I need to catch the 9:30 ferry and go to Vashon this morning to participate in the memorial service for our beloved Doc Eastly, but I watched the documentary "Jesus Camp" last night and need to write a review of it before the horror of it subsides.
Jesus Camp is an hour and a half of horrifying footage about how a group of evangelicals (and I know this is NOT true of the evangelical Christians I know personally) in the midwest is schooling children to be "warriors for God".
I watched in growing apprehension as I watched adults deliberately groom and seduce children into behavior that was quite unchildlike, quite inappropriate for their age level, and quite disturbing in its emotional destructiveness.
I made notes as I watched and I'll just list them here, rather than expound in depth:
1. We know too-early sexualization of children is sexual abuse because of the coercion and betrayal of trust involved; what about too-early religionization, induction into a point of view and behavior that are beyond a child's ability to grasp, and achieved by grooming and seduction and threats of hell?
2. If sexual abuse violates the self through the body and mental abuse violates the self through the brain, does spiritual abuse violate the self through the heart? Will the victim ever recover his/her selfhood?
3. I couldn't help thinking about the likelihood that many of these kids will eventually get disgusted and leave, some with their selfhood intact and others with damaged and violated selves.
4. It was creepy to watch the adults in relationship with these kids, particularly as they whipped the kids into a frenzy with music, with rhythm, and with threats of sin and degradation. The look on adult faces was almost gloating, as the kids cried and raised their arms to the sky. One little boy was in tears the whole time, it seemed, and he appeared to be genuinely concerned that he was doomed. I wondered if he was a child who already knew he was different sexually (and the message about homosexuality was clear, though not much articulated verbally) and was pleading with God to change him.
5. The kids at times seemed to be parroting the message in order to get adult approval. I could hardly believe that they actually understood and were committed to what they said.
6. The kids were charged with saving the nation from abortion. Tiny fetus dolls were passed out for the kids to handle and keep and most of the kids wore red bracelets signifying the blood of Jesus and the sin of abortion.
7. Ted Haggard was featured decrying homosexuality. And though my gaydar is not great, I thought "oh, yeah, buddy?"
8. The faces of the kids showed uncertainty at many points and I wondered where they would be in ten years---dead of suicide because of their self-loathing? stuck in the same rut? doing this to other kids? or revolting against it all and hating religion?
9. Several scenes portrayed ritualistic bobbing up and down, for no apparent purpose, though it reminded me of worshippers at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. Many of the kids had red tape with the word LIFE marked on it over their mouths as they protested at Pro-Life rallies.
And over all the movie, the figure of Pastor Becky Fischer, the woman who invented Jesus Camp, intoning her message "We're telling kids about Jesus, we're telling kids about Jesus. Jesus wants them to save the nation. Jesus wants them to save the world."
In reality, there was nothing about Jesus in this movie and everything about sadistic and manipulative adults, using children to get their jollies. How sick is that?