Jesus camp essay sample

In the 2006 documentary Jesus Camp, directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady point their cameras at the Kids on Fire School of Ministry, a Missouri-based charismatic evangelical Christian camp for children. The purpose of the documentary is simply to show the goings-on of the children and the camp itself, attempting to be fair and objective in its leanings. There is little to no commentary on the actions of the church leaders or the kids themselves, simply showing the footage as is. That being said, this objective viewpoint demonstrates the ugliness and insularity that belies charismatic Christians and the Bible Belt’s conservative views through its clear, unobstructed view of radicalized Christians in America.
The directors are absolutely fair and objective in their depiction of the camp; intertitles are used simply to describe people, places and facts, without any specific call to action. Much of the objectionable nature of the camp and the members of evangelical Christianity comes through simply in the things that these people actually do and say – the way they all but deify political figures that they agree with (making a devotional to a George W. Bush cardboard cutout), and the ritualistic indoctrination of kids into a very extreme sect of Christianity is all shown unapologetically, with little creative editing to obfuscate the truth or to impose an agenda. To that end, it is clear that, within reason, the events depicted in Jesus Camp follow a straightforward and honest narrative.
The directors are very convincing in relaying the message of the danger of such Christian sects through their footage. Throughout the film, footage of the children’s reaction to such strong indoctrination carries a weight and sadness to it; the children are clearly shown to be parroting what their parents have told them. As many of the children are homeschooled and exposed to little else but the camp’s point of view towards religion and those not like them, it looks much like brainwashing. The hypocrisy of these figures teaching them is also shown in the disillusioned portrait of Ted Haggard (who speaks about homosexuality shortly before he was revealed to have sex with men). The documentary’s message makes clear the dangerous aspect of training children to follow evangelical Christianity, as everyone involved speaks fearfully of those who do not think like they do (Muslims, non-charismatic Christian churches, proponents of global warming, etc.).
I do agree with the director’s assertions, and feel the impartial, objective presentation of the documentary makes these points clearer. By offering little to no commentary and simply showing these people how they look and sound outside of the context of their insular culture, it definitely strikes one as dangerous. These are people who do not trust the government or their fellow man, and are afraid of Islam/atheism/homosexuality to an almost repressive extent. The documentary shows these children as not having a bright future, as their elders have taught them in ways that are confusing and deluded. The kids seem to have lost all agency, instead parroting their parent’s views. There are very few criticisms of the documentary itself, as its even-handed presentation simply leans toward the frightening nature of the camp’s teachings – all it is doing is creating a vicious cycle of charismatic Christianity that believes it is fighting a war against the rest of America.