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Review

‘Jesus Camp’ leaves viewers with opposing opinions

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October 19, 2006

It would be easy to say that this film is just a sad portrayal of brainwashed little redneck children. But to look at it that way would be to miss a more important issue.

This movie was completely intense, but very important to understanding a new population of Americans. Throughout the movie, the kids are called “The most important generation in American history.”

It is a pretty big responsibility for a 10 year old.

When I walked out of the theater I started looking at the kids who were riding bikes past me in a completely different way — somewhere between awe and fear. Can you imagine not being able to tell ghost stories?

Can you say that the study of science is all just made up and doesn’t answer any questions?

I can’t, but for the kids in the documentary “Jesus Camp,” those are two fundamental beliefs in their Evangelical way of life.

And if you think this film is just about religion, then you are just as naïve as the kids in the movie.

The timeframe set for the film is when President Bush nominated Sam Alito Jr. for the Supreme Court last year. It may not have seemed like a big deal, but I was unaware how overjoyed conservatives were.

Throughout the film, we are reminded of the political importance of Evangelical Christians because clips from religious talk radio shows are played to praise the nomination as a sign from God.

Ted Haggard, a preacher and the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, is interviewed in the film saying that if all the Evangelicals voted, they would win every election — as if they were making their religion a political party.  Mike Papantonio, a nationally syndicated radio host, offers the opposing, but as forceful commentary.

While the overall tone of “Jesus Camp” is political, the focus is on the kids.

Becky Fischer is a Pentecostal children’s minister who runs a summer bible camp in North Dakota called “Kids on Fire.” Here, they are trained to pray for “righteous judges” who will overturn Roe vs. Wade.

They smash dinnerware as a symbol of how they will break the government’s hold over them. They even touch a cardboard cutout of George Bush to “feel his power.” 

I feel totally cheated that my summer camp memories only involve tetherball and sneaking off to skinny dip at night! 

Twelve-year-old Levi is a young preacher (with a wicked rat tail, might I add) who is probably the most articulate of the kids we follow through the film. At one point Fischer asks him when he got “saved.”

Levi says, “At five I got saved … because I just wanted more of life.”

The other kids, 10-year-old Tory and 9-year-old Rachel, are seen several times in the film sobbing and speaking in tongue, but they don’t seem to truly understand why they believe the things they do.

Can you really blame them?

This documentary is not shown in every theater because it is not the same fluff you’ve been spoon-fed before.

You’ll have to make a trip to the cities if you’re interested in learning more about the direction this country is going. I think that is worth the gas money.

“Jesus Camp” was overwhelming to my heart and soul. When the credits started rolling, my eyes were welling up. I’ll let you decide why.

Jenna Lee is a student at UW-River Falls.