If you are like me, you probably attended some type of summer camp at some point in your youth. I attended 4-H camp, which had no religious connections at all. The second year I went, the camp overlapped a Sunday, and the campers had the option of attending an all-faiths service, but that was it. As a matter of fact, looking back at every away-from-home-on-Sunday function I have ever attended, I can’t remember a single person getting bent out of shape because church services weren’t arranged.
I guess you have figured out that I never attended church camp. I never even understood the idea behind church camp. You can go to church twice a week and follow your beliefs all the other times, why would you want to do it every single day at summer camp?? Most people find solace in a group of like-minded individuals, but are religious camps just about creating an environment of those with similar beliefs? Some evangelical camps, as highlighted in the movie Jesus Camp, are geared towards pumping children up to spread the word of their god. As one child puts it, “we’re being trained to be God’s army.” This camp’s goal is to prepare children to take the nation back and put it in Jesus’ hands.
Not all camps are as extreme as the one illustrated in this documentary, but it goes to show how far some people are willing to take their cause. Being a free thinker in America is apparently a bad thing. Having an idea contrary to the evangelical money/power machine is a good way to get noticed in a bad way. As one person states in the movie, “There are two types of people in the world: those who love Jesus, and those who don’t.” You don’t say? Those who love bread, those who don’t. Those who love origami, those who don’t. It’s a rather broad and meaningless statement, but when you look into it a little, it shows how black and white the world is to an evangelical. Evangelical Christianity is good and anyone who stands in their way is fueled by Satan.
My main beef with all of this is that they are targeting children. One of the camp leaders notes that the “enemy” is targeting children, so they should prepare a good evangelical offense. Children are highly impressionable. Anyone who was ever fed the Santa Claus bullshit story knows this. When you are young, you actually believe things like a fat man delivering presents to all Christian boys and girls in one night via chimney mail. What do you have to do to get those presents? Oh, it varies from household to household: eating your vegetables, cleaning your room, doing well on your math test, etc. Santa-ism is a miniature religion replete with all of the elements of control and obedience seen in its macro predecessor.
Centuries of common law have led us to the conclusion that children are unfit to handle certain decisions. No driving until. No drinking until. No sex until. No legal documents until. All of these things are rather menial when compared to committing oneself to an eternal being. How can a child of five even begin to comprehend what is going on when they are saying a prayer of salvation? No matter how bright the child is or how much religion has played a role in his life up to that point, there is only so much, developmentally speaking, that he can process. Look at marriage: a very sacred ceremony, the strict definition of which is heavily lobbied by evangelicals. That being the case, why aren’t children allowed to marry? Surely choosing your earth-bound love is a far cry from accepting Christ’s love eternal. Herding a child toward salvation and then casting them through the gates at such an early age serves no purpose aside from furthering your own religious agenda. That child will no longer look at things and see what they are, but how they are connected to Jesus’ plan.
Regardless of whether you like the film or find it too “propagandistic”, it provides some insight to how at least one group of evangelicals plan to reclaim their religious foothold in the hearts and minds of Americans.