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Setting up tent in 'Jesus Camp'

House Blender Joel, a Texas native currently living in Brooklyn (shout out to my peeps there!), went to see the documentary Jesus Camp (by by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady) while at the Tribeca film festival.

The film sounds awesome. From Nancy Schafer’s description on the film festival site:


In Jesus Camp, Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, directors of the acclaimed film The Boys of Baraka, introduce us to children who are growing up as evangelical Christians. Twelve-year-old Levi, who was “saved” when he was five, is a shy boy except when he is filled with the Holy Spirit. Nine-year-old Rachael is outspoken in her love for the Lord. They are home-schooled by their Christian parents and interact with their peers at church and church events.

In the summer they travel to Becky Fischer’s “Kids on Fire” summer camp in Devil’s Lake, North Dakota, to intensify their devotion to the Lord. Fischer is a children’s pastor, who specializes in tapping into the hearts and minds of kids on their level. She recognizes that this generation accesses information through video, images, and music.

Intercut with scenes of the kids is the radio commentary of Mike Papantonio, a Christian who believes that the Evangelical movement has strayed from the original teachings of love that Jesus died for. He worries that the movement’s position on the environment, creationism, and other fundamental tenets are short-sighted and will hurt the conservative movement in the end.

Joel says it’s a must-see look into extreme wingnuttery. It really sounds like a cult to me — yes, it’s Karl Rove and Ken Mehlman’s Base of the GOP. Joel passes on his thoughts about it below.

My partner and I, along with an old friend, went to see the premier of Jesus Camp last night. It was a part of the fab Tribeca Film festival.

Seeing as all three of us are from Texas, and each of us having been to such a camp in our youth, we could really relate. As an adult, I squirmed in horrid recollection more than once. It is a good movie, more telling especially to those who are completely unaware of the indoctrination (yes, that IS the word, even one of the lead characters admits as much at the end) in which these adults engage. Fear, hatred, and guilt dripped from the screen. The scary part was the fact that these were real people, real children, who participated.

All through it, the lead nutcase running this camp, Pastor Becky, prayed over everything from the PowerPoint software to the electrical panels to the church pews. I found myself wondering, ‘How did the producers of this film ever get access and free reign to film this inside gaggle of god freaks?’ Well, near the end of it, Pastor Becky explains that she just knows this film will scare the liberals out there, once they see how strong and smart the evangelicals are. Huh? No, pastor, what we liberals saw was a freak show and a group of crazies preying on the most innocent and good citizens we have. What we saw was abusive and denial of scientific education. What we saw was the same, tired fearful adults hell bent on instilling their same rabid fear, same denial of youth, and a preaching of superiority over their neighbors.

And they speak of gays preying and indoctrinating the young!

Upon leaving, I told my companions, “Well, one good thing I see of it. When those poor, tortured kids grow up, get out and get a lawyer and sue, at least they’ll have video evidence against these crazy people who screwed up their lives.”

I suggest everyone go see it.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding