Just watched Jesus Camp, some thoughts.

I know I'm a little behind the curve but I just finished watching the documentary JESUS CAMP.

Just wanted to jot down my first impressions before I forget them, so apologies if this is a bit disorganized.

I was singularly unimpressed by the performance of the liberal Christian radio host in trying to mount a defense against and criticism of his more evangelical co-religionists. Liberal Christianity makes for a poor defender of democracy and reason indeed. The best defense is a good offense, and for that you need another Robert Green Ingersoll. You need unapologetic atheists, you need ridicule, you need an appeal to common sense and common decency. Trying to "out Jesus" them is a losing strategy, doomed to fail. It's trying to argue for a vision of Christianity as many people wish it would be rather than coming to actual terms with the hideous, backward, reactionary thing it really is.

Watching Ted Haggard now, after his scandal, is unintentionally ironic, especially his on screen condemnation of homosexuality, etc. I don't recall if this scandal had already broken by the time Jesus Camp was in theaters or not. Oh, and I noticed that Haggard acted like a *dick* to yet another "child preacher".

Considering the bible's misogyny, I wondered if anyone had ever denounced Pastor Becky as a "painted Jezzebel" or not. No doubt their are religious leaders even more extreme than her that might! I wonder how she would handle it if patriarchal Church authority re-asserted itself. I especially giggled when she praised Muslims for fasting during Ramadan and how it's lamentable Christians won't fast like that; This coming from a woman who could stand to shed a few pounds herself, to say the least!

I remember back to my mother's taking me to Presbyterian services and Sunday school; It was definitely lightweight compared to the "shock and awe" approach of Jesus Camp. Even those times where I was young and far less confident in my atheism, if my church had started suddenly doing all that speaking in tongues crap and massive guilt trip stuff I would've turned around and walked out and not come back. Unless, of course, I had never known anything BUT that approach from the beginning. The home schooling sequences were especially painful to watch.

Why is an 8 year old girl being made to worry about dancing "only for the lord and not for the flesh"? Jeeesh, can't you wait until she hits puberty, at least, before laying that rap on her. Let her be a kid for crying out loud. Rather unimpressed by "family values" that beat kids over the head with all the sin, sin, sin talk. Mainline liberal Christianity doesn't do this, and mainline liberal Christians would probably object to it, but on what grounds? Surely not religious ones, that's for sure. Mainline liberal Christianity are what the girl Rachel describes as 'dead' churches...and judging by their declining and increasingly graying membership, she does have a point.

I also had to laugh during the credits sequences where Rachel turns to Levi and asks "do you get the feeling people think we're selling something?". Smart girl...maybe there's a glimmer of hope for you yet, Rachel. "I mean, we're kids...what could we possibly be selling?", she asks rhetorically, with a shrug. It's actually a good question, Rachel, and I do wish you'd give it some further thought and reflection. Don't "pray" on it, just think about it.

Also, though the film is unsettling, I have to say, never underestimate the power of Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll and those of us willing to 'corrupt the youth' a little with heretical thought and difficult questions. ;-)

The film also made me glad I don't live in Missouri. My extended family hails from Missouri, though only my grandmother's generation was really really religious. My maternal grandmother was fire & brimstone, Church of Christ, but thankfully she spared us grandkids. My own adopted mother rejected her mother's views and embraced the more liberal Christianity of her husband's family, namely Presbyterianism, while my Dad is/was a closeted atheist and natural sciences teacher. My great aunt was also probably a closeted atheist; She was divorced, never went to church, and had a life partner of the opposite sex whom she loved deeply but never married. She was a feminist and liberated woman before those terms ever came into vogue. She had a sharp wit and the gift of gab and she was loved by everyone, despite her ostensibly scandalous lifestyle. She quite simply didn't give a sh*t what others thought, and people respected her forthrightness. She was without doubt my favorite aunt.

Anyway, we moved away from Missouri when I was very young, to South Carolina and later Houston, Texas. So from my grandparents generation, we go from devoutly religious (minus the one great aunt who was likely a closeted atheist and overtly critical of religion and abstained from going to church) to my Dad who rejected the Presbyterianism of his mother and lived as a closeted atheist, to me, a mostly open atheist.

I don't live in Missouri, but I visited there almost every summer and every Christmas break of my childhood from the late 1970s to the late 1980s. When I became aware of such things, I did notice that Missouri had a lot more old people, a lot more churches, and a lot more antiabortion billboards on the highway than anything like what we had in the suburbs of Houston, Texas. Missouri has some beautiful countryside, especially the Ozarks, but like my feelings about the climate in North Texas, I may like the geographical features of each place, but I'm less crazy about the people.
Mark Twain also hailed from Missouri, though. The German immigrants to Missouri set up what later became the Saint Louis Rationalist Society. Good ol' Freidenker heritage there.

So anyway, glad to have finally watched this documentary. I liked that the filmmakers just let their subjects speak for themselves, extemporaneously, without asking them interview questions. Their own testimony was plenty shocking and damning. I certainly don't envy the position of Liberal Christians, who must feel squeezed between these rabid evangelicals on the one side, and us militant atheists on the other. On the other hand, I wish they would just recognize how untenable their position is and pick a side. I don't think they will find the other side more welcoming and comforting and that we share more of their values of tolerance, separation of church/state, freedom of conscience, etc, than their co-religionists do. They need to put up or shut up, decide which matters more...their democratic, secular liberal values or their god-belief and what the bible actually frigging says, warts and all. Sure, the religious right cherry picks as bad as the liberal Christians do, but I'm not sure I'd want to have a non-Cherry Picking Christian as an ally (just a hypothetical construct of course; not sure if such a person could actually exist who was not also crazy); even if you could combine touchy-feely Christianity of liberal Christianity coherently with a consistently biblical theology/ideology, I still think the bad would drown out the good. All that is good in mainline liberal Christianity can be drawn from purely secular sources. Just Be good for goodness sake, etc.

Another LOL moment, the pro-Life nutjob: "we're not just a bunch of protoplasm, WHATEVER *THAT* IS..."; Yeah, just more sciency lingo we just made up to trip you guys off the path of righteousness *facepalm*

I also recently watched Religilous and while I enjoyed that film too, Jesus Camp is by far the more urgent film to pay attention to and take heed of, but on the other hand, Bill Maher's *tactics* are far more effective than that of the liberal christian radio host on Jesus Camp...if there's one thing that undercuts religion effectively, it's the power of ridicule.

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Comment by JayBarti on August 25, 2009 at 8:10pm
This one Friends of God is another nice little HBO Sponsored Doc. It is a nice follow-up to Jesus Camp.
Comment by Karla on August 25, 2009 at 1:52pm
If nothing else, let's be grateful that the episode revealed Becky to be the idiot she really is.
Comment by Greywolf on August 25, 2009 at 6:33am
Child abuse in one of its purest forms. End of story.



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