Saturday, January 19, 2008

Watching "Jesus Camp" with The Boy

Yeah, I'm late to the party.  A & E has had Jesus Camp in rotation, so The Boy and I watched it.  (The Husband, too ... but he's a morning person, so he went to bed, halfway through.)

The Boy is 11, and due to the area we live in, has already had to deal several times with the Jesus Camp crowd.  The kid in kindergarten who said he was sorry, but he couldn't be his friend anymore, since The Boy wasn't a Christian.  The boy in second grade who said he wasn't going to leave The Boy alone until he said that Jesus Christ was his Lord and Savior.  (The Boy's  words to me at that time, "Mom, I told him that I respect his worth and dignity but that's just not what I believe!")  The kid in 4th grade and 5th grade, his best friend, who learned about Unitarian Universalism, and told everyone that The Boy was an evil wizard and should be shunned.

So, no, I didn't think Jesus Camp was too mature for him.

This movie just hurts me.  Anyone who is a parent knows that kids cry easily over selfish things (they skin their knee, someone hurts their feelings), they don't cry easily over sentimental things.  The way I cry over a Hallmark commercial or over hearing a particularly spiritual hymn ... kids, as a rule, don't do that.  They have great empathy (she says, having accidentally watched Bridge to Terabithia with her crew last week) and will cry over things sad. 

But the crying you see in Jesus Camp, as they are whipped (whipped being the operative word) into a frenzy ... that's from fear.   That's not tears of emotional joy.  That's fear and drama.  Look at their faces.  Stark.

This is not a case of a liberal seminary student not understanding a particular world.  I grew up in the middle of a holy roller world, though (thank you, God, and Unitarian parents), I was not a part of it.  I held my best friend from high school when she sobbed about her abusive husband.  A Mormon, she believes that if she leaves him, she won't see her children in heaven.  

I was there, at 18, when our other best friend,  a beautiful young man who much later would come out, told me that he had figured it out -- he was asexual.  At 18, he had convinced himself that he would never be in love ... never be loved.  Because that was better than being gay.  (When he did come out, his parents disowned him.)

I was there when Jennifer J. was singing "Jump" by the Pointer Sisters and suddenly, in horror, exclaimed, "Oh my God, I'm singing a Satanic Song!"  (When I questioned her, she explained that any song which does not glorify the Lord is a Satanic song.)

I was there when our dance team, 75% or more who belonged to the Big Southern Baptist town church, would go to church on Sunday and be told that dancing was a sin.

I was there when friends would be invited with other friends to church lock-ins.  Except at these lock-ins, first they fed you pizza, then, they locked the doors and explained how you were going to Hell if you didn't get saved right then and there.  I still don't like the term "lock-in" when we use them in our UU churches.

I was there, 14 years old, when my 13 year old friend very sorrowfully said to me that she was so sorry my brother had gone to hell (because he committed suicide when I was 9.)

This is not about Christianity.  As the saying goes, some of my best friends are Christian.  My children have the privilege of a grandmother who is a Christian, who was recently baptized (she was a Methodist before that), who is a beautiful person who wants to follow the life lessons of Jesus.  I, myself, quote Jesus more than I do any other.

And this isn't anything new.  When my father was a teenager, he began questioning.  He confided this to a friend who announced, "He doesn't believe in Jesus -- let's kick his ass!"
This about a hateful religious indoctrination that yields up scarred and bitter adults.  And then we, Unitarian Universalists, have the job of teaching these adults to not be so knee-jerk negative to Christianity.

This is about ugly theology.  

Oddly enough, Ted Haggard seemed to me to be the most sympathetic when he explained that these children are taught that they are a gift from God.  I didn't hear anyone else talking about that.  It seemed the only context in which I heard "love" was, "YOU need to LOVE GOD!"  

Jesus said suffer the little children to come unto me.

I don't think he meant this kind of suffering.


ms. kitty said...

Oh, LE, what a great post. Just a few minutes ago, I was sitting in the local cafe after breakfast and finishing my coffee when it came to me to jot down the reasons I think people: stay with or join conservative religious groups; reject conservative religious groups; affiliate with liberal religious groups; affiliate with UUism.

You've reminded me that there's another reason people stick with conservative religion: fear---the other F word.

Mama G said...

I agree with your post. I found this movie so disturbing. The first time I tried to watch it, I turned it off when I'd only seen a little of it. Finally, when I got my courage up I watched the whole thing.

I think Jesus would be horrified to see what some people do "in his name". Talk about hugely missing the point!

Charlie Talbert said...

For me it was riveting and mysterious. Not sure what’s going on there. It doesn’t resemble Christianity to me. But I understand perfectly the incantations for the computers to boot up successfully.

Comrade Kevin said...

I would argue that's no more Christian than Christ himself.

That's the problem with taking the word or any philosophy literally. No sense of irony.

Fearful people are attracted to movements which seek to control them. They do not feel in control of themselves so they often think they need their faith to do it for them. Sadly, many churches are eager to serve that role.

Earthbound Spirit said...

LE, I'm glad you finally saw the movie. We're very much on the same wavelength with our reactions - and over the years my kids have heard many of the same things from their friends as your Boy has. Lots of fear, very little joy - just how does that glorify God? And how does making sure one's child is fearful as well glorify God?

I refuse the Gospel of Fear in favor of Alice Walker. Notice the beauty and goodness of creation. Sing a song that makes you feel joy. Dance and revel in the body you have that moves and feels and loves. Those things all glorify the divine, as I understand it.

patrick said...

just saw Jesus Camp myself, i appreciate the fact that the movie’s makers let the people interviewed do all the talking... over all, there is some truth in this flick as long as it's taken with a grain (or maybe a bucket) of salt