Ju-eez-uss-uh Camp

Sunday, September 09, 2007

See. "Jesus" does have four syllables!

Recalling a recommendation by a fellow Objectivist blogger some time ago, I watched the documentary Jesus Camp today. Mike's capsule was accurate, but still did not prepare me for the depths of depravity some people can reach on the matter of rearing children.

I think this is an excellent case study of the fundamentalist movement. See how two very young children admire Christian martyrs, and how their pastor admires Muslim suicide bombers for their faith.
This pastor (Becky Fischer), fully aware of the controversy this movie has generated among the non-religious, points to a chapter from a book she wrote at the end of each question of a lengthy FAQ on the movie at her ministry's web site, in the way of offering further explanation for her actions.

Since she is so proud of it -- and it reiterates the most monstrous aspect of the brain-crippling practices that come across in the movie -- I shall quote from it below:
[I]f we are to win the battle of transforming our children into spiritual champions, we must link arms and voices to get our message out because we can work our whole lives in our individual fields and not see much more accomplished than what we have right now. But if we work together, we have a better chance of making our voices heard and making a permanent, lasting impact. You need only to do a quick search on the Internet under "Palestinian children" to see how serious our enemy is about training their kids to walk in their vision. At all costs, we must redefine children's ministry in the 21st century if we are to save this next generation. [bold added]
At all costs, indeed. The steepest one will be the minds of the children themselves.

Although she was not telling children to blow themselves up, these children were being systematically programmed -- like young Moslems in Palestine -- to think about religion at every waking moment and in every aspect of their lives. One of the children the filmmakers focused on, who several times went up to complete strangers apropos of nothing to attempt to convert them, was at one point encouraged by her father, who said, "Way to be obedient!"

Indeed, the film caused enough people concern that one of the questions she fields (by quoting the makers of the film) is whether the children are "capable of violence". The "reply" -- which takes advantage of the wishy-washy moral relativism of the filmmakers themselves, dodges this issue by noting the demeanor and articulateness of the children and raising the red herring of "brain-washing" being a "loaded term":
Asked whether Fischer, the leading voice at the camp, was a "brainwasher" or an "educator," [Rachel] Grady says, "Let's put it this way: 'Brainwashing,' obviously, is a very loaded word. It made me look at that word differently... all parents are indoctrinating their children in their beliefs. It made me question--do you start calling it 'brainwashing' or 'indoctrinating' if the beliefs are different from your own?" She feels the film "made my worldview open up a bit. Would I raise my kids like this? No. But I don't that's really relevant." [bold added]
I beg to differ. There is more to the (proper) instruction of children than mere indoctrination. Education is not simply a matter of content, but of the epistemological method being taught to children. Ideally, a proper education, whose nature can be determined only after a rigorous inquiry into what, exactly a child is and what adulthood requires him to learn, will permit a child to develop an independent, rational mind. (Note that such an inquiry would depend on a prior rejection, root and branch, of the entire mystical metaphysics, epistemology of blind faith, and ethics of total obedience to which Fischer subscribes.) Such a mind will then be able to determine for itself whether its beliefs have a firm basis in the facts of reality and the requirements for human life and correct such beliefs, if need be.

In other words, the short, honest answer to the question of whether these children are capable of violence is: Not yet -- as far as anyone can tell. So what if it isn't apparent from the documentary alone that anyone has told these children (or that they may, as fundamentalists, determine later for themselves from the Bible) that God "wants" them to force others to obey his alleged will or to injure or kill those who do not? The idea of obedience is firmly entrenched, the possibility of the Bible being wrong rejected out of hand, and the violence within the Bible very well known. Indeed, Fischer herself says at one point that someone would have been "put to death" in Biblical times for an attitude she did not like.

This is a disturbing film. Despite Fischer's numerous protestations against the notion that she has a political agenda, it is plain from her focus -- at a children's summer camp of all places -- on abortion and the overturning of the Roe vs. Wade decision, that she is being dishonest about that matter. Furthermore, if her lot are in fact churning out large numbers of charismatic (i.e., explicitly mystical) fundamentalists, we are in store for a major push for an end to the separation of church and state in America, the introduction or reimposition of religion-based laws wherever possible, and, quite possibly, religious terrorism beyond the occasional abortion clinic bombing.

This will make you sick, but watch it anyway.

-- CAV

PS: Regarding the second to last sentence, the first two are already underway, and none of them require the spread of charismatic Christianity (or any particular sect) to occur. My point here is simply that Becky Fischer's particular brand of indoctrination will make the possibility of such things greater sooner than otherwise.

Updates

9-10-07
: Added PS.

6 comments:

Jim May said...

we are in store for a major push for an end to the separation of church and state in America, the introduction or reimposition of religion-based laws wherever possible, and, quite possibly, religious terrorism beyond the occasional abortion clinic bombing.

Um, we are only "in store for" the last one; the first is already happening on a wide scale and the test balloons of the second -- proposed laws against "defaming religion" -- have already been floated (on the hot air of Leftist "tolerance" and moral relativism, no less).

"Hate crime" laws already on the books will readily adapt to this purpose as well.

The idea that parenting consists of "instilling values" instead of imparting the ability to grasp and choose them independently, is a thoroughly dominant idea these days -- and one of the most destructive, too.

The opposing idea of parenting as teaching children to think isn't gone yet, thankfully; when I remind someone of that, they usually nod their heads. But it never seems to come from anyone but me. If I don't put that idea forward, "instilling values" is invariably the unstated premise of that discussion.

Gus Van Horn said...

(1) "Um, we are only 'in store for' the last one; the first is already happening on a wide scale and the test balloons of the second -- proposed laws against 'defaming religion' -- have already been floated (on the hot air of Leftist 'tolerance' and moral relativism, no less)."

Yep. I realized as I logged on this morning that I should have remembered exactly this point last night. Furthermore, this level of brainwashing is not necessary for any of these phenomena to occur, although I think it would make the third thing on my list quite a bit more likely.

(2) Some conservatives indeed seem to have already figured out the "value" of existing hate crime law.

(3) On the unstated (and and hence, all-too-frequently undefended) idea of it being good to help children develop independent minds, this is something that most Americans implicitly do correctly, at least on some level, but are allowing to slip away for lack of conscious identification and understanding of why they should be doing it.

softwareNerd said...

I wonder about kids of contemporary evangelicals. Their parents and educators seem to try hard to build arguments for some stuff (e.g. the Intelligent Design ideas). So, while they are teaching their children faith, they are also giving them the implicit lesson that logic and reality do matter.... only to conclude that logic and reality are on their side.

I suspect that many of these families are heavily compartmentalized, in the sense that the parents are probably in careers where they deal with reality, and do so competently. Many probably home-school their kids. However, they do not appear to be recluses, withdrawing from the world.

In a sense, this compartmentalization is their major strength. It allows them to live partially normal lives, and they can fund their effort far better than if they were to retire to some Christian commune.

On the other hand, this exposure to the real world must also be their Achilles heel.

From the movie, I would have liked to learn how isolated (or not) these kids really are. The young girl is shown as having a "regular" neighborhood friend. However, I wonder how many attend public schools and how many are free to browse the net.

Gus Van Horn said...

"I suspect that many of these families are heavily compartmentalized, in the sense that the parents are probably in careers where they deal with reality, and do so competently. Many probably home-school their kids. However, they do not appear to be recluses, withdrawing from the world."

I agree.

To have actual fun or deal competently with the world in such a milieu, one must compartmentalize. This reminds me of the way my dad would refer to Southern Baptists during my youth in Mississippi. He'd call them, "practicing hypocrites".

The closest thing you got in the documentary to seeing the kids showing actual independence is when they're playing games before "lights out", only to be stopped by the man who warns them that God doesn't like ghost stories. (What an irony, given that the Bible is the granddaddy of all scary ghost stories!) I suspect that very few either break free of this religion or get completely crushed by it. Most learn to hobble along by learning hypocrisy.

softwareNerd said...

I wonder if there is a creative and effective way to reach the best and most curious of these kids, before it's too late.

Gus Van Horn said...

I like the way you think, but haven't any good ideas at the moment.

These certainly won't be the kids who will rush out to convert you -- although I certainly don't think one should humor them in any way by pretending that what they are doing is good.

If one can help these children in any way, it is by exposing them to the idea that there are decent people out there who do not agree that what they are being taught is necessarily good.

Of course, most of them will grow up to become the type who will say, "I like you, but you're going to hell," but you can't win every time....