Jesus Camp

Directed by Heidi Ewing & Rachel Grady

Edited by Enat Sidi 

Cinematography by Mira Chang and Jenna Rosher

Original Music by Force Theory

***** (5 out of 5 stars)

I find it quite fitting to start this review off with my favourite quote from this film, which is something along the lines of this: "And while I'm on the subject, let me say something about Harry Potter.  Warlocks are enemies of God.. and had it been in the Old Testament, Harry Potter would have been put to death".  I literally couldn't even laugh, as much as it's one of the funniest things I've ever heard, because it was so shocking- can people really feel that way in the 21st century?  Apparently they can.  In one of the following scenes though my redemption comes as a few kids sit around a table eating lunch and one points out to the others that one of them looks like Harry Potter; they all laugh and one child says his mother won't let him watch Harry Potter movies (but he watches them anyways when he goes to dad's house- obviously dad is a dirty Democrat).  As the movie goes on, we see more and more what these impressionable young people are being taught: evolution is foolishness, global warming doesn't exist ("It only went up 6% last year"), Harry Potter and his young wench Hermione are depraved, heretical witchcraft users.  We watch as children scream in tongues directed by a youth Minister; they bawl and cry, writhing their hands, speaking in broken syllables through mouthfuls of tears, praising the "Almighty".  The insanity that is Jesus Camp makes for a very eye-opening experience from start to finish.

One thing about this documentary is that it presents an ambush of information about what's going on behind Evangelical doors.  I am not religious- I grew up and was raised a Catholic, but at the age of about 13 I was given the choice by my parents (who I'm proud to say were and are still very liberal people) to stop going, and I chose to stop.  I have beliefs, but I do not subscribe to organized religions/any of the major religions; I don't believe in a god.  The main thing that I found that intrigued me most as someone who is an atheist is there are three categories when it comes to "God": things he likes, doesn't like, and things he seems not to have made his mind up on.  According to this movie it seems that "God" does not like the following: Harry Potter and (presumably) Lord of the Rings, ghost stories, schools, dinosaurs, Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, gays/lesbians, science/scientists, real facts that stem from research.  However, God does like some things a lot it seems: war in his name, people that speak in tongues, children preaching the word of the "Lord", violence.  There are a few things that it also appears he is divided on: rock music, where he likes to go to church, education.  There are so many quotes from this documentary that I could probably take up most of the review with them.  At one point we have a man onstage talking about the perils of science, and he says (while smirking as if the joke is on us): "You're not just a piece of protoplasm- whatever that is!".  I almost felt bad watching the snide grin on his face as he chuckled silently over his 'joke' because unfortunately science is real- and the joke is on him.

We get excerpts from Ring of Fire, a radio show in Texas, that is run by a man named Mike Papantonio who is a Christian but believes the Evangelical, fundamentalist way of doing things is just wrong.  Numerous points he makes throughout the course of the movie as we watch and listen to him take calls are so valid that I felt like pumping my fist every time he would retort against a caller.  He presents the frighteningly real case that these Evangelists are basically trying to make an Army of "God", which Becky Fisher almost confirms in the film's early parts; his point is that nowhere does it show to him, and most devout Christians around the world, that Jesus' message was aimed towards what they're doing.  He tells one caller: "The word learn is different from the word indoctrinate".  This is a key point about the whole movie- these people are indoctrinating young children into this school of thinking.  It reminds me of the Amish- at 16, sometimes until the age of 21, Amish teenagers are sent into the 'real world' to party, make 'English' friends, explore relationships, drink, and this is so that they can decide whether they will follow the Amish religion for the rest of their lives or not.  At least the Amish, as far out as they may seem, give their own children the chance to choose at some point (just like my parents did for me).  Evangelists seemingly don't care for their children's right to choose, and would it matter?  It seems that all their big decisions are left up to "God" anyways.

This film is a 5 star rating because it presents information that I really did not know a whole lot about.  Everybody knows that Evangelicals are very strict in their religious teachings, but not everyone knows the true extent of what these children are being 'taught'.  I applaud the filmmakers for taking a, sometimes, brutal look at the way of life these children grow up in. In closing, the most interesting moment for me in this film happens right at the end during the beginning of the credits.  One little girl at the end asks a bunch of black guys (you'll understand why I particularly say black guys), "If you were to die right now where do you think you would go?", and an older man says, "Heaven" immediately.  She asks, "Really?", and then the next shot they're walking across the seat and she says, "I think they were Muslim".  It just goes to show that they might think we're being hard on them because they live the way they live, but by the evidence of this last scene- aren't they hard on everyone else?  Why should the touchy grounds of religion become a grounds for censoring feelings and thoughts?  I guess Republicans are taking over the world, that's why.

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