Jesus Camp Review

I just saw the movie, Jesus Camp. The movie tracks a preacher and a few youngsters out of about a hundred that attend an Evangelical summer camp. It shows kids becoming indoctrinated and some of the tactics used, the kids speaking in tongues, and being emotionally charged. If this was really widespread, I'd be severely alarmed, but the movie presents a Pentecostal fringe of Evangelicalism working to out-radicalize radical Islam. The evangelicals that I know and how I was raised is not quite so extreme. Still, there was certainly some overlap with my evangelical upbringing. For example, I'd long forgotten that pledges of allegiance to the Bible and the Christian flag. There are several discussions about so many parts of the film, now two years old. I want to make one observation.

What is it about extreme fundamentalists that would allow themselves to be filmed like this? I don't think they got paid, and to the outside world, they look like brainwashers and fearmongers to the innocent. What it is, I think, is that they believe themselves so righteous that anybody seeing their lifestyle and tactics would not in any way see anything wrong with what they were doing, and in fact, they believe that outsiders would condone it and want to join forces. When you know your beliefs are unsubstantiated, you have to convince yourself in so many ways that they are correct. It's disconcerting that one way to seek validation is through the coercion of children to also believe your craziness.


Psiloiordinary said...

They are absolutely certain that they are right.

"Not to be absolutely certain is, I think, one of the essential things in rationality."

- Bertrand Russell, intellectual and philosopher (1872-1970)



Edgar said...

I was really disturbed at how kids spoke about sin and Jesus.

Kids simply don't speak like this.

very Disturbing...


Cliff Martin said...

Your assessment, and that of Psi's, are accurate I suspect. However ...

I did not see the movie, but when I first heard of it, I had the same questions you raised. "Wouldn't these people prefer a bit of privacy?" I would never want Hollywood's cameras trained on me and my friends when we are worshiping. It is far too personal, sometimes involving emotions, and we are extremely restrained by comparison. So even granting overweening self-confidence, I cannot explain this apart from an element of exhibitionism. Attention? Notoriety? maybe.

I like the Russell quote, and although I stake my life on my beliefs, I hope to qualify as rational. Does that statement self-contradict? I don't think so.

Nicolas said...

Apparently, it is very easy to forget about the camera, especially when there is no interaction between the people that are filmed and the crew. The crew in that independent movie is probably composed of 1 or 2 people with one camera, so not really worthy of a denomination as "Hollywood's cameras". So I think these people are behaving quite naturally.
My feeling is that they want to be filmed because they think broadcasting such extreme statements will somehow make people think of them as acceptable: If the many people in the movie think this way, then it must be ok to think this way. The goal is to have these opinions accepted as valid and respectable opinions in the wide array of possible opinions.

Tom said...

Edgar, thanks for the post. You're right. Kids simply don't talk like this. Nor should they.

Thanks for the quote, Psi. I'll have to remember it as I stay dogmatic with my own opinions.

Cliff, as Nicolas pointed out, these people seemed quite comfortable on camera. The people do not seem to be acting out for any particular reason except to portray themselves to people so that they understand the lifestyle. (One exception may be the preacher, Becky Fisher, who may, in part, be using the notoriety to recruit more campers). Because of this naturalness, it was nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary, losing out to Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth.

Eema-le said...

There are a few other documentaries that cover similar topics. They're worth checking out.

Brother Born Again
Fall From Grace
Hell House

Tom said...

Thanks for the recommendations, Eema-le. And thanks for the related link to Ted Haggard is Completely Heterosexual from your blog.