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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

entry arrow11:27 AM | On 'Jesus Camp'

What I love about Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady's Jesus Camp -- which was nominated for Best Documentary in the latest Oscar Awards -- is the way it does not have an agenda. It is simply curious, and tries to capture its subjects (American evangelicals and their children as they prepare to become "warriors" in "God's army") in the most objective manner, documenting on film how the people really are like and shows what they do in their everyday lives, without comment, without bias. And with healthy respect for balance. This is not Michael Moore territory, whose documentaries, while riveting and provocative, can become a circus of subjectivity. Not Jesus Camp. (Click here for the Wikipedia entry on the movie.)

I know these people in Jesus Camp. I was one of these kids growing up. My family "became Christians" when I was a small boy, and in the preceding years, I was a Sunday School kid who was part of Kid's Praise, who would write evangelical churches in Canada to send over "tracts" and other materials I could use to help evangelize and spread the Word. Somewhere along the way, I lost heart, saw too many things, and decided that worship was a personal matter between me and my God. Born Again Christians call this "backsliding." And they basically look down on many people who do. In prayer meetings and Bible studies, they would evoke these people's names in group prayers, hoping that these "backslid" Christians would see the light and return to the fold. Sometimes we in the know call it "prayer as gossip." But my mother -- bless her heart -- taught me well that that is okay: "Religion," she says, "is a man-made set of rituals to a deity. A relationship with God is something else." And it could prosper in the very privacy of my muttered prayers to God every single day. (I pray incessantly throughout the day -- something I don't advertise, and not a lot of people know about this.)

So, watching this movie, I was moved, because I saw my old self in these kids. But coming off from watching it, I was also angry, at the pastors and at the parents for the blatant (and shameless) indoctrination they do. And yet we also get that they are good, decent people who are much too caught up in the so-called culture wars. It's scary, because they believe so much in their "truths" that they are blinded by much else. Pastor Becky's denunciation of democracy during the debate with a moderate Christian radio disc jockey was scary. Pastor Ted Haggard's appearance (and comments) in the film was sinister and ominous because we know what happened to him months later. (Wikipedia even has an entry on him.)

And this kid in the poster...

... and in the movie is just simply scary.

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