Monday, March 26, 2007


Dammit, I wrote a long post yesterday about the documentary Jesus Camp and it completely crashed on me. So now, when I explain that even though it seems like no one really IS watching, I'm going to try to post again in the vain hope that kicking at the darkness will bleed daylight. Not that I'm dramatic or anything.

General 6:30 a.m. summary of what I had to say about Jesus Camp:
  • I'm impressed by the fact that though the filmmakers were both non-religious individuals, the only voice they showed within the film critiquing the corruption of Christianity into a political institution, not to mention the use of children as "spiritual warriors" was a Christian talk radio host. It's easy to point out the problems a non-Christian might have with the Jesus Camp folks, but one of my problems is that the only image of Christians anyone is getting to see is these vehement, aggressive, right wing soldiers.
  • I was somewhat less impressed with using ramped-up Exorcist-esque music while the children were spinning and speaking in tongues and whatnot, because I think if it's freaky enough on its own (which it probably is), we don't need to editorialize about how freaky it is to watch them "being filled with the Holy Spirit". That just provides more fodder for dismissing attempts at discourse.
  • Ted Haggard makes a very interesting appearance at one of their rallies--the woman in charge of them camp is absolutely and completely emotionally genuine about why she wants to get these kids active politically. She sees the politics as the means to the end, and the end as the religious aspects. I mean, she scares me, but Ted Haggard is a totally different story. Obviously, hearing him speak about the sin of homosexuality is ridiculous in retrospect, but the level of cynicism he expresses is pretty depressing in and of itself. He basically seems to represent the reverse of the woman in charge--he wants the power, and he figures the religious rhetoric will get it for him. The kids are so excited to see this great Christian warrior, and he tells one of them that people only probably listen to him because he's a cute kid, so he should just milk that and not worry about content until he's 30. The kid totally knows he's just been insulted and dismissed, and the look on his face is real disappointment.
  • There are several scenes of kids being taught how to offer counter-arguments to those who don't believe in Creation science and who do believe in climate change. Wait, global warming is in the Bible? First of all, I don't see how this can be made into anything actually biblical and not just based on "George W. Bush says so", and their letting politics influence their faith instead of vice versa (I do know the dispensationalist attitude that it would be better if the world ended, so we shouldn't protect the environment, but if that's the case, why argue against the existence of global warming? Why not welcome it?). Second, they provide counterpoints to only the thinnest of straw man arguments--maybe not all of it was shown, but these are fairly young children and it's pretty easy to convince them of some things.
  • And that represents my fundamental problem with this movement. I think the thing that scared me the most was when this guy got the kids all worked up, literally screaming, crying and begging God not to let abortion continue. Now, I'm pro-choice, so putting red tape that says "LIFE" over a child's mouth says to me "No choice, no voice", but more than that, using mob frenzy charisma to rally children to this cause upsets me. The issues are far too complex for them to understand, and it's part of seriously lowering the level of discourse.
  • There is so damn much about this particular Christian movement that I do not understand. Leaving aside whether I agree with the party to which they have hitched their train, I can't really fathom why they don't understand that separation of church and state is designed to protect the church more than the state, and that having the church directly linked to a party, the will of the majority, and power is fundamentally bad for it. I mean, I realize they're winning right now, but it's just so short-sighted. There's one quote from someone saying, essentially, "If we get all the people in power to make the laws we want, then we'll have complete freedom". Yeah, except for the freedom to change your mind later and go against the rules you wanted.
  • Not being American either, I am completely unable to relate to any statement about the US as, essentially, the promised land. Quoting the Bible to say that "we" have to give God's land back to his people, and meaning specifically America, not the world in general. That is some crazy-ass manipulation of the literal text.
  • But then, these are also people who believe that Satan possesses PowerPoint presentations to prevent them from getting out the true message of God. Because we all know projectors and laptops never get glitches during presentations by those heathens of the liberal intellectual elite when they're speaking against the president.

In sum, a pretty good documentary, and part of a weekend filled with stuff that frustrated me about the state of the world. I think I need to start issuing more memos to humanity.


Dan said...

Along a similar vein, we watched the CBC documentary "Inside the Name of God: Scenes from the Extreme" over our lunch hour a few weeks ago (a mistake on our part given the graphic nature of some of the footage - do not this film watch if you have problems seeing graphic self mutilation and lots of blood).

The film is comprised of raw footage and brief interviews with Islamist extremists in Pakistan and Lebanon. It included scenes from a Hezbollah-run school, where there were children, no more than 4 or 5, singing Hezbollah war songs and chanting 'Death to Israel'; that is not an education, it is an indoctrination.

Sarah said...

Over your lunch hour? You government types are way more adventurous than I thought.

I don't think I'll see that movie (what with the graphic self-mutilation), but the woman in "Jesus Camp" actually makes reference to the fact that "the enemy" (ie. Islamic extremists) are having great success at recruiting children and convincing them to die for the cause of Islam. The problem in her eyes is not the means (manipulating the not entirely developed minds of children for political purposes), but the cause for which these children are being driven into a frenzy. It's not even "the other side is doing it, so it doesn't matter if we stoop to their level", it's "let's learn from their tactics without looking at whether they're wrong and adopt them for use against them".