Photos and Video
In Jesus Camp, Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, directors of the acclaimed film The Boys of Baraka, introduce us to children who are growing up as evangelical Christians. Twelve-year-old Levi, who was "saved" when he was five, is a shy boy except when he is filled with the Holy Spirit. Nine-year-old Rachael is outspoken in her love for the Lord. They are home-schooled by their Christian parents and interact with their peers at church and church events. In the summer they travel to Becky Fischer's "Kids on Fire" summer camp in Devil's Lake, North Dakota, to intensify their devotion to the Lord. Fischer is a children's pastor, who specializes in tapping into the hearts and minds of kids on their level. She recognizes that this generation accesses information through video, images, and music. Intercut with scenes of the kids is the radio commentary of Mike Papantonio, a Christian who believes that the Evangelical movement has strayed from the original teachings of love that Jesus died for. He worries that the movement's position on the environment, creationism, and other fundamental tenets are short-sighted and will hurt the conservative movement in the end. And where does the government land in all this? The Evangelicals apply unceasing pressure to their elected officials, and have made great strides with Bush as their president. What kind of force will these kids be in politics and religion when they grow up? The kids of Jesus Camp are smart, empowered, speak in tongues, and are determined to change the world.
Director's Statement Collapse
During the 2004 presidential election. John Edwards' "Two Americas" speech seemed like a rather unoriginal way to describe the growing divide in this country. But now, after having spent almost a year shuttling back and forth between the religious heartland of Missouri and home in New York City, the "Two Americas" concept has taken on an entirely new meaning. There is truly a flourishing parallel America: a conservative counterculture comprised of tens of millions of evangelical Christians who feel engaged in a culture war with what they perceive as immorality and godless liberalism. They consume their own news and popular culture via Christian television, radio, and publications, and carefully expose their children both to a literal interpretation of the Bible and a call to political activism. On the surface, these kids experience the same things as most middle-class kids: trips to Wal-Mart, homework, sports, dancing to their favorite music, summer camp. But it quickly becomes clear that they are living a version of childhood in which devout Christianity is at the center of everything. The music coming out of their stereos may be heavy metal, but it's the Christian take, celebrating the "blood of Jesus." Their homework derives from a strict creation-based curriculum, and boys on the soccer team proudly wear red bracelets imprinted with "HWJC," which is short for "How Would Jesus Compete?" And when it comes to summer camp, go-karting excursions and the water balloon toss are intermingled with raucous anti-abortion revival meetings. The camp is a riveting example of a world many Americans either do not understand or dismiss as "fringe" and irrelevant to our their own lives. But perhaps they should take a closer look. The people portrayed in this film-white, middle-class citizens-are part of an enormous and forceful voting block; an increasingly loud voice in American culture and politics. Together with their children, they are preparing not only for Jesus to come back, but also to "take back America for Christ." What does all of this mean for Americans who call themselves secular humanists? Or those who believe in God but feel that our democracy depends on a clear delineation between church and state? What is the significance of a generation of kids being infused with a rigid worldview, and how will it affect the country when these children come of age? These questions informed our own journey to Jesus Camp, and we hope audiences leave the theater discussing where we are as a nation...or as two separate nations at war with each other.
Film Information Collapse
[JESUS] | 2006 | 85 | Documentary Feature
Foreign Title: (Jesus Camp)
Connect to this film Collapse
About the Director(s)Collapse
Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady also collaborated on the moving Boys of Baraka, a critically acclaimed documentary about Baltimore youth. Ewing is the coowner of the New York-based Loki Films and has covered stories ranging from Scientology to Cuban politics. The latter, was explored in her film Dissident. Grady, a former private investigator and cofounder of Loki Films, has created several movies about the issues surrounding mental illness, notably Ward 2 West. A regular contributor to Discovery Channel, A&E and Britain's Channel 4, Grady also produced TX, an eight-part VH1 series filmed entirely in a drug rehab center.