Jesus Camp

I'm sure Leviticus wouldn't like the suggestion that Jesus was camp.

Released in 2006, certified UK-PG. Reviewed on 05 Mar 2008 by Scott Morris
Jesus Camp image

You may have heard about a recent cult movement that's been gaining popularity of late, with the usual roster of beliefs that, to those of us who hold rational thought in some regard, seem somewhat far-fetched. They believe that an infinitely powerful force deposited us, fully formed on this rock a mere six thousand years ago, and gave us conciousness through some sort of "spirit", a rough analogue of the more sensible 'body thetan' theory. They, like all good cults, believe that they alone hold sway over the truth and the only way ensure happiness is the slavish devotion to and spreading of their beliefs. For a while, these people were disregarded as harmless cranks, like that drunk vagrant that keeps on shouting about fish. However, thanks in no small part to high profile celebrities like Joe Pasquale, Tasmin Archer and Claudia Winkleman taking up the cause, their movement grows dangerously threatening to our way of life. They call themselves "Christians", and this is what they do to children.

Quite why people are so keen to dismiss Scientology out of hand as cultism, even if widespread and dangerous, yet preach that we must remain tolerant of Christianity's no less ludicrous belief system and no less dangerous to children choir system is something of a mystery. Islam of course is a different matter, as I don't want to be blown up, so please don't extend anything I'm saying here to your particular set of moonbat beliefs, Johnny Jihad. The Evangelical Christians and their attendant circus sideshow are something of a thankful rarity in the largely secular, mostly reasonable U.K. In the States however, all those crazy folks we kicked out of the country for wearing buckles on their hats some couple of hundred years ago went forth and multiplied and now the country is in such a state that the majority of people have decided that evolution, despite the reams of observations that point to it as a far more reasonable, rational explanation, jus' ain't right. Obviously, the more satisfying answer is that a big boy did it and ran away.

How did it come to this? Possibly due to the existence of places like the Evangelical boot camp documented here, named after the unfortunate incident of which we shall not speak as "Kids on Fire". If you need to find it on the map, it's just south of Lake Shotyaindeface. Kiddywinks, many if not most under the age of ten are taken and indoctrinated in the steadfast beliefs of their cult, creationism, anti-abortionism, anti-homosexuality, that the contradictory, committee of humans-authored bible is the direct and unquestioned word of God, yadda, yadda. Oh, and that the absolute best thing that could happen is that the world would end immediately and we should all be working diligently towards that end. Most bafflingly of all, they believe that George Bush is a wise, competent and compassionate leader. Seriously!

Jesus Camp image

No matter how bizarre and illogical these credibility busting claims may be, one can't question their devotion to their misguided cause. What Jesus Camp focuses on is how the Evangelicals raise their kids. Often home-schooled to avoid exposure to anything that might challenge their carefully constructed systems (like that 'science' thing with its troublesome 'evidence' schtick), it's not fair to call them brainwashed because they haven't had any time to form any opinions of their own. Free thought and free will always seemed like overvalued commodities anyway.

As an aside, I'd like to extend my thanks to my parents for not filling my head full of nonsense and bile during my formative years.

I'm aware that this is starting to sound like it should be read from a soapbox, so allow me to try to refocus. Jesus Camp works so infuriatingly well because it's so blindingly simple. Following the 'enough rope' school of thought, the footage of events in and around the camp are presented entirely without comment, allowing your own internal narrator to scream outrage rather than, say, have a Michael Moore-esque guy commenting on how bad all of this seems to them. Indeed, the only dissenting voice you'll hear in this piece comes from a radio talk show host that, despite being raised a Christian managed to maintain some semblance of rationality.

I suppose if your actually share these beliefs, you zany, irrational wingnut, then this film's content wouldn't actually be shocking, disgusting and deeply disturbing. People who have not severed diplomatic ties with rationality will find themselves in a rather different position, and that position is likely to be so enraged that they want to put a foot through their telly. This isn't a documentary about religion, it's a documentary about child abuse. If anyone is ever in any doubt about the dangers caused by faith schools then they should be pointed in the direction of this film. I have no doubt that by the end they'll be thinking, if you'll pardon the turn of phrase, there but for the grace of God go I.

Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 4/5 TippyMarks.

Heidi Ewing
Rachel Grady
Cast list:
Becky Fischer (Herself)
Ted Haggard (Himself)