I watched Jesus Camp last night, a documentary about evangelical children being schooled in how to “take back America for Christ”.
I thought the filmmakers were fair because throughout I was never sure if the directors were for or against the topic they were exploring. Truth be told, I was shocked to realize how many Evangelicals are in America influencing the political climate of country I live in. I vote, but this film made me want to get much more involved politically.
I was particularly impressed by the conviction of these kids. I never cried for Christ or dedicated myself to anything with that much passion or conviction at the age of 10 or any age for that matter. But on the other hand, it’s easy to have a conviction when you’re immersed in a community of like-minded people that live and worship as you and when you’re home-schooled via a Christian influenced curriculum.
The language was interesting. These kids were called crusaders and told that they were spiritual soldiers at war. The did skits and musical numbers wearing military fatigues and adorned with special forces, I-need-to-hide-out-in-the-woods, type face paint. Hmm…sounds like another religion I hear a lot about in the news. In fact, Chris Baranti of Film Journal International, in his review stated, “Cut to the flickering images of children writhing in a spiritual trance on a chapel floor while being hectored about the glory of dying for Christ, and one knows exactly where the first Christian suicide bombers will come from.”
But the crème de le crème moment for me was when the film takes the viewer on a road trip to the New Life Christian Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado and aims it’s lens at the amazingly hypocritical, liar and fraud, Ted Haggard. Keep in mind this documentary had it’s theatrical release in September of 2006, a full two months before Haggard was caught buying meth from his boyfriend, I mean, masseuse.
Ted strutted around the stage and mugged with the documentary cameras and spewed his bullshit about gays. But what disturbed me the most was that one of the documentary subjects, Levi, a 10-year-old, that wants to some day be an Evangelical pastor got to meet Ted. It was like a watching a little leaguer meet Mantle or an aspiring comic waiting to get an autograph from Chris Rock. The kid was nervous and excited to have his moment with his hero. He tells Haggard he likes to preach and Haggard asks what his favorite topic is, in which Levi replies, “faith”. Then Haggard asks if he’s any good and Levi says he thinks he is because people listen to him when he preaches. Eventually Haggard cuts to the chase wanting to know if folks listen because of his content or because he’s a kid, telling Levi to use the cute kid thing for now until the content improves.
What’s wrong with you? Why can’t you just praise the kid outright and encourage him to keep preaching? How the hell do you know that his content isn’t right on target? Are you so insecure as the leader of 14,000-member church that you can’t just throw a kid a bone? Sorry Ted bad choice of words.
In case you were wondering, Haggard is now “completely cured of his homosexuality”. Apparently it only takes 3 weeks of counseling to abandon one’s sexual desires. Rev. Tim Ralph, one of 4 ministers to oversee the counseling stated this of Haggard, “He is completely heterosexual. That is something he discovered. It was the acting-out situations where things took place. It wasn’t a constant thing.” Which I think means that he isn’t gay, just obsessed with re-enacting gay porn films.
Even though he’s cured, his flock has decided that he should get the fuck out of town, anyway. The Haggards are moving and looking into getting their master’s degrees in psychology. Super. Someday they can go into private practice and get insurance reimbursement for their brainwashing. Nice.
I think Peter Canavese of Groucho Reviews sums it up nicely. “You know what they say, folks: it’s a free country. If Jesus Camp scares you, better start brainwashing some little heathens of your own.”