Charlie Don't Surf

Monday, August 14, 2006

"Jesus Camp" at Silverdocs

emailed June 19, 2006

Didn't get to see much of the Silverdocs festival this year but I did see their wrap-up screening of the Jury Prize winner, which was pretty chilling: "Jesus Camp." By Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady. Its Silverdocs page is here:

About these children from evangelical families who go to summer camps where they're taught to speak in tongues and led in all these sessions by Christian-right wackos who teach them to walk up to strangers and try to convert them, and sinister fundamentalist types who come in and indoctrinate them about the abortion genocide, and a guy comes in with these ceramic cups that are supposed to represent Satan's control of the US government, and the kids walk up and smash the cups to bits with a hammer and start crying, and rooms full of kid chant praises and prayers at a weird cardboard cut-out of George W. Bush.

The movie interviews a couple of pretty powerful evangelical types who talk about how huge their movement is and how they talk to Bush about policy issues every week, and it follows a few of the children around so you get to know them a bit -- these 10-year-old kids who are so serious and carry bibles and talk about feeling the holy spirit and preach to the others campers about changing this country and how old they were when they were saved, and there's a little girl who dances around gymnastically in a tutu to christian rock but makes clear that her dancing is "for the Lord and not of the flesh," and they go with their parents to these mega-churches in Colorado Springs and rant and rant, and one little girl tries to convert people in a bowling alley.

The film spends a lot of time with this one particular "Evangelical Children's Minister" named Becky Fisher, who runs a summer camp and tries to come up with interesting new ways and toys and to get kids into her message of "bringing God's plan into the world." They film her doing a walk-through of her camp building where she pre-emptively banishes Satan from her power cables and her ventilation system and her PowerPoint slides (she doesn't want them to lock up during her sermon), and on and on...

During the movie I saw people throughout the audience at the AFI theater holding their heads in their hands. My own head was frequently in my hands.