught in a drug-homosexual scandal and was forced to resign. In the end Jesus Camp is a terrifying exhibit of what the forces of faith can do--not preach true love or understanding, allowing the children to make the choices they might truly believe in, but instead force them into the belief that the world is corrupted to the point that they, at the age of ten, must weep with sorrow on the horrors that they have not seen and could not understand.

Taylor Sutton

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