Jesus Camp

Two nights ago we saw Jesus Camp (imdb | rotten tomatoes) at the Bloor cinema, part of Doc Soup. Though it’s been out in the US for a while, these were (I believe) the first screenings in Canada. It was a look at how a few factions of the evangelical movement in America are indoctrinating (I honestly can’t think of a more accurate — or less loaded — word there) their children. The sight of kids & their parents speaking in tongues, convulsing with the holy spirit and praising president Bush had predictable results, given the crowd & locale, but the filmmakers did a remarkable job of staying balanced. Personally, I swung from mild amusement (natural, any time you point a camera at someone, especially kids) to laughing incredulously, to completely disgusted. The scene where the minister condemns Harry Potter, saying that warlocks would have been executed in the old testament, was absurd. The scene where the home-schooled kids (75% of home-schooled kids are evangelicals) are taught that God is the only answer that makes sense was mind-boggling. The scene where the children are given a tiny fetus figuring and made to chant, “Righteous judges! Righteous judges!” was disturbing. The scene where Ted Haggard calls a little boy “cute” was just creepy.

However, as one of the filmmakers pointed out afterward, these people have the right to teach their children whatever they like. There are reportedly tens of million evangelicals in the US, so this is hardly a fringe movement, as bizarre as it seems. The kids are doing what they feel is righteous, and the minister featured in the film is doing what she feels will help the children she works with. However far away their views may be from my own, I can’t begrudge them following a cause they believe in. What did bother me was the feeling I couldn’t shake that these kids were being a) exploited and b) deceived. The minister herself admitted that she went after the kids precisely because they’re so impressionable and easily led. And while, as I said before, parents have the legal right to deceive their children, I think it’s their moral responsibility to ensure they’re not doing so. By letting their kids be co-opted for a political cause (regardless of whether you consider evangelicals aligned with the Republican party) I felt they’d betrayed their kids.

My mother is a dedicated member of her church, even acting as a member of the presbytery in her province. She’s as committed to doing good through the church as anyone I’ve met (who isn’t ordained). And yet, I truly believe that if my mother were to watch this film she would weep.

[tags]jesus camp[/tags]

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