I rented Jesus Camp from Netflix, and just watched it. I had a pretty good idea of what to expect, although a few moments still made me shake my head.
Newsweek’s cover story this week is “The Decline of Christian America.” I don’t know how accurate that assertion is. But I figure it’s probably closer to reality than the world depicted in the movie, where evangelicals are told they can sway elections if they band together and vote for Godly candidates.
Becky Fischer, a youth pastor prominently featured in the documentary, insists to a liberal radio host that what you teach children by age 7-9 will stick with them the rest of their life. The radio host replies something along the lines of, “But God gave us a brain.”
Suffice to say, I disagree with Becky Fischer. I don’t doubt the majority of kids featured in the movie will be just as fervent in their beliefs as adults as they were as children. But some won’t.
Some were probably not sure if they really wanted to put red tape with “LIFE” over their mouths, but felt like they probably should anyway. Some may not be quite sure that Harry Potter is the devil (like that one kid who admitted to watching the movie’s at his dad’s, much to the horror of the other kids at the lunch table).
Some will never feel good enough, will feel defeated after constantly being told they are phony Christians that shouldn’t be in God’s army. The specter of sin will weigh heavily on them, and even worse, they won’t feel like they have salvation. They’ll wonder if it’s ever going to be enough, and that even though God is supposed to be comforting them, they still feel perpetually guilty, like something must be wrong with them. They’ve been torn down, yet something went wrong in the “Jesus can build you back up” part.
Then maybe they’ll go off to college, and not go to church every Sunday. They’ll realize not everything is as black and white as it was at church camp.
I was one of those kids who didn’t want Jesus to come back, and was terrified at the possibility. While my church experience wasn’t as extreme as the ones depicted in the film, I was the person looking around anxiously, making sure Jesus wasn’t coming back just yet. Not before I had lived my life. I held a strange but firm belief that Jesus would come back while I was in Wal-Mart, announcing his return over the store loudspeaker (maybe this is why I prefer Target nowadays).
So if the number of people who identify as Christians is falling, maybe the religious right should think about it for a bit and realize there problem isn’t with God. It’s with the people like Becky Fishers and Ted Haggards who claim to represent him.