Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Jesus Camp

I just finished watching a documentary called "Jesus Camp," which is, as might be guessed, about an evangelical/pentacostal camp for children in the United States. I feel largely ambivalent about the film for a number of reasons. It's a strange beast: the content of it is the way that children are raised/educated/indoctrinated/(whatever word you want to use depending on your paradigm) in the evangelical movement, the bias of the film-makers is obviously liberal, and the whole thing sort of functions as a snap-shot of the culture wars with all of the sloppy thinking, hypocrisy, and general weirdness that accompanies that part of American cultural life.
On the one hand, my natural sympathies do largely lie with the film-makers. I am inclined to see the Jesus camp in much the same way as they do, to perceive this over-emotional, speaking-in-tongues, altar call, public-confessional, intensely Republican spirituality as weird as slightly disturbing. On the other hand, I think that the way in which the film was made is fundamentally disrespectful: no liberal film-maker would ever go into a tribe in another country that had different beliefs, different methods of child-rearing, different ceremonials, different values, etc. and film it in such a way as to induce mockery/horror/disdain/prejudice for the people of that faith and culture. I understand that because the Bible belt is in the States, and the people making the film therefore feel politically threatened by it, that the psychology of the thing is fundamentally different, but at the same time there is a deep hypocrisy here that is profoundly disedifying. The people who they are interviewing and filming are incredibly sincere, and they are trying to hand on their culture, such as it is, to their children, and the experiences that the children are having of faith are genuine experiences, etc. On the other hand, there is something embarrassing about the footage, a feeling that the people who are being filmed should have more audience awareness, that because they do live in post-modern America they should at least be aware that the film crew that has shown up to film them is going to be showing the footage to an audience with liberal biases, that the things that they are saying are going to be cast in a specific light. But then, on the other hand, can I fault people for failing to be ironic? For lacking a sufficient cynicism? For doing their best to convey the Gospel in a way that is sincere? Is it just because I am jaded and post-modern that I think that their way of doing it is inexcusably cheesy and slightly creepy?
It's strange, because it raises questions about the way that we feel about these things. On the one hand, when I see a film of people on the other side of the planet dressing up in strange white garments and spinning in circles in order to get euphorically dizzy and thereby to attain some sort of other-consciousness that they feel brings them closer to God, it has some sort of aesthetic appeal based on the exotic. Yet, on the other hand, if it's too closely related to my own religion -- if it's a form of Christianity and not a form of Islam -- it seems uncomfortable and embarrassing.


  1. I have seen films like these before done by usually liberal filmakers. Yet the reality is that these are fringe groups and do not represent the majority of American Christians of any denomination and much less Orthodox Catholics. These films are, in my opinion, propaganda to scare people into thinking that Evangelicals are a deranged group that is a danger to American freedoms. The truth is that the vast majority of American Republicans and Christians are very much mainstream about their lives and outlooks, sending their kids to public schools, wokring in the office and going to Church on Sundays and living their life in the mainstream of America.

    In the other hand, the weird, perverted life styles of Holywood stars, rock musicians, and other liberal cultural sub-groups are never reviwed in such a negative critial way. The fact is that the poison of the cultural left and its pornographic, over-sexed, secular outlook is a lot more dangerous to civilization and yet goes on celebrated and in many cases treated with simpathy and compassion by the cultural lefty media.

  2. You should go to a Catholic Charismatic retreat: the Catholic lawful doctrine (adoration to the Most Holy Sacrament, devotion to Virgin Mary, filial love to the Pope) goes together with healing prayers, praise and worship, speaking in tongues, falling in the Spirit, all the charismatic culture... Visit: http://www.nsc-chariscenter.org Also think about this: what our world is afraid is not of speaking in tongues, but of the saintity of children. Children praying is a horror for them, remember Dawkins calling it "torture" and "mental abuse". Communists took out children from praying families. -Pol Llaunas-


Please observe these guidelines when commenting:

We want to host a constructive but civil discussion. With that in mind we ask you to observe these basics of civilized discourse:

1. No name calling or personal attacks; stick to the argument, not the individual.

2. Assume the goodwill of the other person, especially when you disagree.

3. Don't make judgments about the other person's sinfulness or salvation.

4. Within reason, stick to the topic of the thread.

5. If you don't agree to the rules, don't post.

We reserve the right to block any posts that violate our usage rules. And we will freely ban any commenters unwilling to abide by them.

Our comments are moderated so there may be a delay between the time when you submit your comment and the time when it appears.