At the urging of a couple of friends, I watched the documentary entitled, Jesus Camp. The first word that comes to mind when trying to describe it would be startling. It was one of the moments where you are embarrassed to be a Christian, and one of those times when you wish you were not a Christian and had absolutely zero ties. Essentially, the film looks at the indoctrination of young evangelical Christians to defend issues such as creation over evolution and pro-life instead of pro-choice. The film crew follows several people that run in these circles, including a pastor, some children, some parents, and finally finish it up at Ted Haggard’s church in Colorado Springs. The think that saddened me the most was that the kids simply repeated things they were taught; they never thought for themselves. They became little robots of their parents who were quite certain that they were doing things the right way and all other ways were wrong. My friend Pete wrote about the pitfalls involved with this. When we talk about orthodoxy, we usually mean, ‘right thinking’. This would mean that there is one right answer and no more. The phrase that was used in the film was ‘saving knowledge’. Translated, this means that those who know specific doctrines or believe in certain things are saved. Those who don’t are not. Instead, Pete suggests that we should look at orthodoxy as the ‘right way of thinking’. This changes things drastically. Now the emphasis is placed on the searching rather than just the answer.
As I said this documentary was startling. The beginning really set the tone for me. The crew was at the national children’s prayer conference where a pastor was talking about why we need kids to start this ‘revival’. She goes on to say that it’s because adults are too lazy to do things like pray and fast even for a short 24 hours. But if you saw this overweight pastor it might make you chuckle. Later on, this pastor would discuss how kids are so “usable” and that’s why she pours forth her time and energy into ministering to them. But do we want our kids to simply be pawns on the chess board? Are we as parents and as evangelical Christians using are children to help our causes? It was to such an extreme in this film that in an opening prayer at a church camp for kids, they prayed to end abortion. If one actually reads the Bible, they might come to see that Christianity is about much more than this issue. It is also striking that evangelical Christians are so fervently against abortion and yet are all for killing Iraqis and Afghanis and even for gun rights here in America. Guns kill people too; it’s not just abortion clinics.
I also noticed that Satan was probably mentioned just as much or more than Jesus when teaching these kids. And I agree that Satan may be at work trying to thwart God’s plans. But what about Christ? Did him dying on the cross only give us power over death in the afterlife, or was it also for our time on earth? Christ has conquered the devil. But by always talking about Satan and what he is doing, our heavenly focus is decaying into a hellish view on life. Our thoughts are to be fixed on things above – love, justice, grace, mercy, peace. Their view of sin seemed to overpower their view of Christ; thus, Christ was drowned out of all that they taught their children.
I’d like to finish this off with a quote from this pastor. She said she hoped this documentary would have extreme liberals “shaking in their boots”. And indeed, it might have accomplished that. But it also has myself, an evangelical Christian, shaking in my boots.