Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

February 27, 2007

Jesus Camp

Filed under: Film,religion — louisproyect @ 6:42 pm

Now available in home video, the documentary “Jesus Camp” puts the spotlight on rightwing evangelists and the children they have successfully indoctrinated. All in all, the film has the same kind of chilling effect as “Village of the Damned” or any other classic sci-fi film in which children are transformed into monsters. (The film was nominated for best documentary this year by the Academy Awards, but lost out to “An Inconvenient Truth”.)

The main figure in “Jesus Camp” is one Becky Fischer, a self-styled children’s pastor from the Kansas City suburbs who runs a “Kids on Fire summer camp” in North Dakota. The film focuses on the children getting ready for camp, their activities there, and concludes with them working the streets on behalf of various Christian rightwing causes.

I was not at all surprised that Kansas City is a hotbed of rightwing Christian idiocy. Back in 1978 leaders of the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party (an evangelical cult of sorts itself) ordered me to leave New York City and go to Kansas City (my birthplace) where I was supposed to get a factory job.  Over the summer, I was selling the party newspaper in front of a grocery store not far from party headquarters when a middle aged woman came toward me, with a big grin on her face. “You see that car,” she asked, pointing to a late model Buick in the parking lot. “The lord provided me with that car.” I didn’t bother answering her, but I might have replied that it was late model Buicks, and the lust for them, that led me down the path of beatnik bohemianism in 1959, a path that finally would lead toward Trotskyism. Jesus could keep his Buicks, as far as I was concerned.

One will probably regard the children in “Jesus Camp” with a mixture of terror and pity. They certainly are scary as they mouth rightwing platitudes about the need to defend America from “extreme liberalism”. But you also feel sorry that they have had their innocence as children robbed from them, just as surely as the young African who is dragooned into a paramilitary. During an indoctrination session at the camp chapel, Becky Fischer warns the children against temptations like “Harry Potter”. There are no good warlocks, she warns the children. Of course, any sensible person would have reminded the children that there are no warlocks at all (nor devils, nor God, for that matter.)

Imagine there’s no Heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

Toward the end of the film, we see one of the kids, a handsome long-haired boy named Levi, singing and praying at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, a city with more Christian fundamentalists per capita than any place else in the country. This mega-church is run by one Ted Haggard, who is seen railing against homosexuality from the pulpit. Less than two months after the release of “Jesus Camp,” Haggard admitted using a homosexual prostitute and getting high on methamphetamine.

It is doubtful that Haggard’s fall would have any impact on young Levi, who is thoroughly brainwashed as should be obvious from this youtube clip from “Jesus Camp”:

It is a testimony to the skills of the film’s directors, Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing, that they could get these people to hoist themselves on their own petards. Rather than being a recruiting film for Christian fundamentalism and rightwing politics, as Becky Fischer thought it would be, it has provoked a backlash–even in a red-state like North Dakota whose citizens raised a hue and cry about a “Kids on fire summer camp” in their midst. Fischer has announced that the camp is suspended for the time being on her website. She holds vandalism responsible, but it is safe to assume that bad publicity had more to do with it.

You can see a clip of Becky Fischer on youtube. Very scary.

Official “Jesus Camp” website



  1. When I was a kid I went a couple of times to the annual Pete Seeger concert at Town Hall. Reunion time for Communist Party (and sympathizing) summer camps.

    “All things considered,” said W.C.Fields once, “I’d rather be in Philadelphia.”

    Every movement or religion tries to teach its ways to its young people. What else, exactly, do you expect?

    All things considered, I’d rather raise an evangelical kid than a communist.

    Comment by Grumpy Old Man — February 28, 2007 @ 1:49 am

  2. Actually, it is counter-productive to enforce any kind of ideology on a kid, political, religious or whatever. In any case, if your parents took you to a Peter Seeger concert, that hardly amounts to the kind of 24/7 brainwashing that these poor kids undergo. Go to http://www.jesuscampthemovie.com/ and click “video”. If this is how you want to raise your kids, you are welcome to it.

    Comment by louisproyect — February 28, 2007 @ 2:26 am

  3. Great analysis.

    I think what else is a a real testimony (no pun intended) to the film makers is that the specific rightwing fundamentalists portrayed in this film didn’t disavow their portrayal or claim they were misrepresented. If even they feel that the film was “fair”, then I must say that the knowledge that there was no exaggeration in the film is more horrifying than it is pitiful.

    Yes Virginia, America really is this messed up.

    Comment by paulitics — February 28, 2007 @ 3:12 am

  4. PS. Great blog, by the way. I’ve added you to my blogroll.

    Comment by paulitics — February 28, 2007 @ 3:14 am

  5. When did anyone say they had no right to vote, you thundering retard?

    Proof that conservatism vaporizes your brain cells…

    Comment by M. Junaid — February 28, 2007 @ 3:38 pm

  6. “If this is how you want to raise your kids, you are welcome to it.”

    Not, actually, how I do raise them, not being any variety of evangelical. And no, an annual Pete Seeger concert does not a Stalinist make. The CP did try, however, with their camps and “progressive” schools and folk singers,and managed to raise a few Red Diaper Babies.

    I imagine, though, come the Revolution you espouse, I wouldn’t be “welcome to it,” if I did want to raise my kids as evangelicals. I was going to say “I’ll bet,” but if any sort of Revolution does come, you and I will be long gone before it comes.

    Comment by Grumpy Old Man — February 28, 2007 @ 8:30 pm

  7. All things considered, I’d rather raise an evangelical kid than a communist.

    Wise decision, Grump – with an evangelical, your kid can kill all the heathens he want, and never suffer any repercussions for it, at least, not from a conscience standpoint.

    Being a communist, however, pretty much guarantees persecution.

    Comment by Paul — March 3, 2007 @ 12:17 am

  8. perhaps it should be noted that the menacing utopian vision (optimistic salvation) underlying the fanaticist vision of the fundamental Right as you describe it in relation to this film, was equally present in certain places of Communism – for example, the imbecilic utopia of self-management in Yugoslavia. In this utopian aspect, I would say, all grand ideologies are like mirror images reflecting each other. Continuously I bump into this idea that the old formulations of either capitalism or marxism are no longer functioning, and that some Third Marxism is due. But because the memory as you have said of Communism is fading, I’m afraid the new generations are being indoctrinated in neoliberalism by a particularly noxious MIX of various Capitalist and Communist ”fundamentalist utopias” overlapping each other in the manner of a Moebius strip. Maybe it is the utopian fantasy, irrespective of the politicoeconomic system carrying it, that we should combat by all means possible.

    Comment by parodycenter — March 3, 2007 @ 1:28 pm

  9. PS my address has changed to http://www.parodycentrum.wordpress.com

    Comment by parodycenter — March 3, 2007 @ 1:29 pm

  10. These constant attempts to make it seem like America is a dangerous Christian brainwashing center where we invade Iraq in the “name of Christ” etc. are starting to get hilarious… I have been living in Afghanistan and these things are not comparable in any way to the daily brainwashing over periods of years and decades, with no civilian access to dissent or alternative opinions/information, etc. These kids that spend some time in camp for a few days are living in a “marketplace” of ideas and will be pushed to examine their beliefs as they get older as EVERYONE should, whether you are religious, agnostic, atheist or worship mattresses. I dont agree with everything that was said in this video, yet I dont agree with things that are told to Jewish kids at synagogues at times or Muslim children in British mosques etc., and I am sure if I put a camera in every atheist’s home many would be appalled at things you could hear being said.

    This film exaggerates and uses the same “scare” methods people accuse Conservatives of using on America re. terrorists. I read some polls that say Americans see fundamentalist Christianity as more dangerous and threatening than radical Islam. Come with me to Kabul.

    Comment by Leila — June 25, 2007 @ 6:19 pm

  11. […] de Lord! Praise Jesus Camp – now that’s a documentary I MUST […]

    Pingback by duncansapien.org - The Blog » Jesus Camp — December 7, 2007 @ 11:19 pm

  12. The soundtrack is absolutely amazing. It would have been half the documentary without it. I actually thought that Becky Fischer was a brilliant teacher. If only she was a biology teacher..

    Comment by james — April 15, 2008 @ 1:18 am

  13. I’m a cristian I dind’t like the movie very much but I didn’t like your blog either don’t you have something better to do? do you believe that there is a God,do you even read a Bible? sjees you people like to take things on us why don’t you look how you live some things in this movie are very important like did you know that the book of Harry Potter has real spells in it? may God bless you……

    Comment by Angelo — October 6, 2008 @ 4:59 pm

  14. Jesus, please save me from your followers !

    Comment by '08ama — January 2, 2009 @ 8:58 pm

  15. Please Pray for Street Bullies In The Name Of Jesus Christ

    Comment by Prayer warrior — January 15, 2009 @ 11:43 pm

  16. […] sounds funny but that’s what it was. Just like there are summer camps for fat kids, Jewish kids, rightwing Christian fundamentalist kids, there are summer camps for neurotics. At least there was in […]

    Pingback by Among the Freudians « Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist — December 7, 2009 @ 7:59 pm

  17. […] for Armageddon” joins two other documentaries, “Jesus Camp” and “Unborn in the USA”, in lifting up the rock and showing the creepy, crawly things that […]

    Pingback by Waiting for Armageddon « Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist — January 8, 2010 @ 7:59 pm

  18. […] for Armageddon” joins two other documentaries, “Jesus Camp” and “Unborn in the USA”, in lifting up the rock and showing the creepy, crawly things that […]

    Pingback by Waiting for Armageddon « The Speed of Dreams — January 21, 2010 @ 7:10 pm

  19. Your analysis seems to be very insightful and well thought out. I am going to purchase the video to make my own assessment. However, from the comments posted by yourself and other critics reviewing this film, This video almost sounds like a latter day version of “Dawn Of The Living Dead.” And listening to the radio-based right-wing wing-nuts, this film probably will scare the living bejeezus out of me.

    Comment by chama teddy — April 22, 2010 @ 9:24 pm

  20. Hi , I must say, your article is interesting , yet, I think I should try find out more about the subject….
    I’ll keep an eye on u’r blog.

    Comment by M3nt1c1d3 — September 7, 2010 @ 8:29 pm

  21. […] much to expect co-directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, who worked together on the excellent “Jesus Camp”, to tackle the problems facing the working class, who in the final analysis is the only force […]

    Pingback by Detropia « Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist — September 8, 2012 @ 7:35 pm

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