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Jesus Camp - documentary DVD review
Jesus Camp Rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 4 stars
Actors: Becky Fischer, Ted Haggard, Mike Papantonio
Directors: Heidi Ewing & Rachel Grady   Studio: Magnolia
DVD release: 23 Jan. 2007   Runtime: 87 minutes (1 disc)
Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Full Screen, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
DVD Features: Subtitles (Spanish), Audio Tracks (English, Dolby Digital 2.0), Deleted Scenes, Directors' commentary

Jesus Camp tells the story of evangelical Christians and how some of their children are conditioned to be cute, aggressive soldiers for Christ. Kids In Ministry International founder Becky Fischer is in charge of taking out the bad and putting in the good, I guess. According to Becky, the children of Islam are indoctrinated at an early age and trained to be killing machines. She's doing the same thing for Christian children, although it doesn't seem the goal is terrorism; "I wanna see young people who are as committed to the cause of Jesus Christ as the young people are to the cause of Islam".

She seems to be doing the job, as we see early in the film a young guy named Levi who tells Becky he was saved when he was five. Levi's mother is taking an active role in the shaping of Levi's perspective on the world, as well. Levi is homeschooled and taught by his mother from a Christian text book that evolution is a bunch of hooey.

The film follows Levi and several other children from the Midwest to Becky's retreat in North Dakota, where the children are broken down and then built up - broken down emotionally, as they are made to feel shame and regret for their missteps on the road of righteousness. We see the children praying and tears streaming down their faces as they seek guidance from above, built up with singing and skits and sermons (their own and those of others).

The film then follows Levi to Colorado Springs, a veritable hotbed of the evangelical movement. Here we see a gigantic church-in-the-round run by Ted Haggard. It's obvious there's some serious cash involved in the operation. Here Levi gets some tips from Ted on how to preach the word. Ted may not be the best choice; he has some trouble leading by example; as you may have heard.

Later we see more children in Washington, D.C., spreading the word and at one point demonstrating against abortion. They line up, mouths covered in red tape with the word "Life" written on it. I'm sure it's about abortion, and I'm sure they're against it, but the symbolism of the red tape over the mouths escapes me.

How you feel about Jesus Camp depends on your view on Evangelicals. If you're sympathetic to the Evangelical movement, then you'll likely see Jesus Camp as an unfair portrayal of the Evangelicals' political goals and how they hope to manipulate children to achieve that goal. If you're not sympathetic, you'll likely see Jesus Camp as a possibly accurate portrayal of the Evangelicals' political goals and how they hope to manipulate children to achieve that goal.

Any way you cut it, I find the whole speaking-in-tongues thing they encourage silly and a bit disturbing.
reviewed by Eric Renshaw
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