I saw the film Jesus Camp yesterday at an open discussion held at my alma mater, Lindenwood. The film is… disturbing. It follows a particular “Evangelical” children's camp (which is heavily Pentecostal and, I would assert, more properly labeled Fundamentalist), following the director and several kids during the time before, during and after the camp. The camp presents many truths, but at the same time was truly disturbing. What tactics are proper for a camp to use to get children to “accept” the Gospel? For that matter, do they really accept a personal relationship with Christ if they are scared into it, or do they merely assent to propositions?
The video also raised some questions about the fundamental debate between the camp and its so-called “enemies,” the “liberal relativists.” I wrote the following in an e-mail discussing the film; the comments are somewhat stream-of-consciousness in form, but hopefully they are intelligible:
I've been mulling over “Jesus Camp” some more. I'm not sure if anything I came up with is worthwhile, and they aren't really unique, but for what its worth…
It was really very interesting, if a bit nauseating. Perhaps it is because I've been busy deconstructing my theology since Dr. Schnellmann's Criticism got me thinking about deconstruction, or perhaps my “Covenant Theology” class is emphasizing a “post-modern critique” aware “narrative theology,” or maybe all that is apropos to nothing, but I was thinking: isn't the whole debate essentially yet another airing of two ugly heads of the Enlightenment Project's (dying) beast? Maybe it is time I try to make a reference to Foucault. In fact, perhaps this is where Prof. Stevens was heading with his Foucault reference…
After all, the fundamentalist movement, and many of the “enemies” that Fischer worries about […] are products of the Enlightenment/modernist perspective.
While the homeschool mom, for instance, was busy attacking evolution, she was doing so with the assumption that the Bible speaks in essentially scientific propositions. That reminds me of Dr. Meyers's discussion on category errors with Genesis, and the “walk to work or eat your lunch” example. The “offensiveness” of evolution exists largely among Christians who buy into such a reductionistic, modernist worldview that the only thing that matters is the physical creation and hence see a creation viewpoint and evolution as necessarily opposed. For that matter, the pressure Fischer felt that she must use whatever rhetoric necessary to gain converts would seem to be taking a very naturalistic view of what is required for true conversion (what happened to God in this picture?).
The whole lack of grace among the Christians of the video would seemPerhaps the (seemingly ever increasing) antagonism between modernist factions will lead to their eventual collapse? Maybe I am overly optimistic there. Of course, then that would mean one thing (logically) in theology: a second wave of Neo-Orthodoxy! I can only imagine all the new books on St. Karl of Basel that would be written…
to come from the fact that they are primarily reading the Bible as propositions of law rather than a story of grace (to sound all deconstructionist again, they seemed to lack a sense of a redemptive
meta-narrative). Despite the “manifestations of the Spirit” there was little real sense of a relational understanding of Christianity.
Anyone here see this film? What did you think?