Monday, February 19, 2007

Jesus Camp Review- Part Three.

Let's see if I can get this review finished? ;)
I know some of you have noticed the absense of Levi in my review. Trust me, I did notice him and the fact that I haven't mentioned him was intentional. Levi is a really, really cute little guy. Early on in the movie, we see Becky ambush him after a prayer meeting (in Missouri). Levi claims that he was "saved" at the age of five and that, before that time, he just didn't "get anything out of life". ?? One has to ask...what kind of hell-on-earth does a five year old have to be living in to feel that there's nothing good about life? But, conjecture aside, Levi was saved by the Holy Spirit...a detail that Becky Fisher pounces on like a cheetah on a wounded gazelle. Levi, for what it's worth, seems to be a fairly well-spoken young man. He's also remarkably poised for a pre-teen. But,...more than that, he seems to know JUST what to say to get adults around him to listen.

Levi attends Jesus Camp...his profile is pretty low until the last third of the movie. I mean, what with Rachel, Tory, and Harry Potter, hogging the camera. ;) Becky approaches Levi and asks him to give a sermon to the rest of the children. Subsequent scenes include Levi pacing on an outdoor stage, trying to "hear God" and receive divine revelation into what he should say to his fellow Christian soldiers. The answer: "We are a key generation in Christ coming back!" He delivers this message to the kids who are, needless to say, totally enthusiastic about the proposition. I find this strange for a couple of reasons: not the least of which is the fact that, if you take the Bible literally, the return of Christ means that Armageddon is upon the world and...well, there will be mass carnage and chaos. Basically, Levi is confirming that there is an up-and-coming generation of young Christians who WANT THE WORLD TO END. Not only do they want it, but they expect it!

Camp ends and the kids pack up to go on the road. I'm not sure how the post-camp trips came about, but we get to see Levi visit Colorado. There, he gets to meet his hero: Ted Haggard. For the skeptical/atheist/cynical viewers, these scenes promise comedy gold. Haggard, while giving a sermon on HOMOSEXUALITY, makes several direct comments to the Jesus Camp cameras. Haggard says such things like:
Haggard: We don't have to debate about what we should think about homosexual activtity. It's written in the Bible. I think I know what you did last night. If you send me a thousand dollars...I won't tell your wife. If you use any of this, I'll sue you."
*BOGGLE* Um...yeah, Ted. I'm sure you'll be regretting those words, forever recorded for prosterity. DUMB ASS! That has got to be one of the biggest slips ever!
But, the craziness doesn't stop there. Levi, who's in the audience, is just eating this stuff up! In the deleted scenes for the movie, Ted also says: "I'm lying...it's really not a lie, it's kind of a joke. They're all innocent lies that we tell our kids all the time...like, "YEAH YOU ARE GOING TO BE PRESIDENT!" No. You're not going to be president." I had to stop and rewind this several times because I couldn't believe the completely unfiltered asshattery (*drink*) that was being recorded. Levi, undeterred by the fact that he's just been told that Haggard thinks it's okay to lie to children, steps up to the rock concert styled platform and patiently waits to meet his idol. He tells Ted that he really thinks he wants to be a minister/evangelist. He tells Ted that he's already preaching. Ted looks at Levi with very transparent disdain and says:
Haggard: Oh, you do some preaching? What's your favorite subject?
Levi: My favorite subject? Oh...I like faith.
Haggard: Well that's fabulous (woooot wooooot, gaydar should be going off). So,...do people like hearing you preach?
Levi: It seems everybody pays attention more... "hey, there's this kid that's preaching."
Haggard: Is it your content or is it because you're a kid?
...I say use your cute kid thing until you're 30 and by then you'll have good content."
*THUD* Ted sure sucked the wind out of Levi's sails. Mercifully, the editors left in only a momentary glimpse of Levi's face.

The last few scenes of the movie revolve around Rachel and Levi taking a road trip with the abortion guy to Washington D.C.. They stand outside D.C.'s touristy spots and place red tape over their mouth, with the word "LIFE" penned on the tape. They sing a few Christian hymns and... the movie ends with the DJ from the first scenes of the movie challenging Becky Fisher to a radio debate.


If I've missed any really important scenes, please feel free to discuss it in comments.

34 comments:

proud to be an Atheist said...

Hey Possummomma (night owl too huh?)

I just first want to say that I am completely hooked on your blog and have been reading all you have done so far this year. I can't wait to see what you did in 06.

I was linked to it from Julia Sweeney's blog. I too am an Atheist, have always been, and always will be.

Anyway, last night I read your post on this spooky camp and right away my husband and I put it in our Netflix number 1 spot. I think it will be kind of like an accident, you want to look away, but you just can't...

If you havne't already, any chance of you blogging about dealing with family members that try to by-pass you and tell your children about god even though they know how you feel?

proud to be an Atheist said...

*haven't already*

sorry, I hate when I misspell.

darrell said...

Wow P-Momma, I had heard about this documentary but I hadn't even thought about watching it until your review made me morbidly curious.

The verdict after watching it: SCARY STUFF. Between the speaking in tongues and all the talk about warfare and everything, it was terrifying to me. I'm used to arguing about scientific subject matter with religious people who simply have misinformed views based on faith, but seeing these people filled me with new levels of disgust and horror. It's one thing to tell your kid that dinosaurs and humans lived together, it's quite another to encourage them to babble incoherently and cry while telling them they're fighting in a war.

Scenes which made me especially sick:

The little fundie family who pledges alligiance to the "Christian Flag" and The Bible. This made me so mad I couldn't even stand it. These people are the real traitors. Conservatives love to call people out on being disloyal to America, how about these nutjobs who think that their religion is more important than the country which allows them to practice it.

Along those same lines, the part where that idiot brings Rachel and Levi to DC to do their little pro-life protest also really got to me. I'm a DC-area native, and I am very protective of the District. When Nazis march on The Mall we go out there and make sure they know they aren't welcome. Well its the same for these child-abusers. I wish I'd been around to tell them to get the hell out of our beautiful city.

Cap'n Murkat said...

I have to say, I liked the bit right at the end (after the first lot of credits). When they go up to the 3 guys sat in shirs by the road and ask them if they will go to heaven when they die.
I laughed so much when she walked away after asking again and said "they must be muslim or something".

I did feel sorry for Levi slightly when he basically told him he couldn't be any good, so just go with the cute kid thing.
I never understand why *super* religious people are more likely contradict the values they preach with their actions. Surely he should have been supportive of Levi, and encourage him???
I get the feeling that he is a man who likes power and would do anything to eliminate any threat to his position.

I say *super*, as i don't think they fall into the same group of people who align themselves with a religion. It becomes something else entirely.
In this case, they have taken Christianity to a whole new level, where things are beginning to get twisted. I think the majority of christians would not want to assosciate themselves with these people, in much the same way as the majority of muslims (etc) would not side with the extremists that promote terrorism.

Cap'n Murkat said...

sorry, somehow the word chairs became 'shirs'. :-S

Also, I don't mean that only muslims (etc) are asscoiated with terrorism, I simply use it as an example.

Paul said...

Proud to be an Atheist wrote:"If you haven't already, any chance of you blogging about dealing with family members that try to by-pass you and tell your children about god even though they know how you feel?"

I don't know how Possummomma will answer this question, but my sister and her husband are evangelical Baptists. I have no compunction about my son being exposed to them, nor do I worry about them proselytising to him. I have spent no time talking to him about religion at all. I have never encouraged him to be an atheist, or even discussed my personal beliefs with him. So, if anything, he has heard a one sided message - their side. I am simply doing my best to raise him with an ability to think for himself, and I trust he can sort it out for himself.

Anonymous said...

And I had the opposite reaction, Paul. When my kids were younger, the neighbor came over to ask them to bible study or somesuch. "No," was my response. The second time, "No." That's all it took and they haven't bothered us since. They are old enough now to handle their own "no" but as very young kids, it seemed like a bad idea to let them go to a brainwashing session.

Nance

Janet said...

As someone who's escaped a brain-washing cult, but has parents still in (jw's), I refuse to let my children stay with my parents unsupervised. Mind you, they're 3 hours away, and never ask to see them anyway, so it's fairly easy at this point.

Bifrost said...

I have been reading your blog for about a month now. Thanks for your efforts.

Years ago, Carl Sagan made a statement concerning the danger of a belief in deities. He said, and I am paraphrasing, if you believe in the event of a civilization ending war, a deity will return and take you to paradise, then you might not do everything possible to prevent that war. It appears that some fundies would not only welcome the end of civilization, but would encourage it as well.

Fundamentalism, whether Christian, Muslim, or other forms, should not be ignored. From personal experience, I know that the fundamentalist Baptist churches teach that it is wrong to question, and the preachers will tell you not to think for yourself, because they have all the answers. That seems to be more than a religion, it seems to be cultish. For this reason “Jesus Camp” is frightening.

As a personal observation, it seems that throughout history, the enlightened civilizations have fallen to the masses that believe in superstition and myth. I hope that because of our ability to retain recorded histories and knowledge, and because some countries actually teach their children to think, that the fundies do not at some time in the future plunge us into another period of dark ages.

Stephanie said...

Well, I guess I'm going to have to see this movie now :) I have been undecided about whether I should watch it or not. I guess I've avoided it because I grew up in a fundy home and remember going to summer camps that had some similarities to this camp....although not as extreme.

I never understand why *super* religious people are more likely contradict the values they preach with their actions. Surely he should have been supportive of Levi, and encourage him???

I never had the experience of adults in the church being supportive of kids. It seemed to me that the adults were taught to put kids in their place. Keep them quiet and obedient.

When I graduated high school as a valedictorian, my uncle's comment at my graduation party was, "Come on, anybody can be a valedictorian at a public school." That crushed me at the time.

I think they want people who are broken down because they're less likely to leave the church. Churches thrive on peoples' insecurities.

In regards to allowing my kids to be evangelized to by my religious relatives, I think it depends on their age. My kids are 6 & 4 and we will not allow them to go to church with my in-laws. When they get older, we will take them to church if that's what they want. But, I want to be available to answer any questions they might have.

I think I'm a little more protective than some people might be because of my experiences growing up. I know that many churches will try to tear them down so it can suck them in.

Margaret said...

Stephanie said "I never had the experience of adults in the church being supportive of kids. It seemed to me that the adults were taught to put kids in their place. Keep them quiet and obedient."

Yes, that was my experience in both church (Catholic) and school (public). "Shut up, don't ask questions, don't think, do what you're told, and quit expecting to be treated fairly."

I never (as a child) met an adult who had any other attitude, or even seemed to like children (unless you mean the way a cat "likes" mice). That probably explains why I don't have kids myself since, even if I liked them (I don't), I would not be willing to send them to grade school to have their spirits broken.

The fascinating article "Red Family, Blue Family" (http://www.gurus.com/dougdeb/politics/209.html) says: "Strict Father families focus on children’s original sin, and want to train it out of them." The author here is not talking about just actual families here, but also schools, governments, etc. The public schools I went to and the government we now suffer under all use the "Strict Father" model.

Margaret said...

Oops! Looks like the link got cut off. Let me try again (join these lines together):

http://www.gurus.com
/dougdeb
/politics
/209.html

proud to be an Atheist said...

To all that told of their experiences thank you : )

I don't know that this was the place to even pose such a question (especially being a first time responder on here). I only brought it up because it is scary how impressionable these children at this camp are.

Let me see if I can make a long story short:

Son gave up religion in his teens. Parents have since then tried to *save* him. Son then marries another Atheist with 2 boys. Long trek to visit inlaws (they really are wonderful people except for the god thing). A little bit of alone time with Grandpa and they believe in a guy they had never heard of. A couple of years go by and youngest son now 8 has said on more than 1 occassion that my husband and I are going to hell because we don't believe.

We obviously need to set some ground rules with the grandparents, but don't know how to do it w/out offending anyone.

proud to be an Atheist said...

To Stephanie,

Sorry you never had any support, and I actually gasped about what your uncle said to you. That was awful and so not true. I don't know how long ago that was, but that is a big accomplishment, congratulations.

Coming from a class size of close to 300 people, that is not an easy thing to do.

Boss Foxx said...

Enjoyed the review you wrote. I thought about writing one after watching it a couple of weeks ago, but just couldn't bring myself to do it.

The one thing that had me wondering throughout the movie was, is this lady the only one running a camp like this? I can appreciate that she represents a minority of Evangelical Christians who are absolutely ravenous in their intolerance, but could she be the only one running a children's camp of this nature?

Margaret said...

We obviously need to set some ground rules with the grandparents, but don't know how to do it w/out offending anyone.

They have been offensive to you and, worse, are using your child against you. If you won't defend yourself for fear of being impolite, you must certainly defend your child from them. Stephanie is right about religion tearing people (especially children) down in order to suck them in. It is that destruction of self-worth, not the silly fairy tales, which are the most dangerous part of religion.

I have heard (no personal experience) that a good way to counter one religion's fairy tales is by exposing the young victim to lots of other religions' fairy tales: Norse gods, Greek gods, Native American creation myths (I like the Navajo ones myself), etc. Any reasonably bright kid who is not continuously being brainwashed can draw the obvious conclusion without having it explicitly pointed out.

Best of luck.

Cogito said...

Possummomma, thanks for watching this so I don't have to. I saw the trailer and it was so horrifying, I doubt I'll be able to watch the film without a Zoloft cocktail. Though it might be worth it to see Haggard being a total twat.

As for exposing the kiddies to religion, we're taking a middle road. We belong to the YMCA, and they have great programs. They also do stuff like grace before snacktime. I got a little worried when the Tot mentioned saying grace, but when I asked her how you say grace, she said, "It's when you slide around on cake!"* Oookay. Not to concerned with effective religious indoctrination from the Y now.

*Over the weekend, she did a little experiment with some leftover cake we left on the table. I think she wanted to know what ice skating was like. I doubt her shoes will ever be entirely free of the frosting.

Queen Pickle said...

Hi, Possummomma,
I'm delurking here. I've been reading your blog for a while and I really enjoy it.

I've seen clips of the Jesus Camp video via Youtube, but I just put the video on hold at the library so I can watch the whole train wreck. I'm sure it'll make Hostel look like an episode of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood by comparison. ;)

We're not really atheist, per se, but we are sans religion in our house.

Just the other day my 9yo dd was watching an episode of the Simpsons with me. At one point in the episode, the Flanders' kids are watching a video where a lamb says, "It's not fair, I don't have a sin to confess."

This being an unfamiliar phrase, my dd asks, "Mom, what's a...{look of total confusion}...symptomcapez?"

I nearly fell of my chair laughing.lol

It made me feel pretty good that my kids haven't been exposed to the whole guilt scenario put forth by christianity.

ang said...

I have 2 sons, ages 23 & 17. I left church when the youngest was 2, so he has no real memories of it (except maybe that he hated the nursery and they used to piss me off by not getting me when he was upset). Fortunately, my parents haven't attended church regularly since the very early 70's, so I was the weird one in the family when I did attend (several different churches through my mid 20's). When I married my second (current) husband, we were both on the no religion/no god page. However, his parents are true believers and encouraged us to go to church with them in the early days of our marriage (13 years ago). We finally told them to quit asking. We did allow the kids to attend bible school in the summer a couple of times. The oldest decided to not go back when he was 10 because he "didn't really believe in any of that." This caused several of his friends to call him "monkey boy" for a short time. The youngest continued with bible school that year, mainly for the cookies and games. Both have attended church once or twice for a girlfriend. The youngest refuses to go for any reason now. He asked for The God Delusion when it came out (and I gladly bought it). I have refused to allow them to attend what I knew to be very evangelical services. For example, the youngest was dating a girl whose family decided it was time to get back into church and get saved. At one point, the girl told my son that she was informed by her step-mom that he needed to attend church if they were going to keep dating (he was a freshman in high school). I told him he could not attend the revival, but I did finally let him go to a special youth service (girlfriend's mom picked him up at our house before I could get home from work) and he hated it. He refuses to have anything to do with church now!

Todd said...

I thought Jesus Camp was funny as hell. I guess I have a different take because I come from a similar background, albeit slightly less extreme, and I know what happened to me after years of brainwashing finally just stopped working. I went to the opposite extreme and became the church's worst nightmare.

One of the kids in this film is going to turn into their parents worst nightmare. I put my money on Tory. She just didn't seem as sincere as the other two. Plus, she liked heavy metal and I just can't wait until she discovers the real stuff. Slayer awaits, Tory.

Anybody want to start a pool?

Atheist in a mini van. said...

Anybody want to start a pool?

My money's actually on Levi. Tory's family was pretty intense. We never actually saw Levi's family...but, I don't think they were quite so hardcore. Levi isn't homeschooled (to my knowledge). And, I think his preaching was limited to Becky's influence...it didn't seem like he did it very often (if at all) before Becky got her hooks in him.

Saurian200 said...

Hi PossumMomma,

Basically, Levi is confirming that there is an up-and-coming generation of young Christians who WANT THE WORLD TO END. Not only do they want it, but they expect it!

Oh, so when they want to destroy the world by bringing about a religious apocalypse their good Christians, but when I want to destroy the world with my giant death ray, I'm a madman.

So unfair. ;)

Thank you for giving us such a detailed review. I keep meaning to watch this movie but I'm afraid to do so. Just reading about it makes me feel like I need a shower.

Saurian200 said...

Hi Cap'N Murkat,

I did feel sorry for Levi slightly when he basically told him he couldn't be any good, so just go with the cute kid thing.
I never understand why *super* religious people are more likely contradict the values they preach with their actions. Surely he should have been supportive of Levi, and encourage him???
I get the feeling that he is a man who likes power and would do anything to eliminate any threat to his position.


What shocks me is that when he tells Levi just tp play the cute kid card, he is basically saying, it's all bull.

He's telling the kid that it doesn't matter if what he's preaching to the flock is accurate or not, just so long as you get them hooked.

When he says this he's proving you right. To him, it does seem to be only about power. All that matters is that the flock follows what he tells them. It doesn't matter what they think, believe or do, only that they're in the club.

The scary thing is that I've seen other religious believers express just such an attitude without seeing any problems with it at all.

Margaret said...

When he says this he's proving you right. To him, it does seem to be only about power.

I think that's true of most (all?) religious leaders.

It doesn't matter what they think, believe or do, only that they're in the club.

I think this is true not just of the leaders, but of the members of the flock/cult/religion. It's not so much that they believe in the particular (peculiar?) tenets of their particular religion (or why do so few have any real clue what is in the bible?), but rather that they believe in religion, i.e. in belonging to something "greater than" themselves. They don't seem to think they are worth anything by themselves.

Paul said...

proud to be an Atheist: I think the best thing you could do would be to encourage them to read the bible on their own, and form some opinions about it while they are away from the Grandparents. Seriously, if you teach them to think for themselves, they'll see how silly it all is in short order.

proud to be an Atheist said...

Paul,

I can hardly make heads or tails of the bible myself, it's like reading Shakespear (by this I mean in how difficult it is to read, at least for me) with all the thou's and what not. I seriously doubt my boys 8 and 9 could figure it out. I am sure they would be bored after the first verse.

I think it is just because since Grandpa said it's so and since mom and dad don't buy it, it must be true. It is hard to undo what has already been done. But it has been glamorized to them. They haven't heard all the scary shit from the bible (I had no clue about any of this until my husband filled me in). I don't know how to make them see that these stories are just that, stories.

Paul said...

There are many study bibles out there that have had the language modernized, and are easier to read. Just make sure you buy a literary bible, not a church bible, as they are different. A good literary bible has been translated with an eye to accuracy of language rather than dogma. Again, if your kids read the bible and think about it themselves, when they are away from Grandpa, they'll be able to form opinions without his influence. They'll be asking him uncomfortable questions he can't answer in no time.

Russ said...

PMomma,

Over at richarddawkins.net is an audio excerpt from an NPR presentation of an Intelligence Squared debate titled "Is America Too Damned Religious?" I think it weaves nicely into the current "Jesus Camp" discussion. The three debaters on each side reflect the views offered by many visitors to this site. It's a thoughtfilled interchange which explores the debate question at some length. Each of the participants is a polished public speaker and there are many noteworthy phrases and applications of language. It has the inherent flaw of not addressing the veracity of religion itself, but it is informative and enlightening, so overall a worthwhile listen.

http://richarddawkins.net/article,660,Is-America-Too-Damn-Religious,Rachel-Martin-NPR

If it truncates here's the multi-line version(some assembly required):

http://richarddawkins.net/article,660,
Is-America-Too-Damn-Religious,Rachel-Martin-NPR

The full debate is available through NPR at

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=742254

Same multi-line deal here:
http://www.npr.org/templates/
story/story.php?storyId=742254


The Intelligence Squared site is

http://www.intelligencesquaredus.org/

David said...

The part that made me cringe was when the little girl walked up to the woman in the bowling alley and told her she had had a revelation from god that made her come talk to the woman.
I have a cousin who I hung out with pretty much non-stop growing up. His parents were always into the nuttier blends of christianity, but he was about the funniest, nicest, most well rounded kids I knew.
Then, his parents started taking him to a Pentecostal church.
I watched my best friend go from being a happy, crazy guy to being depressed and in later years, even alcoholic.
Once when we were out with some friends, the rest of the guys and I were talking about some music or something, while he sat and pouted. Out of nowhere, he got up and walked over to a family in the restaraunt and told him that god had given him the message that he really wanted them to get to his (my cousins) church. The father's reply (of course) was that they already were happy, and that he was sure if an all-powerful god had any messages for him, god could send them direct.
When my cousin got back, I asked him if he really thought god had told him to go harrass those people. He said no, that it was just a tactic he had been taught at church.

Happy, secure people don't go looking for a religion. You can't convert a happy person. That's why these churchs tear you down, so that the only place you can feel accepted is at church.

Russ said...

David,
"That's why these churchs tear you down, so that the only place you can feel accepted is at church."

Bingo! That's it in a nutshell. You hit the nail on the head. That is the alpha and omega of the survival of religion.

Churches need you to believe that you are infected for life with the disease of their making so you will keep buying their cure until you die. But, taking medicine to cure your own ills, is not enough for the church. If you are a parent your church demands that you abuse the credulity of the innocent and willingly spread the disease to your children before they can escape the self-perpetuating cycle by thinking for themselves.

Matt D. said...

I saw this in the theater with folks from the ACA and took extensive notes throughout. I bought it on DVD and watched it again, and spotted a few things I had missed, but not much.

One thing that I noticed on the first viewing, which I absolutely love (it's one of the best shots a director has ever placed in a film, documentary or other) is the final shot of the main film.

Becky is in her car, driving through a car-wash as we listen to the radio. The camera switches to the front view of the car and we see the exit from the carwash - with two clear "Stop" signs...fade to black.

The first time I saw it, I wanted to just go hug the director(s?) for treating the subject fairly, but still making a statement in a smart way.

The second time through, I found myself watching in anticipation of those stop signs.

-Matt

Atheist in a mini van. said...

Becky is in her car, driving through a car-wash as we listen to the radio. The camera switches to the front view of the car and we see the exit from the carwash - with two clear "Stop" signs...fade to black.
Oh man. I didn't even pick up on the stop sign. Nice catch!

proud to be an atheist said...

Finally saw "Scary Camp" last night and it literally gave me chills. My husband wasn't too shocked though since he had been to camps similar to these, although he doesn't remember abortion being in any part of it. Those kids reminded me of robots. And when they were praying in the office next door to planned parenthood, I was wondering if they even understood the words they were saying. As my husband said, they are just regurgitating what they hear.

And Levi's mom, oh man...saying that they haven't been forced to believe, that may be, but they probably wouldn't be talking about being saved at the age of 5 (cause he was bored with life) for fucks sake if he hadn't been going since he was born.

It also seems like sky daddy must have adhd because these people preaching keep saying father god, jesus, christ, blah blah like every few words. Is he sleeping on the job or something? It reminded us of our kids...dad..., dad..., dad, daaaaad!

I had to laugh when little Rachel prayed to her bowling ball, commanding it to give her a good pin count. Did you see the disappointment when it only knocked a few down? No wonder why god deletes his prayers after only listening to a few of them, it's crap like that!

And when Becky talked about how so many christians were fat and lazy...what a 'hippo'crit!!!

Atheist in a mini van. said...

And when Becky talked about how so many christians were fat and lazy...what a 'hippo'crit!!!

YES! I usually try not to sink to attacks based on appearance, but that was a bit too convenient. She's waddling around telling the kids about sacrifice and fasting, and you just know she's going back to her house to scarf down a box of Ho-Hos and a Super Sized Mr. Pibb. But, you know...she knows she's a sinner, and unworthy of God's grace, so...it's really no big thing to commit, what I consider to be, the most grevious of sins which is: talking the talk but forgetting the walk.