Jesus Camp

Jesus Camp demonstrates a lot of truth about the religious vs. anti-religious debate. Since this documentary depicts the lifestyle of religious people, it gives a glimpse into the dangers of buying into religion. Jesus Camp also demonstrates some of the myths that religious nay-sayers buy into without realizing it.

Like most people in the world, Jesus Camp's producers would like to think they're the only objective thinkers in the world. But this is impossible. Here's a shocking truth: No regular human being has ever been able to think with flawless objectivity. Yes that includes you, whether or not you call yourself "religious." It is healthy as well as realistic to acknowledge this. Here, I'll go on record acknowledging this myself: "I, Patrick Roberts, am not objective. Everything I think, say and write is affected by my worldview." There... now can you say this?

Jesus Camp makes two very subjective statements:

1.) Christian parents in America are evil because they train their children to think like they do.

2.) Americans will be free and prosperous to the extent that the U.S. government is unaffected by overtly Christian values.

Keep in mind that there is a good way to be unreasonably subjective. For example, only unreasonable subjective people would sacrifice themselves for the good of others. Also, it takes an unreasonable person to speak out against wrongdoing or to resist the average mob-mentality. The highest quality people in mankind's history have been those who have held onto a few, basic principles that people nowadays would consider "subjective."

Some of the review-snippets from the front of my Jesus Camp DVD are: "Riveting" (the Washington Post), "Provocative" (Chicago Tribune), "Eye-opening" (USA Today) and "Startling" (New York Times). Without looking at the rest of whatever these well-to-do publications wrote about Jesus Camp, my first impression is that these people must be really gullible. It doesn't take a genius to recognize that Jesus Camp only includes material that complements a mainstream interpretation of Christian-Pentecostal subculture (back to that that objective vs. subjective issue).

It is hard for me to take Jesus Camp seriously is because the kids in that movie don't seem that bad. They all appear to be well-spoken, well-behaved and they seem to think a lot more than the average young person. For example, their parents teach them why creationism makes sense and why abortion is bad. As far as I can tell, they have a lot more going for them than the average over-privileged-video-gaming-consumer zombie or underprivileged-gun-toting gangster.

These children, who were so unfortunately born into Christian families, seem to enjoy a high quality of life back at home... I couldn't help wondering, "So what's the problem?" These parents are amazingly dedicated to raising their kids the best way they know how... so what are the makers of Jesus Camp complaining about?

The movie would like to make the statement that Christian parents are brainwashing their children into thinking that abortion is bad, the ozone layer isn't such a big deal and that the Republican party is synonymous with Christianity. I didn't hear anyone in the movie mention the Republican party, but I guess any of these things might come up over dinner, right?

The makers of Jesus Camp seemed to think it scandalous that the values of these parents are rubbing off on their children. My reaction to this observation is: Duh! This will happen regardless of whether parents are religious or anti-religious. Thus, it is vital that parents check themselves and make sure their quality of life is something they want to pass on to their children.

It's no accident, for example, that the offspring of divorced parents are more likely to sleep around whenever they feel like it and carry around a skewed self-image. Then again, parents who stick together will bless their children with a healthier self-image.

This is why I was impressed with the parents in Jesus Camp... they are making a deliberate effort to raise their kids. The world would be a better place if more parents acknowledged the fact that who they are will rub off on who their children grow up to be.


According to Jesus Camp, buying into manmade religion is also dangerous. While this is old news, false religion continues to proliferate because it is more subtle than most people realize. For example, there are many who religiously avoid religion.

Religious-think is dangerous because it depends on men, who are undependable. The most dangerous aspect of manmade religion is: It tricks people into thinking they've taken care of business with God while, in reality, the opposite is true.


I mentioned that there has never been a regular human being who could think objectively. However, if there was a Man who was not entirely regular, who lived without sin, for example, and could therefore think and speak apart from all that hinders an average person's judgement, such a Man would only have to speak His mind to express absolute, objective truth. If there was such a Man, we should listen to Him as He would be the greatest Source of authoritative, dependable Guidance we could ever ask for.


JosiahBatten said...

I definately understand what you're saying. But I must say, as a Pentecostal, there was stuff in "Jesus Camp" that made me uncomfortable.

For example, Becky Fischer says she can go into a park and get kids to accept Christ and have them speaking in tongues and seeing visions within 15 minutes. Now don't get me wrong, I certainly think that's possible, but it just seemed that she had a "God's able to do that because I'm Becky Fischer" mentality. Maybe I mis-understood and am completely off regarding that, but that, among other things, did concern me.

Now in their defense I was home schooled until high school, and I graduated h/s with highest honors, so it must not have stunted my intellectual growth. The idea that home schoolers are restricted from free thought it absurd.

Actionman said...

Jesus Camp was a black comedy. No?

Burt Likko said...

I've not seen the movie and I'm unlikely to see it, for two reasons. First, I suspect that the filmmakers have not chosen a good representative sample to make their movie; they will have picked an extreme, atypical group of people who do things out of the mainstream and that the bulk of Christians would themselves find unusual or maybe even disapprove of. If I'm going to take the time to learn how Chrisitans pass their religion on to their children, I'd much rather get a realistic view of the subject. Second, as an atheist, the idea of watching people pray and speak in tongues and talk about God for two hours just doesn't sound all that interesting. You'd probably be pretty unenthused about the idea of watching Buddhists meditate, talk about meditating, and exchanging koans; that's how I feel about the idea of watching kids pray at a camp.

Anonymous said...

Didn't you find it a little odd that those kids believed they were speaking in tongues when in actually fact they were speaking gibberish? I don't think that is a good thing to be encouraging kids to speak gibberish. If these kids were speaking in true tongues everybody no matter what their native tongue was would understand what they are saying. It wouldn't sound like gibberish. That is how the gospel was supposedly spread in ancient times to a diverse crowd of people who spoke many languages. Look it up in the New Testament. I believe Acts 2 illustrates it nicely. :-)

Kiddo said...

Thanks for stopping by my post on this film, I find yours rather interesting. As for your questions regarding taking this film with more than a grain of salt, I find that "Jesus Camp" does rather accurately show one side of a particular movement. Christianity doesn't only encompass those of us who are Christians yet who have little interest in the complete withdrawal from anything secular, especially when it comes to raising our children.

When I posted briefly on this film it was actually in response to a very large family that has now thankfully moved back to the country after being quite disruptive to my family and my children. These kids, save one who believed his parents' church to be a cult, are very much like the children in this film and they also all really love this film. They consider it a great portrayal of kids like them with views like theirs fighting against the "secular" America that they so desperately hate. Or even the Catholics in America, the Episcopalians, etc.

I certainly think that the documentary makers, as do most in that field, had an agenda. The odd thing to me is the positive reception of this film with the more 'separatist' evangelical Christians in this country. I find this movement very troubling, largely due to the increasingly outspoken nature of those who align themselves with it and their refusal to see non-Protestant branches of Christianity as legitimate (I do hear this now ALL the time). I don't see the kids in this film as being raised to even function in a world outside of this "Becky Wright World", but I doubt that the counterpoint to these kids is solely the opposite end of the spectrum, the kids of divorced parents whose moral values are dictated by obsessive consumerism and the video games you mention.

There are plenty of Christian families in America that bare no resemblance whatsoever to the extreme shown in "Jesus Camp" or to the more hedonistic families you decry. But just as these Campers think that an existence such as mine is quite unacceptable or even a horrible way of life, I have my own very subjective opinions of them as well. I would just rather that someone call these extremists what they deserve for once, "Pharisee Camp".

Nate said...

I don't feel like either of the two claims you believe are inherent to the movie are really fair to ascribe to the filmmakers. Jesus Camp did a pretty good job of being a simple, straightforward depiction of its subject. To claim that they believe their view of the universe is the only objective one seems to me, again, to be an unjustified reading of the film.

That said, I think it's fair to say that they're aware of the discomfort of many moments, and do seem to highlight specific tensions with their use of the "less conservative" radio host.

The thing I thought the film did well was highlight the question of whether the kind of emotional group worship depicted in Jesus Camp constituted something different than teaching your kids what you believe. The kids interviewed all seemed to have a kind of unnatural adultness to them, as if the main thing they were being taught was to parrot adult speeches and ideas, and no one was particularly uncomfortable that the kids might not have true individual accounts or individual reasons to back them up.

I know from experience that many kids raised this way do not appreciate the "favor" when they grow up.

Barb said...

I know some wonderful Pentecostal people --and your compliments toward them as parents and as serious minded kids is accurate. Better to be pentecostal than pagan, in my book.

But I don't like it when they suggest methods of speaking in tongues, encouraging gibberish --for that surely isn't of the Holy Spirit. As Sapphire says, in the N.T. the languages were REAL world languages. We get the idea from the Bible that they might not HAVE to be languages known on earth, however, when Paul speaks of "though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels."

Paul also said to make love our chief aim --and to seek it as the greatest of the gifts. And that's the definition of "the holiness church." Weslyans, Free methodists, nazarenes, Missionary Church, Alliance, --I think these are holiness churches --which teach that there is an experience of being filled with the Spirit --that goes beyond mere assent to believe and be saved --a baptism of the Spirit which is not manifest by tongues or flames above the head --but by a cleansing power that gives one the capacity for "perfect love."

However, some denominations are more prone to immorality in their leadership than others. Like the Catholics. I wonder what that says. Give me a good old "holiness" church anyday --I have known so many godly men and women coming up through holiness and evangelical church circles --

One of our best Baptist churches in town has had a series of ministers who have known how to command a crowd --and fell to adultery or embezzlement.

The Pentecostal preachers --well, I wish Swaggart were an exception and I'm not sure he is! One of our local assemblies churches has had a series of preachers with moral problems in the sex dep't.

ON the other hand, some of the Assemblies of God (a pentecostal denomination) have had a reputation for holiness lifestyles and great growth internationally --keeping ministers on average over 20 years at their churches --to last that long, a minister is hopefully a godly man.

I favor churches with denominational affiliation that enforces standards and helps to discipline unruly clergy --removing them. Whereas, we know one local pentecostal church in our town --a mega church--whose minister has been in and out of the news for indecency, drunk driving, etc. He is independent of any governing church authority having started this church himself --so rather than him leaving, the people have to leave when he fails them. Oddly, most stay. Believing that anyone can sin and be forgiven.

But the Bible does warn against wolves in sheep's clothing and ministers are called to a high standard --they should be exemplary in their moral integrity --and loving to all in a proper way --not judgmental --building up the congregation instead of pitting them against one another in strivings for leadership. A church where all the people respect each other despite their flaws --that's my kind of church. It's terrible to be in a church where people are self-consciously "spiritual" and in competition to be "most spiritual." thus judging one another and bearing such awful airs of pompous piety.

Been there; seen that. My church today doesn't have any of that. They are all real people --and friendly and compassionate people.

Anonymous said...

As a Christian, some things in the movie were offensive, such as a girl saying "There are things such as dead churches. That's where people sing one or two hymns then listen to a sermon. God only likes churches that jump up and down and shout." I was sitting there thinking "One or two hymns and a sermon. Wait, thats my church!" I personally believe that God has no preference, and that every kind of Christian goes to Heaven. Also, they should have done more types of Christianity. Most Christians that I know of, don't speak in tonges,or do many of the things these kids do. I don't think this movie got the message across. My friend, who doesn't know what she believes and neither does her family, were laughing at these people. I felt a little awkward saying "I think what they're doing is great." But they seem like good kids on fire with Jesus Christ and their parents should be proud.

suzi9mm said...

thanks for visiting my blog re: the same subject :)

no one thinks objectively, not a problem for me to accept. its the truth.

and surely this documentary might show one side of an issue more strongly than others.

but it sounded like you were suggesting that christian kids are better off than non-christians? maybe not that strictly, hopefully? more important than to tell 'why abortion is bad', is to teach kids to think with their own brains and make their own decisions, give options. with some basic rules of behaving well of course, you know.

but to just give a book and a set of rules, no matter how well they're explained... i mean u can explain anything, anything can make sense...if you're a muslim, im sure its easy to explain your kids why pork is so bad.

ive seen christian kids who are fucked up mentally for a variety of reasons, that also exist in any other family. we're all just humans. and whether christans or not we can be taught to think and consider others, and we can (like me) do just fine in school.

anyhow i think the jesus camp only shows one part of christianity, a pretty extreme one. there are all kinds of movements out there.

when religion (whichever) becomes a problem in the sense that you cannot except other people and their values or religions, or cannot cope with the world, look down on others...i dont think its any better than those without the religion, doing the same things. there are good people and less good ones among us, both within christian and non-christians, and of course among all other religions too.

i still do think jesus camp was a bit extreme...

Anonymous said...

Good stuff, Pat. I thought your comments were well thought-out. I'd make a couple suggestions, though. Firstly, make sure you're running a spellcheck and double-checking your posts in general. There's a few typos here that will slip through a spellcheck because they're real words.

Also, I agree God is the only being that can objectively relate information, but for a different reason. It seems like the only way anyone could offer an objective perspective would be from a standpoint of omniscience. Without this quality, someone can only speak from the information they do have. Otherwise, I chock the idea of objectivism up to the modernist mindset that exalts self in rational thought. One's self is idolized as god because only one's self can accurately and definitely process information in the universe. Of course, only God can speak with that sort of authority. :)

Pat R said...

good one, Dave... what you say is obvious... how did i miss it?

Kiddo said...

"Jesus Camp" is being played right now on The Biography Channel on cable. About 30 minutes remain, commercials included (currently, they're advertising "The Ped Egg"...that thing cracks me up).

I did just see the scene with the sort of hoarse man talking to the kids about abortion, and I was struck by his comment to the boy named Levi that God formed him, had a plan for him, and that he "wasn't just a bunch of protoplasm--whatever that is".

Then of course there is the whipping up of the kids after being shown various models of babies in the womb, culminating in the chanting to end abortion.

I'm rather passionately anti-abortion personally, though it has nothing to do with my conversion to Christianity. But I've had to try and be more delicate when discussing this with my own kids. At certain ages, it seems a bit wrong to traumatize them while one can still teach them the truth without doing so.

But children and adults alike should know the facts and not just treat medical and scientific terms with a "whatever that is" sort of comment. That sort of comment just screams "ignorant rube" to me and most well educated people. Such speeches are a major disservice to teaching people intelligently about the horrors of abortion, if I may offer that critique of the scene I just viewed.

Now, of course, I'm onto a scene in which a man is waxing very political, praying for George W. Bush to be elected. How is the tax-exempt status maintained with these sort of political issues brought up from the pulpit (my church included)? I've recently heard outrage over the political tone of Rev. Jeremiah Wright's sermons from my evangelical neighbors and their outrage as well at the tax-exempt status of his church. How can this be questioned when our own churches, for the most part, also counsel us in ways that direct our votes? Just an honest question. As our politics become more influenced by religions of all kinds in this country, this will become an increasingly touchy issue.

Any thoughts on this scene with the "we don't have to think, The Bible tells us" preacher? I personally do not believe in the doctrine of sola Scriptura, but am always interested in what others think on the issue.

One last thought, do you consider it bias on the part of the filmmakers to follow in particular kids like Levi, who are honestly viewed by most more affluent, college educated viewers as an obviously working class (and to snobbier viewers, a "hick") kid and someone whose family many just cannot relate to whatsoever?

Just some musings as I watch to further the debate:)

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this is not a joke said...

First, interesting blog you've got going here.

Second, I know it doesn't fit with the theme of your blog, but it would with mine, so I offer this. The thing I found most interesting about this movie was how it spoke to mobilization. The movie showed how a group of people, a religious block, had banded together around changing issues in the political discussion today. Because there was a large group of people who agreed they were better able to mobilize politically to affect change they wanted. In elections it is common to see conservatives have the same point of view which they can more effectively lobby for than liberals who seem to want change with little concrete agreement on what they want that change to look like.

It was interesting to look at this movie from that standpoint.