If you want to see why many people are turned off by Christianity, why Christians are leaving the church, and why Christians are increasingly irrelevant, see the documentary Jesus Camp. This film tells the story of a children’s pastor named Becky and several children who attend her summer camp for Christian families and children.
Perhaps the most disturbing part of the film is the extreme guilt and pressure applied to these children. Julie and I were wondering if this children’s pastor actually likes children at all because all she did was talk about how serious they had to take God and how much the fate of our nation rested on them. It seemed that just about every five minutes she had the kids weeping and raising their hands.
Instead of preaching the love of God and the new life that comes through the Gospel, the pastor described the children as culture warriors who had to win America back to God. There is no room for phonies or compromise, there is no room for failure because our nation is depending on these children, most of whom aren’t older than 12 or 13.
Does that strike anyone else as completely messed up?
I’m all for intercession in prayer for more of God in America, and I’m all for teaching children to follow Jesus, but the heavy-handed, guilt-ridden gospel that pits these children against the secular tide is too much. There were absolutely painful moments as one poor little girl, bearing the guilt and demands of those around her, swallowed her fears and walked right up to strangers to share little Gospel tracts. Keep in mind that I have no problem with kids sharing what God has done for them, but her reasons were no doubt tainted by the pressure of adults.
I could go on. There’s the home school curriculum for Christian children that not only attempts to disprove evolution, but also teaches that global warming is a myth of the political left!!! I don’t know when disputing climate change ended up being a religious issue, but it is. I kept thinking, Christians are just eating out of the hands of Republicans.
One weakness of the documentary itself includes the irresponsible way the church bit began with children dressed as soldiers doing a dramatic dance without any explanation of the spiritual context of the dance. Seeing conservative Christian children dressed up as soldiers in a church may make some of the left unnecessarily jumpy, and so it would have helped to explain the connections with spiritual warfare.
Also, the church profiled was charismatic, and so they prayed in tongues, engaged in intense intercession, and passed out on the floor. It would have been helpful to explain what was going on and to briefly explain the range of beliefs on these practices among Christians.
On an ironic note, the filmmakers followed one of their key families in the documentary on their “vacation” to Ted Haggard’s New Life Church in Colorado. This all happened before Haggard’s scandal of drugs and marital infidelity hit the news. Haggard railed against homosexuals and even peered into the documentary camera booming, “I know what you did last night!” Talk about having to eat your words.
One of the young boys followed throughout the movie has done some preaching of his own, and so he waited long after the service to speak with Haggard. Instead of offering sage advice to the boy, Haggard oozed with pride and dare I say, idiocy. He asked the boy, “Are you any good at preaching? Do people like it when you preach?” What is a 12 year old supposed to say to that?
The boy wisely cut to the chase and asked for advice on his preaching. Haggard dropped to a new low of idiocy and said, “Play up the cute kid thing for now, and then when you’re in your 20’s or 30’s your content with catch up with your popularity.” How did this guy become the leader of so many Christians? Haggard was no match compared to the pure faith and humility of that boy, and in a matter of minutes exposed just how far he had sold out as a celebrity Christian preacher.