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Peter T Chattaway

Jesus Camp

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A&E documenting kids for big screen

Cable channel A&E's independent film documentary unit is in production on two feature-length documentaries targeted for theatrical release. . . .

Meanwhile, the tentatively titled "Jesus Camp" focuses on 5- to 12-year-old kids who attend a summer camp for evangelical Christians in a small North Dakota town where they spend a week honing their "prophetic gifts" -- for example, the ability to hear and relay messages from God, to speak in tongues, to see the future and to heal the sick.

The campers are hoping to be selected for a missionary trip to South Africa, where they will seek to convert others to Christianity. The documentary, from Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady ("The Boys of Baraka"), was shot during the summer, and is targeted for 2006.

Dubuc said both films are festival contenders that will be seeking theatrical distribution. Other titles in the A&E IndieFilms stable have included ThinkFilm's "Murderball" and Newmarket's "Rock School."

Hollywood Reporter, October 26

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The only beef I have with the "Jesus Camp" documentary is the fact that, according to the Reuters article, some of these adults are seemingly "pimping" the power of the Holy Spirit for political gain - much like those in the current US Presidential Administration. Praying to cardboard statues of Dubya??? Come on, now.

I have no doubt that these kids are indeed moved and empowered by the Holy Spirit. But there's always trouble when people's personal ambitions (try to) get in the way of what Christ really wants to do in people's lives.

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a summer camp for evangelical Christians in a small North Dakota town where they spend a week honing their "prophetic gifts" -- for example, the ability to hear and relay messages from God, to speak in tongues, to see the future and to heal the sick.

Criminey. When I went to a Christian camp as a child, we just learned to do stuff like hike in the woods, shoot guns and bows, and fly airplanes (really!). Evidently that's the difference between Christian Camp and Jesus Camp.

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Me, I like the bit in the three-minute clip where the 10-year-old girl shows off her breakdancing skills and then says she likes "heavy metal rock and roll". And the assembly scenes do seem like something straight out of Saved! ("in da house!" "kickin' it!" etc.).

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Magnolia Eyeing Both Sides of the Aisle with "Jesus Camp" Doc

"Jesus Camp," the new documentary about three Missouri kids who travel to Pastor Becky Fischer's "Kids on Fire" evangelical summer camp, has been acquired by Magnolia Pictures for a September theatrical release that will target both conservative Christian and liberal doc audiences alike.

IndieWIRE, July 26

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Michael Moore calls Magnolia's efforts to yank the film from his festival "truly one of the worst publicity stunts I have ever seen".

Jeffrey Wells, while blogging this controversy, asks if there really is such a thing as an evangelical who voted for John Kerry. (Note that one of the first responses comes from Chris Willman, former CCM writer and current Entertainment Weekly writer.)

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I just viewed JESUS CAMP and was confused because it came to us as Christian reviewers with a clear implication, in the written stuff in the packet, that this was a balanced viewpoint of a solid evangelical position. From the opening to the end this is not an evangelical church - it is a Pentecostal church. The differences are many and the lack of honesty in this (they said they didn't want to confuse people by making that distinction) is inexcusable.

I had never actually seen Ted Haggard in operation

Edited by Denny Wayman

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Denny Wayman wrote:

: I just viewed JESUS CAMP and was confused because it came to us as Christian reviewers with a

: clear implication, in the written stuff in the packet, that this was a balanced viewpoint of a solid

: evangelical position. From the opening to the end this is not an evangelical church - it is a

: Pentecostal church. The differences are many and the lack of honesty in this (they said they

: didn't want to confuse people by making that distinction) is inexcusable.

Interesting. I only found out today that the publicity firm I've been talking to lately specializes in Christian films, or in films promoted to the Christian market. But since I got my screener directly from the filmmakers a few months ago, I haven't seen any of the Christian-market bumf.

Does the film come with endorsements from "evangelical leaders"?

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Does the film come with endorsements from "evangelical leaders"?

It has a long disclaimer about the Traverse City Film Festival and how they tried to get Michael Moore to not show it - something Moore says was a publicity stunt.

Then it has a "questions and answer" section about the evangelical movement with statements by Becky Fischer, Mark Elhardt, Father or Rachael Elhardt, Sandray Biner, mother of Tory Binger, and Carol Koch, Pastor of Christ Triumphant (you see that sign of the church in the early scenes) where Tory goes.

It then has a half page describing what "evangelical Christians" are and in the second paragraph makes the distinction between evangelicals and pentecostals, stating that those in the film are clearly pentecostals. But that is never stated in the film itself and no one will read this half page but those they are marketing to like us.

Then they have two pages of definitions - terms like: Denomination; Fundamentalists; Holy Spirit; Gifts of the Holy Spirit; Prophecy, Speaking in Tongues, etc.

It is interesting that in all of these definitions they speak clearly of "pentecostals" and "charismatics" rather than "evangelicals."

Denny

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From the opening to the end this is not an evangelical church - it is a Pentecostal church. The differences are many and the lack of honesty in this (they said they didn't want to confuse people by making that distinction) is inexcusable.

It then has a half page describing what "evangelical Christians" are and in the second paragraph makes the distinction between evangelicals and pentecostals, stating that those in the film are clearly pentecostals. But that is never stated in the film itself and no one will read this half page but those they are marketing to like us.

Then they have two pages of definitions - terms like: Denomination; Fundamentalists; Holy Spirit; Gifts of the Holy Spirit; Prophecy, Speaking in Tongues, etc.

It is interesting that in all of these definitions they speak clearly of "pentecostals" and "charismatics" rather than "evangelicals."

Granted, to be precise they ought to call them Pentecostals, but it is my understanding that Pentecostals are a sub-group of Evangelicalism not something completely different from it.

In a characterization endorsed by Mark Noll in The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, historian David Bebbington identifies "the key ingredients of evengelicalism as conversionism (an emphasis on the 'new birth' as a life-changing religious experience), biblicism (a reliance on the Bible as ultimate religious authority), activism (a concern for sharing the faith), and crucicentrism (a focus on Christ's redeeming work on the cross)."

I think Pentacostals fit this billing.

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In a characterization endorsed by Mark Noll in The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, historian David Bebbington identifies "the key ingredients of evengelicalism as conversionism (an emphasis on the 'new birth' as a life-changing religious experience), biblicism (a reliance on the Bible as ultimate religious authority), activism (a concern for sharing the faith), and crucicentrism (a focus on Christ's redeeming work on the cross)."

I think Pentacostals fit this billing.

They do, but I am willing to bet that Noll would say that not all Pentacostals are Evangelicals. In terms of American church history, it is important to distinguish between fundamentalism and evangelicalism, many Pentacostal movements falling distinctly in the former category. There are some fine distinctions in there to be sure, but they are important ones.

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I just RSVPd for a screening. I've seen Denny's review. I'll have to spend some time this weekend looking at links on this thread. The invite says that the filmmakers will be available for interviews the week of 9/18. I'm thinking I may want to get in line for that. Any of you think it's worth it and have areas to cover (other than the difference between Evangelical and Pentecostal?)

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[

They do, but I am willing to bet that Noll would say that not all Pentecostals are Evangelicals. In terms of American church history, it is important to distinguish between fundamentalism and evangelicalism, many Pentecostal movements falling distinctly in the former category. There are some fine distinctions in there to be sure, but they are important ones.

Yes, but we do add to the problem. Those of us who live within the world of Christianity know that there are many differences - especially in practice but also in theology - between a Pentecostal, Charismatic, Wesleyan-evangelical, Reformed-evangelical, etc., but we do elect a rather egotistical Charismatic as the president of the National Association of Evangelicals. The edited portions of Ted Haggard's sermon antics and comments to the young boy within the film are beyond embarrassing for all the "Evangelicals" he has been elected to represent. Their point that this is a political union for purposes beyond Christianity is arguably correct. It creates a confusion that this film only exacerbates.

Denny

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Their point that this is a political union for purposes beyond Christianity is arguably correct. It creates a confusion that this film only exacerbates.

Very, very well put. Can anyone recall the specific denomination behind Hell House? I am just to lazy to look...

Edited by MLeary

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Out of curiousity, why is it up now? Info I have is it opens NY 9/15, LA 9/22.

We were not requested to wait, and we were ready.

Denny

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Interviewed the directors this morning. The most interesting tidbit, for me (being the soundtrack buff that I am), is that the film has been revised since it first played the festival circuit last spring. Specifically, the soundtrack on the screener that I watched in May has been completely replaced by a brand-new score, precisely because it was felt that the original score was too "ominous" or "judgmental" or "creepy" or something to that effect. So the filmmakers are now sending me a screener with the new version of the film.

Could be interesting to compare the two. Maybe not quite on the level of comparing the Jerry Goldsmith and Tangerine Dream soundtracks for Ridley Scott's Legend, or Alex North's score for 2001: A Space Odyssey (which I have still never heard) with the classical pieces Kubrick used instead, but still.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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The trailer is here

Looks like Hell House will finally have a companion.

The fatigues, paranoia, and kid-preacher really freaked me out. Wow.

Saw the trailer at the theater today. My wife's comment: That was scary!

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Our revew of Jesus Camp is up.

Denny

I enjoyed your review, Denny, and appreciated your insight into the movie. I also am terrified by some of the footage in the trailer.

I just know that as soon as I say below what I'm going to say, that I'll end up clarifying myself to death. But here goes.

I was a bit confused as to the way you generalized New Life Church and Ted Haggard as typical "Charismatic Christianity". I actually have been a member of New Life for two years now, and that is not really my impression.

I'm not charismatic. I come from a bible/non-denom background. I've even have some Anglican tradition in my history as well. However, after giving it a chance, me and my family felt very comfortable in New Life, as for the most part, it was very mild, undemanding and cautious with it's charismatic tenets. Pastor ted is perhaps just as charismatic in personality as in theology. He is, as he has said time and again, a baptist pastor, with charismatic leanings. He is not, however, pentacostal, and (if this makes sense) falls more into the camp of mild third wave charismatic.

I was probably at New Life when the documentary was filmed (I think I actually spotted myself in the trailer :lol::blink: ) but am unaware of how the footage came out. How does it portray New Life?

I hate being stereotyped. I even hate the fact that me and my church got caught up in what appears to be a twisted diatribe against American Christianity. It saddens me that filmmakers feel the need to make films like this. It doesn't surprise me in the least though. It's the same principle with Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11.

Edited by Joel C

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I was a bit confused as to the way you generalized New Life Church and Ted Haggard as typical "Charismatic Christianity". I actually have been a member of New Life for two years now, and that is not really my impression.

I'm not charismatic. I come from a bible/non-denom background. I've even have some Anglican tradition in my history as well. However, after giving it a chance, me and my family felt very comfortable in New Life, as for the most part, it was very mild, undemanding and cautious with it's charismatic tenets. Pastor ted is perhaps just as charismatic in personality as in theology. He is, as he has said time and again, a baptist pastor, with charismatic leanings. He is not, however, pentacostal, and (if this makes sense) falls more into the camp of mild third wave charismatic.

Yes, I agree. Ted Haggard would fit within the third wave charismatic and not pentecostal. That was my concern about the whole film. I would not consider New Life Church typical of evangelicals, but rather a part of this broad spectrum of churches that have been gathered together under that label.

As to how he comes out on the film - not well. I'm sorry. You will want to watch the film and then give us your "inside" perspective.

Denny

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