Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Irony of "Jesus Camp"

I finally did it, I sat through Jesus Camp; and, I must say, that it was every bit as disturbing as I thought it would be. The way contemporary evangelicals act and worship in the name of Jesus is utterly appalling, and will cause any thinking Christian to bristle with shame. Here however, I don’t intend to chronicle all the horrifying details of the twisted behavior and worship of these evangelicals exemplified in the movie. Instead, I want to point out the irony of the movie which is this: the producers of the film wanted to show how the “religious right” is indoctrinating young children and preparing them to be zealous foot soldiers in a political and cultural battle, while pretending that the liberals whose point of view they represent, do not do that.

The movie is framed by two separate radio announcements, one at the beginning and one at the end, pertaining to Supreme Court justices. The first refers to the resignation of Sandra Day O’Connor and the second refers to the approval of justice Sam Alito to take her place. These announcements provide the narrative context which teases out the underlying issue of the entire film: the political battle over abortion. Of course, the announcement concerning the justices emerges on account of the pivotal role they play in deciding the legality of abortion. Now, that being the key issue, the role of the political activism of the religious right in seeking to elect a president and other governement officials who appoint Supreme Court justices, emerges as the concern of the producers. The film then, focuses on how the “religious right” is indoctrinating young children to be soldiers in this conflict, and the principal focus becomes the “Kids on Fire Camp” and the ministry of Becky Fischer to illustrate the process.

So that is the big picture, now where is the irony?

The easiest way to get at the irony is to analyze a few of the editorial comments made by the radio host, sprinkled throughout the film, which focus on the “religious right” and their role in this political battle. For instance, he laments the fact that the political activism of the “religious right” sends a bad message to Christian children that it is appropriate and legitimate to intertwine religion and politics. He charges that Christian children are being taught that global warming and the rape of the environment doesn’t matter. He complains that through the agitation of his base, the religious right, President Bush is pushing the teaching of Creationism in public schools, along side of naturalistic evolution. He sounds the alarm, warning against relgious activism, as he notes that there is a “religious army of foot soldiers (those who have been indoctrinated as children) directed by a political right and they are taking control in small slices. They have taken control of the White House, congress and the judiciary.” Finally, in a segment toward the end, he interviews Becky Fischer, and in the context of arguing with her about the legitimacy of her indoctrination of young children says, “you have a right to teach kids anything but don’t let that bleed into the public sector.” These few comments adequately provide evidence for the axe the movie is trying to grind: Christian activists are indoctrinating Christian children about political issues, particularly abortion, global warming, and the origins of life, and it is dangerous to freedom and must be stopped.

Now, having read these statements of the radio host, who serves as the mouthpiece of the producers to articulate their political philosophy and concerns, I am sure you can seee the irony. He (they, the producers) are saying, “what an outrage, these Christians are teaching these kids ideas and concepts that are designed to effect their behavior and impact the political process!” Like the public education system has not been doing that in America for the last 80 years. I will never forget one of the most honest statements I heard from a liberal professor who taught a Political Science course I once took. He said, “the public education system in America is designed to teach children who the civil authorities are, and how to recognize the symbols of their office.” That is 100 percent correct, and that is indoctrination! The purpose of education is not to teach children who is in charge, it is to provide them with the tools so that they can learn how to think for themselves. However, once education becomes a government institution, it will always end up focusing on indoctrination rather than education because the state cannot separate its own interests from the task of imparting information.

So what is the state's interest that is being communicated through public education? Well, that is obvious, the state wants citizens who recognize government authority, fear and respect government authority, and who have been trained to think and act in predictable ways. The most effective way to accomplish that is to engraft children, from the earliest age possible, into an education system where the goals and interests of the state are constantly reinforced throughout their formative years of life. The primary value of the state that shapes the education system in America is that citizens are actually “resources,” not individual human beings made in the image of God possessing real dignity; therefore, the role of public education is to teach these “resources” how to behave properly, that is, respect the encroaching power of government without asking probing questions about constitutional authority, look to the governemnt for solutions to personal problems such as health care, day care, a job, etc., and to control the biological reproduction of the “resources.” To reinforce this last value, the the education system starts with sex education in Kindergarten and continues it through high school. The government hopes that the “resources” use appropriate birth control so as not to overproduce and thereby lead to greater government costs, but just in case the sex education doesn’t work, it affords the “resources” the “right to privacy” err, abortion in order to control population.

These are the “non-sectarian” political ideas that govern the perspective of the producers of “Jesus Camp.” The bone they have to pick with the religious activists is that they are competing with the liberal establishment which runs the government education system for the hearts, minds, and bodies of children. With the rise of Christian schools, and more particularly the home school movement, which the movie points out consists of evangelical Christians to the tune of 75 percent, the government monopoly on indoctrination (education) has been seriously challenged. That represents an enormous problem for liberals because if enough of these young people grow up to think for themselves, and in turn think of themselves as free individuals, and not government “resources” they just might challenge or overturn the status quo.

For these political liberals to tell tax-paying citizens, parents and religious groups that they don’t have the right to teach children a system of beliefs, morals, and actions if those views spill over into the political realm is utter hypocrisy. That is exactly what the liberal establishment has been doing for decades, and still continues to do. It has indoctrinated generations of children in establishment liberalism through government schools. Through the medium of film, “Jesus Camp” powerfully reminds us that ideas always impact behavior and eventually political systems. Denying this, and pretending that only “sectarian” groups indoctrinate children in order to influence public policy is dishonest and hypocritical, and that’s the irony of “Jesus Camp.”


vht said...

Your best article to date! Nuff said.

John Spitzer said...

Excellent post John.

I find it also ironic that you posted this on a day when the state of California said it is illegal for parents to teach their children unless they are credentialed with the state!

Oscar said...

The greater irony is that here we are almost half way into 2011 and for all that effort to separate our children opposite of the indoctrination of the secular academy, the worldly thought of these temples have still integrated and infiltrated the minds of our younger Christian generation.