Jesus Camp – some thoughts ** 1/2

I finally watched “Jesus Camp” and I have to say I was dissapointed. There were some interesting parts. The mostly observational approach gave viewers a brief look at the lives of Pentacostal children. However, the film was poorly directed (yes, documentaries are directed). The film loses at least 1 1/2 stars for the annoying and completely irrelevant interruptions by Mike Papantonio, the radio host. It loses another star for not having clear direction.

What was the point? Was the directors’ interest in the method or the message? It seemed to be both. I fully agree that the method of high pressure, energetic, emotionalism will have detrimental and permanent effects on the children. As a study in method it is right to focus on those affected by the method, the children. However, much of the documentary was about the message as well. As such, it is wholly inappropriate to focus on the children as representatives of the message and as a result portray the message as utterly foolish to the audience. If the directors wanted a movie about the harmful effects of Pentacostalism, they used a great approach. If the directors wanted a movie about how its stupid to believe in the Bible and to believe a human being is created at conception, their method is more than innapropriate, it is deceitful.

This is not to say I agree with everything that was said by the Pentacostals, hardly. I think the film does a decent job of showing the harmful effects of false teaching in the church. I have provided links at the end for further info on the subject.

A couple notes on Papantonio. First, his view of the separation of church and state is not even sophomoric, it is more ignorant. Separation of church and state is very simple. It does not mean you divide your life into sections. It does not mean you have a private life and public life. It does not mean that you are not allowed to let the Bible inform your views of the world. It simply means that church officials cannot hold any governmental office and that government cannot interfere in churches. It was a reaction against church-states like Roman Catholicism and state-churches like the Church of England.

Second, when talking to Becky Fischer on the phone, Mike objects to her method by saying “you can tell a child anything!” This is certainly true, but what he seems to be forgetting is that you have to teach them something. Someone has to decide what is right for the children to learn. Should it be him? Should it be the parents? Or should it be the state? Americans have overwhelmingly said it should be the state (unfortunately).


Some quotes from other reviews of the film:

“Camps or churches that push kids or adults into the mentality that a “decision” made at a camp is going to make you more dedicated are in the tradition of the 2nd Great Awakening where the emphasis is placed on the experience, or your decision, rather than on the objective work of Jesus Christ.”

“I defy anyone to scour the Bible and find where it says that the task of the New Testament church is to make America moral.”

“Finally, the viewer can note in the clip where some of these children are weeping, raising their hands and falling down, shaking on the ground. Is this recapturing America? No, it is the Pentecostal/Charismatic equivalent of the hypnotic state. It was VERY common in the Second Great awakening and became institutionalized in Pentecostal churches, especially in the late 1880’s and beyond”

“She (Becky Fischer) strikes me as a very sincere woman who is seriously misguided in her understanding of the Gospel and Christianity… What I find to be of great concern is the spiritual harm being done to children in the name of Christian teaching. They are being taught that experience trumps truth and that the proper goal of their generation is to take America back for Christ.”

“All of this (repairing the harm of false teaching) will require a mentality significantly different from that which too often prevails in evangelical children’s ministries where fun is featured more than faith. Catechetical instruction as well as doctrinal and ethical training should be reclaimed as useful tools in the effort to ground our children in the Word of God. We must not hesitate teaching them the whole counsel of God and speaking plainly to them about the cost of discipleship.”

“Your own reaction to the film will depend on how shocked you are by Pentecostalism. The film is obstensibly about “evangelicals” yet every Christian depicted in the documentary attends some sort of charismatic church. The casual viewer would be left with the impression that being “saved” causes all evangelicals to speak in tongues, convulse uncontrollably, weep hysterically, and vote Republican.”


“Contemporary Religion Versus the Gospel”

“Contemporary religion lacks the New Testament evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work. Instead of being preoccupied with Christ’s person and work as were the apostles and Reformers, contemporary religious figures are preoccupied with religious experience. Instead of being based on the Bible alone, it is based on personal experience, on infused righteousness, on the gifts of the Spirit.”

“Try the Spirits–A Reformed Look at Pentecostalism”

“But our main purpose has been to answer Pentecostalism’s arguments from Scripture for its doctrine of Holy Spirit baptism and for its practice of miracles, especially tongues. This has been done. In answering its appeals to Scripture, we have shown from Scripture that Pentecostalism is heretical in its doctrine of salvation (Holy Spirit baptism) and fraudulent in its miracles.

The Reformed faith judges Pentecostalism to be a different religion from that of Luther, Calvin, and the Reformed creeds-a fundamental departure from the faith once delivered to the saints.”

“Evangelicalism, the Charismatic Movement, and the Race Back to Rome”

“The Pentecostal movement came into being directly on the issue of insisting that the physical sign of speaking in “tongues” was the evidence of the baptism of the Spirit. This issue of tongues caused a split between the holiness and Pentecostal movements, yet the basic theology of the two movements remains the same. Pentecostalism is the inevitable outcome of subjective revivalism. The kind of revivals that operate in the United States may not be overtly Pentecostal or charismatic, but they tend in that direction because they are supremely oriented toward religious experientialism.”

“Beware of Men”

“As mentioned earlier, claims of greater love for the Bible are not infrequently heard among charismatics (and sometimes outside the charismatic movement). “The baptism of the Spirit” is said to “unlock the Bible” for charismatics. To what does the evidence point when we look into charismatic literature? It points to the subordination of the Bible to the experience.

Frequently passages from the Bible are quoted out of context. When this takes place, a meaning from without is imposed on a text or passage. The word of man is placed over the Scripture and is then called the Word of God.”

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