Most of the time, sending my wife to the video store produces a similar reaction. Something like, “Uhh…ugh…OK. I guess that’s fine, honey.” It’s why I usually do the honors of selecting the movies we watch. The other night, my wife made a great choice; a film that I wanted to see but thought she might not be up for: “Jesus Camp.”
I told her we’d be left feeling unsettled afterward. She looked at me and asked what kind of movie this was anyway? In a word: unsettling.
“Jesus Camp” is a documentary that probes the agenda of the ultra-religious Christian right, and their intentions to impact the American political process. Mostly, the movie examines a Pentecostal youth camp in North Dakota which is dedicated to training children to be future foot soldiers in the political-religious war to sort of “take back America” (as thought it were ever Christian in the first place).
The film-makers have a clear agenda to paint these people as total whackos, dubbing slasher movie music over many of the scenes involving the children and the worship services. The people they are filming are more than willing to oblige them with eyebrow-raising material.
Now seriously, I could go on at length about the troubling things I saw in this film, but I will limit myself to a few:
- There is a great deal of spiritual arrogance in the preachers and in the children. Pentecostalism takes the major errors of Arminiansim (free will, etc) to seed. The leader of the camp, a female pastor brags about how quickly she can get people saved and have them speaking in tongues, like in a matter of minutes. A child who is being put on stage to “preach” imagines himself receiving praise from the crowd. Camp counselors pray, casting out demons including even Satan from chairs and electrical wiring and microphones. Pride and the commanding of demons, even in Jesus name, is a major hallmark of false teachers (Book of Jude).
- Typical to the charismatic movement, there is a betrayal of the sufficiency of Scripture. They talk a lot about the power of God’s Word, but they always sell it short by looking to visions and prophecies.
- Emotional drama and manipulation is a substitute for substance. This is the legacy of Charles Finney in the charismatic movement. Every night at worship, the children are worked into an emotional lather, breaking down crying, making overt shows of despair over sin and fear of judgment. Each following morning, they are carefree, silly little children, like they ought to be. These kids are so coached up, one can hardly believe that they really understand what they are saying or are actually changed by it all. And the adults just egg them on.
- There is an obvious and complete lack of understanding of the gospel. God is looked at as some kind of genie. The cross is acknowledged, but it has become a kind of spiritual snake oil. They are constantly praying the “blood of Jesus” upon themselves, as if His cross-work were not finished. Arminianism teaches that you can lose your salvation, and that fear is clearly exploited.
This film was scary. It was a reminder to my wife and I that children become exactly what you put into them, the good and the bad. If we teach our children to be actors, they will comply. It also is a reminder of what happens when the boundaries of the Scriptures are discarded; utter chaos as the Holy Spirit becomes an agent of confusion. There were many other threads that could be explored such as the morality of “indoctrinating” children (I’m for it, by the way, just what you teach is the real issue), but time does not allow.
Check this film out. The discussion to follow is well worth the five bucks., disturbing as it may be.