Jesus Camp (2006) Poster

(2006)

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8/10
The Culture War goes to summer camp.
alafolle16 June 2006
I saw this film at the Silverdocs festival, expecting it to be little more than an oddball slice of Americana, but I was pleasantly surprised.

"Jesus Camp" revolves around a pentecostal minister who hosts a summer camp for children in North Dakota, and the sectarian Christian conservative families who send their children to this camp. Directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady wisely chose to avoid the polemical tone of most politically-motivated films, and instead opt to present a mostly unfiltered glimpse of this odd subculture. But through carefully selected images and the use of talk radio commentary as a framing device, they construct a subtle, yet damning narrative about a religious movement that isolates its children from mainstream culture, indoctrinates them into right-wing causes, and uses them as political props.

At Jesus Camp, the daily activities include standard camp fare such as spelunking and go-karts, but they also include speaking in tongues and smashing coffee mugs emblazoned with the word "government". Children learn that "science doesn't prove anything," and learn to consider themselves part of an Army of God. They are compelled to pledge that they will fight to end abortion. They are even pushed into publicly confessing their impure thoughts, and many of them cry and wail charismatically.

The camp director explains that she admires the way Islamic cultures raise children so devoted they will risk their lives for their faith. When we ultimately see several of the campers being placed by their parents on the steps of the Capitol with tape over their mouths, protesting abortion, the real purpose of this camp is driven home.

But the most touching scenes are the ones where the children are alone, and we see the ways that this indoctrination creeps into the most innocent elements of childhood. 11 year old Tori loves dancing to Christian rock, but frets that it's not always easy to dance for God instead of "dancing for the flesh." On an outing to the bowling alley, 9 year old Rachael feels compelled to walk up to strangers and awkwardly evangelize to them, without being prompted. A roomful of boys telling ghost stories after dark are interrupted by an adult who warns them about stories that don't glorify God.

No doubt some viewers will accuse the filmmakers of the dreaded liberal bias. But this is not a work of fiction, nor is it slanted reporting. These are real people and real events, captured on film. If the evangelical movement comes off badly in this film, the people on screen have no one but themselves to blame.
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9/10
This is real footage from the 21th century
gogoschka-127 December 2013
This documentary offers a rare chance to get a close view inside a not very well known society within our society. I thought the content was very honest, and - although this is not the kind of movie people watch for entertainment value - I would like to point out that this is also a very well made film, and certainly never dull or boring.

Religious communities are not often very open towards journalists or filmmakers; they fear - probably with good reason - that their portrayal by the secular media is biased and that their believes are depicted in the wrong light. However, in this documentary the filmmakers were granted full access, and the evangelical community whose portrayal you get to see in the film got the chance to see it first before it was released to the general public. They thought it was an accurate depiction of their lifestyle and their believes.

What you see in this film is not staged - this is real, 21th century footage. Highly recommended. 9 stars out of 10.

Favorite films: http://www.IMDb.com/list/mkjOKvqlSBs/

Lesser-known Masterpieces: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls070242495/

Favorite Low-Budget and B-Movies: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls054808375/

Favorite TV-Shows reviewed: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls075552387/
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9/10
Child Abuse
wayne6064030 September 2006
This film made my hair stand on end and I came away from it thinking that the adults in it ought to be indicted for child abuse. These children are being intellectually immobilized in the name of goodness and purity. Do they really think they are superior to other young religious zealots who study nothing but their holy book but who are not Christians? It seems that children ought to be exposed to all the wonders of the world instead of being told that their job is to point out the errors of others. Children are highly impressionable and mostly believe what adults tell them. We can only hope that some of these children get some exposure to reality later which will help them live productive and caring lives as people who can accept the world's diversity. The prospects are not good.
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10/10
Should be categorized "Documentary/Horror"
juujuuuujj16 November 2006
This is really a horror movie. It's comparable to The Ring and Emily Rose.

I thought we were living in the 21st century. This movie reminds me more of the 16th.

On one hand, this movie is an unforgettable experience, like a dive into darkness. On the other hand, you're left asking yourself - "am I a sadist? I'm watching little kids getting tortured, brainwashed, their lives getting deformed". When you watch this movie, the first thing you want to do is go to IMDb and write a review about it.

So,

If you're in a happy mood right now, don't watch this movie.

If you want chills down your spine, by all means, watch it!

10/10
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9/10
A fascinating look into evangelical subculture through the eyes of children
pomonabrian12 August 2006
I saw this film at SilverDocs, a documentary film festival at the American Film Institute in Silver Spring. It's excellent, and I highly recommend it.

The basic storyline follows a year in the lives of three children from evangelical Christian families in Missouri, and focuses considerably on their experience at an evangelical summer camp ("Kids on Fire" in Devil's Lake, ND). The kids, 12-year-old Levi, 10-year-old Tory, and 9-year-old Rachel are, of course, endearing in their cuteness, but frightening in their fervor. Levi thinks that he will become a pastor, and his preaching to kids is starkly reminiscent of the Bible thumpers of Sunday morning TV. At camp, Tory is shown several times with tears streaming down her face, not least when a pro-life leader comes and distributes miniature plastic fetuses to illustrate the evil of abortion and again when many kids at camp begin speaking in tongues. Rachel, a nine-year-old evangelist, walks up to perfect strangers to ask them if they believe they're going to heaven and whether they would like to talk about Jesus. In short, the kids are the perfect spokespeople for the Jesus movement.

The documentary goes beyond their experiences at camp and paints a vivid image of the evangelical subculture in middle America. From scenes with a mother home schooling her son on the lunacy of evolution to kids at camp praying fervently for a cardboard cutout of George W Bush, the tenacious beliefs of the subjects and their utter lack of doubt is striking. The infusion of politics into religion is also notable, as the children are told of the evils of homosexuality, that prayer in school is necessary for schools to teach effectively, and that America is responsible for the deaths of fifty million innocent children since 1973. The families even travel to Washington to protest in front of the Supreme Court building.

The most awkward parts of the movie were scenes with Mike Papantonio, an Air America radio host. I felt the scenes involving him seemed a little forced, although a conversation at the end between the charismatic camp director, Becky Fischer, and Papantonio was an interesting microcosm of the larger political debate in this country. Interestingly, during a film festival question and answer session with the producers (Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady), they indicated that Papantonio was a late addition to the film because without him, there was no conflict. The people in the film were so sure of their beliefs that nothing in the movie showed them wavering. I wonder if the film might not have been stronger if they had left that sense of certainty alone.

Ewing and Grady also chose to use the nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court as a thread to tie the film together. Unfortunately, none of the subjects of the documentary spent much time talking directly about the Supreme Court. They talked about some of the issues that the Supreme Court might deal with, but the nomination of judges didn't seem to be a big factor in their lives. There were a few scenes in which radio announcers and guest speakers at the camp encouraged the families to pray for the nomination of judges who agree with evangelical Christians, but I didn't think that there was enough to hold that particular thread together.

During the question and answer session, Ewing and Grady indicated that while they were both fairly secular, big city Democrats, they honestly liked the people in the documentary. In their view, the people in the documentary followed the law, and they worked to make the country better as they saw it, so what's wrong with that? They expressed interest in making a follow-up movie in five years to see whether the kids' faith survives puberty. It would certainly be an interesting experiment. They indicated that Fischer and the families that were profiled had seen the final project and thought that it was a fair representation of their lives. Fischer even thought that she could use it as an evangelical tool! At the same time, the audience I saw it with was overwhelmingly liberal and they also reacted positively (and, I'll say, with a fair degree of shock). To me, that says that Ewing and Grady did a nice job of ensuring that their biases did not show through into the movie, leaving audiences to read into it as they choose.

In sum, Jesus Camp is a movie that is worth watching. If you get a chance, see this film!
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9/10
innocence forgotten
smakawhat7 October 2006
Enter the world of Jesus Camp, a brilliant documentary that chronicles the life of several people who attend or set up a "Jesus Camp" in (ironicaly) Devils Lake North Dakota.

Filmmakers Heidi Ewing, and Rachel Grady decide to focus mostly on the children that attend, with some focus on minister Becky Fisher who is one of the main architects of the camp.

Right away the filmmakers show a growing underlying change in the evangelical movement, to politicize their beliefs. Voice overs start talking about the newest supreme court nomination of Alito. However, once the focus starts on the kids who attend the camp the film gets its bearing.

What becomes obvious is that paranoia and fear is driven into the kids. There is Ashley a young girl, and Levi an older boy who seems to be on the quest to become a minister and preacher himself. It's obvious he likes the attention that is given him. But the kids are still kids, Levi and his friend go out into the woods and do what all kids do, explore find a scary spider, Levi even mentions, I like to throw rocks.

But then they are back in lessons again, scarred out of their boots in a sermon as they are being told to stay away from Harry Potter, abortion, and that they are essentially dirty from all the sins they carry. Most of them can't hold back the tears. Levi mentions he said he was saved when he was 5 years old (I can only think of the horrible things that he must have been guilty of to be converted (too much sugar cereal maybe?) ) The filmmakers do the smart thing and let the pictures and words speak for themselves. There is no voice over narration, no probing questions from the film-makers to the subjects themselves. There is no debate. The words from the kids just come out, and they are frightening. A sense of brainwashing can only be observed as the kids talk about how they have to fight in gods army, and that everyone else has to be 'purged'. Never mind that at one point kids are worshiping at a card board cut out of George Bush.

Some scenes literally look like they could have came from the movie "Triumph of the Will".

But the brilliance is shown in the innocence that these children loose and don't seem to enjoy in. What young kid needs to know about abortion? or be cleansed of all the horrors of the world? Why can't the kids just make up their own minds with everything but in front of them? When do kids ever get to just.... play? They are hints in the film at that, kids will be kids, little late night camp ghost stories, some break dancing.. it's all in good fun, and perfectly fine.

But it seems like Jesus camp just wants to crush their spirits.

Kudos to the film-makers for showing it real.
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7/10
Was further proof how far off base militant evangelicalism has become
samthemacman23 December 2006
I give this a qualified 7. I give it for the quality of the work in creating this documentary. If I was to rate it because of its subject, I would be dealing with negative numbers! I used to be an ordained minister, a Pentecostal one. This film was very painful for me, for it addressed all the things about modern evangelicalism that is wrong and gave further proof of why hundreds of thousands of evangelicals are leaving organized religion, and are embracing a simpler form of Christianity, one that is relational and community focused, and one that is not political, seeking to see the arm of government Christianized, but rather one has a powerful social element, seeking social change through loving and helping people in our society.

My wife has home-schooled our two daughters all the way through high school. I thank God they are not like these kids. In fact when my kids watched the film they were equally concerned about kids being conditioned and brainwashed! I agreed with them. God has not called children into the work of evangelism, or to be warriors as portrayed in this film. Evangelism is the work of those who are adults and young adults. Children are never shown to be workers in God's Kingdom in the New Testament. We ought to follow that model, rather than brainwashing and abusing children! I am sickened by this film.

Theologically I am equally disturbed by this film. It portrays that evangelicals have held certain beliefs "forever" which is far from the truth. Foundational to the premise of modern evangelicalism is the "teaching" concerning the pre-tribulational rapture of the church. This doctrine is one of the newest, and it was created by and espoused by people who at one time were heretics, and yet is has become the vehicle that drives this engine to have an "end time revival" where these kids will help usher in the Kingdom of God.

My parents were missionaries, as were my in-laws. They gave their adult lives to the cause of Christ (between 45-47 years of ministry). They believed the same doctrine. Jesus was coming at any time. "Don't lay a nest egg for your grandkids!" "Don't conserve the environment, because as soon as Jesus comes, we are out of here!" "Don't save your money, go ahead use credit, for when you are in the rapture, you won't have to pay the bank!" My parents became disappointed when disease came to the door, and illness overtook them, and when death took home the husbands! There was despair, because Jesus did not come to rescue them.

This is the same kind of despair that will overcome these kids who have been brainwashed and abused by these whacko charismatics. I was one. I know how people condition you to respond a certain way.

There is NOTHING remotely like New Testament Christianity in this film. When the pastor compares what she is doing, to what fundamentalist Islam is doing in brainwashing Muslim children, she was correct. These poor kids of evangelical parents are being manipulated and brainwashed, and are as whacko as those who exploit Muslim children. Two wrongs don't make a right.

This film reveals the whacky morality and bad theological world view that exists not only in America, but in Evangelicalism in Canada, and the UK as well. It is a theology that on one hands believes that our countries can be saved by using our children in the propagation of the gospel, through revival and advancing the Kingdom of God. This is not the work of children, and this makes all of this so immoral. Also, it crosses the line where Christians think, falsely, that if they gain political power, that somehow they will be able to Christianize their nations. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Should this ever happen in my country (Canada - I am a Brit who came to Canada with missionary parents, to plant churches in Canada), I would be the first to oppose it, for it would become tyranny and oppression. The ways of the world, including the use of government, is not the way God advances His Kingdom.

God is not in the oppression business, but the liberation business, and more than anything, our kids need to be liberated from this kind of brainwashing! I am ashamed of having been a Pentecostal Evangelical! This film should be used by libertarians and true democrats, be they Christian, secular, or of another faith community, to reveal how dangerous a political Evangelical movement can be, and how dangerous it is to the very idea of a free and open society. Be forewarned this film will disturb you.
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8/10
Intolerance Camp
imxo4 November 2006
If there is one thing which "Jesus Camp" reveals, it is the extent to which some adults will rob children of a normal childhood in order to foster their own politico-religious agenda. The children in this film are not being inculcated with moral and spiritual values; they are being manipulated into quasi-religious hysteria. In the name of a warped sense of religiosity the adults in this film are deliberately creating cadres of Christianist "yes men." This isn't faith; it's hypnosis.

I do not doubt the good intentions of parents who indoctrinate their children from an early age with principles of religion; after all, the Catholic Church has encouraged this for centuries, and there are wonderful religious schools of all types which provide a strong moral and ethical education to our children. Giving children a foundation of values is invaluable. However, the religio-political cultism demonstrated in this film is beyond the pale. I can guarantee you that if those parents in the film had been born Muslim rather than Christian they would be at the forefront of such practices as stoning and clitoral circumcision. If that's what their particular Good Book calls for, they are all for it. It sure saves thinking for oneself. At the very least, those who survive this kind of cultist indoctrination may turn out to be psychologically disturbed or emotionally impaired. The children of "Jesus Camp" are the kinds of people who wind up as bigots, informers, and lovers of authoritarianism, and who join the myriad of "holier-than-thou" types who already populate American so-called Christianity. These children may never be able to think for themselves. If they do eventually see through this well-intentioned nonsense, they can wind up as the kind of obnoxious hypocrites which they themselves would be quick to condemn.

What an astounding coincidence, then, that one of those very kinds of people shows up for quite a while towards the end of film. Ted Haggard, Evangelical pastor and newly confessed drug-buyer and patron of "male-massage", is seen counseling a young boy on how to play upon his youth in order to spread the Word. You can already see the young boy fawning over his adult admirers and saying whatever he thinks will please them and bring him a measure of recognition. That's the insidious thing about the "Jesus Camp", the kids really want to please their adult trainers. As for Haggard, in the spirit of Christian love and forgiveness he's already been kicked out of his Church. No turn-the-other-cheek Amish among that bunch. Can't have a guy like Haggard hanging around - especially now that he's been found out. As for the adults who encourage slavish indoctrination of their children, I think they would have been more comfortable in 1930's Spain, Italy, or Germany. Each of those countries had its cadre of young, true believers, too.
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8/10
One part makes sense...
srfowler14 October 2006
It makes sense that this film came out in October, as it is the scariest movie I've seen in a loooooong time.

I was a little nervous at first because I assumed that most of the people there would be uber conservative, but when the camp leader screamed, "If Harry Potter had lived during Biblical times he would have been put to death," and everyone laughed at her absurdity, I knew it was going to be okay.

The "funniest" part was when a really young girl, no more than 9, approached these three older men outside the nation's capital and asked them "If you died *right now* do you know where you would go?"

The men said, "yes." No inflection to their voices, no emotion.

"Are you *sure*? she pressed, desperate for a chance to proselytize.

"Yes," they said again, calm as you please.

She walked off muttering, "I think they're Muslim." LOL! It was hilarious! Then she asked her young friend, "Do you think they think we're trying to sell something?" The whole theater burst out laughing.

The best part was when the kids gathered around a card board cut out of George W. Bush, asking God to give him wisdom. If only....
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9/10
Unusual documentary; people at polar extremes like it
Bob Pr.19 September 2006
This is a very unusual movie. It's likely to be LOVED by many Christian fundamentalists as well as valued by many who strongly oppose that movement, each side feeling it gives ample evidence for their positions.

Its low rating (at the time this is written) is at first puzzling; its most frequent rating (28%) given is a "10". This gets offset by the next most frequent rating (22%) given -- "1". But considering that (at the time this is written) 56% rated this film a 10, 9, or 8, the majority of people view this as a very valuable, worthwhile to see film -- a view I share. Many of those who rated it a "1" did so in opposition to the movement while still saying it's a worthwhile film to see.

It's most valuable to see by those who are NOT fundamentalists to understand a growing and already substantial movement of which most are not aware exists.

I strongly urge those people to also read Michelle Goldberg's recent book "Kingdom Coming" about this movement. Very readable, very enlightening, it details the scope of this that those who are not directly involved otherwise would not be aware of.

Francis F (a Japanese name; the IMDb anti-obscenity editing program will automatically "bleep" it if I typed it) wrote "The End of History & the Last Man" maybe 15-20 years ago and he's recently updated it with an Epilogue. I found it a hard book to read so scanned much of it. But he did predict the rise of fundamentalist, conservative, reactionary religious movements such as we see in both fundamentalist Islam and fundamentalist Chrisitianity.

One thesis he advances is that the world is changing so fast it's threatening the adjustment of many cultures and sub-cultures. Their core beliefs are not being given opportunity to slowly evolve but are threatened with being breached like the New Orleans levees (my metaphor, not his). Their reaction is to substitute Sharia (Islamic) law or "Christian" Biblical law instead of western secular law.

My friend who accompanied me was not worried about these kids in the movie. She felt that when they became teens, most would leave behind these beliefs because of the pressure from other teens as well as emerging hormones.

I'm not as sanguine. While that will be an effect on a few, these kids are being as indoctrinated just as much as (or more than) the Hitler Youth. Peer pressure works both ways -- when they're mainly around others with the same background, that will serve to keep most in line.

Scary AND a very informative movie.

PS -- Whether or not you're a member of the Christian Funadamentalist/Evangelical Right OR those who oppose them, you may be interested in this out-take from the film the link to which was posted on the IMDb "Message Board" View it AFTER you've seen the movie. ONLY then will it make sense.:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=6B9GlayKS_0&mode=related&search=
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9/10
Jesus Camp is serious business.
mmckelley14 September 2006
This film intrigued me for several reasons: First it is filmed in my home state of Missouri, not the deep south as so many people think, in fact it is filmed near Kansas City.

The film is a well-presented view from the perspective of the ultra conservative, Evangelical movement. It is honest in its intent. Minister, Becky Fischer, is honest in her goals for the camp and its attendees.

I did find that the film seemed to play fast and loose with numbers. For example it is stated that 75% of all home schooled children are evangelical. I come from a liberal background and have many well-educated friends who home school and none of them are evangelical so I am skeptical about their claim.

As one might expect, statements are made such as "there is no such thing as global warming" and that "all homosexuals are going to hell." That doesn't surprise me. The fact that not one of the adults or children questions any of these statements or offers to provide proof or seek an alternative explanation is the elephant in the room.

However; the film is filled with passion and filmmakers present the information honestly. The sad issue is that the evangelical movement seems not to have learned anything from the War in Iraq. Our presence there will only result in civil war. This was predicted long before the war started, now, four years later, if the U.S. were to leave, full blown civil war would certainly result. Why, because the church and state in Iraq are inseparable.

I will eagerly await the sequel five years from now when the filmmakers return to Jesus Camp and reinterview these children. On second thought, perhaps they had ought to wait ten years.
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10/10
Scary
tomq5p10 December 2006
No one could have scripted a satirical film that would have had as much impact as this documentary does. It's intense and very disturbing. The film examines the Christian Right in America and how they are co-opting religion, indoctrinating the youth, and influencing politics.

The ironic thing is that the main subject of the documentary, Becky Fischer, an evangelical kids' summer camp preacher, thought the film would have a positive effect on people's perception of her "Jesus camp."

The real effect is QUITE the opposite. It is horrifying to see what the kids at the camp are exposed to. This is indoctrination at its worst.

An excellent, scary film.

10 out of 10
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10/10
A must-see documentary about the most dangerous people in the world.
jsorenson77720 March 2007
Congratulations to the filmmakers on a wonderful piece of work. This thing is tight -- and fascinating, and frightening.

There is considerable fear, ignorance and hate, beneath the veneer of enlightenment here. It is easy to see how kids can be manipulated to become soldiers willing to strap bombs to themselves and rapturously blow up innocent people in the name of their God.

This film answers the question: "How did George Bush get elected and reelected to the most powerful position on the planet?"

God save us from the zealots. Space travel is the only real hope left. We have to get far away from these folks.

Imagine spending eternity with these people at their Jesus camp on Devil's Lake. Would that be Heaven?
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6/10
ruined minds
onepotato24 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
A fanatic is someone who can't change his mind and won't change the subject. This film is full of fanatics. They eat sleep and drink Jesus. They work Jesus into every second of their lives and every conversation, and when they need a break they go away to camp so they can testify to each other that they want, need & have even more Jesus in their lives. Then they use this unbalanced obsession to judge anyone who isn't wetting their pants over Jesus. Rather than striking fear into liberal hearts as Becky the misguided Jesus Camp counselor believes, it's just sad. These children's minds have been solo-tracked and ruined before they even know what critical thinking is; as with the insufferable 9 year old Rachel who is proud of her emerging intolerance and know-it-all-ness; the arrogant Levi who spouts malarkey with a dead, uncomprehending mind. These kids are being warped and used in a disgusting, cynical way that a non-believer would never even contemplate.

Although much is made of the demeaning comparison evolutionists supposedly make of humans to apes, I would say this. Every living creature on this planet has a brain, only one has a mind. That is the human race. As such it would be a disgrace, a shame and a waste not to develop it. You cannot develop your mind with the tireless, petty application of one book to every aspect of your life; or by endlessly forcing your problems into the mold of Jesus or Satan. And if you don't develop the ability to think abstractly you might as well be an animal; because if you aren't using your mind, you are an animal. The good book can't save you from that.

These kids are absolutely sure of concepts they don't understand to any depth, and they have been indoctrinated to believe that doubt is basically sin. But doubt is what would help them cope in life, AND help them recover from these damaged childhoods. Doubt is good. These kids couldn't argue their way out of a paper bag because they have no idea what the alternatives are. It's unfortunate that children really don't have any civil rights until they remove themselves from their parents influence. The founding fathers should have framed some sort of children's bill of rights because surely kids deserve to be free of influence this nasty & lost; religious hate, histrionics & abuse.

Becky the large, blond woman who spearheads the camp is actually the saddest, most pathetic figure of all; so intolerant that whenever she is shown in her home she is alone. No wonder. No one else can bear her. Even when shopping, she admits, anything that she comes across is evaluated for propagandistic value; i.e. How can this item be used to further ruin kids minds, and continue their transformation into moral simpletons? She doesn't trust a child to have any thought she hasn't programmed into them. She exists as the ultimate betrayal of authority, joyfully depriving children of their minds.

There isn't a single word in the bible in praise of thinking or common sense. If God wanted me to believe in him, he would have offered me some goal more appealing than spending eternity with arrogant hypocrites who spent their living years aggravating conflicts and ruining entire nations; he would have devised something other than shrill, bottom-feeding fanatics to get the message to me. Amidst all of their foibles, I would still be able to see the beauty of their minds shining through. There is no beauty in these minds. Anyone who thinks cannot bear to spend more than a few minutes with an incorrigible ignoramus.

Ultimately militant Christians are their own worst argument; there is no weaker endorsement of Jesus' love than the fact that the power-mad people in this movie clearly believe hate works better. And there isn't enough grace in the universe to turn an ignoramus into a treasure.

It's Christian's biggest fear that gay people MIGHT be doing the things that Christians actually ARE doing: Christians want to shove their lifestyle down your throat. Christians want special rights. Christians recruit. Christians prey on the vulnerable. Christians exploit & brainwash children. Children are just a means to an end for this twisted crew.
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9/10
Eyeopening!
toolboxdc17 March 2007
this was probably one of the best docs i have seen in the last 5 years. the directors did an amazing job of balancing the material in a unique and un-obvious way. for instance, instead of getting the opposing POV to the Evangelicals from an predictable liberal source, they used the POV of a Christian radio talk show host. having NO religious upbringing whatsoever, these aggressively opposing voices WITHIN the Christian groups had never even occurred to me. also, when i saw this film at the amazing Silverdocs Film Festival outside of Washington DC, the directors were present and were asked if they had a difficult time gaining access to film the Evangelicals without apparent restriction. they responded that all of the Evangelical families were more than accommodating, completely open and had nothing to hide at all, and were proud of their lives, beliefs, and culture and wanted people to know. this was definitely not what i expected.

for such an eyeopening film with such sensitive topics (President Bush, God, children, etc) a vague agenda definitely became apparent within the film, however it is important to note that it never felt like it became judgmental.

HIGHLY recommended!
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9/10
Religious fundamentalists train children to fight and die for Jesus.
mercywright4 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
A must-see film! I first thought it was a pro-fundamentalist film, but it's quite the opposite... a scary documentary about people who train kids to die for Jesus. It starts with a heavy-set female Pentecostal children's minister who drags kids to a Jesus Camp, where they undergo some pretty heavy brain-washing. The children look like they're 8-12. They talk about being saved at 5, pledge allegiance to the Bible, and listen to "Christian heavy metal rock'n'roll" (which sounds exactly like regular heavy metal, just with different - religious - wordings). The kids are yelled at by the female Pentecostal children's minister (FPCH) for reading Harry Potter ("You don't make heroes out of warlocks!"). She also makes them cry and confess their sins. On her computer, the FPCH photo-shops a poster with the legend "The Punishment for Sin is Death" in scary, blood-dripping goth lettering. An 8-year old girl says that God is not in every church, "he's not in those dead churches where people sit still. God only comes to churches where people jump up and down, talk in tongues and yell HALLELUJAH!"

When the FPCH has softened up the kids, they meet a creepy smiley-guy who tells them that they will save the world with their faith. And to prove their strength and determination he gives them a big hammer with which they're supposed to crush to smithereens mugs with "Government" printed on them. "This means war, children!" Creepy smiley-guy talks in tongues and keeps bobbing his head the way praying Muslims do. He also hands out little doll-babies, the kind you put on baby shower cakes, and say they represent their aborted brothers and sisters. The kids then talk about the wonderment of being a missionary ("those people die for God and they're not afraid. They're called martyrs and everybody loves them!")

SOmeone drags out a life-size cut-out of George Bush, and he is prayed to and prayed over.

Then the kids are ready to met Ted Haggard, a mega-church minister in charge of 30 million fundamentalists. he talks to president Bush every Monday. He tells one adorable 12-year old baby-preacher, who worries about the contents of his sermons,"just use your cute act until you're 30, then you'll know what to say."

This is the same Haggard who recently had to step down from his ministry when a male prostitute came forward and said he's been servicing Haggard, a married man with five kids, every month for the last three years.

We also get numbers in "Jesus Camp" - 43% of born-again Christians are saved before the age of 13. 75% of home-schooled kids are evangelical Christians.
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8/10
Mostly it made me sad
crsone-19 October 2006
What a documentary this was and what a subject it covered. I understand that there are evangelicals who feel the film is unfair; I (who am not an evangelical) feel it was completely neutral, that it presented the events as they happened, and let us listen to folks speaking as they really speak.

There is a radio talk-show fellow who is a Christian but is anti-evangelical -- he does comment on the general issues but one needn't see him as the voice of the filmmakers.

But it's the kids -- as separate in most ways from the more general society as are Amish kids or Hassid kids -- that make me sad. Will they ever see that they were brought up on pure propaganda, or will they go on to become adults who try to replace our secular democracy with the theocracy their parents and pastor clearly yearn for? And that they even think this nation once was.
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10/10
Even if only half of the film is true...
drake-123 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
its revelations are truly scary.

Two things happened to me while I was watching this movie.

First, I wanted to walk out several times. Not because the movie was bad, but because what I was watching was so extreme. The indoctrination the children were being put through, the religious fundamentalism being displayed, it was very nearly too much.

Second, after the movie finally ended, I felt like I really needed a shower.

Make no mistake, this is an excellent documentary on a side of America that I think a large group of people know little about. Everyone should see this.

The documentary starts out by showing days-in-the-lives of a couple of the kids who go on to attend the summer camp. Then it shows snippets of some of the activities held at the camp. All the interviewees speak freely about their points of view, no leading questions are asked, there is no fancy editing to show just the "juicy" bits, and there's no Michael Moore-esquire narrative voice to tell you what the documentary is trying to tell you. No judgements are made, and balance is provided by a radio talk show host, who presents a single negative, opposing voice to the positive praises of the rest of the people in the documentary.

Some consider this to be more propaganda than documentary. I do not think it is propaganda. No single virtue is being extolled over all else, and dissenting opinions are not being excluded or discounted. This film simply shows a slice of life for a segment of America as it is. It aims to inform, and generate debate, exactly what a documentary should do. Regardless of one's reaction to the subject matter itself, I think it cannot be denied that as a documentary, "Jesus Camp" is a commendable effort.
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10/10
Stunning portrayal of the indoctrination process at work among America's youth
raybeasley1 December 2006
Jesus Camp is the best documentary I've seen all year! The camera follows a select group of devout children through the routine ceremonies of Pentacostal Evangelical Christian life and summer camp. Beware, this is not your average summer camp! Regardless of your religious views, this film is a compelling portrayal of textbook indoctrination practices. I love the scene when the camp head master (Becky Fischer) draws comparisons between Islamic fundamentalists and their own tactics. Her quaint distinction is: "Because we have...excuse me! We have the truth", exemplifies the myopic intransigence of religious dogma. Bravo to directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady for pulling back the curtain on this rising movement in America that seeks to extirpate the hard won separation between church and state.
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7/10
Amazing, Disturbing Film
legallyblond7627 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I have two words: UP and SETTING. This documentary details the events of the "Kids on Fire Summer Camp" led by Evangelical Christian leader Becky FIscher, a woman who, in my opinion, must be stopped at all costs. This country-wide movement, encouraging Christian warfare, now boasts a membership of around 80 million Americans, a good portion of whom are children being subjected to brainwashing techniques. These children are tortured and manipulated psychologically to think that they are damned creatures who must constantly repent their sinful natures, starting as young as the children can speak. Kids are home-schooled, and in addition to being trained to take over politically one day, they are taught the evils of abortion, homosexuality, evolution, and of all things, the campaign to end global warming. These fools actually speak in tongues and have their children say blessings on cardboard images of Bush, their poster child for godliness. I literally found myself sick throughout this film and anxious to find a way to stop this movement. If you value your freedom and have the smallest liberal bone in your body, I urge you to find this film. It will change the way you view our country.
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10/10
Indoctrination and Brainwashing
julia_fields22 May 2007
Warning: Spoilers
"The reason that you go for kids is that anything they learn by the time they are 7,8, or 9 years old is pretty much there for the rest of their lives."

"I would like to see more churches indoctrinating."

"You could call it brainwashing, but I am radical and passionate in teaching..."

"It (democracy) is ultimately designed to destroy itself because we have to give everyone equal freedom and ultimately that is going to destroy us."

These are the words of Becky Fisher. And they frighten me to the core of my being. This film is amazing. Simply amazing. I know Becky Fishers in my own community. They use youth to propagate their message of hate and fear, they are absolutely no better than those who created the Hitler youth in the 1930's.

Conservatives have been saying for the past few years that liberals hate and want to destroy America. However, it is conservatives who teach their children that the separation of church and state is WRONG, although it is one of the greatest things about our country. It is these religious nuts who want to destroy everything which is great about our country-- its diversity and policy of acceptance.

The only thing for which I am grateful is that Becky is dead wrong about one thing. I was a subject of youth indoctrination by a Christian Organization at the age of 5, and have now overthrown what tormented me as a young woman. And I can only hope that many of the children at "Jesus Camp" are able to develop their own mind and see what is truly happening to them.
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10/10
A superior quality movie necessary for every U.S. citizen
jjthmpsn2 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Simply put, this is one of the rarest things in my movie-filled world: A movie that I can say with absolute certainty, that I will buy two copies of: One to keep next to my DVD player and another to store in the attic to show my children in 30 years (if I haven't been burned at the stake yet).

Besides the superb political exposure, the hand-camera work and choice of material is, in a word, brilliant. The choice of scenes and shots and the way the lighting is done seems like a miracle. It feels like you're standing right in the room with everybody. The clarity and flow of each scene and transition and the ability of the director to unmistakably impart the message without boring or slamming the audience (or adding voice-over) is an artistic triumph that every serious movie buff should appreciate. Bravo, bravo, bravo! The most frightening, spine-curdling film I've seen in literally years. Watching children chant "WAR!...WAR!...WAR!" made my blood run glacial-cold. And I really loved John Carpenter's "The Thing".

My favorite quote: "I guess you could call it brainwashing, but *I* think this stuff is important!" or "I've never heard of these churches with political ties."

~j
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10/10
Very Powerful
michael-sj-lee20 November 2006
This movie is one of the must-see movies of your lifetime.

To see people acting this way about their religion is mind blowing for most. This movie approached this delicate subject with accuracy and zero narration.

People will feel very differently and strongly after seeing this movie. To appreciate it and not get caught up in the emotional circumstances is very tough. Unlike Farenheitt 9/11, the movie does its best not to drown you in propaganda. It is most amazing to see how the lives of children are transformed by the environment they live in. Is it better? is it worse? Can anyone say for sure? The question that should be asked is this: Is the feeling of salvation worth the sacrifice of freedoms never given? Is knowing that God is the answer to every question a terrible way to live life or the greatest? This movie is a great documentary and should not be receiving bad comments because it happens to conflict with your own beliefs. To do that would be ungodly and illogical all at the same time.
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The Pastor in the movie has resign his position.
sta24683 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
The guy who was giving the young kid advice on preaching towards the end of the movie. Is now being investigated on allegations he was paying a man for sex. Seeing how he was against gay marriage, that would make him a giant hypocrite. he is also have been alleged to using crank. So far, it said, he has admitted to only part of the allegations as being true. Most likely to the lesser of the two evils. The pastor being Ted Haggard is innocent until proved guilty, but it shouldn't stop anyone from having an opinion on the matter.

Also if you look closely at the young long hair boy fingers, you'd see he has chewed his finger nails down to barely anything left. The pressure on the boy, to be the perfect role model for other Christian children must be immense. I left feeling these poor children were being used as pawns by the sick adults. Especially, when that one adult promises the children a surprise for them, and it turns out to be a sick gross picture and red tape across their mouthes.
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10/10
Extremely accurate portrayal
DaeWon19731 June 2007
My whole family is from the south and i was 'raise' Christian (ie: they tried to pound it into my head) because that's what you were supposed to do to be good Christian parents. I remember experience many of the tactics that they use such as telling you that you are the devil is after you...yes YOU...and that you will burn in hell for ever because you are such a bad child and you have to repent and tell 'God' what a ad person you are and beg him to save you. Also telling children that they are bad and sinful just for doing normal children thing. There was a young boy who was terribly troubled after telling that sometimes he did not believe what the bible said. They tell you that there is something wrong with YOU if you don't believe. That messes up children horribly. It took my whole youth for me to reconcile that i was NOT bad for embracing truth and REASON and rationality instead of fairy tales and mythology. This film was very well done and i must say as someone who has "survived" that type of childhood that it is completely accurate portrayal of the evangelical movement. Well worth watching.
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