If any out there still harbour doubts that the real wars of our age are being waged in the hearts and minds of our children, or that the primary ammunition — the weapon — of those wars is faith, well …. The first few minutes of Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady’s JESUS CAMP doesn’t allow for much quibbling.
The documentary is fairly even-handed, as these things go. While the lens falls primarily on a few ministers — specifically “preacher to the children” Becky Fischer — dissenters of evangelical fundamentalism are given voice through Air America watchdog Mike Papantino. Equal time is given to each perspective and each has ample opportunity to drive home their points.
Citified secularists may be surprised at how articulate the bible thumpers (young and old) truly are and how essentially winning is the world they offer.
Yes, creationism is hard to swallow — as are many of the less-beatific aspects of the faith — but these folks are not lacking for a sense of purpose and message. As warped as it can get in its final expression, that message does stem from one of love.
That’s what’s most disturbing and perhaps most compelling about JESUS CAMP. There is no denying the sincerity of these people. They do truly see the world embroiled in a war of faith. And they do genuinely believe that the children they fill with their words of rapture and transcendence are the vanguard of a new army for god.
In part, you want to celebrate their fervor but it’s a fearsome thing. Their Jesus is one at odds with his own tenets — all-forgiving and unforgiving — willing to embrace all but only with a caveat of conversion.
One is left feeling that the force of spirit the evangelists wield could be used as a great force of good, if only it could be inclusive without being reductive. Instead, it’s merely one more thing to be wary of.
When one evangelist says, “the prayers of little children can shake kings,” he means it literally.