Documentary Review: Jesus Camp

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So I recently watched a documentary on Netflix called Jesus Camp. Jesus Camp is a documentary that was made in 2006 about a Charismatic Christian summer camp in Devil’s Lake, North Dakota, where children spend time being taught that their have “prophetic gifts” and can “take back America for Christ. For those who aren’t familiar, Charismatic Christianity is a form of Christianity that emphasizes the work of the Holy Spirit, spiritual gifts and modern-day miracles as an every day part of a believer’s life.

So this documentary is mainly about the Kids on Fire School of Ministry that spent a week at this summer camp. The documentary starts back in Missouri, meeting some of the parents, Pastors and children involved in the camp and who are featured in this documentary. This documentary was actually slightly frightening to me. This is one of those films that as soon as non-Christians begin watching it on Netflix, they are going to start assuming and talking about how all Christians are extreme. Which of course is not the truth.

I was raised in a Christian Reformed church and we had fairly traditional services when I was young, but most Reformed churches in my area have evolved and become more modern in the way they worship. I have also been to a broad range of churches in different denominations over the years, so I feel that I have been exposed to a variety of different methods of worship. I have prayed with deep-South Baptists while on missions trips in North Carolina and I have been to large, non-denominational churches with thousands of people at the service, where it is also being streamed live over the internet. Each of these experiences has helped me see the diversity in the way people worship and that not every church is right for everyone.

That being said, this documentary is scary to me The children seem almost brainwashed and the way some of them talked during the documentary is really unreal. One little girl talked very enthusiastically about how God was only present in churches where people shouted, jumped up and down and waved their arms in the air. She went on to explain that churches where people “sing 3 songs and then sit quietly and listen to a sermon are called dead churches” because God is no longer present there. Why someone would teach this to a 7 year old is beyond me. During every service, hundreds of children are speaking in tongues and crying at this church and in this film. There was another young boy who was about 8-9 and was sobbing because he said he didn’t always believe what he read in the Bible. And he had a hard time believing everything he was supposed to believe. That in itself is tragic; a child of that age shouldn’t be hysterical because he has questions about what he has read in the Bible. He should be able to talk to his Pastor and/or parents about those questions without feeling like he is doing something wrong. At one point, the Pastor starts talking about how Muslim children are ready to lay down their lives for their beliefs and Christian children should as well. My thoughts about this particularly statement are not very nice, as she is referring to radical Islam, which is one of the most absurd statements throughout this documentary.

The other thing that really bothered me about this film is that it really puts a stigma on homeschooling. Many of the parents in this film decided to homeschool their children because of the separation of church and state. Homeschooling is wonderful if that is how you choose to raise your children, however these parents have completely taken science out of their children’s education and the things they are speaking about during homeschooling will make people who are uneducated about the benefits of homeschooling, judge it harsher than they already do. I plan to homeschool my children until around the Kindergarden age and then move them to a local Christian school. I think homeschooling is wonderful, but you can’t completely cut out important subjects like science, that is just unacceptable.

I have a degree in Anthropology and I was one of the only Christians in the program. People found this fact to be fascinating; how could I be majoring in a science program that put a huge emphasis and belief on evolution? My short answer; I completely believe in evolution, God created it. Rather then telling my children that it doesn’t exist and someone made it up (it’s been scientifically proven over and over) I chose to accept that I don’t know all the answers about what God has done in this world, but I do know that He created all of it. So the fact that these parents can’t see this as an acceptable explanation and decide instead to not teach any science, really makes Christians who homeschool seem very extreme and unintelligent.

I watch a lot of documentaries and I read a lot because I love to learn. But sometimes, like in this case, I also feel the need to speak out about what I have learned. I hope that anyone watching this film realizes that this is an extreme approach to Christianity, a very extreme approach. I have personally never met anyone who approaches Christianity in this way but I do think it has taken what God teaches us to an extreme. I hope anyone reading this does not take offense if you have different views then I do, my intent with this blog post was to inform non-Christians that this is not how most Christians think, feel or act. I fear that non-believers these days take the actions of a few extremists and assume that they can judge the majority by their actions, which we should never do, regardless of the situation. Please feel free to share your thoughts about this documentary in the comments section if you have already watched it.

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