The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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A ‘Camp’ for Everyone?

Is “Jesus Camp,” the documentary about children raised to be Christian soldiers of God’s army in America, supposed to alarm liberals or inspire conservative Christians? Gleefully, the answer to both questions is yes. The movie will probably do both, depending on audience members’ political views, religious beliefs and parenting styles.

“Jesus Camp,” opening today at AMC Grapevine Mills, the Plano Angelika and the Magnolia, is an engaging and fascinating movie that will invoke many questions for both sides of the political and religious spectrum. Directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady follow three Evangelical children as they attend Pastor Becky Fischer’s Christian summer camp in Devil Lake, N.D.. At “Kids on Fire,” typical Christian topics are emphasized such as resisting sin and spreading the good word. Along with those sermons, Fischer also covers the evil of warlocks and abortion.

The point of the documentary is to introduce America to this radical group of Christians whose religious fervor has rarely been publicly showcased, but whose actions are extremely visible. These are the people who a good number of Americans, both liberals and conservatives, probably wonder from what woodwork they come out of to impact major elections and national issues. As National Association of Evangelicals President Pastor Ted Haggard says, “If the Evangelicals vote, they’ll sway every election.”

The children are repeatedly told that they are the generation who can bring Jesus back to America. Fischer likens the early Christian indoctrination strategy to the similar methods employed by certain countries for Islam. Indeed, even at their young ages (attendants of the camp can be as young as six years old), these children have such devoutness that they speak in tongues and have convulsions on the floor. If these children fail in their quest to bring Jesus back, it will not be from lack of trying.

Long-haired Levi, age 12, is given the most screen time. With his charisma and leadership skills, he seems poised to become a preacher of his own congregation someday. Freckle-face Rachael, age 9, is the most aggressive and defiant, if not a bit defensive, about her religion. Dancer Tory, age 10, displays the most vulnerability and could have been the most interesting kid to follow. Instead, she is relegated to cuts in which she weeps unabashedly for her beliefs.

The movie is not about exploring grey areas in Christianity. Some audience members might wish to test the children’s relationship with God or propose certain pointed questions to the adults. If the filmmakers do a follow-up on the children, perhaps those inquiries will be answered then. “Jesus Camp” merely wants to point out that these people exist, that these kids exist and that they are passionate about their relationship with God and being moral human beings, which other audience members might find commendable.

Ewing and Grady’s straightforward tone in handling their material casts no judgment. They are simply documenting these people and their extreme right beliefs. Even the periodic interjections of segments from Mike Papantonio’s “Ring of Fire” radio show, in which he speaks out against such radical Christian conservative stances, seem as another viewpoint to balance the movie. The presentation is so even-handed that audience members will probably see what they want to see.

It will be interesting to take notice of how conservatives will view “Jesus Camp.” Will they embrace or distance themselves from the people who help elect their candidates?

What will be even more interesting is the impact the movie will have on liberals. Will proof of the existence of such religious fervor mobilize them to action? With the controversy and dialogue it will no doubt cause, “Jesus Camp” is an event not to be missed.

Christy Vutam is a Sophomore Journalism major, and may be reached for further comment or question at [email protected]

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