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Jesus Camp: Impressionable youngsters take upon themselves their parents' fear

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02/18/2007

It is that very distrust of God and each other 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.
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 what their own parents fear and distrust. It also shows how the children live with a fear and distrust about their parent's unconditional love. 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.

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. It however proved not to be an activity easily brought to closure without the outside influence of my wife, Lietta, who - unlike me, unlike my first wife and our children - did not foryears and years inside a false religious reality.

Even 15 years after having left the fundamentalist church of my childhood, I found myself amazed and my spouse amused at the occasional 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 guided-missile adults who were programmed that way as children in Jesus Camps and evangelical congregations around the country.

Regarding this particulary societal myth, 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). It does however make for effective justifications at times doesn't it?

Watch each of those parents in the film express and demonstrate how invested they are in not only protecting their children from the devil-driven liberal permissiveness of the world, but also their investment in teaching and passing on to the children their own specific fears.

Photo bclocal.go.com 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 childhood speeches and pontifications of both Rachael and Lev whose assumptions are transparently pre-teen and full of self-pretensions encouraged by adult flattery and prompting;

... whose motives anticipate 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 honest curiosity 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 the mortal family patriarch God wants.

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 of 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 that elevates speaking in tongues and hallelujah's above search, study, pray and ponder.

... and their ultimate unspoken fear

 

"Why isn't God as worried as we are? And if He is worried, 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 Jesus?"

These are fears not mentioned, but apparent in every prayer you see 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 failure, 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 misconceptions about scripture and inerrant bibles never challenged.

In addition, as the more recent elections have demonstrated, the rising to prominence and presumable ultimate political 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 (the dreaded non-sectarians who would never tolerate imposed morality anyway) voters who are already making counter waves. Resistance against the enflamed religious bigotry and condescension typified by the smug jowly smiles of Reverend Falwell and self-serving prophecy attempts of Robertson via the 700 Club are aflame around the country.

This because liberal political activist groups are springing up more and more 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 in the same city councils, school boards, state and national elections they themselves took over with political stealth. Liberal political entities may do as much if not more to remove the political clout of Evangelical fundamentalists than liberal religious advocates alone.

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.

Some evangelical children will not get past their programming, will grow up and prove to be the guided missiles of righteousness intended by evangelical parents, teachers and leaders - dominated in Jesus Camp by Becky Fischer. But most will eventually crash back to earth as non-explosive evangelical duds.

A few of the more pschologically fragile could explode in socially unacceptable directions as a consequence of having struggled so many years to conform and please adult betters who are not - despite pretensions in the film - demonstrating or modeling unconditional love and acceptance.

Those parenting failures will most likely use the Bible to justify ultimate rejection or repudiation of their own children seen as having backslidden unto sin and evil.

I've seen that result first hand with more than a handful of adult children in the welfare office because they have no family support. They've been excommunicated from a family relationship by judgemental fundamentalist parents. ... parents who are not trusting human development and growth from childhood to adulthood in the healthiest of psychological settings.

That's why they home school.

Pay attention to all the teacher/mother has to say about why she home schools and what's wrong with public education. She's preaching someone else's magic that - like her children have done with her in the role of teacher - she has bought into whole-heartedly and believes without question.

At one point, the film declares that most of the home-schooled in this country are children in Evangelical households. Home schooling/religious programming as currently and anxiously attempted by evangelical families across the country has yet to justify itself by graduating demonstrably superior wise and educated children.

There is much talk about the home-schooled students studying to become evangelical lawyers coming out of Christian colleges and what they'll inflict on society down the road.

Perhaps, but I have my doubts.

Ever wonder why there's a dearth of exceptionally gifted writing, poetry, prose, painting and music from an Evangelical Christian source? It's because any social group that emphasizes conformity at the expense of sanity will reject, deny and suppress the individual creative instict and freedom in its own children.
Photo from my collection It is that very distrust of God and each other 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:

Mindlessness and high susceptibility to suggestion.

Arthur Ruger 2007

Arthur & Lietta Ruger 2002-2008. The American Choice is a  political internet journal based in Bay Center, Washington. The views expressed not authored by Arthur or Lietta Ruger are the writers' own and do not necessarily reflect those of The American Choice or SwanDeer Productions. Permission of author required for reprinting original material, and only requests for reprinting a specific item are considered.

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