Friday, February 23, 2007
Savior Ready to Kick Prophet's Ass
Actually, the film wasn't quite as creepy as I'd feared. I have long been a recipient of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Report, full of babies in Klan robes and gun-toting militia tots, so I was prepared for the worst. Pastor Becky does base her energy on developing in children the same fire-eyed franzy she sees in Muslim children who are ready to lay down their lives for their faith. I was bracing myself for camouflage-accented Armageddon maneuvers in the North Dakota countryside. I needn't have worried.
Pastor Becky isn't a pistol-packin' mama; she's busy imprinting the home-schooled children who attend her summer camp with the stamp of a special generation--a sort of Jesus Pepsi generation, if you will. Come alive! She proudly displays her many hands-on ways of indoctrinating her campers with all the enthusiasm of an elementary teacher. In education we'd call her tools manipulatives, and in this case, truer words were never spoken. We see six-year-olds in tears because their faith isn't all that their elders think it should be. We watch Becky tell the children that Harry Potter is with the forces of darkness. We listen to an eight-year-old admit that some of her dancing is "for the flesh." Pastor Becky puts a great big two-dimensional Dubya on the stage so that the children can pray for the efforts of One of Their Own in the White House.
Jesus Camp is a film that strives to be fair to its subject. A radio commentator sits in a studio commenting on the tactics of the extreme evangelical right. He is the mainstream's moral anchor as we watch a little girl pressing booklets into the hands of black folk ("I think he was a Muslim," she whispers to a companion as she walks away). Ted Haggard struts the stage of his mega-church denouncing homosexuals, his reputation and his ministry still intact.
It's interesting that Pastor Becky is as enthusiastic about the nomination of Jesus Camp for a documentary Oscar as those critical of her methods.
But as I've learned recently, such a variety of responses are possible to one thing.