Wednesday, March 21, 2007

9th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival: Jesus Camp

Today we saw the Academy Award nominated film Jesus Camp at the documentary festival. I’d been wanting to see it for months, so I was quite pleased when I saw it listed in the program schedule. The movie follows a group of kids as they attend the “Kids on Fire Summer Camp” as well as providing insight into the world of evangelical Christians in America, and how they are recruiting children.

The Greek audience seemed to appreciate some ironies in the film (the area where the camp is held is called Devil’s Lake, for example), and at first I was afraid that it would come across as another “look at the crazy Americans” movie to European eyes. But the documentary was surprisingly fair, not only to the evangelicals portrayed but to the Americans who don’t agree with such extremist ideologies. I suppose the most disturbing thing about the movie was the acknowledgment by the adults involved that they were shaping the minds of children intentionally – that children up to nine years old were the best to indoctrinate with the evangelical “cause” – hoping to imprint their doctrines on them forever. My brother-in-law acknowledged that such fundamentalism exists all over the world, among all religions and in many ways (he mentioned Hitler’s youth, by example). It seems to be very easy for the world to exploit its youth for whatever purpose adults desire, and I feel very fortunate to have been raised by parents who insisted on teaching me all points of view and letting me decide for myself what to believe. But I don’t think the adults in this movie meant to do harm to the children they were teaching, I honestly feel like they felt they were doing the right thing in the eyes of God, other evangelicals, and the world.

The tragedy here is that the kids the film focused on were all very bright, thoughtful individuals who no doubt could offer the world any number of things if given the opportunity. I suppose it is a boon to the evangelicals to have such children among them, although I can’t help but hope that the future opens their eyes beyond the small world they were brought up in.

Jesus Camp is showing again at the Olympion Theatre on Aristotelous Friday night, so if you are in town, I recommend it.


toomanytribbles said...

i saw jesus camp when it was available on google videos. i wonder how much the greek audience thought about the religious indoctrination of children in greek schools by the orthodox church. it's not called the ministry of education and religion for nothing.

Thanos said...

Ok, since someone asked, let me relate my experience and views on the subject.

First of all, there is no indoctrination. It's an education at best - usually just a few lectures on the general principles of religions in general and orthodox christianity specifically. There are no "praise the lord" or "hallelujah" cries, there is no brainwashing.

Secondly, I honestly think that if american schools had religion as a subject, so much crap could be averted. Evolution would be taught in science class, creation would be taught in religion class, where each *belong* Furthermore, who said that education includes nothing about religions? Most people in the world believe in something, whether it's God or Man or the Green Dancing Goat. Children who know nothing about religion, are uneducated children. And in the end, children susceptible to all kinds of brainwashing.

Separation of church and state is fine, but this religionophobia is ridiculous. "You have taken prayer out of our schools and they have gone to hell" the evangelicals say? Fine! Why not just allow 10 minutes each morning for children to pray if they want to? Whoever wants to, can go in a chapel or classroom or something and pray silently for a little while. Does this really endanger our civilization?

I'll stop here for now.

toomanytribbles said...

thanos, i agree with you 100%. humanity's religions should be taught to children. children should be well informed and be left to make up their own minds, armed with skills in critical thinking.

dan dennett explores this issue in teach our children well. it's not an easy thing to implement, though.

the creation myth alone should take up a huge chunk of a school year.. there are plenty to study:

i believe that, in america, where church and state are separate under the constitution, people are free to pray in whatever manner they like -- it's merely unlawful for the gov't to establish religion in secular institutions, such as public schools.

regarding indoctrination, it does not equal hallelujahs -- it takes many forms and ranges from the obvious to the subtle.

Tracie B. said...

at least they were being indoc with something positive...better than hate, even if fanatacism in any form is scary :)