Saturday, February 10, 2007

Jesus Camp

I was at the video store, checking out some PlayStation game (Alex drove), Oliver (for the actor girl who'll play the role of Nancy in the school production) , Souvenirs of Canada, and Jesus Camp. The young clerk scans the boxes and says, "I've heard nothing but good about Jesus Camp. There are some pretty scary parts in there. You know." Of course, 16 year old Alex's ears perked at this. "Is it a horror movie, mom?" I laughed and told him no. Then I made the clerk uncomfortable for a minute by saying, "We're Christians you know - but not the kind in that movie. They're not the only kind." After that he didn't know what to say. Maybe I shouldn't have said anything, but it seems like we should all be able to be what we are and tell how we feel about it, as long is it doesn't harm someone else or take away someone else's right to be and say who they are.

As United Church of Canada people, we are part of a spiritual community that is at the forefront of the church-based peace movement in Canada, and embraces and honours all faiths. We are sometimes jokingly called "The NDP at prayer," which labels as as non-radical but anti-establishment, left-leaning Christian people. We have blots on our history - residential schools and condemnation of homosexuality until the 1960s, but as far as mainstream churches go, we have come around to a different way of thinking, acting and believing about social issues and our place in a large and diverse world. Our church was among the first to ordain gay ministers, celebrate gay marriages, and apologize and work collaboratively with First Nations people to address our wrongs of the past. We recently stopped calling God "he" or "she" for the most part and just say "God" over and over (I never thought I'd yearn for a pronoun, but sometimes it feels awkward). My experience of my own church community (I'm a newcomer - just 5 years in) is that we all have a sense of humour about ourselves and our understanding of God, and we keep learning. We are committed to living our lives as part of the body of Christ, and seeing God in everyone we meet - whether we agree or disagree with that person. But it was hard to see God in the Christian parents and leaders in Jesus Camp.

We watched this documentary at home last night. It would have been funny if it wasn't so frightening and sad. It's about Evangelical Christians in the US, and their work with children - to build an army of committed ultra-conservative Christians to take over world leadership. Pastor Becky, the Children's Minister of a big congregation, and organizer of the evangelical children's camp, admits openly that she would like to see Christian children indoctrinated in evangelical beliefs so they can fight a war for what she knows is right and true. Watching the movie, we met lots of beautiful children who have been taught by their parents and church leaders that there is only one truth, and if you don't believe it and follow it, you will go to hell. We saw the isolation of these children from other influences. The movie says that 75% of all home-schooled kids in the US are evangelical Christians. We saw them learning the importance of influencing the selection of Supreme Court Justices and that the separation of church and state is evil.

I would like to see these kids a few years from now - maybe in a series like the "Up" documentaries of Paul Almond and Michael Apted. I hope that some of them will change their minds. Maybe some of their parents will split up, and they'll have a 50% chance of embracing another perspective. (That's kind of an awful thing to hope, but I am hoping it.) Most likely, most of them will grow up to do an even better, awfuler job of what their parents and leaders are succeeding at now, with their own children. But I sure hope not.

In the meantime, I'll keep thinking and talking about it with our kids, attending my shrinking church, adhering to a non-literal understanding of the Bible, and believing in God as a force of power and love for everyone. I don't think I'm a bad Christian when I say that I think that if there is one true path to goodness and salvation, it's wide, with room for all kinds of walking, talking, believing, worshiping and living. Not like Jesus Camp.

question: have you seen this yet?

mompoet - pondering


Pearl said...

I've seen clips. It's pretty revealing of how conformity makes truths and whole other sets of norms. A followup would be awesome. Hope the documentary people took names.

Imran said...

You're a good Christian to me. Religion only teaches good things.

To live life the best and honest way possible and help you fellowman along the way.