Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Jesus Camp
So I've been hearing about this new documentary, Jesus Camp, from a number of sources.

The synopsis on the website says this about the movie:

A growing number of Evangelical Christians believe there is a revival underway in America that requires Christian youth to assume leadership roles in advocating the causes of their religious movement.

JESUS CAMP, directed by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, directors of the critically acclaimed The Boys of Baraka, follows Levi, Rachael, and Tory to Pastor Becky Fischer's "Kids on Fire" summer camp in Devil's Lake, North Dakota, where kids as young as 6 years-old are taught to become dedicated Christian soldiers in "God's army." The film follows these children at camp as they hone their "prophetic gifts" and are schooled in how to "take back America for Christ." The film is a first-ever look into an intense training ground that recruits born-again Christian children to become an active part of America's political future.

And here's a trailer of the movie:

I grew up at a Christian camp, and in a Christian environment that did use language like "taking back America for Christ", but nothing I experienced was as extreme as this seems to be. There is a growing movement among the extreme Religious Right known as dominionism that basically advocates a theocratic society and spreading the kingdom of God through political domination. For instance, dominionist Christian George Grant has said:

"Christians have an obligation, a mandate, a commission, a holy responsibility to reclaim the land for Jesus Christ -- to have dominion in civil structures, just as in every other aspect of life and godliness.

But it is dominion we are after. Not just a voice.
It is dominion we are after. Not just influence.
It is dominion we are after. Not just equal time.
It is dominion we are after.

World conquest. That's what Christ has commissioned us to accomplish."

The lines between this extremism and the kind of conservative Christianity I grew up with are very blurry, and it's sometimes hard to distinguish between those who simply want conservative Christians to have more influence in public life (as if control of the White House, Supreme Court, and both branches of Congress aren't enough), and those who want to restrict non-Christian religious freedom and impose Christian morality (sometimes including the Old Testament Law) universally in America.

What's scary to me is the militaristic language and imagery that is often used to promote this agenda - and how it's sometimes difficult to tell whether they are using that language metaphorically or literally. And it's especially disturbing when they start indoctrinating kids with it; as with Acquire the Fire's Battlecry conferences

which focuses so much on the culture wars in America that it can almost convince kids that the liberal secularists are literally coming to abduct them in the night and ship them off to concentration camps for being Christians. How soon before some of these kids get the impression that they need to fight back literally and violently?


posted by Mike Clawson at 9:31 PM | Permalink |


At 9/22/2006 12:54:00 PM, Blogger Charlotte Wyncoop

OKay, that's just a little too scary. It sounds like the new metamorphosis of the spiritual warfare camp, brought into everyday living.


At 9/24/2006 09:33:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

I have to concur with Charlotte...that is a pretty scary vision of what it means to follow Christ. I like what McLaren said in "The Secret Message of Jesus" about how sometimes in order for the kingdom of God to win, it needs to lose, pointing to the fact that the kingdom is not one that is concerned with political power, but in changing the world through small, everyday redemptive acts. I like how he points to the cross, which Jesus transformed "into God's symbol of the repudiation of violence--encoding a creed that love, not violence, is the most powerful force in the universe" (153). While McLaren was specifically talking about violence in a religious context in this section, the underlying point is that the kingdom of God does not advance through the attainment of physical power, whether it be military, political, or economic. Rather, it advances through humility, love, service, and dynamic, caring, interpersonal relationships. My fear, in seeing a movie like this, is that those children will fail to see this. That, by being raised in this little Christian bubble in which they are taught that the world is hostile to them, they will in turn become hostile to the world. Yes there is much in the world that is contrary to what God desires for us, but He met those things with love and sacrifice through His Son. What happens if we lose that message? It is just kind of scary to think about. I feel like there are a million more things that I could say on this point, but I don't want to dominate your blog;) Thanks for sharing this, Mike. It is definitely worth thinking about.


Nick Price


At 9/25/2006 09:33:00 AM, Blogger Mike Clawson

That's exactly it Nick. You put into words exactly what bothers me most about this kind of dominionist attitude. It just seems so contrary to the way of the cross. I appreciate you casting a counter-vision of a church that advances through love, service, humility and a willingness to suffer (rather than inflict suffering).

Personally, I did grow up in a context that told me the "world" was hostile to my faith and was out to get me and my kind. I used to love imagining conspiracy theories in which the secular liberals rounded up Christians and put us into concentration camps. And there are still lots of Christians like the ones in this documentary who still think that scenario is going to occur in the near future.

Personally, I think the opposite is more likely these days - what with 80% of the US calling itself "Christian", with conservative evangelicalism on the rise, and with conservatives currently controlling all three branches of government. I can understand why my atheist friends are scared of us Christians and what we might do to them out of our desire for "dominion".

That's why we need more Christians like yourself, and like McLaren, casting an alternative vision of the kingdom as a kingdom of the small, the weak, and the subversive.




At 10/02/2006 12:18:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

Hey Mike, In regards to Battle Cry, this is a genuine youth group purposed to live thier life for Christ and not "conform" or "compromise" to the standards of this world, but abide by the Word of God. Please read the apostle Paul's letter to Timothy stating instructions in military terms when it came to stand up for the "absolute" values of the Gospel of Christ? Let's not go on the limb posting that Battle Cry is a rifle, gun and granade movement looking to kill all those who oppose them. Jesus did not come to kill, but to declare God's "absolute truth". The "absolute truth" is that man is lost and hell-bound because he has violated the ten commandments -- However, the good news is that the only salvation is to repent (turn away from rebeling against God, and choose to be a true disciple of Christ), and accept Jesus as the only salvation and direction for your new born life. Now this has been tough in every culture of every age for a long-long time. Why? Becuase everone wants to have their "own truth".

In regards to the post of SCARYNESS and a metamorphosis of the spiritaul warefare camp. It's all an exageration to deny the "absolute truths" of the Bible.

Read Paul speaking in military terms to the young Timothy to see what it really means to be part of Acquire the Fire -- Battle Cry
2 Timothy 1:18
2 Timothy 2:3,4
2 Corithians 10:3

Battle Cry is making sure that "Christians" understand their is an intelectual culture war againt what Bible beliving Christians stand for, just as you would teach your daughter not to hop in a car with a stranger.