In the Blog
I’ve been catching up on documentaries lately, which is a mostly depressing activity. Most recently, I Jesus Camp, Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady’s look at an evanglical Christian summer camp.
This is no ordinary camp, and it makes for pretty disturbing viewing. Camp director Becky Fischer berates the kids for being dirty hypocritical sinners until they’re sobbing and speaking in tongues. Then she brings in a children’s entertainer to teach them that abortion is wrong, giving everyone their own fetus doll to hold. And that’s just the beginning. Fischer freely admits that she is buliding an army of God.
Lots has been said about this doc (here’s a discussion with the filmmakers) so I won’t go into whether this is brainwashing, indoctrination, abuse, etc. (I think it pretty clealy is.) I took something different and sort of strange from the documentary.
Early in the film, we meet one of the campers in her room at home, where she’s dancing in her mirror and talking about her favourite music. She’s listening to Christian rock, which she likes because it isn’t always about sex - Britney Spears and friends, she tells us, don’t really share her values.
There’s an urge that feminists have in common with even the most radical arms of the Evangelical movement, I think, and it has to do with building an alternative culture. I see something poisonous in contemporary culture, just like that girl does. I wish I could build a universe for my loved ones without that poison. And there are other things we agree on. The kids in Jesus Camp are encouraged to give their own sermons, which seems kind of cool and empowering to me.
But most of the documentary is, obviously, not cool at all. So here’s my question for you, dear readers: What went wrong at Jesus Camp?