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Jesus Camp

Eye-opening look at the Evangelicals among us.
Parents recommend
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Release Year: 2006
  • Running Time: 87 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The church members aren't all white, but they are openly exclusionary otherwise -- no alternative lifestyles allowed here, this religion is the "right" one, and evolution is wrong.

Violence

Kids get distressed and cry in religious fervor. In one scene their mouths are covered in tape as part of a protest. A right-to-life advocate talks about how many children abortions have killed since Roe v. Wade.

Sex
Not applicable
Language

People speak in tongues in a few scenes. Lots of judgmental and militaristic statements on both sides of the issue.

Consumerism

Pepsi cups all over the camp. Whole industry related to religion; music, books, etc.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

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.

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?

QUALITY

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.

Families can talk 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?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:September 15, 2006
DVD/Streaming release date: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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Adult Written byCSM Screen Name... April 9, 2008

Decent Doc

Not a great work of documentary film making, but an eye opening look into a world few of us really see . . . but one that plays a big role in the politics of the current administration. What I found most intriguing is the furvor behind the training of these children. Had the woman in charge of the camp told them to commit acts of terror in the name of Jesus, these kids would have . . . this is how you train a jhihadist.
Parent of a 14 year old Written byChicagoan December 7, 2009

Thought provoking and fun to discuss

My daughter and I watched this movie together when she was 13 years old. We were both fascinated by it, and seeing it gave her the idea that "documentaries" film category is something to check out, rather than to dismiss as boring. This movie was a good starting point for us to discuss varieties of religious belief, education, and point of view (e.g., what do you think that the film maker thinks about this type of religion, and what makes you think that?). I don't think that very many kids under 13 or so would find this interesting.
What other families should know
Great role models
Teen, 15 years old Written byThooxomuefru October 5, 2014

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.

Some people said it was violent, but I didn't think violence was a big issue. In one scene, adults make children smash ceramic mugs that represent the devil's power over the government. That's the only really violent thing that happens, and it made me kind of concerned because the children weren't wearing goggles or anything. To fully understand this movie, I think you have to understand a few concepts: 1. Jesus Camp is a documentary. If you do not understand that before you watch this, you will probably hate it no matter what your opinion is. A documentary is a visual presentation of facts. You may not like those facts, and you may be uncomfortable seeing those facts. But the events that take place in this film are real and the ideas presented in it are prominent in society. 2. This is one church in one state. It is not a survey of the entire USA, and it is certainly not a worldwide survey. You may be a conservative Pentecostal Evangelical just like the leader of the church in this film. That does not mean that the views presented in Jesus Camp must be a reflection of your views. It does not mean that no other denominations practice indoctrination. It does not mean that you should be offended by anything you see. It should, however, open your eyes in some way if you can relate to it. 3. Politics. It just has a lot to do with politics. It focuses on conservative fundamentalists, and if you don't know what that means, you'll be lost. It shows very anti-government people brainwashing kids to be like them. I was not trying to be biased or irreverent in that statement. There's just no other way to phrase it. 4. Religion, obviously. If you're anti-theistic, or even just an agnostic, you may be disgusted by these people. That's not to say that a theist cannot be disgusted by them. At a few different points, people speak in tongues. That might be a bit shocking if you've never come across it before. Also, if you strongly believe that everyone should be given both good and bad facts about both Evolution and Creationism/atheism and theism/everything else and then be able to decide for themselves what to believe (like I do), you will probably be disgusted by the people in this film. A certain extent of biblical knowledge may be necessary to sort of make sense of the fundamentalists' thought process. I don't think any child who doesn't understand all of that would be very interested in this. They might fall asleep halfway through it if they don't understand enough of it to pay attention. But understanding is all you really have to worry about before watching this.