Jesus Camp (2005)

Written by Bev. Posted in movies, Reviews

If you’re a Christian Evangelical (or zealot, even), you’ll probably be unfazed by this movie and walk away thinking what a great camp for children. If you’re not, then this movie is eye-opening and perhaps a bit unsettling. It’s full of poignant moments that will leave you thinking and talking.

Some of the more poignant moments for me was when the camp brought in a man to talk about how being pro-choice and abortion is evil. The lesson being taught to the kids is, of course, that life begins immediately after impregnation and there is no distinction between a few days old fetus and a full-grown human. It’s murder. Period, end of story. The camp organizes a protest with the kids against the pro-choice agenda, complete with tape over every kid’s mouth that says “LIFE” over it. There’s also a part towards the end when the film makers interview Levi and Rachael, two kids attending the camp. They talk about being trained to train others to be God’s army and how there’s a peace, excitement and that “it’s really cool” to be trained as warriors. There’s even talk about how they aren’t afraid to die in battle.

Two of the more amusing moments in the film include the part when the camp leader denounces Harry Potter. She says “warlocks are enemies of God” and that “had it been in the Old Testament, Harry Potter would’ve been put to death”. The kids clap and one says “Amen!”. There’s this scene at the lunch table where one kid says he watches Harry Potter movies at his father’s house because his mother doesn’t want him watching movies with witchcraft. This revelation is greeted with looks of disapproval and uncomfortableness as if to say “OH NO YOU DIDN’T”. The other amusing part is pretty much anything Pastor Ted Haggard says as it’s rather ironic given his recent “scandal”.

The film seems rather unbiased in its presentation of the footage at camp, which is intertwined with footage of a radio talk show host who shows another side of the spectrum. It doesn’t lead you to one particular perspective on theological ideology, rather, it allows for the viewer to make up his or her own mind. For me, the documentary left me a bit unsettled. What I felt was unsettling was the way they were condoning or preaching about being God’s army (and hence, the concept of dying in the name of God). Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for religion because religion is theoretically a good thing for society. But where does the distinction lie between this kind of religious fanaticism that promotes kids being an “army” for God (and becoming a “martyr” as Rachael talks about excitedly in one part) and well, hate to say it, but the terrorists in the Middle East who are blowing people and themselves up in the name of Allah?

If anything, this movie will promote dialogue about religion. I still recommend this movie for anyone, no matter where you are situated on the religious spectrum or what religion you believe in. It’s just fascinating!


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