Monday, September 17, 2007

Jesus Camp

I finally watched this movie over the weekend. The beginning had a variety of things being said by conservative Christians, one of which mentioned something about how we were in a "culture war". The voice said something like, "we didn't start it, but we will end it." Then you see the radio DJ, Mike Papantonio, from the Ring of Fire radio program mentioning that he was also a Christian but he grew up hearing the Sermon on the Mount from the book of Matthew that spoke of the peacemakers. He does not see the entanglement of religion and politics as a good thing.

The movie talks of children being taught that global warming is wrong and doesn't exist. We can cut down all the trees we want, use the environment however we want to because this is not our permanent home anyways and the Earth belongs to the Lord. I do not hear humility in words like this. I see in Genesis God giving Adam and Eve very special jobs to name and care for the animals and the garden and his creation. I hear an arrogance in these other words.

There are some wonderful children in this film that I believe have a sincere love for God and have many different talents. They are special and sweet and captured me. A ten year old little girl named Tory, loves dancing and admits to sometimes dancing for the flesh and how she needs to rid herself of that, but that oftentimes she dances for the Lord. I see her at the camp later and she gets quite emotional. I see her as a wonderful, sweet, honest, loving girl who wants to please God and others. She has deep compassion as well. I worry that as the camp focuses on sin and guilt that she takes on the shame and guilt of the world. She is wise and I hope she hears the message of how loving and forgiving God is and how he accepts his children. Another boy seems extremely sad at the camp as he admits to how much he doubts God at times. He is an intelligent boy in my mind that doesn't blindly accept things without examination and I hope that someone teaches him how strong a faith can be even when there is doubt. He is surrounded with very charismatic people and I hope he learns that is not the only way to worship and be a Christian. The most dynamic duo are a brother and sister, Rachel and Levi, and I do adore them. They love the Lord in a charismatic, on-fire for Jesus kind of way and they are clearly entrenched in that life. It looks like they have been given clear answers though on everything there is a question for. Rachel talks about the difference between "dead churches" and "real churches". She seems to have opinions and beliefs for everything you could think of. She is about ten and has all the answers and I do not think she is even asking questions anymore.

Most of these children are home-schooled. A statistic was given that 75% of homeschoolers in America are Evangelical Christians. I have strong reservations about home-schooling children and one thing I see in a statistic like this is that children are being indoctrinatied only into whatever their parents believe, instead of learning about the world and being given the gift of thinking for themselves. They show children watching creationism videos and being told that science is "stupid" and doesn't prove anything. The public schools must sound like very scary places for these children, as does Harry Potter. At the camp Pastor Becky preaches on Harry Potter being a warlock and that warlocks are enemies of God. She talks about that Harry Potter would have been put to death back when warlocks were put to death. At dinner later that day a boy talks about how a child at the table looks so much like Harry Potter and that his Mom doesn't let him watch it, but when he stays with his Dad he gets too. You should see the looks on the other children's faces! The horror that he watched Harry Potter!

The camp is run by a very charismatic pastor that admits how tiring her work is, but she does seem to have a deep passion and love for children. She has a gift for speaking with kids and I believe she connects with the children at the camp. She listens to them, gives them her time and attention and the response is strong. She teaches some interesting object lessons that I actually would not mind using if I ever end up teaching a youth group again in my lifetime. However, it does seem to go to far extremes. The camp shows children telling ghost stories and then getting a lecture for telling them instead of honoring God. I see a lot of fear being taught and at one of the meetings they wash their hands with bottled water to repent of their sins. There are lots of tears and emotions and drama...

Near the end the Pastor gets interviewed by the radio DJ and she mentions how children get told what to believe. The sad thing to me is they do not really get to learn, they get fed what to read, what to think, what to do. The gift of childhood is a time of discovering and guidance is definitely needed along with wIsdom, love and support. The problem is when someone is dealing with extremes, taking the gift of choices away from a child, not allowing a child to figure some things out on their own. I think of children on the other side of the world, learning hate and warfare at an early age. Children are so impressionable and it is a tricky thing to balance what and how to teach. The parents in this film believe they are doing what is best for their children, bringing them up in this way. I pray that God helps these children to learn the art of loving and compassion and thinking and seeing things from more than one point of view.

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