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|Index||212 reviews in total|
438 out of 486 people found the following review useful:
The Culture War goes to summer camp., 16 June 2006
Author: A.J. LaFollette from Rockville, MD
I saw this film at the Silverdocs festival, expecting it to be little
more than an oddball slice of Americana, but I was pleasantly
"Jesus Camp" revolves around a pentecostal minister who hosts a summer camp for children in North Dakota, and the sectarian Christian conservative families who send their children to this camp. Directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady wisely chose to avoid the polemical tone of most politically-motivated films, and instead opt to present a mostly unfiltered glimpse of this odd subculture. But through carefully selected images and the use of talk radio commentary as a framing device, they construct a subtle, yet damning narrative about a religious movement that isolates its children from mainstream culture, indoctrinates them into right-wing causes, and uses them as political props.
At Jesus Camp, the daily activities include standard camp fare such as spelunking and go-karts, but they also include speaking in tongues and smashing coffee mugs emblazoned with the word "government". Children learn that "science doesn't prove anything," and learn to consider themselves part of an Army of God. They are compelled to pledge that they will fight to end abortion. They are even pushed into publicly confessing their impure thoughts, and many of them cry and wail charismatically.
The camp director explains that she admires the way Islamic cultures raise children so devoted they will risk their lives for their faith. When we ultimately see several of the campers being placed by their parents on the steps of the Capitol with tape over their mouths, protesting abortion, the real purpose of this camp is driven home.
But the most touching scenes are the ones where the children are alone, and we see the ways that this indoctrination creeps into the most innocent elements of childhood. 11 year old Tori loves dancing to Christian rock, but frets that it's not always easy to dance for God instead of "dancing for the flesh." On an outing to the bowling alley, 9 year old Rachael feels compelled to walk up to strangers and awkwardly evangelize to them, without being prompted. A roomful of boys telling ghost stories after dark are interrupted by an adult who warns them about stories that don't glorify God.
No doubt some viewers will accuse the filmmakers of the dreaded liberal bias. But this is not a work of fiction, nor is it slanted reporting. These are real people and real events, captured on film. If the evangelical movement comes off badly in this film, the people on screen have no one but themselves to blame.
344 out of 407 people found the following review useful:
Child Abuse, 30 September 2006
Author: wayne60640 from Chicago, IL
This film made my hair stand on end and I came away from it thinking that the adults in it ought to be indicted for child abuse. These children are being intellectually immobilized in the name of goodness and purity. Do they really think they are superior to other young religious zealots who study nothing but their holy book but who are not Christians? It seems that children ought to be exposed to all the wonders of the world instead of being told that their job is to point out the errors of others. Children are highly impressionable and mostly believe what adults tell them. We can only hope that some of these children get some exposure to reality later which will help them live productive and caring lives as people who can accept the world's diversity. The prospects are not good.
250 out of 293 people found the following review useful:
Should be categorized "Documentary/Horror", 16 November 2006
Author: Max Prodanov from Sofia, Bulgaria
This is really a horror movie. It's comparable to The Ring and Emily
I thought we were living in the 21st century. This movie reminds me more of the 16th.
On one hand, this movie is an unforgettable experience, like a dive into darkness. On the other hand, you're left asking yourself - "am I a sadist? I'm watching little kids getting tortured, brainwashed, their lives getting deformed". When you watch this movie, the first thing you want to do is go to IMDb and write a review about it.
If you're in a happy mood right now, don't watch this movie.
If you want chills down your spine, by all means, watch it!
244 out of 288 people found the following review useful:
A fascinating look into evangelical subculture through the eyes of children, 12 August 2006
Author: pomonabrian from Washington, DC
I saw this film at SilverDocs, a documentary film festival at the
American Film Institute in Silver Spring. It's excellent, and I highly
The basic storyline follows a year in the lives of three children from evangelical Christian families in Missouri, and focuses considerably on their experience at an evangelical summer camp ("Kids on Fire" in Devil's Lake, ND). The kids, 12-year-old Levi, 10-year-old Tory, and 9-year-old Rachel are, of course, endearing in their cuteness, but frightening in their fervor. Levi thinks that he will become a pastor, and his preaching to kids is starkly reminiscent of the Bible thumpers of Sunday morning TV. At camp, Tory is shown several times with tears streaming down her face, not least when a pro-life leader comes and distributes miniature plastic fetuses to illustrate the evil of abortion and again when many kids at camp begin speaking in tongues. Rachel, a nine-year-old evangelist, walks up to perfect strangers to ask them if they believe they're going to heaven and whether they would like to talk about Jesus. In short, the kids are the perfect spokespeople for the Jesus movement.
The documentary goes beyond their experiences at camp and paints a vivid image of the evangelical subculture in middle America. From scenes with a mother home schooling her son on the lunacy of evolution to kids at camp praying fervently for a cardboard cutout of George W Bush, the tenacious beliefs of the subjects and their utter lack of doubt is striking. The infusion of politics into religion is also notable, as the children are told of the evils of homosexuality, that prayer in school is necessary for schools to teach effectively, and that America is responsible for the deaths of fifty million innocent children since 1973. The families even travel to Washington to protest in front of the Supreme Court building.
The most awkward parts of the movie were scenes with Mike Papantonio, an Air America radio host. I felt the scenes involving him seemed a little forced, although a conversation at the end between the charismatic camp director, Becky Fischer, and Papantonio was an interesting microcosm of the larger political debate in this country. Interestingly, during a film festival question and answer session with the producers (Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady), they indicated that Papantonio was a late addition to the film because without him, there was no conflict. The people in the film were so sure of their beliefs that nothing in the movie showed them wavering. I wonder if the film might not have been stronger if they had left that sense of certainty alone.
Ewing and Grady also chose to use the nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court as a thread to tie the film together. Unfortunately, none of the subjects of the documentary spent much time talking directly about the Supreme Court. They talked about some of the issues that the Supreme Court might deal with, but the nomination of judges didn't seem to be a big factor in their lives. There were a few scenes in which radio announcers and guest speakers at the camp encouraged the families to pray for the nomination of judges who agree with evangelical Christians, but I didn't think that there was enough to hold that particular thread together.
During the question and answer session, Ewing and Grady indicated that while they were both fairly secular, big city Democrats, they honestly liked the people in the documentary. In their view, the people in the documentary followed the law, and they worked to make the country better as they saw it, so what's wrong with that? They expressed interest in making a follow-up movie in five years to see whether the kids' faith survives puberty. It would certainly be an interesting experiment. They indicated that Fischer and the families that were profiled had seen the final project and thought that it was a fair representation of their lives. Fischer even thought that she could use it as an evangelical tool! At the same time, the audience I saw it with was overwhelmingly liberal and they also reacted positively (and, I'll say, with a fair degree of shock). To me, that says that Ewing and Grady did a nice job of ensuring that their biases did not show through into the movie, leaving audiences to read into it as they choose.
In sum, Jesus Camp is a movie that is worth watching. If you get a chance, see this film!
118 out of 130 people found the following review useful:
Was further proof how far off base militant evangelicalism has become, 23 December 2006
Author: samthemacman from Canada
I give this a qualified 7. I give it for the quality of the work in
creating this documentary. If I was to rate it because of its subject,
I would be dealing with negative numbers! I used to be an ordained
minister, a Pentecostal one. This film was very painful for me, for it
addressed all the things about modern evangelicalism that is wrong and
gave further proof of why hundreds of thousands of evangelicals are
leaving organized religion, and are embracing a simpler form of
Christianity, one that is relational and community focused, and one
that is not political, seeking to see the arm of government
Christianized, but rather one has a powerful social element, seeking
social change through loving and helping people in our society.
My wife has home-schooled our two daughters all the way through high school. I thank God they are not like these kids. In fact when my kids watched the film they were equally concerned about kids being conditioned and brainwashed! I agreed with them. God has not called children into the work of evangelism, or to be warriors as portrayed in this film. Evangelism is the work of those who are adults and young adults. Children are never shown to be workers in God's Kingdom in the New Testament. We ought to follow that model, rather than brainwashing and abusing children! I am sickened by this film.
Theologically I am equally disturbed by this film. It portrays that evangelicals have held certain beliefs "forever" which is far from the truth. Foundational to the premise of modern evangelicalism is the "teaching" concerning the pre-tribulational rapture of the church. This doctrine is one of the newest, and it was created by and espoused by people who at one time were heretics, and yet is has become the vehicle that drives this engine to have an "end time revival" where these kids will help usher in the Kingdom of God.
My parents were missionaries, as were my in-laws. They gave their adult lives to the cause of Christ (between 45-47 years of ministry). They believed the same doctrine. Jesus was coming at any time. "Don't lay a nest egg for your grandkids!" "Don't conserve the environment, because as soon as Jesus comes, we are out of here!" "Don't save your money, go ahead use credit, for when you are in the rapture, you won't have to pay the bank!" My parents became disappointed when disease came to the door, and illness overtook them, and when death took home the husbands! There was despair, because Jesus did not come to rescue them.
This is the same kind of despair that will overcome these kids who have been brainwashed and abused by these whacko charismatics. I was one. I know how people condition you to respond a certain way.
There is NOTHING remotely like New Testament Christianity in this film. When the pastor compares what she is doing, to what fundamentalist Islam is doing in brainwashing Muslim children, she was correct. These poor kids of evangelical parents are being manipulated and brainwashed, and are as whacko as those who exploit Muslim children. Two wrongs don't make a right.
This film reveals the whacky morality and bad theological world view that exists not only in America, but in Evangelicalism in Canada, and the UK as well. It is a theology that on one hands believes that our countries can be saved by using our children in the propagation of the gospel, through revival and advancing the Kingdom of God. This is not the work of children, and this makes all of this so immoral. Also, it crosses the line where Christians think, falsely, that if they gain political power, that somehow they will be able to Christianize their nations. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Should this ever happen in my country (Canada - I am a Brit who came to Canada with missionary parents, to plant churches in Canada), I would be the first to oppose it, for it would become tyranny and oppression. The ways of the world, including the use of government, is not the way God advances His Kingdom.
God is not in the oppression business, but the liberation business, and more than anything, our kids need to be liberated from this kind of brainwashing! I am ashamed of having been a Pentecostal Evangelical! This film should be used by libertarians and true democrats, be they Christian, secular, or of another faith community, to reveal how dangerous a political Evangelical movement can be, and how dangerous it is to the very idea of a free and open society. Be forewarned this film will disturb you.
117 out of 133 people found the following review useful:
innocence forgotten, 7 October 2006
Author: smakawhat from Washington, DC
Enter the world of Jesus Camp, a brilliant documentary that chronicles
the life of several people who attend or set up a "Jesus Camp" in
(ironicaly) Devils Lake North Dakota.
Filmmakers Heidi Ewing, and Rachel Grady decide to focus mostly on the children that attend, with some focus on minister Becky Fisher who is one of the main architects of the camp.
Right away the filmmakers show a growing underlying change in the evangelical movement, to politicize their beliefs. Voice overs start talking about the newest supreme court nomination of Alito. However, once the focus starts on the kids who attend the camp the film gets its bearing.
What becomes obvious is that paranoia and fear is driven into the kids. There is Ashley a young girl, and Levi an older boy who seems to be on the quest to become a minister and preacher himself. It's obvious he likes the attention that is given him. But the kids are still kids, Levi and his friend go out into the woods and do what all kids do, explore find a scary spider, Levi even mentions, I like to throw rocks.
But then they are back in lessons again, scarred out of their boots in a sermon as they are being told to stay away from Harry Potter, abortion, and that they are essentially dirty from all the sins they carry. Most of them can't hold back the tears. Levi mentions he said he was saved when he was 5 years old (I can only think of the horrible things that he must have been guilty of to be converted (too much sugar cereal maybe?) ) The filmmakers do the smart thing and let the pictures and words speak for themselves. There is no voice over narration, no probing questions from the film-makers to the subjects themselves. There is no debate. The words from the kids just come out, and they are frightening. A sense of brainwashing can only be observed as the kids talk about how they have to fight in gods army, and that everyone else has to be 'purged'. Never mind that at one point kids are worshiping at a card board cut out of George Bush.
Some scenes literally look like they could have came from the movie "Triumph of the Will".
But the brilliance is shown in the innocence that these children loose and don't seem to enjoy in. What young kid needs to know about abortion? or be cleansed of all the horrors of the world? Why can't the kids just make up their own minds with everything but in front of them? When do kids ever get to just.... play? They are hints in the film at that, kids will be kids, little late night camp ghost stories, some break dancing.. it's all in good fun, and perfectly fine.
But it seems like Jesus camp just wants to crush their spirits.
Kudos to the film-makers for showing it real.
124 out of 170 people found the following review useful:
One part makes sense..., 14 October 2006
Author: srfowler from United States
It makes sense that this film came out in October, as it is the
scariest movie I've seen in a loooooong time.
I was a little nervous at first because I assumed that most of the people there would be uber conservative, but when the camp leader screamed, "If Harry Potter had lived during Biblical times he would have been put to death," and everyone laughed at her absurdity, I knew it was going to be okay.
The "funniest" part was when a really young girl, no more than 9, approached these three older men outside the nation's capital and asked them "If you died *right now* do you know where you would go?"
The men said, "yes." No inflection to their voices, no emotion.
"Are you *sure*? she pressed, desperate for a chance to proselytize.
"Yes," they said again, calm as you please.
She walked off muttering, "I think they're Muslim." LOL! It was hilarious! Then she asked her young friend, "Do you think they think we're trying to sell something?" The whole theater burst out laughing.
The best part was when the kids gathered around a card board cut out of George W. Bush, asking God to give him wisdom. If only....
82 out of 96 people found the following review useful:
Intolerance Camp, 4 November 2006
If there is one thing which "Jesus Camp" reveals, it is the extent to
which some adults will rob children of a normal childhood in order to
foster their own politico-religious agenda. The children in this film
are not being inculcated with moral and spiritual values; they are
being manipulated into quasi-religious hysteria. In the name of a
warped sense of religiosity the adults in this film are deliberately
creating cadres of Christianist "yes men." This isn't faith; it's
I do not doubt the good intentions of parents who indoctrinate their children from an early age with principles of religion; after all, the Catholic Church has encouraged this for centuries, and there are wonderful religious schools of all types which provide a strong moral and ethical education to our children. Giving children a foundation of values is invaluable. However, the religio-political cultism demonstrated in this film is beyond the pale. I can guarantee you that if those parents in the film had been born Muslim rather than Christian they would be at the forefront of such practices as stoning and clitoral circumcision. If that's what their particular Good Book calls for, they are all for it. It sure saves thinking for oneself. At the very least, those who survive this kind of cultist indoctrination may turn out to be psychologically disturbed or emotionally impaired. The children of "Jesus Camp" are the kinds of people who wind up as bigots, informers, and lovers of authoritarianism, and who join the myriad of "holier-than-thou" types who already populate American so-called Christianity. These children may never be able to think for themselves. If they do eventually see through this well-intentioned nonsense, they can wind up as the kind of obnoxious hypocrites which they themselves would be quick to condemn.
What an astounding coincidence, then, that one of those very kinds of people shows up for quite a while towards the end of film. Ted Haggard, Evangelical pastor and newly confessed drug-buyer and patron of "male-massage", is seen counseling a young boy on how to play upon his youth in order to spread the Word. You can already see the young boy fawning over his adult admirers and saying whatever he thinks will please them and bring him a measure of recognition. That's the insidious thing about the "Jesus Camp", the kids really want to please their adult trainers. As for Haggard, in the spirit of Christian love and forgiveness he's already been kicked out of his Church. No turn-the-other-cheek Amish among that bunch. Can't have a guy like Haggard hanging around - especially now that he's been found out. As for the adults who encourage slavish indoctrination of their children, I think they would have been more comfortable in 1930's Spain, Italy, or Germany. Each of those countries had its cadre of young, true believers, too.
95 out of 124 people found the following review useful:
Unusual documentary; people at polar extremes like it, 19 September 2006
Author: Bob Pr. from Topeka, KS
This is a very unusual movie. It's likely to be LOVED by many Christian
fundamentalists as well as valued by many who strongly oppose that
movement, each side feeling it gives ample evidence for their
Its low rating (at the time this is written) is at first puzzling; its most frequent rating (28%) given is a "10". This gets offset by the next most frequent rating (22%) given -- "1". But considering that (at the time this is written) 56% rated this film a 10, 9, or 8, the majority of people view this as a very valuable, worthwhile to see film -- a view I share. Many of those who rated it a "1" did so in opposition to the movement while still saying it's a worthwhile film to see.
It's most valuable to see by those who are NOT fundamentalists to understand a growing and already substantial movement of which most are not aware exists.
I strongly urge those people to also read Michelle Goldberg's recent book "Kingdom Coming" about this movement. Very readable, very enlightening, it details the scope of this that those who are not directly involved otherwise would not be aware of.
Francis F (a Japanese name; the IMDb anti-obscenity editing program will automatically "bleep" it if I typed it) wrote "The End of History & the Last Man" maybe 15-20 years ago and he's recently updated it with an Epilogue. I found it a hard book to read so scanned much of it. But he did predict the rise of fundamentalist, conservative, reactionary religious movements such as we see in both fundamentalist Islam and fundamentalist Chrisitianity.
One thesis he advances is that the world is changing so fast it's threatening the adjustment of many cultures and sub-cultures. Their core beliefs are not being given opportunity to slowly evolve but are threatened with being breached like the New Orleans levees (my metaphor, not his). Their reaction is to substitute Sharia (Islamic) law or "Christian" Biblical law instead of western secular law.
My friend who accompanied me was not worried about these kids in the movie. She felt that when they became teens, most would leave behind these beliefs because of the pressure from other teens as well as emerging hormones.
I'm not as sanguine. While that will be an effect on a few, these kids are being as indoctrinated just as much as (or more than) the Hitler Youth. Peer pressure works both ways -- when they're mainly around others with the same background, that will serve to keep most in line.
Scary AND a very informative movie.
PS -- Whether or not you're a member of the Christian Funadamentalist/Evangelical Right OR those who oppose them, you may be interested in this out-take from the film the link to which was posted on the IMDb "Message Board" View it AFTER you've seen the movie. ONLY then will it make sense.:
107 out of 157 people found the following review useful:
Jesus Camp is serious business., 14 September 2006
Author: mmckelley from United States
This film intrigued me for several reasons: First it is filmed in my
home state of Missouri, not the deep south as so many people think, in
fact it is filmed near Kansas City.
The film is a well-presented view from the perspective of the ultra conservative, Evangelical movement. It is honest in its intent. Minister, Becky Fischer, is honest in her goals for the camp and its attendees.
I did find that the film seemed to play fast and loose with numbers. For example it is stated that 75% of all home schooled children are evangelical. I come from a liberal background and have many well-educated friends who home school and none of them are evangelical so I am skeptical about their claim.
As one might expect, statements are made such as "there is no such thing as global warming" and that "all homosexuals are going to hell." That doesn't surprise me. The fact that not one of the adults or children questions any of these statements or offers to provide proof or seek an alternative explanation is the elephant in the room.
However; the film is filled with passion and filmmakers present the information honestly. The sad issue is that the evangelical movement seems not to have learned anything from the War in Iraq. Our presence there will only result in civil war. This was predicted long before the war started, now, four years later, if the U.S. were to leave, full blown civil war would certainly result. Why, because the church and state in Iraq are inseparable.
I will eagerly await the sequel five years from now when the filmmakers return to Jesus Camp and reinterview these children. On second thought, perhaps they had ought to wait ten years.
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