Monday, March 19, 2007

five minute movie review: jesus camp

on friday night kellie and i watched jesus camp, a "documentary" that follows a pentecostal children's minister as she conducts local rallies in support of the summer camp that is supposed to serve as the film's centerpiece.

both kellie and i found the film to be ideologically simplistic, poorly edited and, we suspect, offensive to most intelligent viewers. throughout the film the director's juxtapose scenes of a progressive evangelical talk show host, who works for the soon-to-be-defunct air america and reminds us that Jesus' teachings were a tad more subversive than the average republican platform, with admittedly excessive scenes of pentecostal worship in which children are urged to extend their hands and pray in tongues over a cardboard cut-out of george bush and little ones are castigated for sins like swearing and urged to wash away their impurities with a couple drops of aquafina.* the film stumbled and stammered in search of a cohesive theme, which i suspect might have been the justice sunday rallies and the eventual election of supreme court justice samuel alito, but, obviously was never developed really well. moreover the narrative arc of the story was quite confusing, as in one scene we were in acme christian center only to be transported to north dakota in the next, which was followed by an eerie scene in which ted haggard denounced homosexuality from his former pulpit at new life church in colorado** and a clip from an ad hoc abortion protest in washington d.c.

i fear that the few who take this "documentary" seriously will be terrified of a future war between radical pentecostal armies who laden their young with guilt and train their children to be strict constructionists arrayed on one side and progressives and liberals who are impudent assholes who lack the ability to graciously consider divergent opinions and believe that the only way to combat vile propaganda is with vile propaganda lined up on the other. further, the gullible consumer will likely not know that there are people like randall balmer, author of thine eyes have seen the glory and the more recent thy kingdom come: an evangelical's lament as well as rod dreher, author of the incredibly intriguing crunchy cons, who hold strong partisan opinions while simultaneously listening to their political opponents and passionately searching for a middle ground.

i swear, rudolf hess made more of a feign towards objectivity than heidi ewing and rachel grady, the directors of this steaming pile of subjectivist shit, did. the directors, editor and everyone else involved with jesus camp receive no points and may the viewing public have mercy upon their soul.

on a more positive note, if you are genuinely interested in a thorough, yet charitable, liberal perspective on american evangelicalism, due yourself a favor by picking up james ault's spirit and flesh or randall balmer's aforementioned thine eyes have seen the glory and dropping jesus camp to the bottom of your queue.

* which is a registered trademark of the coca-cola company. all rights reserved.
** a scene which raised an obvious question: ted, why didn't you just pay the "masseuse" his $100?


g13 said...

a quick confession: this post took me way longer than 5 minutes to pen. i was really pissed off about this film and couldn't un-jumble my thoughts.

also, i hope no one reads this post as simply a mindless reaction by a wounded evangelical viewer. i know more than most about the skeletons in the church's closet and i'm more than willing to discuss them. however, my intention in entering into such discussions is to be as charitable and redemptive as possible.

and yeah, maybe my denunciation is a bit harsh. in my better moments i wouldn't put these film makers on par with rudolph hess. i simply think that balmer and ault have provided a much better perspective on contemporary evangelicalism and would urge people to consult the latter two authors when necessary.

mike said...

thank you.

i heard the film hyped for quite a while, mostly by other "progressive" or (gulp) emergent folk, or your run of the mill recovering evangelical righties (like myself) and thought that it might be something i would enjoy.

instead i felt let down. much like when i read American Fascists (shameless plug-see my review).

with both Jesus Camp and Am F. i had wanted to find an honest critique of the co-opting of the evangelicals message by politicos.

instead i found, in both cases, hyperbole, an utter lack of balance and perspective, and what really amounts to the lefts version of what the right has been doing for decades - fear mongering.

i say thanks cause 1)you articulated what i could not, 2) now i don't have to review the flick i can just link to yours.

rock chalk, jay hawk, go KU.

patrick said...

i appreciate that the makers of Jesus Camp let the people interviewed do all the talking; over all, there is some useful truth in this flick... as long as it's taken with a grain (or maybe a bucket) of salt