Stranger Fruit

Jesus Camp

David Byrne on the documentary Jesus Camp:

Right wing political agendas and slogans are mixed with born again rituals that end with most of the kids in tears. Tears of release and joy, they would claim — the children are not physically abused. The kids are around 9 or 10 years old, recruited from various churches, and are pliant willing receptacles. They are instructed that evolution is being forced upon us by evil Godless secular humanists, that abortion must be stopped at all costs, that we must form an “army” to defeat the Godless influences, that we must band together to insure that the right judges and politicians get into the courts and office and that global warming is a lie. (This last one is a puzzle — how did accepting the evidence for climate change and global warming become anti-Jesus? Did someone simply conflate all corporate agendas with Jesus and God and these folks accept that? Would Jesus drive an SUV? Is every conclusion responsible scientists make now suspect?) …

There were some perfect sound bites — at one point Pastor Fischer instructs the little ones that they should be willing to die for Christ, and the little ones obediently agree. She may even use the word martyr, which has a shocking echo in the Middle East. I can see future suicide bombers for Jesus — the next step will be learning to fly planes into buildings. Of course, the grownups would say, “Oh no, we’re not like them” — but they admit that the principal difference is simply that “We’re right.”

In another scene a cardboard cutout of George W. Bush, with his trademark smirking smile, is brought out and the children are urged to identify — many of the little ones come forward and reverently touch his cardboard hands.

I kept saying to myself, “O.K., these are the Christian version of the Madrassas (those Islamic religious instructional schools in Pakistan and elsewhere, often financed by Saudi oil money)…so both sides are pretty much equally sick, there’s a balance.” (Although it must be said the Madrassas provide some regular education and literacy where no other option is available, they do community work that is non-religious…and they take in aimless troubled youth.)


  1. #1 DragonScholar
    August 6, 2006

    I encountered this post on Byrne’s blog a few days ago, and frankly it left me disturbed. There’s a certain part of me that knows this happens, but having it shoved in my face had me rethinking a lot.

    Between this, the megachurches, and the like, there are plenty people living in these narrow, delusional, theocratic reality-tunnels. They can’t relate to those of us who live in the wider world except to label us as “sinners” or “secular humanists.”

    At what point does the reality-based community differ from them so much that they turn violent?

  2. #2 Gerry L
    August 6, 2006

    I have to believe (for my own sanity) that if stories like this reach the mainstream press and make the rounds on Dateline and other TV news mags, the general public will choose not to identify themselves with these extremists. So, how do we make “Christian Madrassas — Are Your Kids Being Trained as Martyrs” the subject of a media blitz like “Online Predators — A Hidden Camera Report”?

    A related thought: Maybe they don’t believe in global warning because it’s not in the bible.

  3. #3 Stogoe
    August 6, 2006

    They don’t believe in global warming because their Bible says they’re the ultimate Masters of the earth, that they can rape it all they want. Besides, El Rapture is coming as soon as the oil runs out.

  4. #4 Chiefley
    August 7, 2006

    If you really want nightmares, read Michelle Goldberg’s book, Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism. She writes for and she has done her homework. Its scares the daylights out of me. Jesus camp is nothing compared to what she is reporting on.

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