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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Jesus Camp/The Lord's Boot Camp

I have been pondering these films for sometime since first seeing them a year or so ago. Actually I had thought I was thinking of strictly Jesus Camp(see the full movie here for FREE) But after researching a bit to do this post, I realized while I had lot's of disturbing thoughts about this film, the one that left me pondering it for all this time was actually The Lords Boot Camp which was a 48 hours TV special awhile back.

I am not sure I even want to touch on Jesus Camp as it is so disturbing, but I will. It is these types of religious nuts that give Christianity a bad name and make me at times embarrassed to admit to being one. There were several scenes in this movie that were actually frightening. My 12 year old was on another computer in the room not even paying attention to me watching this film on my computer, but turned around for one scene and said "what are you watching?" "It looks like they're worshipping some other kind of god." These kids were speaking gibberish(otherwise known as speaking in tongues) and shaking, almost convulsing. It was very unsettling. Having been a Christian for about 16-17 years of my adult life, and growing up off and on in a church of some sort or another, I have never seen anything like this. I know it's out there, I've heard of it, just never seen it. If my church started doing stuff like that, I'd be running, not walking out the door!
They are training these kids to walk up to strangers with the intent of "saving" them. Now, I don't have a problem with evangelising so to speak, but these encounters came off as very unnatural, uncaring, and just weird!
The leader/founder of this camp seems to be trying to raise some sort of "army for the Lord." To me it is pure indoctrination. I have heard non-believers talk of indoctrination, but didn't quite get what they were taking about, now I do, and I see why it is so disturbing. These little kids can talk all the church-ease but can't really back any of it up with their own thoughts and opinions. In the end they end up looking and sounding like ignorant robots, not likely to do any real, sincere "soul-winning." Very closed minded as well. One of the mothers commented "there are two types of people, those who love Jesus, and those who don't" and alluded to the fact they don't have much tolerance for those who don't. Well, I got news for you, Jesus loves all, even those who don't yet know Him, and we are instructed to do the same, where's the love?
The big agenda in all of this seems to be very political, and as a Christian myself, I still question the role, if any Christianity should play in politics. My concern is that these children are clearly being manipulated and used to serve an agenda that has little to do with true Christianity.
I will let you choose wether to watch or not and form your own opinions, but it just left me feeling quite unsettled. I hope people who do choose to watch this film don't think all Christians are like this, because they're not, although I do see a movement in that direction these days.
The movie I was confusing this with was actually a 48 hours TV Special; The Lords Boot Camp. This one, I had mixed feelings about. There were some very good parts of this show, and some that really upset me even more than the above film.
This special showed a number of teens attending a camp that trains them to be missionaries. As someone who for a long time has desired to serve as a missionary to a foreign country, I watched this with great interest.
The back stories of some of these young teens was actually more interesting than the pretense of the film itself and the impact this camp had on each teen was interesting as well. As far as an enjoyment factor, I'd give this show a slightly higher rating, but it still had plenty of faults in regards to depicting Christianity.
These teens after receiving training went off on short term mission trips. Some went to far off Africa(these scenes were particularly good!) and others stayed in the US and tried their hand at "Soul Winning" at state fairs, retirement homes and more. These are the scenes that left me upset for months after watching.
One scene in particular was at the state fair and included an encounter with a Mormon, where a young teen supposedly "converted" her right there, with the mothers great disapproval.(all of these scenes, can be viewed at YouTube with the whole show viewed in 4-5 segments) But the most upsetting scene for me was this one, that took place at the retirement home;

This old, frail woman prayed the "sinners prayer" "gave her life to the Lord" and was so visibly shaken and moved emotionally and as I watched I wanted to reach out and hug this dear woman, and this, stupid, selfish girl who just "saved" this woman wouldn't, what was she concerned with? "Getting a form" This pissed me off more than words could express, I was literally yelling at the screen "hug the woman, just hug her!!" This selfish little girl was more concerned with getting her form filled out to "prove" she had "saved" someone, so she can get her brownie points or whatever reward was offered to bribe these children into "soul winning." They had a goal of 300 souls to be won that summer, according to them, they made it. Yea for them??

I have a BIG problem when "soul winning" becomes a sport or competition to "prove" what a great Christian you are, to earn some sort of prize or recognition. This is one of many things in Christian Culture that leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

I have been called a "moderate" Christian, and at first was offended as I consider my relationship with my God very deep and sincere, but I guess when compared to these sorts of Christians, I am moderate and thankful for it! I want to be nothing like them, and want nothing to do with them! I really try hard not to be judgemental of others, but it is hard not to when they take so much pride in themselves and their good works, and make it a spectacle for all to see.

So I will take the moderate label and wear it proudly, so as long as I am not lumped into the crowd with folks like those featured in these films! My faith is my own, and I am more than happy to share it anywhere any time with anyone who wants to know more, but I am not out there shoving down peoples throats only to pat myself on the back and keep a running tally of how many "saves" I have this week!

And yet, many a Christian wonders why they are seeing less and less numbers in their pews each week and why so many youth are leaving the church? They only have to look as far as these two films to find the answer!


William Cooney said...

Outstanding post! I watched the entire Jesus Camp movie today and excerpts of The Lord's Boot Camp also. (I will get to the whole movie soon.)

Let me say this: I was so blown away by what I witnessed in Jesus Camp that I am considering starting an R-Rated version of my blog just so I can employ the expletives that have been swirling around in my head all afternoon!

The minister of the camp, Becky Fischer, struck me as a kind of mad scientist out to create a master race of religious zealots. What I saw in her was a total void of humility and instead someone on one incredible power trip. She is actually perfect for the job she has annointed herself to perform - raping the minds of young impressionable children.

Fischer obscenely takes advantage of the natural tendency of young children to want to please their authority figures. Your description of them, Tara, as "ignorant robots" is quite apt.

I kept asking myself what these children would be like in 10, 15 or 20 years. I have no crystal ball, but trust me when I (and others) say that most of them will likely suffer serious disillusionment from having been so mistreated (I really want to say abused). I personally endured quite a different kind of indoctrination, but one that was equally offensive. After enduring much disillusionment myself, I am now content knowing that my personal belief system, world view, philosophy, etc., about life is truly my own. But I do deeply resent having ever been subjected to religious inculcation of any kind, and my guess is so will these children once they grow up and get a real taste of intellectual freedom.

Your having taken so much offense at Jesus Camp doesn't surprise me, Tara. It's plain you are not of the same intolerant, ultra-conservative stripes that these people are. And as much as I want to promote reason over faith, I will still not employ crude methods in my efforts to influence others.

I found the scene in The Lord's Boot Camp where the young girl "absconds" with the soul of the elderly patient in the nursing home just as abhorrent as you did. Again, the real offenders are the adult manipulaters. But for them these young teenagers would not behave so stupidly.

As for Jesus Camp I believe it to be an excellent documentary film, and I highly recommend it.

kaden said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Tara B. said...

Kate, thanks for visiting and thanks so much for leaving a comment!
Tara B

Tara B. said...

William(Bill? What do you like being called?)

I got quite upset over this film as you can tell, but yet I think it is quite funny...I really think this was suppose to WOW fellow christians, and boy did it WOW a few, but not the way it was intended!
Tara B

William Cooney said...

I prefer "Bill" from friendly people such as yourself. Use "William" only if I said something I shouldn't have said - LOL