Thursday, February 8, 2007

Jesus Loves the Little Children

Anyone who knows me, or has perused this blog knows that I tend to go into religious conversations with sarcasm, and jokes. And, many people have told me that I have a sadistic streak when it comes to religious discussions, and that my attacks on Christians are similar to challenging a quadriplegic to a foot race.

This may or may not be true (probably is), but my attacks on religions, primarily Christianity, have a serious side which stems largely from my opinion that fanatical religious beliefs are dangerous.

This opinion has been justified time and time again throughout my life: Jonestown, Waco, Oklahoma City, Al Qaeda, Eric Robert Rudolph, and, on and on and on... But, never in my life have I seen Christian radicalism that sickened me more than what I have been looking into for the last couple of days.

While working on Monday's post I came across a mention of a documentary DVD entitled Jesus Camp. Anytime I see the word Jesus it peaks my interest, so I checked it out. In this post I intend to tell, and show you what I found.

Before I continue, I want to warn you that this post will likely entail an expenditure of a great deal of time by the reader. For this I apologize, but I feel that this subject warrants a good deal of time to fully appreciate.


Jesus Camp is a documentary from film makers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady of Loki Films; an independent documentary film company whose stated goal is:
"Making films that evoke a deeper understanding of the human experience with all its complexities, high stakes and humor."
The film follows some children to and through the Kids on Fire Pentecostal summer camp in Devil's Lake, North Dakota run by Becky Fischer of Kids In Ministry International (KIMI).

KIMI is an Evangelical organization whose purpose is to:
"Teach, train, and equip children to do the work of ministry and release them in their giftings and callings."

The film was released last year, and made the film festival rounds, including Michael Moore's Traverse City film festival, where it won the "Scariest Movie" award (for good reason, as I intend to show).

Evangelic homophobic solicitor of male prostitutesThe film also features an appearance by Ted Haggard who was (at the time the documentary was filmed) the head of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) a coalition of Evangelical churches claiming a membership of over 4.5 million members.

Haggard has since resigned his post at the NAE due to a scandal involving his having a three year relationship with a male prostitute and methamphetamine use. Haggard has since confessed to "sexual immorality", and will probably be forgiven by his deluded followers. Before his downfall, Haggard was among a select group of church leaders who had weekly conference calls with the White House concerning issues such as a national ban on gay marriage.


Okay, now on to the film.

Jesus Camp PosterI intend to use clips of the film throughout this post, but if you like, the entire thing can be viewed online here. It is broken into 17 clips which can be viewed one at a time or as a whole. I would recommend watching the whole thing, but it is almost an hour and a half long, so I have placed a few clips within this post to show the points I'm talking about.

The film starts out the way most independent documentaries do, with an audio and video collage designed to give you a taste of what the film makers are going to 'discuss'. Then, in clip two, we are shown a portion of a typical Pentecostal service that gives the viewer a good idea of what Becky Fischer is all about.

For those of you who don't know, The Pentecostal movement began in the late 1890's in the mountains of North Carolina, USA, and for a while was a regional anomaly staying mostly in the Appalachian regions of North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia.

Over time it has become a fragmented group of over 11,000 different Evangelical denominations including the Church of God with Signs Following, who are the infamous "snake handlers" who believe that true faith, and the grace of God can be shown by handling poisonous snakes and drinking poison.

While Pentecostal churches differ in details of their faith, and teaching, there are some core beliefs they all adhere to.

They believe in baptism by water as most Christian groups do, but they also believe in what they call baptism in the Holy Spirit. They believe that once a person has been "bathed" in the Holy Spirit they achieve a higher connection with God.

This higher connection manifests, according to believers through certain gifts, such as the ability to prophesize, and to "speak in tongues." When a person is speaking in tongues he/she basically babbles incoherently. For a non-believer it looks quite silly, but for a believer it is a form of holy communication. For many Pentecostals 'tongues' is THE sign of having been bathed in the Holy Spirit--no babble = no connection. Therefore, they all babble.

The baptisms are followed, according to adherents, by what is known as sanctification. When a person has been 'sanctified in the Lord' he/she has had the effects of their past sins wiped away--similar to the absolution of a Catholic.

Public repentance of one's sins is very important and is often a major part of Pentecostal services. Proselytizing is also very important, and is what makes them so annoying to run into.

Pentecostals tend to be poor and/or rural, poorly educated, and frankly quite annoying. They are also a group with whom I have (unfortunately) had quite a bit of experience with having grown up in Kentucky, and living for a good while in Asheville, NC quite near the epicenter of the Pentecostal movement.

I have, out of curiosity, been to many Pentecostal services. For someone like myself, all of the babbling, screaming, crying, and mayhem during these services can be a mixture of entertainment and quite honestly fear. For adherents, they can be a source of what I would term religious ecstasy.

The beliefs and drama of Pentecostal churches lend themselves quite well to people whose lives feel devoid of meaning and/or happiness, after all, what better promise can be made to someone who is suffering through the hardships of poverty and rural drudgery than the powers and love of Heaven. This is especially true for children who are given a sense of power and purpose far beyond what they could realistically expect otherwise: something shown quite well in this documentary.

Back to the film.

Clip three is very important. This clip contains an interview with Fischer wherein she discusses how easy it is to spread her message to children, and inadvertently shows why people like her prey (no pun intended) on children. She then discusses why it's important to use this predation to fight the evil followers of Islam.

I won't interject what I see her saying, and why it scares me, because nothing I could say would do it justice. You have to watch it to really see what's going on. She also discusses George Bush, but more on that subject later.

(View the clip at the link above, here, or below.)

As the film moves on we are shown the type of environment that the children in the film are raised. Many Evangelical children are home schooled which is a major tool of indoctrination. Homeschooling a child can be a good thing if the parent doing the schooling ensures that the child gets a proper education, but, most of the time, that is not the motivating factor in a parent's decision to home school.

The vast majority of the time a parent opts for homeschooling because they don't want their children exposed to ideas contrary to their own--especially scientific subjects like evolution, and social topics such as; tolerance of other races, religions, and lifestyles. This idea is also seen in cult situations, where one of the most powerful tools used is isolation from outside influences.

As a result, many of these children become incapable of participating in the larger society as an adult, and end up perpetuating the belief structure they are taught as a child. Clips 4,5,and 6 show the mechanics and result of this quite well.

In the last five minutes of clip seven we begin to see the indoctrination take shape. Fischer begins breaking down the children, and giving them their only source of hope--her ideas. It is at this point, that the film really starts to become disturbing.

(View the clip at the link above, here, or below.)

In clip eight we are shown where this indoctrination is headed with statements and messages from the instructors like: "How many want to be those who will give up their life for Jesus?" Down with the government. Put God back into government. "Make war." "Are you a part of it or not?"

While these people do a good job of putting forth their agenda regarding the government, this same agenda was summarized better more than a half-century ago:

"Today Christians … stand at the head of [this country] … I pledge that I never will tie myself to parties who want to destroy Christianity .. We want to fill our culture again with the Christian spirit … We want to burn out all the recent immoral developments in literature, in the theater, and in the press—in short, we want to burn out the poison of immorality which has entered into our whole life and culture as a result of liberal excess during the past … [few] years."

The Speeches of Adolph Hitler, 1922–1939, Vol. 1 (London, Oxford University Press, 1942), pp. 871–872.

Sound familiar? It does to me.

The Fischer philosophy on government continues in clip thirteen when the film takes an almost surreal twist as the children are asked to bless and pray over a cardboard cutout of George Bush. They are then informed that they are the most important generation in American history (talk about a sense of meaning) and are lectured on the evils of abortion. Followed by being taught a ritual using small plastic dolls to pray against abortion.

(View the clip at the link above, here, or below.)

Following the beatification of Bush, and the demonizing of abortion, we are introduced to Ted Haggard, not quite as disturbing as the other clips, but good for seeing a hypocrite in action. (You can view the clip here)

The last few clips of the film follow some of the children after they leave the camp, and show them putting their indoctrination to work, by proselytising and participating in an anti-abortion rally.

Clip fifteen ends with two of the children talking about how wonderful it is not to be afraid of dying in God's service, and how cool it would be to be a martyr.

The final clip before the end credits is especially haunting. In this clip we get really good insight to just has insane this leader and teacher of children truly is.

(View the clip at the link above, here, or below.)

And, in case you were wondering, Fischer likes the film. She believes that it casts a positive, or at least fair light on her and her cause. In contrast, Haggard felt that the film made him look too extreme.

Many people who see films or television shows like this have a hard time understanding how anyone can succumb to such a thing, but, like I said before fanatic Evangelicals prey primarily on the type of people who are the most susceptible to indoctrination: the poor, those without hope, the undereducated, the downtrodden, and especially children. Religions and governments have been doing the same thing for millennia.

Whether it’s the indoctrination of Catholic children through ritual, the saying of the Pledge of Allegiance by American school children, or the telling a small child that he or she has been given a gift and/or mission from an almighty god, all forms of establishment use a form of indoctrinating children to achieve order and control. How else could a man like Jim Jones convince hundreds of people to commit mass suicide and murder?

I won’t go so far as to say that patriotism, ethnic pride, or even religious belief are in and of themselves evil, but such things in the wrong hands can be very dangerous. Look at what Hitler was able to do to a proud honorable people who had been smacked down, and then punished for World War I. By manipulating the suffering, pride, bigotries, and desire for a better life of the German people he was able to commit atrocities the likes of which the World had never seen. And Hitler knew well that children were especially susceptible to fanatic indoctrination:

"While the older generation could still waver, the younger generation has pledged itself to us and is ours, body and soul!"

Adolf Hitler, Speech at Nuremberg, 1934

Becky Fischer, and others like her, well know this idea.

There are also the people who will say:

"This group of radicals does not represent Christianity as a whole”

Maybe not, but Osama Bin Laden does not represent Islam as a whole, yet it is his fanatic followers that have brought us to where we are today, along with radicals on the other side that continue to up the ante.

Then there are the people who watch this and try to convince themselves that a fringe group of radicals could never truly impact their lives. Much the same thoughts were around in the 1930’s when people thought that the ridiculous events in Germany would stay put, and again in the 1990’s when radicals in Afghanistan were hardly seen as a real threat to the rest of the World.

One quote that nicely summarizes the beliefs of these two different groups of people, as well as of all the Becky Fischers of the World is the following:

"I believe today that my conduct is in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator."

p. 46 Mein Kampf by Adolph Hitler

In the World as it is today; full of fear, doubt, suffering, and struggle there are many people who are susceptible to the rantings of lunatics and the promises of a better life to come through their teachings. And, there are many people willing to manipulate these people, and guide them to their own destruction. Don’t believe me? Watch the news, read the newspaper, or visit a local church.

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Rev. Don Spitz said...

You are quite the anti-Christian bigot. Suffice it to say, most, if not all problems on the planet earth are from people like you who reject Jesus Christ. Our prisons are filled with people, like you, who reject Jesus Christ. Most if not all rapes, murders, robberies and thefts are committed by people, like you, who reject Jesus Christ. AIDS is mainly spread by people, like you, who reject Jesus Christ and have sex outside of marriage or else like children with AIDS get it from people, like you, who reject Jesus Christ. I hope you will turn from your sins and receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and escape the fires of eternal hell. Turning from your sins and giving your life to Jesus Christ is the only way you can escape the fires of hell and receive everlasting life. If you persist in your sins and continue to turn your back on Jesus Christ, you will be lost forever.

SAY THIS PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I am a sinner and am headed to eternal hell because of my sins. I believe you died on the cross to take away my sins and to take me to heaven. Jesus, I ask you now to come into my heart and take away my sins and give me eternal life.

Michelle said...

Good work Ron. You already earned yourself a troll, and quite a firebreathing raving godbag at that! I'm impressed.

R Nicolas said...

YES!!! I finaly did it. I have my first fanatic.

Thank you Michelle for your praise of my accomplishment.

Now the question is whether or not Spitz has the guts and intellegence to defend his remarks in a two way conversation on this subject--likely not. Because I intend to show just how stupid his remarks are, and have actual defense for everyone of mine.

So, bring it on mr spitz. Here's your chance to show how wrong my assertations are and how right yours are. Be a man, be a soldier for your poor pitiful god.

R Nicolas said...

Oh--and Rev. be sure to study Matthew chapters 5 and 6 before you come back, because it's your own favorite collection of fairy tales that I will destroy you with.

Robert said...

Very disturbing! What's more disturbing is that this is how the Pentecostals have felt and acted ever since I was involved over 15yrs ago! My parents are still very much involved in thier religion, makes for some very interesting debates ;) needless to say they don't talk to me much about religion anymore.

R Nicolas said...

I know what you mean. My father and I had some interesting discussions for years before he quit bringing religion up.

nullifidian said...

Awww, I have a troll now too, but mine's illiterate. :-(

R Nicolas said...

Welcome to the club nullifidian. I hope your troll proves to be as much fun as mine are. As for the illiterate part, most of their type is, some just write better than others--if that makes any sense?