A Catholic goes to ‘Jesus Camp’ – twice

By Anna Foote

The first time I watched the documentary film “Jesus Camp,” I often found myself thinking “This isn’t my Christianity.” Much was foreign to me — people speaking in tongues, children making distinctions between dancing in the Lord and dancing for the flesh. One scene in Jesus Camp shows a girl of about nine years, her arms lifted in prayer, her face tilted softly to the light. Her fervent belief in the power of prayer is apparent — and admirable. It just was not familiar.

But I wanted to understand, so I saw the film again. And that’s when I saw the common thread. I realized that the Evangelical Christians portrayed in “Jesus Camp” and I, a mainstream Roman Catholic, start from the same point of belief — that God is active in the world.

In the words of Heidi Ewing, one of the film’s co-directors, “Jesus Camp” is about “a certain sect of Evangelicals who are ‘training up’ their children to be healers and prophets and political leaders.” (www.variety.com)

The film follows the faith journey of three preteens over the course of a few months, as they are led more deeply into their faith by their parents and by Evangelical children’s minister Becky Fischer. The families are from Missouri; Fischer resides in North Dakota, though a significant portion is set at a children’s prayer meeting she held in Lee’s Summit.

To Evangelicals, speaking in tongues represents a coming of God into the world as surely as celebrating the Eucharist does for me. To them, praying for “righteous judges” is a way of being faithful to God’s will for the world, much as feeding homeless men at Shalom House is for me.

But watching the movie again set me at unease, too. It underscored how very different our versions of Christianity are. I realized that the Evangelical Christians portrayed in the movie understand their citizenship to be a strong duty. They firmly believe the creed “one nation under God”—and take it to mean one nation under one Christian God.

Twelve-year-old Levi, said, “I think I’m different from other kids because I’m hungry after Jesus. But, you know, I wouldn’t be different from other kids if everyone was following their calling.”

Perhaps most disturbing to me, Evangelicals facilely use war imagery to describe their spiritual quest. At her summer camp, Fischer urges children to “Take these prophesies and do what the Apostle Paul said and make war with them.” She leads the children in chanting, “This means war!” and then asks, “Are you a part of it or not?”

It seems to me adults wage plenty of war in this world, much of which catches children in its sites. Let’s spare all the children we can.

Return to www.kcolivebranch.org

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