On Friday, our office decided to watch a brief documentary we were considering showing as part of a Challenge Film series we are putting together. We showed “Food, Inc.” late last fall and found that gathering to watch and discuss documentaries addressing controversial issues is something that people in our community really enjoy and provides a great forum for determining how we can better direct the efforts of our nonprofit.
We have found that one of the most divisive forces in our community is religion and the tensions surrounding it are vast. However, after watching “Jesus Camp,” we are probably not going to show it because it describes extremists that are not as prevalent in Greenville.
“Jesus Camp” follows the journey of several children as they are trained in a regimented evangelical Christian training program. They are called “soldiers” and are taught to speak in tongues, evangelize to everyone they talk to, and to essentially worship highly conservative Christian political leaders.
The film attempts to paint a picture of the impact of fundamentalist Christianity on America and its efforts to take on politics. It is frightening and at times (often, really) gives Christianity a bad name. Watching it made me feel uncomfortable, especially the portions depicting the fundamentalists’ support of Ted Haggard, a prominent evangelist who resigned from all church positions after admitting to sexual immorality and methamphetamine use.
As far as documentaries go, this one does an incredible job of depicting a story without getting involved in it. The filmmakers do not have an obvious agenda and their presence remains third-party observer throughout the film. “Jesus Camp” was even nominated for an Academy Award.
If you are curious about the impact of fundamentalists on American politics or just want to learn more, this is a great resource and an interesting documentary. Though it made me uncomfortable, it was definitely a fascinating film.