My Obsession With Jesus Camp

The whole movie, available to watch for free on YouTube.

Tonight on Twitter I made a confession. I confessed to having watched the 2006 documentary Jesus Camp at least four (?) times. I did this as I watched it again for the fifth (?) time.

A couple of points I should make: I am an agnostic Wiccan Unitarian Universalist. I used to be a fundamentalist Christian (a Reformed/Calvinist Baptist, in case you wanted to know), but I have never been a Pentecostal. I have never been 100% onboard with what the people in the film are preaching.

So why have I watched it so many times? I pondered this tonight and decided to talk it out here because why not?

Magic

First of all, I find the hypocrisy fascinating. I’m not talking about Ted Haggard preaching against homosexuality and then having his extramarital relationship with a man outed. I’m talking about magic.

Many of the adults and children in the film claim witchcraft is evil. Tonight, I “felt personally attacked” when Becky Fischer said Harry Potter would have been killed in Old Testament times. Not because I love Harry Potter (though I do), but because I knew that if it were legal in this country, she would have me killed as a witch in a heartbeat.

However, multiple times throughout the film, children are encouraged to participate in sympathetic magic. Washing “sin” from their hands with bottled water, breaking cups representing “Satan’s” hold over different areas of life, blessing a cardboard representation of the president. All these things are magic.

The idea that one thing and another are tied, and so by doing something to one it will affect the other, is an ancient magical idea. Oh, and Christianity is rooted in Judaism, which is rooted in ancient Paganism, and peppered with Gentile European Paganism, so I guess I really shouldn’t be surprised to see magic there.

Politics

I hadn’t watched this movie since the 2016 election. The kids in this film are all of voting age now. Most were old enough to vote for Trump. While the political focus of the film centered around then-president George W. Bush and the appointment of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court as Sandra Day O’Connor’s replacement, I can’t help but see parallels to today’s political climate.

When Trump won, like many others I was shocked. It made me wonder what was going on in other parts of the country. I felt so sheltered here in my liberal California. Who were all the people who supported Trump? Who were the people in states where the electoral college still does not have to vote along with the public? How were they okay with this?

The answers were there all along, as evidenced by the film. At the end, some of the children are brought to Washington, D.C. to protest abortion. The smashing of the cup marked “Government” and the blessing of the president … They were being raised to change the country through the democratic process.

Education

(This section is long because I have a lot of opinions about education. Sorry, not sorry.)

In a radio interview in the film, Becky Fischer says, “Every other religion is indoctrinating their kids” as an argument for indoctrinating Christian children. I admit, when I was a fundamentalist Christian, I was definitely pro-indoctrination. It wasn’t a dirty word in the community at the time (probably still isn’t), and I felt it would have been my duty to indoctrinate my children in a Biblical worldview.

I will also admit that I haven’t completely given up on the idea of indoctrination. Yes, teach children to think for themselves. Yes, teach children critical thinking. However, if you reject indoctrination and fail to teach critical thinking (as is the case in most public schools), the result is a bunch of confused kids who don’t know what to think. So they don’t. They let other people think for them (hence, the electoral college). The crazy part is that this is a form of indoctrination! They accept a set of beliefs without the ability to think critically about them!

That is where the fundamentalist Christian conservatives have us liberals beat. They may not be teaching their children how to think critically about the Bible, but by purposely indoctrinating them and giving them something solid to believe in, they are setting these kids up for success. Believing it is their duty to change the country for Christ, these children grow up to be passionate voters and political candidates.

There are many passionate liberals who do teach their children to think critically, and their children become passionate voters and political candidates as well, but this is not the norm. And Christian children have churches to turn to if their parents don’t care to indoctrinate them. What do the children of lukewarm liberals have (besides Unitarian Universalist churches, which are fewer and further between than evangelical Christian churches)?

And when public schools fail to teach Christian children in a manner that satisfies their parents, what do they do? They homeschool! Liberals are only just catching onto the trend that Christians jumped on a good thirty-five to forty years ago, when we were trying to separate church and state. What better way to indoctrinate a child than through school?

When Becky basically says they’re doing it, she means us. We (non-Christians, liberals, non-Americans) are her enemies, and she knows our children are being indoctrinated (even if we don’t).

When we fail to teach children to think critically about the world, we fail to keep indoctrination at bay. I recently watched a show on gender in a class of seven-year-olds in the U.K., in which many parents were alarmed to hear their children think so narrow-mindedly about gender. Because they hadn’t taught their children to think critically about gender, society had indoctrinated them.

Some children are too young to think critically. Ask a two-year-old to think about what they have done and whether or not their actions were moral, and they’ll just stick their tongue out at you. Very young children do have to be indoctrinated in some ideas. Love is good. Hurting people is bad. Using the toilet is good. Peeing in a potted plant is bad. Let them think critically about these things later, when they’re taking Philosophy 101. At a young age, they need to know how to function in society as a young child. That’s the place for indoctrination.

I would also rather have children indoctrinated to love and care for other people than have the schools reject indoctrination altogether (because, remember, if that rejection isn’t paired with critical thinking skills, they’ll be indoctrinated some other way anyway). A little humanist indoctrination won’t hurt anyone, I think.

Conclusion

I’m not sure what my conclusion is. Conclude for yourself.

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