I realize that I am way behind on this, but documentaries like Jesus Camp don't appear in theatres in Panamá. Now that I have discovered several websites carrying documentaries, I'm trying to catch up.
Saturday I watched Jesus Camp. I know that I am not alone in finding the film to be quite disturbing. I was disturbed by the mixing of Church and State by the pastor and her group, but not surprised by it because I've never met any politically liberal Pentecostals and I know that they think that the First Person of the Trinity is a Republican (His Son, however, is a Democrat. This happens in the best of families. And how do we know that His Son is a Democrat? Because he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, not an elephant!). I don't understand how the folks at that camp didn't see the idolatry in having children pray at a card-board cut-out of George W. Bush with the flag parading about in the background, but these folks tend to be idolatrous in many areas, especially in their approach to the Bible. So the political aspect of the camp was bothersome, but not was really disturbed me.
What really disturbed me about the camp and the pastor and her staff and invited speakers was the spiritual manipulation I saw taking place. I went to church camps run by an Assemblies of God church and lots of this stuff happened there, too. The looks on the faces of the children when Pastor Becky was telling them that the Devil goes for children first was upsetting. Using "sin" as a means of manipulating them and making them cry and confess really upset me, just as it did when I was a young person at these camps. I've been "saved" a good twenty-five times as I was easily manipulated. I was always "backsliding" and needing to get right with God. I rejected Christianity as a young adult (mostly because of this spiritual manipulation) and ended up in a psuedo-Hindu meditation cult which used similar techniques in controlling us (instead of "backsliding" we were accused of being "in your mind.") I really don't understand why Pentecostals and Evangelicals find it so important to have lots of crying and weeping for an authentic spiritual experience. Maybe Paul or KJ or others who grew-up or spent time in such churches can explain it to me. It ALWAYS bothered me, but I was a kid and couldn't say anything; it was probably the devil trying to control me, right?
I noticed that many of the children would rock back and forth when talking with Pastor Becky and the camp staff, as if they were very anxious. There is a very telling scene in which Pastor Becky meets Levi and his friend at a gathering before camp. She asks them when they were saved and they both start rocking while talking with her. She asks them if they're coming to camp and they continue to rock and sway and glance about (there is no music in this scene). They look anxious to me! There was also some pro-life guy who spoke at camp and also led an anti-abortion protest who rocked a lot (and I don't mean that in the good way!). Actually, his rocking seemed to be a manifestation of mental illness, but maybe I'm being unfair.
I read that the Kids On Fire camp has closed down since the documentary was released, because Pastor Becky feared for the safety of the kids. It's too bad (imho) that she isn't more worried about the spiritual safety of the children and her own spiritual manipulation. It's bad enough when people use this stuff on adults, but to manipulate children in this way is spiritual abuse. I am concerned because it appears that many of those under the influence of the Global South and orthodox so-called groups attacking TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada are very much of the same mind-set as the Jesus Camp folks. I believe that it's all about power and control and spiritual manipulation; it is not about salvation and bringing about God's reign.