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Peter T Chattaway

Jesus Camp

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I dunno how "legit" this is, but the entire film has now been posted here.

Interesting --

"Content Rejected. This content has been removed due to a breach in our terms & conditions."

-s.

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Although you can still watch the trailer here.

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Wow, just watching that trailer again gives me the heebie-jeebies.

-s.

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Wow, just watching that trailer again gives me the heebie-jeebies.

-s.

I am with you on that. I wonder if there is a bias in the trailer presentation.

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My review, FWIW.

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Contra Jeff Sharlet, these filmmakers would have sorely benefitted from reading even just one or two classic evangelical treatises, such as Noll's Scandal... or Henry's Uneasy Conscience.... Even such rudimentary background study could have added some depth to the laudably neutral approach they take in the editing. If it wasn't for some of the stats and definitions they throw at you in some of the interludes, this would have basically been a This American Life episode put to film.

My ulimate ambivalence towards the film, however, came to a hilt in the credits. They show some "outtakes" of these kids witnessing to people on the street, and you can overhear the kids sayings some hysterically comical/naive things as they walk away from failed attempts to witness to people. I couldn't tell how to read these outtakes though. A lot of times, this "section" of a film is reserved for scenes that we aren't supposed to take as seriously as the rest of the film, or flubs (like Jackie Chan films). Whether or not the filmmakers intended us to take these "outtakes" as comical or whatever, they send a lot of mixed messages by including these little scenes during the credits.

Edited by MLeary

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I just saw this on DVD a few nights ago with a fellow A&F-er. It left me feeling mildly depressed - not the film, per se, but what it shows. I know that this film does NOT represent the majority of evangelicals, but it clearly depicts a not-insignificant swath of American Christianity... and you have to wonder how we can be losing our way so spectacularly.

It's impossible for me to separate the subject matter from the film, but I'll say more about the subject matter in a moment. First let me say that Jesus Camp is beautifully-made. With the exception of the odd decision to include Mike Papantonio, the shooting is outstanding -- especially the scenes with just the children commenting on their beliefs and experiences. These children are (largely) attractive and charming, thoughtful and articulate; the adult world-weariness that creeps into their eyes at times is jarring and unsettling.

The contribution of the camerawork is notable in many places, whether lingering on the face of a child in the crowd (esp. the crying blond boy who earlier had confessed his doubts about God) or lingering on the POV of a parent (such as the mom on her porch who calls her daughter out of the rain... then lets out a soft chuckle that combines joys and parental exasperation). In another scene, Becky Fisher, in closeup, remarks unflatteringly on uncommitted Christians who eat too much -- and the camera quickly pulls away to reveal the plus-size of the speaker. It has the effect of silent commentary, and of expressing raised eyebrows on behalf of the audience, a wide-eyed, "Huh? What did she just say?"

The tone of mild incredulity runs as a subtext just below a mostly respectful tone. It shows up as well in the long pause just after something remarkable has been said or done, usually showing a child's face, as though time has just stood still. It's a disjunctive (if understandable) technique in a film that otherwise seems willing to let the story tell itself.

Papantonio's voice of reason, though, is an artificial commentary. It ties directly into this film only as a set-up to the Supreme Court confirmation process and as pre-cursor to the rather dull conversation between Mike and Becky on-air. (That conversation should have been much more enlightening.) As for the Supreme Court issue, the conclusion seems to be that these kids DID influence history through their prayers (in favor of Alito, we presume). So, this *works*, I guess... (If only their views were more moderate, then they would pray for things constructively.)

Thank God for this look in the mirror. As disquieting as it is, hopefully Christians will catch a glimpse of just how far we often stray from the teachings of one who showed no interest in politics or government or power. Rather than be concerned about how others perceive us, we'd be wise to make sure we are as we should be.

And I hope youth workers will realize that we need less of judging our neighbors and more of loving them. I really believe their lives are changed by serving and giving, as well as by watching our example of the same.

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One more thing...

I forgot to say that what really adds a sour note to the rhetoric being fed to these kids, the part that felt so jarring, was the recurring theme of *war*. Soldiers, fighting, battle, enemy -- terms that Scripture uses in a spiritual sense are used here in reference to people who disagree with political or social views.

Coming not long after seeing Cult of the Suicide Bomber and Blood of my Brother (both dealing with issues of violence and extremism in the Middle East), these themes really made me squirm.

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I just noticed last night that the back of the DVD (which comes out today) promises to include "Additional Ted Haggard Sermon Footage" among the deleted scenes. Hoo boy.

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Just an observation that even though they themselves have said they realize these are not actually evangelical Christians, on their DVD they say:

"A growing number of Evangelical Christians believe there is a revival underway in America that requires Christian youth to assume leadership roles..."

Denny

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Denny Wayman wrote:

: . . . these are not actually evangelical Christians . . .

They aren't? They are certainly somewhere on the FRINGE of the evangelical movement -- or at any rate they are far enough from the centre that they are not particularly good representatives of evangelicalism as a whole -- but they seemed no different from the kids I knew at the Pentecostal high school that I graduated from.

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There is a slate early in the film that states (ominously?) that "there are over 80-million evangelicals in America"- or words to that effect. Clearly they lumped everyone in together, as though this were a representational sample.

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Denny Wayman wrote:

: . . . these are not actually evangelical Christians . . .

They aren't? They are certainly somewhere on the FRINGE of the evangelical movement -- or at any rate they are far enough from the centre that they are not particularly good representatives of evangelicalism as a whole -- but they seemed no different from the kids I knew at the Pentecostal high school that I graduated from.

We had this discussion earlier. I see a distinct difference between pentecostal and evangelical. There are differences in theology, practice, culture, organization, education, use of reason, science, etc.

When I emailed the directors they said they had a disclaimer early in the film that these were pentecostal Christians, recognizing the difference. That they don't correct that, I still posit is inappropriate for a true documentary (unless this is just another docuganda).

Denny

Edited by Denny Wayman

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Tim Willson wrote:

: There is a slate early in the film that states (ominously?) that "there are over

: 80-million evangelicals in America"- or words to that effect. Clearly they

: lumped everyone in together, as though this were a representational sample.

No argument there. When I interviewed them, they said they actually left out some of the wackier stuff because it was so clearly part of the Pentecostal "scene" but not representative of evangelicalism as a whole -- so they definitely INTENDED these kids to be "a representational sample" on SOME level. (Their exact words were: "we felt like they had a lot more in common with the greater evangelical movement than they didn't, and so that's why we didn't start focusing on a lot of their differences.")

I am curious to see if any of that stuff was "put back in", via the "deleted scenes" on the DVD.

Denny Wayman wrote:

: I see a distinct difference between pentecostal and evangelical.

And between charismatic and evangelical, too? In all my years of going to evangelical elementary and secondary schools, followed by two years at a Pentecostal high school, followed by a significant friendship with a Pentecostal chaplain at UBC (where I heard and spoke with Gordon Fee, a Pentecostal professor at the evangelical Regent College who sits on the editorial board that oversaw the NIV and TNIV translations of the Bible), followed by a journalistic career that put me in contact with charismatic/evangelical Anglicans, etc., etc., I have never heard Pentecostalism or charismaticism (is that a word?) described as anything other than a subset of evangelicalism.

: There are differences in theology, practice, culture, organization, education,

: use of reason, science, etc.

I'm not sure that there is any single, or even dominant, evangelical approach on ANY of those points, so I'd be hard to put to say in what ways Pentecostals or charismatics are different from all the others.

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Finally saw this last night.

I was surprised to find that I actually do agree with some of the major criticisms floated about this film; it doesn't do a particularly good job at providing context to show us how Becky's camp fits into the larger world of evangelicalism. Structuring the narrative around Mike Papontonio was a strange choice--I basically agree with his politics, but he's just reciting lame talking points (separation of church and state!) and stating the obvious (We should be troubled by this phenomenon of evangelicalism being used for partisan politics!). He doesn't really do anything to advance our understanding or provide any insight.

Still the film was profoundly moving and disturbing, on so many levels. The little blond kid talking about being tormented by guilt because he's not always sure god exists is just heartbreaking.

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The little blond kid talking about being tormented by guilt because he's not always sure god exists is just heartbreaking.

Absolutely. I really wish the filmmakers had spent more time with him (IIRC, we catch a brief glimpse of him later on worshipping), if only to provide a bit more contrast to the kids who seem to have things all figured out.

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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

Whenever an old thread is resurrected these days, it pops up in my Google Reader feed ... and whenever a thread pops up in my feed, all I see is the first post in that thread ... and so, today, this thread popped up, and I saw this post from over two years ago, and I found myself wondering ...

Is there any reference to a missionary trip to South Africa in the film itself? (For that matter, do these kids ever claim to be able to see the future or heal the sick? I don't REMEMBER any such scenes, but it's been a long time since I last saw the film.) If not, then is that an element that fell by the wayside as the filmmakers' focus turned increasingly political rather than religious?

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I assume there are threads in the 'Politics' forum (I haven't checked it in months) for discussing the political stuff specifically. I post this here only because of the movie angle.

- - -

Sarah Palin's Churches and The Third Wave: New Video Documentary

Sarah Palin's churches are actively involved in a resurgent movement that was declared heretical by the Assemblies of God in 1949. This is the same 'Spiritual Warfare' movement that was featured in the award winning movie, "Jesus Camp," which showed young children being trained to do battle for the Lord. At least three of four of Palin's churches are involved with major organizations and leaders of this movement, which is referred to as The Third Wave of the Holy Spirit or the New Apostolic Reformation. The movement is training a young "Joel's Army" to take dominion over the United States and the world. . . .

The Wasilla Assembly of God church is deeply involved with both Third Wave activities and theology. Their Master's Commission program is part of an three year post-high school international training program with studies in prophecy, intercessory prayer, Biblical exegesis, authority and leadership. The pastor, Ed Kalnins, and Masters Commission students have traveled to South Carolina to participate in a "prophetic conference" at Morningstar Ministries, one of the major ministries of the Third Wave movement. Becky Fischer was a pastor at Morningstar prior to being featured in the movie "Jesus Camp." . . .

Bruce Wilson, Huffington Post, September 7

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Just discovered that UK viewers (and possibly others) can catch this for free on Channel 4 on Demand. Woo-hoo.

Matt

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I guess I'm glad (for once) I live in the states -- this film still makes my blood boil.

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Alright, so, does anyone mind telling me what I am missing about this film. I still do not get what it is about the film that so many find disturbing. I am a political progressive, and I do not agree with Fischer or Engle's views on abortion, but is the politics what people find so disturbing, or is it something else?

I thought the film was heavy-handed, and I was not impressed with it as an objective presentation of American Charismatics. It blurs and confuses the distinctions between Pentecostalism and Evangelicals, and though the filmmakers never comment in word, their camera work is evidently biased against Fischer's ministry. I see its value as a piece of anti-Charismatic movement propaganda, on the same level as a movie like Marjoe, but is that what people find so disturbing - children being involved in Pentecostalism?

I can't get anyone to give me a clear answer as to why it is so shocking. Also, maybe I am desensitized because I was raised UPC.

Edited by Michael Todd

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Alright, so, does anyone mind telling me what I am missing about this film. I still do not get what it is about the film that so many find disturbing. I am a political progressive, and I do not agree with Fischer or Engle's views on abortion, but is the politics what people find so disturbing, or is it something else?

I thought the film was heavy-handed, and I was not impressed with it as an objective presentation of American Charismatics. It blurs and confuses the distinctions between Pentecostalism and Evangelicals, and though the filmmakers never comment in word, their camera work is evidently biased against Fischer's ministry. I see its value as a piece of anti-Charismatic movement propaganda, on the same level as a movie like Marjoe, but is that what people find so disturbing - children being involved in Pentecostalism?

I can't get anyone to give me a clear answer as to why it is so shocking. Also, maybe I am desensitized because I was raised UPC.

You're not missing anything. It shouldn't be shocking or disturbing for anyone who's walked inside a Pentecostal church before. And Becky Fischer and Co.? Minority fringe at best (even within Pentecostalism). Remember, there are people out there who still take Pastor Richard Gazowsky seriously. Ms. Fischer has a few screws loose herself, not the least of which is expecting that a room full of kids that age are going to actually be engaged with what she is saying. Is anyone looking at the faces of half the kids the camera shows in the audience while Fischer gets on one of her tirades? Half of those kids are not paying attention. I've taught Sunday School before, you learn by their faces whether they are actually listening to you or are just sitting there being good.

Of course, when you make a film like this, you're going to try to cut to the kids who are paying attention, and focus on the kids who have something to say, or who start crying about whatever. Of course, it's also easier to get their attention with games of active participation like "speaking in tongues time" or "breaking the evil government cup." I can also say with experience that all the kids not paying attention usually sit towards the back half of the room. And if they make fun or openly question anything, they are taken out of the room.

Are children being emotionally manipulated and even brain-washed here? Yes, they are. Are we supposed to be scared because of this? Well, one thing the Pentecostal churches still have not learned is a little something called PR (they allowed this documentary to be made, for one example). As long as they are teaching their kids to think and talk like they do, no one is ever going to take them seriously in the public square.

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