Oct 30, 2006

Scary Movie: Jesus Camp

The scariest Halloween movie is not Saw XII or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, but a little documentary called Jesus Camp. If you really want the living daylights scared out of you, I strongly recommend this film. It will give you heart palpitations. Aside from its obvious tendentiousness, (needless menacing music and weird camera angles), it is a very interesting film about an Evangelical camp for kids where they basically brainwash children into reclaiming the United States as a solely Christian nation.
I am not scared of the Christian Right per se. According to the film, they make up about 25% of the population and I strongly believe that the other 75%, even at its most conservative, is not as batshit lunatic as these people. I believe most Americans still hold on to some modicum of common sense and still want their country to be free and pluralistic. And if they don't want that, they want to be left the hell alone to do whatever the hell they want, so I'm not sure that they will welcome public religious frenzies with open arms. However, as the film points out, these fringe maniacs are extremely well funded and organized and they wield considerable political influence and power in this Administration and with this Republican congress. At the beginning of the film I thought that such an obsessive, sick, codependent relationship with Jesus is the last resort of the White Trash Nation. They ask Jesus to bless the powerpoint presentation or the bowling ball, and then of course, he never does. It can make someone crazy.
It soon became clear that these people are not White Trash (though they still favor mullets). They are well to do, middle class suburbanites that seem to have too much money and time in their hands. They live in places without intellectual or cultural stimulation and they isolate themselves in their hysterical love of God and their holier than thou attitude towards the rest of society. They behave more like a cult than a religion. And their tactics are manipulative and extreme and I was wondering if they are not illegal. As far as I'm concerned, these people are abusing their children psychologically, instilling constant fears and morbid thoughts about sin and death and abortion and killing babies in their tender, impressionable minds. So you have scene after scene of kids pretending to be speaking in tongues and having paroxisms of faith that they are not mature enough to understand, let alone muster. There seems to be, like in any group activity, a great deal of peer pressure. Plus some of these kids are home schooled and all they know is the Bible.
The formidable Becky Fisher, the pastor who runs the camp, is a smart, apparently sincere woman, and when she talks about how the Muslims train (that's the word she uses) their children to fast for Ramadan since the age of five, you know that a secret admiration for suicide bombing is not far behind. She stops short of going to this extreme, but she is indoctrinating future Christian soldiers for a cultural if not literal war on the secular values of this country. Christian Fundamentalism does not differ much from Muslim or Jewish fanaticism or any other extreme misinterpretation of religion. In essence, somebody that thinks that they own the absolute truth and theirs is the only way, and the only way to God is through force and coercion, is pretty much the same regardless of their faith. Their strength is that there is no questioning their faith, so rational discourse does not apply.
In contrast to some countries, where it is compulsory for parents to send their children to school, this country allows parents to homeschool their children. There is no supervision or obligatory state curriculum that the parents have to follow, on top of whatever other subjects they may want to teach their kids. I think there should be. Kids should not be used as missionaries or evangelists or proselytizers, like the film shows. There is one completely confused and neurotic, relentless little girl that I hope shows up here in NY and I hope I run into her on the street and I hope she tries to give me a little pamphlet about God's blood so I can knock her teeth out and do her and us a favor.

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