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FILM | Vol. 6, No. 19, May 11, 2006
(Exiles)

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‘Jesus Camp’

by Duwayne Escobedo

Children at the evangelical Christian summer camp run by Becky Fischer pray over a cardboard cutout of President George W. Bush to make this “one country under God,” break white coffee cups with hammers to show they’re at war with the government and chant “Righteous Judges!” in protest of abortion.

Fischer sees nothing wrong with indoctrinating children as young as 6-years-old she says in the documentary “Jesus Camp” released at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City a week ago.

There it garnered an “Oustanding Achievement in Documentaries” award. Variety magazine also named it one of the top 10 films of the festival.

“The Extreme liberals, they have to look at this and start shaking in their boots at what these kids will be like when they grow up,” Fischer says in the film. “If you want to see intense kids, passionate for Christ, this is it.”

Ted Haggard, head of the National Association of evangelicals, says in the movie children are fueling a boom in his churches that would continue to have a profound effect on U.S. politics.

“There’s a new church like this every two days,” he says. “It’s got enough growth to essentially sway every election. If the evangelicals vote, they determine the election.”

Pensacola trial attorney Mike Papantonio, a Methodist and Air America Radio “Ring of Fire” radio talk show host, takes on the evangelicals at several points in the documentary.

 Filmed in his Pensacola radio studio, he says the religious right is destroying youth and American democracy.

“They’re training Christian soldiers for the Republican Party,” Papantonio says in “Jesus Camp.” “How does that fit with God’s message? God has a special place for those who mess with kids and it’s not a pretty place.”

Recently, the Independent News viewed the 87-minute documentary directed by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady at the Levin Papantonio law office’s sixth floor conference room in downtown Pensacola.

During an election year, the film shows just how political evangelical Christians, which are estimated to number 75 million in the United States, have become.

In fact, it’s estimated 25 million evangelicals voted in the 2004 presidential election with 80 percent voting Republican.

Papantonio labels it a “religious-political army.”

“We have been asleep at the wheel, while the political fundamentalists have gained power over our country,” he laments in the film.

The eerie or wonderful film, depending on your religious perspective, follows Fischer and the recruitment and training of three children Levi, 12, Rachel, 9, and Tory, 10.

The three kids are seen at home, a bowling alley, going to camp and then crisscrossing the country from an evangelical church headed by Haggard in Colorado Springs, Colo., to praying outside a Kansas abortion clinic and finally protesting abortion with red tape with “life” written on it taped over their mouths as they pray outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.

“You could call it brainwashing, but I am radical and passionate in teaching children about their responsibility as Christians, as God-fearing people, as Americans,” says Fischer, who at one point denies indoctrinating children politically but then admits it.

In the end, viewers can decide in the very matter-of-fact film whether it’s OK to turn children into Christian soldiers, like Fischer does, or not.


duwayne@inweekly.net