What’s So Wrong With "Jesus Camp"?

Some friends forwarded me information on an upcoming film called “Jesus Camp”. (I don’t want to comment much on the film since I only saw snippets — there may be balance within the film when viewed in its entirety.) From what I understand, the film shows a camp in North Dakota that is focused on Christian teachings and was probably chosen for the movie because they have practices that some may consider somewhat radical.

Here is a clip that is circulating around on Digg.com:

When I first saw the above video clip, I watched it within a frame on someone’s page (as I presume you are doing here.) However, when I clicked on the actual YouTube link and look at the comments, I was pretty disappointed at what I saw. I already understand that people become really strong and brave when they are behind a keyboard and they express thoughts that they would never dare to express in your face. But I thought that to balance out the 25 comments to this movie that I’d find at least one Christian voice among them that would try to make some sense to the non-Christians of the video. But I didn’t see one. Not one among them. And so, naturally, I was persuaded to write my own comment.

So, what exactly is so wrong and threatening about the video? I saw one image of children holding hands and praying. But of course that came at the very end of the video. Other images showed much earlier were of children crying against abortion and doing their own form of praise dancing — expressing themselves in an outlet that isn’t threatening to anyone.

I do have a few concerns about the video (and probably will share the same concerns about the movie). For one, non-Christians that view this out of scriptural context may receive this as “a bunch of crazy folks.” And that does the exact opposite of what we seek to do as Christians. No, our mandate as Christians isn’t to make the gospel attractive. (The good news of Christ and the promise that he makes is attractive enough on its own.) But hopefully this wouldn’t dissuade folks from learning more about Christ (which would help them to gradually understand why these children are this passionate.)

The other concern I have (and one that is much larger) is the fact that I pray that Pastor Becky Fisher (as shown in the video) is anointed (led by Christ) to do the work that she is doing and that she is seeking Christ in her efforts to work with these children.

(Note: I never want to speak against the man or woman of God — she may be called to a purpose that I don’t understand — and don’t need to understand since it’s her purpose. Perhaps her purpose in life is to get people to seek Christ so they can understand exactly what the fuss is about this ‘Jesus’ that these kids are crying and dancing about? Whatever her motivation, I pray that she’s anointed to do what she’s doing and that she’s seeking God as she moves forward with her ministry.)

That having been said, one might wonder if the children are being pushed to accept Christ before they are ready and able to understand why they should. Where I worship, I love the leadership that I worship under and one of the reasons why is because they believe that children should come to accept Christ on their own volition. This doesn’t mean that children can’t come and listen and learn about God during the service. However, if you are going to serve in the ministry or be a part of the fellowship, you should certainly have accepted Christ on your own. After all — it’s His way. Going back to the New Testament scripture, when Christ first began his ministry, he asked folks to come to him. He didn’t force people. And many didn’t come. But some did. The point is that Christ isn’t going to force his way into our lives. You have to invite him in and let him know that you desire to have a relationship with him. So, I pray that these kids aren’t going to end up having a grudge against Christ one day because their parents forced them to attend this camp.

I didn’t grow up as a Christian. We hardly ever went to church. But when God finally revealed Himself to me, it was a beautiful thing. And I think my relationship with Christ (which is totally separate and apart from my duties in the wonderful ministry which he led me to) is much stronger because I wasn’t forced to go to church as a child. Initially upon my first visits to church as an adult, the experiences were a bit “eye opening” (and, being honest, sometimes a bit frightening) to see the Holy Spirit at work when you aren’t accustomed to it. But the positive thing is that my life as a relatively new Christian is still full of fresh and new experiences. I haven’t been exposed so long that I’ve heard every sermon or know everything that’s going to happen. God reveals new things to me all the time.

The last thing I want to deal with is the notion that the children are “worshipping George Bush”. The poster on YouTube retracted this claim — but of course he did it in the video’s description which you can hardly see — but the post still says in big letters “Children Worshipping a Picture of George Bush”. So basically people are still reacting to thinking that the kids are worshipping George Bush. (I tell you — the tactics the enemy uses to cause confusion and to get people away from Christ is so sad, it’s funny sometimes.) While I wasn’t personally present for any of the shots in the movie, I can probably deduce that these kids were showing honor and respect to the Commander In-Chief of these great United States that everyone is breaking their neck to try to live in.

I thank God that as part of my ministry training, our Pastor (a wonderful woman) showed us that the scripture teaches us to respect authority. I had some problem with this at first, and I still struggle with it on some level, but the overall message is important.

Understand this: I absolutely do not agree with the politics of George Bush or the Bush administration. I think that this administration has shown a lack of compassion for the poor of our country. I think the administration has led us into a war based on fear when there are much more meaningful ways of helping our citizens. Though those who seek to have us fight among ourselves would have you believe that every Christian is a Conservative and that every believer in Christ voted for George Bush, I would have you to know that this simply isn’t true. God never required that we support George Bush or Conservative politics. As are the tricks of the enemy, take the most polarizing topics and have the middle class fight among themselves on issues of abortion and gay marriage while the real issues that affect our quality of life (like when things like hurricanes hit our town or when our children are sent to fight in countries in places they can’t find on a map) are left untouched. There’s an entirely different post that is begging to be written called, “Was Jesus a Liberal or a Conservative — or neither?”, but that’s a topic for another discussion.

Getting back to “worshipping George Bush”, the children were probably showing their patriotism for this country and respecting the office of the presidency — regardless of who sits in the Oval Office. We shouldn’t be condemning George Bush and calling him “stupid” and a “monkey” as I’ve seen quite often recently. We need to be praying for him. We need to pray that the God that he claims to follow would convict his heart and move Him to act in a way that helps him to best represent our country. I pray that one day he will read the book of Matthew and I pray that he will pay special attention to the fifth chapter and that he would stay on verses 7-9:

(In the King James Translation):

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”

Matthew 5 : 7-9, King James Translation

So — are there images that we might want to be concerned about in Jesus Camp? Perhaps. Should we be worried that these children are going to take up a radical stance and hurt people or make the world unsafe because of what they learn? Of course not. Those who are short-sighted and watch this video will jump to conclusions and “connect the dots in their minds” between this innocent camp and adults who one day seek to shoot abortion clinic doctors. If Pastor Fisher is teaching the scripture and how to respond to our enemies as Christ showed in His examples (and later his disciples spoke to the world), don’t worry, fearsome folks. The only thing that these kids will be doing is praying for your salvation and trying to live in a way that’s right and pleasing to God.

After all, there are much more interesting things going on that folks who want to worry can be about. Other “camps” that should frighten you a bit more than a some kids in a camp. Hmmm. Disturbing.

I pray that those who are not Christians and are watching this video would not be “turned off” from Christ because they don’t like what they see. There are thousands of ways to express your love of Christ. This is one way. There are others. There may be some that you are attracted to and others that you just don’t like. I don’t “love” every gospel song that has ever been made, but there are some that truly inspire me. So, if you choose to distance yourself a bit from the way that this fellowship works, that’s ok. But don’t rob yourself of an opportunity to get to know God for yourself. Reach out to God. If you’ve never prayed before, pray right now that he would reveal himself to you. And once you begin to know Him, you’ll be able to digest these spiritual matters without the fear that I’m seeing on message boards. (If you made it all the way to the end of my post, God bless you. :-))


6 Responses to “What’s So Wrong With "Jesus Camp"?”

  1. 1 Zen
    September 19, 2006 at 1:22 pm

    people are still reacting to thinking that the kids are worshipping George Bush. (I tell you — the tactics the enemy uses to cause confusion and to get people away from Christ is so sad, it’s funny sometimes.) While I wasn’t personally present for any of the shots in the movie, I can probably deduce that these kids were showing honor and respect to the Commander In-Chief of these great United States that everyone is breaking their neck to try to live in.

    Gee, I dunno, Dev, what’s so wrong with JesusCamp? Could it be that it is appropriate to refer to the president of the U.S. as “commander in chief” in front of military audiences. Could it be that the same president of the U.S. has been hijacked by Jesus Freaks and hellbent on turning subverting the Constitutional wall between church and state the country in the theocratic fascist society where Christianity is the only recognized religion and all others are damned. Could it be that the bible thumping Christians currently in power cherry pick the bible and are the very antithesis of Jesus Christ himself.

    I’m all for folks finding Jesus, but don’t cram your crap down my throat because you think you’re entitled to it and don’t create Jesus Camps to indoctrinate children into the quasi-brownshirts of Hitler’s Germany.
    Live your life and your religion without infecting other people with it.
    Not everyone is a Christian. Not everyone *wants* to BE a Christian. Christianity is not the only religion on the planet or in the country. Get used to it.

  2. 2 LizzieBee
    September 19, 2006 at 4:52 pm

    So, what exactly is so wrong and threatening about the video? I saw one image of children holding hands and praying. But of course that came at the very end of the video. Other images showed much earlier were of children crying against abortion and doing their own form of praise dancing — expressing themselves in an outlet that isn’t threatening to anyone.

    Sorry, but trying to ban abortion (which is what these kids are being recruited, in part, to do) IS threatening to people. People who, unlike you, have wombs to worry about.

    These folks don’t just want to “come to Christ”…they want to FORCE everyone ELSE to go there too. And I’m sorry, but that won’t work for me. Homie don’t play that.

    (and I’m sorry to come down on the statement like this, ’cause you seem like a rational guy. But people like the ones in jesus camp don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt. Their idea of “faith” is not the private commitment of Jesus Christ, but a public imposition of a very UN-Christian moral code on unwilling citizens.)

  3. September 19, 2006 at 5:06 pm

    Zen – I respect your opinion. Understand that just because there are those who claim to love Christ does not necessarily mean that they are real Christians. For example, you may belong to the Stuart family and as “Zen Stuart”, you may be a peaceful, respectable person, pay your taxes, help the needy, etc. But your brother “Jackie Stuart” may be walking around town claiming that the Stuart’s are the toughest folks in town and basically punking everyone and being a menace to the neighborhood. It gives the Stuart name a bad reputation, but all that you can do is be the best member of the Stuart family that you can be and hopefully folks will see that you heart is true.

    Christ himself said in 2 Timothy starting from the 3rd chapter that in the last days that Christians (or at least those claiming to be Christians) would have many of these negative qualities. Unfortunately that tarnishes the entire body.

    I believe in Christ, but I firmly believe that those who are Muslims probably also feel this way about the fundamental followers among them as well.

    I missed your point about the President being the Commander in Chief. Don’t really understand what significance it would be if he was introduced as the Commander in Chief in front of a crowd of Marines or a crowd of children? It’s what his position of authority is.  I don’t believe the significant thing is the title, but perhaps how he behaves.

    I cannot help what George W. Bush does or the fact that he claims that he is a follower of my faith. As mentioned, I did not vote for him and I do not support his political views. So why are you attacking all Christians because of the actions of some? You and I are probably more alike than you realize. I believe that many of the things that we see today are totally the opposite of what Christ taught. And I know he’ll deal with those folks when he comes back.

    I’m sorry that you feel as if Jesus Christ is being crammed down your throat and I pray that you would not look negatively on him because of the actions of others. Listen, understand that the easy thing for most of us would be to isolate ourselves and just not bother with folks who don’t want anything to do with us. But the scripture does command us to let the world know about Christ. I’m a particularly shy person and I’d just as soon stay to myself. But when I reflect on how good the Lord has been to me (and it’s not just a series of coincidences — he definitely has his hand in my life) as people who love you and want to see you in the kingdom someday, we reach out. Some might take it to an extreme, but I pray that you not harden your heart. Someday you might regret it. I wish you all the best and regardless of how you feel about me or the folks in North Dakota or any Christian who may have treated you wrong, don’t reject Christ. Give him a try — I guarantee your life will be better.

  4. September 19, 2006 at 5:18 pm

    Lizzie – I hear you. I don’t know what it’s like to be pregnant and I would never tell a woman what to do with her body. As one who follows Christ, I pray that people would make the right decision, but that doesn’t mean that we have to tell females how to live. It’s a very personal decision.

    You definitely have the right idea, and this is what I talked a bit about. People can do things thinking they are honoring the Lord, but in actuality they push people away from him. “Gee, if that’s how you people act, then I don’t want nuthin to do with that stuff.”

    The truth is that Jesus gave us the model for evangelism in Matthew 10. He told the disciples to go into the town, talk about the coming kingdom and “if anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town.” It’s like Mariah said — you gotta shake it off. Don’t be offended. Just come with the right heart and tell people what you know.

    I appreciate your kind words about me. Not everyone has to believe what I believe for me to respect them. Thanks for visiting and the only thing I ask is that you not reject the Lord because some folks are a bit strange in how they honor him.

  5. September 26, 2006 at 1:56 am

    Wow, I saw a lot of words, like indoctrinated, forced, recruited and so on. These are words people use when they don’t agree with something. I can guarantee that you do not understand christianity at all. I will give a basic christian belief, something Jesus said, he said,”No one comes to me unless the father draw them”. As a christian it would be foolishness for me to cram Jesus down your throat, I cannot bring you to Jesus, God Himself would have to do it. We see ourselves as servants, our master, who is also our friend tells us we must preach the gospel everywhere. So we do. Our responsibility ends there. Gospel simply means good news, so we have some good news for you, I am sure in this culture you know what it is, so I will not insult you. If we are doing this right, we will pray for you, we will pray that your heart be prepared to receive it. We will pray fearfully, that we don’t try and ‘convert’ you, but instead allow the Holy Spirit to do the work. I don’t know you, I don’t know your heart certainly. Yet I love you. This is no lip service. I LOVE YOU. I am careful, in that, because I love you, I want you to have what I have. I would not mess it up, by forcing you to believe. You know that cannot be done anyway. I will teach, not indoctrinate, my children, because I love them as well. Ultimately, it is up to them, and ultimately it is up to you, whether or not they or you receive Jesus. I do not think I am better than you, I am totally aware of what kind of person I was, I am totally aware of where my humanity is today. I say, if God would do this for me, scumbag that I am, He will certainly do this for you, I mean, look at me, and He loves ME? He loves me ANYWAY. Also, I don’t condemn you, I am not your judge. But what kind of monster would I be, if I were living in apartment building that was on fire, and as I ran out and away from the flames, if I did not stop and bang and kick at my neighbors doors, and scream for them to come out so they would not die? I could not sin against you in that fashion, I will not force myself on you, God will not force Himself on you either. But if you are willing, I will tell you about something wonderful. Love, Chris

  6. November 22, 2006 at 1:54 pm

    Appreciate your reasonableness. Your site is pretty cool. I’m one of the Jesus Campers (from Levi’s family). Lately we’ve been entering the cyber discussion. The movie demands context in alot of ways… like the George Bush thing… like martyrdom… but there are other things just plain blatant and quite in context in the movie… like abortion… and yeah praying in tongues… Then there are things that never made it to the movie, like how the kids prayed and stopped a storm. Anyway, we’re hanging out at jesuscampers.com to get our voice in the discussion too.

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