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Jesus Camp- the movie

There is a new movie that is being released in the theaters called “Jesus Camp.” Christianity has enough bad press and certainly does not need more ammunition to be ridiculed. It’s not wrong to be persecuted when doing the right thing but if it is not right then it becomes a argument for unbelief for those who are looking for an excuse.

This film is a documentary from A&E Indie Films. It is co-directed by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, Jesus Camp (located at Devil's Lake, North Dakota) takes a look inside America’s Evangelical community, its focus is the children, the next generation that is being groomed. The film premiered last week at New York’s Tribeca Film Festival and went on to receive an award for Outstanding Achievement in Documentary.

This film should not be considered an accurate representation of the majority of conservative Christianity since it involves a number of extreme Pentecostal teachings and practices of that are unbiblical. It also presents to the audience a blend of politics and religious ideology that is clearly being transferred to impressionable children that cannot be endorsed or approved as the way of Jesus.

It is for this reason the CCCA (Christian Camps & Conference Association), posted a statement on their website to respond to its presentation, stating: The camp philosophy and program depicted in the recently released Jesus Camp film, a documentary by Magnolia Pictures, are not truly representative of those in most Christian camps in the United States.”

Watching the trailers and interviews this film pushed my buttons and I can only come away with great concern. Children mimic what they learn, and without life experience some of these things become hollow. In the film children are encouraged to become “Warriors for God.” Becky Fischer the camps leader transfers a zeal to the children to act Christian; but is the image they are presenting to them accurate? We are to be teaching our children not only what to believe but why they are to believe it. This means they are to be encouraged to ask questions like- WHY? We do not just teach them what is true because it is right; having it divorced by why it is right.

At first you rejoice seeing kids on fire for the Lord, but then your heart has a check in it as you watch the Jesus Camp film trailer. There is a scene where a young boy is laying on the floor, shaking and convulsing just like children who are exposed to Benny Hinn’s power- which he has mistakenly called the anointing. I’m sorry but this practice is not found in the Bible so how can it be acceptable for the church to practice, especially children. It may be a Pentecostal tradition but it is not a biblical one. When I see young children exposed to these tactics it brings concern.

People think this is what they are to pass on to our children to train them in the Lord. It may get some approval from those who are in these type of churches but this in no way represents what we are to do with our children.

What can result from all this kind of publicity are people having second thoughts leaving their children at a Christian camp. However if this is what a camp teaches, then it may be a good thing.

What happened to allowing children to be a kid having fun, doing sports, eating ice cream, and playing games? Can we not teach them to be spiritual as they grow up? Can we let them be children and not have the concern we as adults have? Should young children be ready to cope with the condition of the world and all the problems we as adults encounter each day? I’m not saying to not allow them to be aware of some of the things taking place but to put it on their shoulders as part of the solution at such a young age is not what I see as good parenting. Why do they have to be indoctrinated in a slanted version of what the world is like and how they are to react militarily to their surroundings!

We are called to teach our children our understanding of who God is and what his will is as instructed in Deut. 6. We are obligated by God pass on our personal and biblical knowledge to our children.  We need to teach them to have an encounter with Jesus Christ, to foster a personal relationship with Him. But what I saw is not their being taught sound doctrine.

Believers should not be reliant on camps (like in the movie) to do what they should be doing at home. Deut. 6 tells us to instruct our Children. We are the primary teachers of the faith AT HOME. Unfortunately many may have defaulted on this. Deut. 6:5-9: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” Here is how we are to show our love. “v.6 And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.” They are being shaped for the future by seeing how we conduct ourselves today.

Fischer sees nothing wrong with indoctrinating children as young as 6-years-old, in the documentary she says: “I want to see young people who are as committed to the cause of Jesus Christ as the young people are to the cause of Islam. I want to see them as radically laying down their lives for the gospel as they are over in Pakistan and Israel and Palestine and all those different places because, excuse me, we have the truth!”

I appreciate her intention but how you are preparing them for this is another matter. What is presented in the film may at times have the right intention but it is how she goes about it that is in question. It may be that she is doing the right thing in the same manner as the Muslims are teaching their children to do the wrong thing, (this is referred to by her statements), ultimately the solution she is carrying out that is the main concern. She believes she is forming an army to “take back America for Christ.”

While she states there is an inside language to certain words of fighting or war in the scripture, she is presenting them with a practice out from the Scriptures context.

Example: fight the good fight of faith or to be a good soldier

2 Tim. 2:2-3: “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” Faithful men. Though Timothy was young, he was not 6-12 years old. He was being trained in the word since as child to receive salvation, but there was years of training behind him so he could defend the faith against the opposition. Children are not to be leaders, they are to be grow to become mature – tried and true. Children mimic what they learn from adults. Without life experiences for their growth what they say is vacant and redundant.

The weapons are our warfare:

2 Cor. 10:3-6: For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.”

But here we see the children acting out using carnal weapons in the film- So why are children given swords and fatigues? They are sending the wrong message. Paul is speaking of prayer and the word of God used to counter false beliefs with the truth. That is what the children need to learn among all things- the grace and KNOWLEDGE of God, that is what the Bible tells new believers to grow in.

Children are shaped by the values of their peers, what value is any of this if it s not correct teaching?

Ephesians 6 starts out with an admonition to children to obey their parents in the Lord and goes on to tell them about the weapons of… warfare. Eph 6:1-4: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (same as Deut.6.)

Eph. 6:11-12: “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

This is about our prayer and having knowledge of who we are in Christ to withstand evil.

2 Tim. 4:7: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” Meaning he has withstood the opposition and stayed with Christ. Certainly this is relative to the children being exposed to evolution and other such philosophies or ways of life at school. But the point is how do they counter it? By knowing the word, not acting out intense prayers in spiritual warfare fashion of the day.

Some may say as long as the kids are happy…..let them pretend. An army formed of young religious fighters is not the answer. Our Children in 2006 have a very different world to cope with. The battle rages for our children. Children live in a cultural battlezone at school, surrounded by the media and even their friends. How we go about teaching them will mean whether they fall pray to the cultures lies or survive and be victorious. Instead of influencing children with self participating activities about the “war” that is prevalent in today’s world, we need to share with them the “peace” of God that is to be in their hearts despite what is taking place in the world. Just as Jesus said: my peace I give unto you. This is what prepares them to live in the changing culture of corruption. It’s really a spiritual war and the Holy Spirit, with wisdom, and knowledge work to ground them in love. Drama driven camp events like these do not help them cope with a world that is far different than the one we may have grown up in 10 or 20 years ago. The church cannot protect children from the world by using these type of tactics.

In the film we see the children told to stretch their hands toward a poster cardboard cutout of President George Bush and she says Bless president bush… to make this “one country under God,” they lay prostrate and attributes this to being charismatic. They break white coffee cups with hammers to show they’re at war with the government and chant “Righteous Judges!” In protest of abortion and to overturn the decisions made by them. Is this supposed to actually do something?

This is not anything found in the Bible. In fact what she attributes to a charismatic practice is not that at all. Stretching ones hands to a poster image of the person to pray is liken to idolatry. Stretching ones hands out to pray toward an object (be it animate or inanimate) is not a Christian practice but a new age one. “If you wish, you can have everyone raise their hands with the palms facing out toward the person in the center, and feel the energy flowing out to him through your hands” (Creative Visualization by Shakti Gawain p. 78). These young impressionable children are learning at a young age a tradition of men, not the Bible in truth.

Is this how Jesus treated the children or taught them? She talks of war, having the children act out with swords (engaging in a spiritual war). I guess you can say this is all a product of charismania of today.

We are told that God is raising the children up to be a Joel's Army. In an ABC news report they show a video clip on Kids on Fire camp, kids are dressed in camouflage with military like exercises. One girl says they “We're kinda being trained to be warriors,” said another, “only in a funner way.” http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/story?id=2455343&page=1

This is a “campaign to recruit the younger generation to fight for the very soul of America” these methods can do more damage than good. Children are not to be indoctrinated into their faith- a militant faith. Some may call it ‘brainwashing’ which I personally don’t believe is the case but you cannot ignore that it is at a certain level ‘indoctrination,’ as a thought process molding takes place that can be a dangerous one.

This film is not presenting conservative biblical Christianity, the beliefs are indicative of Reconstruction movement or the Pentecostal version of Kingdom Dominionism with its unbiblical spiritual warfare practices. One child in “Jesus Camp” goes so far as to say, “We're a key generation to bringing Jesus back.” This is an unbiblical statement but a recurring trend in dominionist camps.

One associate professor at the Fuller Theological Seminary, said people who see “Jesus Camp” should not come away with the idea that evangelizing to youth consists mainly of political indoctrination. But this of course is part and parcel of what the film has captured that is taking place with the children.

Ted Haggard, head of the National Association of evangelicals (nearly 50 plus million), says in the movie children are fueling a boom in his churches that would continue to have a profound effect on U.S. politics.

It’s got enough growth to essentially sway every election. If the evangelicals vote, they determine the election.” Hmm politics and religion; equals dominionism. In John 18:36 Jesus answered Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight” (It’s still not his world, and it will not be until he returns.) So why are there evangelicals who want to Christianize the world or as some are doing preparing our children for a confrontation of religio/ political consequences.

Impressionable young children’s minds are shaped by unbiblical practices that are accepted in the church today. Misleading these children into a corrupted view of Christianity. falling on the floor supposedly “overcome with the spirit” to see the children weep, shake, fall down, speak in tongues, is exactly what the new prophetic movement teaches. They believe God is going to use the really young for revival! Since when has God changed his ways? He appoints those who are tried and tested, mature believers to lead the way not immature children.

The film is supposed to be an objective presentation of the camp. It is the subject matter that should be points of concern for both the children and the public, it was for me. To the unbelievers this can easily appear to be scary as they watch young children having these practices imposed on them.

It can be very trendy to have your child dress up in fatigues and be a swashbuckler for the Lord and learn (unbiblical) spiritual warfare. It may even excite some of the parents that view this as a good thing. I certainly do not think that this movie will appeal to all Christians but then, I may be wrong.

The Evangelical community is committed to being an influence of salt and light to our society that is declining in morality, however there is certain parameters we need to be aware of. Some may see this as an impetus for the next generation- a call to action. We must question how this action is being practiced. For if children are being taught a false view of spiritual warfare and how they are to be salt and light in the world what will be the outcome when they are grown and actually have the opportunity to influence the culture?

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