Wednesday, October 04, 2006

BBC discussion of "Jesus Camp"

you've been telling us about a new documentary called Jesus Camp. It's only been shown at a film festival or two, but already it's one of America's biggest talking points.

Now onto Church Camp, the controversial documentary making waves in America.

Cliff Vaughn from Nashville, Tennessee, gave us a run down of the film. A couple of vox-pops taken from YouTube:

"Looks to me like Hitler is alive and well in this country.....scares me to know there are people out there doing things like this "

Linda isn't a fan of the film:

"Children that young need unconditional love, not be made to feel that if they don't get on board the Jesus express, they will be condemned."

AJ thinks there's a contradiction that should be addressed:

"It strikes me as more than ironic that, at a time when our current president shrilly rails against "Islamo-Fascism," we have a film released about precisely the same sort of phenomenon on the rise here in the U.S"

Aaron Scott, hosts a radio programme in West Virginia:

"God is love, but you can't force someone to embrace religion."

Tarro in the United States is also sceptical:

"Just what the War on Terror needs, a group of nut-case Christian extremists with the collective I.Q. of a cucumber attempting to revive the Crusades"

Edwin runs an Atheist camp for children. Cliff questioned the need for such a camp and asked why he was teaching children that bible stories were "scary".

Rick texted us to say:

"If they're worshipping George Bush, that is the biggest sin a Christian can do"

And Sam in Ohio asks:

"Praying to a false icon? Hardly sounds Christian to me."

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The airtime on this report was shared with a debate about Saddam's trial, so since those comments are not related to the topic they have been removed:

3. At 06:55 PM on 29 Sep 2006, marc wrote:
I must take issue with the confusion evidenced between 'charismatic' and 'Pentecostal'. They are different realities in religious life that ought to be distinguished consequently.

Not having seen the film, I don't know what the George Bush cut-out business refers to. The Pentecostals I know are convinced that GWB is 'on God's side' but the idea that they would 'worship' an image of him is nonsense.

Pentecostals think that salvation evinces itself in the emotions as well as in the intellectual assent to faith, with the former emphasized, perhaps. They shout out the praises of the Lord during services, jump and run, dance in a ritualized sort of way. Far from Roman orthodoxy, of course, but involving the 'manipulation' of children in such a way that this can be characterised as 'abuse'? But I haven't seen the movie, and to extrapolate universally from my personal experiences isn't very reasonable, is it.

4. At 06:55 PM on 29 Sep 2006, Fred Edwords wrote:
Thank you for taking up this important topic of "Jesus Camp."

Having seen news reports and trailers for the film Jesus Camp, and being an American who's had to grow used to this sort of thing, I get the general idea without actually having seen the film.

Now, no doubt, many will view with repugnance the strong evangelizing of children revealed in this film. I know I do. But feelings of repugnance can't completely guide us here. If no existing child abuse laws or other statutes are being broken, then the concepts of religious freedom, freedom of assembly, and freedom of speech must hold sway. After all, human rights mean nothing if they only grant people the right to do things we support or agree with.

So, while I think bringing children up to think for themselves is a far healthier child-rearing choice than radicalizing and organizing them into militant religious cadres, I'm just going to have to convince those who don't agree with me to voluntarily change their minds. I know I raised my own children to think for themselves. And I sent them to a free thinking summer camp called Camp Quest, where they were encouraged to question authority. They are adults now and I must say I'm pleased with the results.

Fred Edwords
Director of Communications
American Humanist Association

5. At 07:02 PM on 29 Sep 2006, Alex wrote:
It is ironic that someone who deplores 'Harry Potter' would have children worship false god, as part of indoctrination attempts.

6. At 07:22 PM on 29 Sep 2006, Michelle from Lincoln, Nebraska wrote:
I have not seen the Jesus Camp documentary, but from my own experiences with members of my family - as well as having lived in a very conservative and very Christian city in eastern Tennessee for the past three years - I can see that the extremist Christian movement in America is growing. I have seen members of my own family become ever more judgemental and condemning of the lives of those around them, cutting off contact with those who do not fit in their rather narrow definition of moral purity. I have also witnessed, in the college classroom as well as in the workplace, a sort of "bullying" of ideas, wherein what I would call extremist Christians have again and again - loudly, aggresively and often offensively - asserted that their way of viewing the world is the only correct way. It seems to me that within the last several years, particularly since the reign of George W. Bush began, it has become more and more acceptable for extremist Christians to forcefully proclaim their way of viewing the world as the only correct way. To believe that one particular way of viewing the world is the only correct way and that all who disagree with this view are your enemies is the very definition of extremism. Extremist Christianity has insinuated its way into far too many American institutions and it would be a disgrace to the very ideas upon which this nation was founded to allow these extremists to further destroy our freedom. The international reputation of America has been greatly damaged because members of the current administration, namely George W. Bush, have used this extremist form of Christianity as the basis for all their decisions regarding foreign policy and national security. Thus has our integrity as a nation been jeopardized and our civil liberties violated. America is on the wrong path. Extremism is not the way to defeat terrorism. If we allow ourselves to become extremists, we lose the very essence of what it means to be American.

Andrew LaFollette from Silver Spring, MD Writes:

I saw this film at the Silverdocs festival, expecting it to be little more than an oddball slice of Americana, but I was pleasantly surprised.

"Jesus Camp" revolves around a pentecostal minister who hosts a summer camp for children in North Dakota, and the sectarian Christian conservative families who send their children to this camp. Directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady wisely chose to avoid the polemical tone of most politically-motivated films, and instead opt to present a mostly unfiltered glimpse of this odd subculture. But through carefully selected images and the use of talk radio commentary as a framing device, they construct a subtle, yet damning narrative about a religious movement that isolates its children from mainstream culture, indoctrinates them into right-wing causes, and uses them as political props.

At Jesus Camp, the daily activities include standard camp fare such as spelunking and go-karts, but they also include speaking in tongues and smashing coffee mugs emblazoned with the word "government". Children learn that "science doesn't prove anything," and learn to consider themselves part of an Army of God. They are compelled to pledge that they will fight to end abortion. They are even pushed into publicly confessing their impure thoughts, and many of them cry and wail charismatically.

The camp director explains that she admires the way Islamic cultures raise children so devoted they will risk their lives for their faith. When we ultimately see several of the campers being placed by their parents on the steps of the Capitol with tape over their mouths, protesting abortion, the real purpose of this camp is driven home.

But the most touching scenes are the ones where the children are alone, and we see the ways that this indoctrination creeps into the most innocent elements of childhood. 11 year old Tori loves dancing to Christian rock, but frets that it's not always easy to dance for God instead of "dancing for the flesh." On an outing to the bowling alley, 9 year old Rachael feels compelled to walk up to strangers and awkwardly evangelize to them, without being prompted. A roomful of boys telling ghost stories after dark are interrupted by an adult who warns them about stories that don't glorify God.

No doubt some viewers will accuse the filmmakers of the dreaded liberal bias. But this is not a work of fiction, nor is it slanted reporting. These are real people and real events, captured on film. If the evangelical movement comes off badly in this film, the people on screen have no one but themselves to blame.

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