Jesus Camp (Heidi Ewing & Rachel Grady, 2006)
Somewhere in Missouri, 9-year old Rachel is telling a complete stranger how God has spoken to her and has instructed her to evangelize, 12-year old Levi is practicing his evangelical sermon and 10-year old Tori is dancing to the music of Christian heavy metal bands. At first glance, the knowledge of children actively taking part in religious activities is quite heartwarming. However, upon seeing the level of manipulation these kids blindly expose themselves in, the feeling evoked would be more of repulsion and disturbance.
The movement prides itself of being a political force, that its membership can sway any American presidential election. In one scene, a group of kids are asked to pray over a life-size cardboard cut-out of George Bush --- the psychological impact of the exercise becomes quite apparent; Bush is depicted as a spiritual figure alongside his political role as America's president. This is the sort of activism that is being planted in the hearts of these kids; that the separation between church and state is something that can be broken. It gets even more disturbing when we hear these kids lecturing about how they get sick when they see Americans who aren't members of their faith. That, of course, is a mere effect of the beliefs shared by the camp's charismatic adult supervisor Becky Fischer. Fischer, who shares that children of the Islam faith are being trained to incorporate jihad very early on, wishes to do the same for America's Christian youth --- she later on asserts that there should be no problem with that, as believe it or not, they have the truth.
The intolerance, the exclusivity, that is already dwelling in some of America's youth is quite troublesome. In the camp, these kids are being stripped of their youth; Fischer admonishes Harry Potter; later on, while the kids are having fun telling ghost stories, a camp director states that ghost stories are fun but they aren't Christian. The activities in camp get more serious. We hear Fischer lead the kids to war (spiritual, may be; but these are children who are citizens of a country at war --- the obvious connection is dangerous).
More liberal Christian radio commentator Mike Papantonio provides a semblance of reason in the documentary. Later in the film, Papantonio gets to interview and argue with Fischer; he somewhat comments that it gets weirder and weirder after Fischer scoffs at his adamant reason. It's uncomfortable to note that when these kids do grow up, and become like Fischer in their own right, how weirder (or more dangerous) would it get?
Yet the fascinating thing about Jesus Camp is its objectivity. Directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady do not parade their own activisms. The film is in turn polarizing; liberals may point out to the doc us a piece of evidence of these evangelists' growing political power and their underhanded tactics to assure such, the more conservative may merely claim that the doc is an objective portrayal of innocent church activities. I thought Ewing and Grady's techniques are quite suggestive: the film ends with Fischer passing through a car wash while listening to an evangelical radio show. Before the end credit starts rolling, Fischer pauses as the car wash finishes its job; the scene reveals the plastic door with two red sign stating "STOP." I agree, stop.