REVIEW: JESUS CAMP
While Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady's Oscar-nominated documentary JESUS CAMP centers on the slow decay of the separation of church and state in Bush Jr.-era USA, to me it is a film about child abuse. At a summer camp for kids in North Dakota, a pentecostal minister admittedly "uses" children and their families to further the political agenda of the evangelical christian right. She is shown seriously praying to God to bless her Powerpoint presentation, speaking in gibberish, and forcefully denouncing Harry Potter as an evil warlock. One woman home-schooling her kids teaches them "science never proved anything" and compares arming young people with such knowledge to extremists in other parts of the world teaching 6-year-olds how to use a machine gun.
Ewing and Grady do an excellent job of presenting these characters in a very truthful way, very unobstructed by any sort of bias they may personally have toward the rational point of view. Rationality is thankfully represented in this film by christian radio commentator Mike Papantonio ("Ring Of Fire") who offers occasional insight as to the damage these folks are really doing to these kids, the country, the planet, and humanity as whole. The saddest part in this writer's opinion is the fact that several of these kids are intelligent, articulate and naturally kind. Seeing them made to cry and get on their knees and throw their arms around a life-size cardboard cutout of president Bush is heartbreaking. Not only are they being deprived of the sort of fun life every kid deserves, but they are being mangled, warped and lied to by politically-motivated authority figures. I hope these young peoples' smarts eventually lead them to reason before they become little Timothy McVeighs and Paul Hills.
Mercifully short and devoid of Michael Moore-type dramatics, JESUS CAMP is less about religious weirdos (see George Ratliff's 2001 doc HELL HOUSE) and more about the roots of supremacy.