Jesus Camp: Impressionable youngsters will do anything to help remove the
fear from their adult mentors
We watched Jesus Camp, last night's Netflix offering. It's a disturbing look at a new generation of children being raised and enculterated
into a fear and distrust of their own parents.
It would be worthwhile, once you've seen the film, to Google "Jesus camp movie reviews" and get a wider
perspective of opinions.
After the film, my wife and I compared our differing takes. I perceive that this movie hits viscerally at
different levels - perhaps depending on individual backgrounds and the varied array of personal spiritual belief systems.
So what follows is what I think.
My own perspective is that of someone who literally walked out of a fundamental religion in my early 40's
an action commenced prior to my divorce and remarriage, but not an activity easily brought to closure without the influence
of my wife, Lietta, who - unlike me, my first wife and our children- was not raised inside a false religious reality that
we attempted to impose on those children.
Even 15 years after having left the fundamentalist church of my childhood, I found myself amazed and my
spouse amused at the recognition of some internalized notion that I still retained - having been taught such by the religious
instruction of my childhood.
However, from my perspective of having walked away from the life style - a style in which I began as one
of those child-students and ended as an adult instructor of children - I strongly suggest that you understand what you are
watching as you follow the story in Jesus Camp. Ponder what you've learned before letting yourself be stampeded by a fear
of government and societal takeover down the road by mind-controlled guidede-missileadults who were programmed that way as
children in Jesus Camps and evangelical congregations around the country.
I can't speak for any other societal myth, but I consider as scientifically and statistically unproven the
notion that, as Mao once supposedly said, "Give me a child to the age of six and I'll own him forever," (or something to that
effect). But it makes for very effective justifications doesn't it? Watch each of those parents express and demonstrate how
invested they are in not only protecting their children from the devil-driven liberal permissiveness of the world, but also
they are invested in teaching and passing on to the children their own precise fears.
Watch each of those children mouthing their own personalized versions of words, concepts and phrases given
them by parents and extremely shallow teachers and you'll see children desperate to earn approval in the only way they perceive
their adult mentors will approve.
You see this repeatedly, for example, in the speeches and pontifications of both Rachael and Lev whose assumptions
are transparently pre-teen and full of self-pretensions encouraged by adult flattery; whose motives reflect an unsaid but
highly implied ostracism should they fail to say and do what they are expected to say and do.
Literalist fundamentalist insistence on conformity is alive and well at Jesus Camp.
I once sat in a meeting where an aggressive young church leader whose older children were 4-5 years younger
than mine and who confidently declared that his children would not backslide nor yield to the temptations of the world. He
had taught them quite well - he insisted - adding that if one of his teens challenged the God-given truths handed to believers
by their prophetic elders, he would merely have to counsel that child until the right decision was reached.
I believed that as well. That is, until my children reached their teens and astonished me with a fierce
independence of spirit and desire to expl0re that I found admirable - in all areas except moral freedom and choice. ... which
was my undoing. I've told acquaintances from my days in the congregation that I learned more from my teenaged daughters about
what it means to be a father than a lifetime of sermons, Sunday- school classes and published texts on who heavenly father
is and how t0 be patriarchally like him.
One running joke with my oldest daughter was an exchange years ago in which I asked, "Remember when you
were two and thought I was God?" She replied, "Dad, I remember when I was twelve and you still thought you were God!"
Evangelical Pentecostals are living lives not of quiet, but shrill, desperation. They suffer seriously from
a mostly unspoken fear that they are wrong ... wrong about God ... wrong about their theology which teaches that traditional
churches with ordered, calm and somewhat more reserved worship services are not the true spiritual and moral Christianity
... and their ultimate unspoken fear
"Why isn't God as worried as we are. And if He is, why doesn't he make it more public and obvious?
Why doesn't God make the Earth shake and move so the unbelievers will hear and accept?"
These are the fears not mentioned, but apparent in every prayer yousee and hear both children and adults
mouth in Jesus Camp.
Couple that with the unsuccessfully suppressed anger so loudly broadcasted behind the smiles and smug phrases
("excuse me, but ... uh ... WE have the truth") and you have adults setting up their children for huge collisions with reality,
disappointment, disillusionment and heartbreak when they are older.
A few will not suffer that fate, but most of those children will not retain the fire or the youthful blind
acceptance of truths never proven and the misconceptions about scripture and inerrant bibles never challenged. In addition,
as the more recent elections have demonstrated, the rising to prominence and presumable dominance by a self-righteous and
judgmental evangelical Christian majority in this nation is now waning.
The apex has more than likely already been reached. This because there are now way too many more traditional
and liberal Christians and awakened non-churched voters who are already making counter waves against the enflamed religious
bigotry and condescension typified by the smug jowls of Reverend Falwell and self-serving prophecy attempts of Robertson via
the 799 Club.
This because liberal political activist groups are sprining up all over the country with the express purpose
of unelecting incumbent radical Christians as soon as possible. A good example of this is the national Progressive Majority activists who will go after these political extremists at the same grass roots levels first used to achieve
clout. Liberal political entities will do as much if not more to remove the political clout than liberal religious advocates
Oh, and then I can't leave out the celebrity Christian superstar who shot himself in the foot in recent
months but who is THE man in Jesus Camp. It was with sweet irony that I watched the smug and smiling hypocrisy of Reverend
Ted Haggard, the recently fallen evangelical celebrity who unfortunately for Jesus Campers, is the primary evangelical sizzle
in the film.
Although some evangelical children will not get past their programming, will grow up and prove to be the
guided missiles of righteousness created by evangelical parents, teachers and leaders dominated in Jesus Camp by Becky Fischer,
most will eventually crash back to earth as non-explosive evangelical duds.
However, some could explode as a consequence of having struggled so many years to conform and please their
adult betters who are not - despite pretensions in the film - showing their children love unfeigned; ... parents who are not
trusting human development and growth from childhood to adulthood in the healthiest of psychological settings.
It is that very distrust that has tempted these adults way beyond measure to deny that they actually and
literally distrust God. They have assumed for themselves the God-like role of programming a very human-spawned godliness into
the lives of their offspring. Fischer's declaration early in the movie about what Islamic parents and teachers are doing with
their children tragically suggests that Christians in this country need to forego sermons on mounts, stories of prodigal sons
with forgiving parents and good Samaritans.
Rather, today's Christian parents need to raise prayer warriors, as the child Lev considers himself, who
are capable of achieving an equivalent zeal and fanaticism nigh unto death. This of course a counter to Islamic children who
American evangelicals assume and insist will arrive at adulthood with an evil bent, an unreasonable hatred of Christian America
and a mindlessness that Fischer and gang believe they must - in self defense and preservation - program in their own children.