Saturday, March 17, 2007

Jesus Camp

Last night we watched this movie from our Netflix DVD subscription. It was released in September 2006 and was in the theaters here in the Dallas area for a short while, but I didn't want to spend the $ to go then.

I pretty much decided ahead of time that I wasn't going to like this movie, that the filmmakers would be either making fun of or criticizing Christians who are far right politically and socially. Now that I watched it twice--once with my family and again today with the "commentary" setting (you know, from the "extras" that come with a DVD)--I don't feel so negative toward them.

The movie is about how some conservative American Christians train their children. The subsection of Christians portrayed are pentecostal or charismatic--the movie makes no distinction between those terms. The movie shows the children in their homes and schools, which are the same. The main event is seeing the kids at summer camp, a children's prayer camp lead by Becky Fisher. There are also scenes of the kids visiting Ted Haggard's megachurch in Colorado Springs and praying in front of the Supreme Court.

So here's my take: my somewhat negative reactions were more at the things that are normal for Pentecostalism. But seeing them manifest in young children (speaking in tongues, strange body movements, etc.) seemed more excessive than when seen in adults. But, that has to do with the expression and theology of one subset of evangelicals, and I can't really say that they are hurting their children by teaching them what they believe.

The positive things: the filmmakers did seem to respect the fact that children are capable of believing in God, capable of prayer, and capable of changing the world. I was also reminded that Christians teach their kids from a very young age that they have meaning because they are loved by the almighty creator of the world--what a great message! All children should be so fortunate.

The filmmakers provide "contrast" with footage from a radio talk show by Mike Papantonio, a good Methodist middle-of-the-road Christian who pretty much dislikes the Christian right because they are "too political."

The worst part of the film--and by "worst" I mean saddest and most embarrassing--was not the children acting like adults, it was Ted Haggard doing two things: talking to these kids in a somewhat hostile way that seemed out of place, and most of all, being a hypocrite to them. Less than two months after Jesus Camp was released, Ted Haggard resigned from his ministry as pastor of an evangelical megachurch and president of the National Association of Evangelicals due to scandal. Knowing that as we watched--the irony was a bit much.

The filmmakers are east-coast city people who didn't know much about evangelicals or the heartland but didn't poke fun like I thought they might. There is plenty in this movie for both Christians and non-Christians to get upset about, but I decided it really didn't upset me. Yes, some folks might say these kids were being brainwashed by rabid Christians, but really, don't TV and video games and friends and books brainwash too?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


I haven't felt like I've had much to blog about lately. There have been some times when I was in a bad mood that I felt like blogging, but then thought better of it.

I really do love spring in Texas. The winters here aren't bad, of course, but I just love the abundance of wildflowers that spring brings, and how good it feels to be outside without a big coat on. I enjoy doing my daily walks with my neighbor, but I also enjoy the times I go after dark all by myself--when the weather is warm enough (we have a pretty safe neighborhood, so I don't worry about being alone).

I have a new boss at work, and he's giving me a few more projects to do. But mostly I'm still just working mornings, and then doing a few things by email from home in the afternoons and evenings.

We still don't have our water heater fixed, but the last guy I phoned has promised to get back to me soon.