A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this documentary is an outsider's look at members of the Evangelical Christian church. While it shows a Christian radio deejay who opposes what the church stands for, it does it rather respectfully. Parents should be warned, however, that there are many scenes of kids caught up in religious fervor where they look very distressed and are crying, speaking in tongues, and professing to the group that they have sinned. There is also a scene where a right-to-life advocate hands out small infant figures to the kids, tapes their mouths shut, and encourages them to express their sadness and outrage. One child says that she thinks God only comes to a church like hers. One parent home-schools her child and explains why evolution is wrong. A family recites a revised version of the Pledge of Allegiance with many mentions of God, and at one church meeting a life-size cardboard cut-out of President Bush is brought to the stage and everyone is encouraged to pray over the president, and over more conservative Supreme Court nominees.
I rated it pause 15+ because I think if I were younger I wouldn't have understood it as well, not because it would have been inappropriate for me if I were younger. For example, some younger people have rated it and said it was excellent and seemed to think it portrayed the camp in a positive light, when it really questions their tactics of indoctrination.
What's the story?
JESUS CAMP focuses on the experience of children who attend youth pastor Becky Fischer's "Kids on Fire" summer camp in North Dakota for Evangelical Christians. The film follows the children, their families, and others in the Evangelical Christian world, particularly showcasing those most devoted.
Is it any good?
The film is fascinating, eye-opening, and sure to be controversial. The filmmakers present their material in an even-handed manner, but those who aren't accustomed to the intense devotion may find the material somewhat disturbing, if not shocking. Those familiar with this world may take exception to some of the movie, particularly with a Christian radio talk show host who doesn't think highly of the Evangelical movement.
There is plenty in this movie to upset people across the belief spectrums, and young children aren't the intended audience.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about so many topics it's hard to know where to begin. If your kids like Harry Potter, they'll notice that the youth minister, Becky, speaks out against the books. Why do you think she does that? If your family is religious, you can discuss how you see worship in relation to the Christians shown here. Would you ever go to a camp with your family to feel closer to God? Why or why not? The Evangelicals here all support President Bush. What ideals do the Bush administration and the Evangelical church share? Do you think the non-Evangelicals making this film showed enough respect for their subjects? Do you think the subjects show the same level of tolerance for the filmmakers? Why do you think the subjects in this film allowed the filmmakers into their lives?
- In theaters: September 15, 2006
- On DVD or streaming: January 23, 2007
- Cast: Becky Fischer, Mike Papantonio, Ted Haggard
- Directors: Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady
- Studio: Magnolia Pictures
- Genre: Documentary
- Run time: 87 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some discussions of mature subject matter.
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.