Tory (Victoria 10), Levi (11) and Rachael (9) enter ‘Jesus Camp’ as children but leave it as newly recruited soldiers for the Religious Right.
Their mission; to “take back America for Christ”.
A growing number of evangelical Christians believe that there is a war being fought in their country for the hearts and minds of America’s youth. .
This is a war that aggressive Evangelical Children’s Minister, Pastor Becky Fischer , fully intends to win, as she demands that the children of America to rise up to form an army of young Christian soldiers to once again go fourth and do God’s will.
To this end, Fischer devotes herself to the task of indoctrinating children as young as six, within the confines of a summer camp she established for fundamentalist Christian children, called “Kids on Fire”, with the message that Jesus needs you to fight for him, because “Christian Adults have become too fat and lazy to protect them from the evils of this world”.
By following the activities that take place within Fischer’s camp through the eyes of three of the children targeted by her message, this documentary not only enables viewers to directly see and hear just what these children are being e are exposed too, but also enables us to see the way in which her process of indoctrination both impacts on, and changes the way these children view not just religion, but the world as whole.
Prior to entering the camp, Tory appears to be a fairly normal ten year old girl who likes to dance and listen to Christian music. Yet it’s not long before her views on Christianity are changed as she explains to the camera, whilst at camp, that in her view, there are “churches that are called ‘dead churches”.
These are churches where people sing three songs, listen to a sermon and talk like robots. God is not to be found in such churches.
God only likes to go to churches like hers, where people are jumping up and down and shouting his name.
Apparently, quiet, reflective religious practices are no longer acceptable, as God is only attracted to bouncy people who praise him loudly
By the end of the camp she truly believes that she’s being trained to be a warrior for god.
Levi, the eldest of the children followed, is a friendly 11 years old boy who is home schooled. Neither he nor his family believe in global warming,
They believe, as many on the religious right do, that science isn’t real. It’s merely another belief system and as such, should not be given greater weight in schools than creationism and the teaching of the bible.
Levi is asked to preach to he’s fellow campers and whilst preparing his sermon he claims that god writes the sermon through him and that he can actually feel God’s hand guiding him.
He also believes that whenever he interacts with a non-Christian there’s always something about them that doesn’t seem right and makes his spirit feel ‘really yucky’.
He states that he believes that America is supposed to be gods’ nation but that it’s been twisted by corruption and evil
Rachael, at only nine, is perhaps the most zealous of all the camp attendees. She prays before even doing something as simple and fun as bowling and views every outing as an opportunity to preach to people.
This becomes apparent when, whilst at the bowling alley, she approaches an unknown woman and begins preaching at her, telling her that God wants her to “follow him with her whole heart” and that she approached this particular woman “because god told her too”.
Instead of having a quiet word with his daughter about the dangers of approaching strangers, her father instead praises her for the strength of her faith and calls her a ‘medium’.
She admits that she dreams of becoming a nail technician so that she can use her nail painting skills to hold people’s hands and preach to them.
In other words, her idea of a perfect audience is a captive and unsuspecting one.
Rachel’s thinking appears to be highly reflective of the themes she’s experienced whilst at camp.
Inside the Camp
On the first day of the camp itself, we find Pastor Fischer preaching:
“This is a sick old world so let’s just fix it. Kids you need to change things. We’ve got too many Christian adults who are fat and lazy. They don’t want to do anything. Do you know Muslims train their children from the time they are five years old, to fast during the month of Ramadan.”—said with mock awe.
When the kids don’t respond with appropriate awe, they are told “listen, we hold the keys. We can change the world. Boys and girls can change the world. I need you to get serious with god. To say god I’m here to be trained. “
And this is the reasoning behind Pastor Fisher’s words:
“Our enemies are putting their focus onto the kids. They’re going into the schools. You go into Palestine and they’re putting hand grenades in their kid’s hands and they’re teaching them how to put on bomb belts. They’re teaching them how to use rifles; they’re teaching them how to use machine guns.
It’s no wonder, that with that kind of intense training and decipling that those young people are ready to kill themselves for the cause of Islam.
I want to see young people as radically laying down their lives for the gospel as they are over in Pakistan and Israel and Palestine and all those different places because, excuse me, but we have the truth.”
“We have to stand up and take back the land”.
She also says that “kids are so useable in Christianity because one third of the world’s population are children under the age of 15.”
She believes that George Bush has rekindled America’s faith in Christianity via his own faith because he is telling schools that they should still be teaching creationism. (Please. Has she not read how many dodgy corporations this man and his family are involved in?)
Seriously, she reminds me of Abby Lee Miller from Dance Moms. She’s demanding and tough and big on the hard sell when it comes to promoting her camps.
She prepares for preaching in much the same way that Abby prepares for competitions.
She begins the camp by stepping into her makeshift pulpit and asking her camp congregation “what do you guys think of the hair, the nails, the eyebrows and the rest of me?”
Immediately after providing this display of vanity, Fischer then explains to her congregation that the devil is hunting them, even as children, and that sin is designed to destroy them.
She warns them that:
“The devil goes after the young, those that cannot fend for themselves”.
And how does he do this?
According to Fischer, the devil is attacking children via Harry potter.
“Warlocks” she declares, “are the enemies of god, and had Harry Potter have been in the Old Testament, he would have been put to death.” Poor harry.
One child later admits to his small circle of friends, that he watches Harry Potter movies at his dad’s house, because his mum won’t let him watch them at home.
The response he receives from those around him is a shocked silence, complete with nervous eyes flicking in all directions.
Ghost stories are out of bounds too as they don’t honor god. But hang on, wasn’t Jesus kind of a ghost when he rose again and don’t they say the father, the son and the Holy Ghost?
In Fischer’s next sermon, she tells the kids that they are phonies and hypocrites because they go to church but then they talk dirty with their friends and that they need to come up to her and get washed clean of their sins with the bottle of normal drinking water she’s holding in her hands.
Kids immediately start bowing their heads, falling to the floor and crying in response to her accusations that they are “phonies”.
This goes on for quite some time and the kids look completely demoralized and traumatized by the prospect of having to step forward to have their hands cleaned, because as young as they are, they realize that the act of stepping forward is, in and of itself, an admission of guilt.
And not step forward would make them guilty of deceit.
One poor kid sits on stage with a microphone and tells the entire camp that sometimes he doesn’t even believe what the bible says and that makes him a “faker” and a “phony” and that he feels really bad about that.
All the other kids watch him with anxious eyes, no doubt hoping that they won’t be required to confess their hypocrisy aloud as well.
It’s like some form of bizarre mind control. She suggests it and they immediately feel it.
At one point another preacher places a life sized cardboard cut-out of George Bush on the stage and begins to talk to the cut out as if it were real and encourages the kids to pray over the cut-out and to use their prayers to fill Bush with god’s spirit.
“One nation under god”, they shout at him.
Yet another preacher takes the stage and starts telling all of the children that over 50 million babies have been cut out of their mother’s womb s and aborted.
He then says:-
“Do you know that a third of your friends couldn’t be here tonight, because, they never made it”.
As the ramifications of his words hit home the children are handed out tiny dolls that represent foetuses at 5 weeks, 7 weeks and so on.
He then challenges the children to become a part of the anti-abortion movement, which of course they accept, clapping once again and screaming yes.
As the camera pans back out, some young children are now sitting with pieces of red tape plastered across their mouths with the word “life” written on them.
The preacher then places even more red tape over the mouths of over children as he fills them with the horror of the devil’s plan to kill unborn children.
And now of course he tells them that the courts too are corrupt, (but not because they let rapists and murders walk free, but) because they allow a woman to choose her own biological destiny.
The end result is once again children crying, begging for an end to abortion, commanding the devil to leave those unborn children alone and ends with a close up of Rachael, tears streaming down her face, gripping a microphone for dear life and crying while she chants, “no more, no more, no more”.
But does she mean no more abortion or simply no more of having to be exposed to the disgusting thoughts, feelings and distress that this preacher has incited within her?
Remember she is only nine years old.
During the camp the kids are all told that they are soldiers for Christ and asked how many of them want to be one of those who would give up their lives for Jesus?
The response is clapping and cheering, hand raising and affirmations” I do, I want to give up my life for Jesus.
A male preacher states that they are going to break the power of the enemy over government. That’s right, government isn’t corrupt due to the many back door deals that it does, no, and it’s corrupt for removing prayer from their schools.
America now has a corrupt government and that god wants that government to be replaced by a good godly government who will reinstate prayers and the teaching of creations, whilst doing away with science all together, as well as abortion and declaring war on all non-Christians and punishing them accordingly.
I presume that “punishing them accordingly” means death.
Once again this is followed by images of kids in tears and distress while the adults preach war and vengeance at them.
Fischer later declares:
“This means war. Are you apart of it or not?”
I don’t believe that there will ever be any true fairness in the world while some people are choosing to raise their children to be fearful of those who are different from them in any way, whilst enabling them to be arrogant enough to believe, even at the age of 9, that they know everything and that any adult who disagrees with them must automatically be an agent of the devil, who needs to be wiped off the face of this earth.
Nor will I ever believe that one group of people should ever have the right to rule over and dictate to all others how things should be done.
Not to mention that I found it very disturbing to see such small children being spoken to about issues as complex as abortion, war and corruption, in such a simplistic and biased way.
Pro- marriage equality.
I’m also anti- child abuse in all of its forms, including psychological abuse.
If this is the future of America, then……
I’m sure you can finish the rest of that sentence yourself and when you do, you might also want to also consider just what form that help might take.
Let’s hope that God is not a fan of Evangelical teaching.
Like many others, if I had to try and classify this film in terms of genre, I’d have to agree that it’s more of a horror story, than a hopeful story.