Jesus Camp (Ewing, Grady, 2006)

“In the name of God…”

Uttered countless times by the Evangelical Christian subjects in the documentary Jesus Camp, these words will undoubtedly become the most dividing and dangerous for future generations. Everyone from the young followers partcipating in the Bible Camp at Devil’s Lake, North Dakota and the Mega-Churches in Colorado Springs, CO to President Bush himself have used this phrase to justify their own interests as God’s work. Jesus Camp is a scary window into the impact ideology of any kind can have on young minds, but it’s also a expertly made film chronicling the national push toward ignorance and intolerance within the fastest growing religion in America, namely the Born Again Christians. The most amazing thing about Jesus Camp is how directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady avoid insulting or demeaning their subjects, no matter the situation. Instead, they let the extreme nature of these people’s beliefs speak for themselves – the sermons, the overbearing parents, and guilt-ridden speeches act as a wake up call for those who have yet to take this movement seriously. Jesus Camp uses a brilliant structuring device to play off the relationship between Christianity and it’s extreme offshoot. The film periodically cuts back to a Christian radio host Mike Papantonio speaking how alien these approaches are to true Christianity. Here’s a white, middle aged Christian man attempting to understand the lunacy of a group subverting his own beliefs. Papantonio asks how can this combative, warrior mentality help make America a freer place? According to the subjects in Jesus Camp, it’s because Jesus and God have willed it. This complete absence of modern day logic, compassion, and outlook can only lead to a severe break with any sort of world view or reality. Jesus Camp dares to ask the questions being debated by differing Christian sects, revealing quite amazingly that not all Christians are to be feared as devout followers of the church of Bush. Two scenes stand out in Jesus Camp. First, at the camp run by Children’s Pastor Becky Fischer, the children are asked to take a hammer and destroy coffee mugs with words like SIN, and SEX and so forth. The children yell, “in the name of God”, and strike the hammer down violently, precision strikes by the Born Again future. Secondly, the last scene of the film, shown over the credits, when Rachel, one of the young subjects of Jesus Camp, walks up to a group of African American and asks them if they are going to heaven. Walking away, she proclaims, “I think they’re Muslim.” Her friend Levi nods in agreement. Here are two children consumed by a extremism and misunderstanding, not coming close to realizing the hurtful scope of their words. But it’s okay, because “in the name of God”, they can’t be wrong.

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