Monday, October 16, 2006

Head to Jesus Camp

Our church had quite the whing ding of a Homecoming this past weekend. It was a total blast, but I need to wait for some friends to send me photos before a blog entry can do it justice (not having a camera is killing me).

After the last reception on Sunday Dave said he was too tired to do anything but sit and stare at something, so we decided to catch a movie. John opted to be the responsible adult and stayed home to do laundry. We saw Jesus Camp, a documentary about kids from the midwest who attend an evangelical church camp in North Dakota called Kids on Fire where they learn to speak in tongues and lay hands in prayer on a cardboard cut-out of George Bush.

Even though it is a documentary, there are some very Waiting for Guffman-ish moments like when the likeable Pastor Becky, who runs Kids on Fire, waves a plastic sickle as she explains how toys make great teaching tools for kids. My favorite Pastor Becky moment though is when she searches for just the right blood-dripping font for the Power Point presentation to accompany one of her sermons to the kids: "I think I've got a bloody font in here somewhere. There it is. That's much better."

The documentary also follows Levi, a pre teen would-be preacher with a rat tail mullet. Naively sure of his knowledge of life (thanks to his mother who tells him science doesn't really prove anything), he's still sweet and articulate. Watching him make his way through the maze of pride that surrounds preachers in his faith community is both touching and full of melancholy. The scariest moments are those where Ted Haggard, head pastor at a 4,000 person strong megachurch in Colorado Springs, blathers on about the indomitable might of "evangelicals" as little Levi hangs on his every word. According to the film, Haggard speaks with G. W. Bush every Monday.

The crowd in the theater alternated between shocked giggles and horrified gasps. For all of the talk about Jesus in this movie, some of the major concerns he had while walking the earth (freeing people to live with love and imagination and dismantling hierarchical oppression imposed by religious leaders), seem pretty absent in the faith of these folks. In fact, the omnipresent language of war and what passes for prayer (mostly yelling at God to overturn a government they don't care for) seem much more in line with the militaristic, but ultimately misguided hopes that some of Christ's disciples had for his earthly kingdom. (It is probably a good idea to remind myself that Jesus still invited them to hang out with him.)

At first I thought this movie would be merely a whacky story of some uber-zealots in North Dakota, but in the end, Jesus Camp's greatest gift is the way it reveals the magnitude of the seething-as-it-smiles element of the religious right in the U.S and the innocents that get sucked into its vortex. Serious stuff it is. But you still have to love watching Pastor Becky's frustration at not being able to spray her hair as high and as spiky as she would like. Even a general in the army of God can have a bad hair day.


Anonymous Marc said...

Troy, great review! God has really put it on my heart to see this film. Maybe you could pray on me in hopes that I could see God's will through this movie. Amen! You know I was a camp counselor in my late teens and early twenties. One of the best parts of working at camp was the nighttime drunken party/benders for which all the college aged counselors engaged. I wonder if this happened at Jesus Camp. Or maybe they just had mountain dew parties.

5:52 AM  
Anonymous Marcie said...

Hi, Troy!!

Erich and I have missed you and John. We will be making an appearance at church THIS Sunday!! I know it's hard to believe after all these months, but we finally aren't out of town or too hungover from a wedding related festivity to attend.

I just wanted to say hello and see you all soon!


9:37 AM  
Anonymous adam jones said...

Wee-hee there Troy...

Greetins' from across the pond and congratulations to you... you're no longer banned in China. I can now access your blog, for the time being anyway, until the roving randomness of the Great fireWall decides to block all blogspot again.
Saw some footage from this documentary and it was pretty frightening. Simplifying world views are about as helpful as using a fork to ladle out gravy. Us and Them, With Us or Against Us, a cardboard cutout of George Bush... man, this is creepy. I heard a quote the other day that went something like, 'there are 2 kinds of people in the world, those that divide all people into 2 groups and those who don't.' Seems like these kids are well on their way to following the thinking patterns of our current commander-in-chief... who does seem, by the way, only slightly more intelligent than the cardboard cutout that bears his smirk.


1:48 AM  
Blogger Troy said...

Wow. Voices from the past. Marcie you are welcome anytime.

And Adam, so glad China decided to let us through. Now you should start your own blog.

5:28 AM  

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