Friday Afternoon Movie: Jesus Camp

It’s been a long, long day. When you haven’t been in meetings you’ve been at your desk alt-tabbing between solitaire and Excel, rearranging your budget so that you’ll be able to afford those sweet zebra-print seat covers you saw on Jalopnik the other day. Well, just stop it. You’ll never be able to afford them and Jalopnik was being ironic anyway. Also, anyone can win at solitaire if they pull one card at a time. Yeesh, have some self-respect. Close Excel and prepare for Friday filmage.

Today: Jesus Camp, a documentary about the now defunct “Kids On Fire School of Ministry”, a Pentecostal summer camp in North Dakota. It follows three children who attended the camp in 2005 where they are taught how to become part of God’s army. A lighthearted tale of willful ignorance and homeschooling, this is the film to show your atheist friends if you wish to see them become apoplectic and jittery with spittle-flecked rage. Or to pass the time while avoiding the siren call of compulsive spending.

Seriously, zebra-print isn’t going to make that ’89 Camry any cooler.

28 Responses to “Friday Afternoon Movie: Jesus Camp”

  1. Erika Says:

    I remember seeing this film and freaking out. There’s nothing scarier than brainwashing others into following a religion. It’s a great study, however, probably a film I’ll be watching again.

  2. Nadya Says:

    Ross, I look forward to your weekly descriptions of mundane office life as much as to the Friday Afternoon Movies themselves. They speak to me!

  3. Monkey Says:

    The only thing that could calm my rage was purchasing the sweet zebra-print seat covers. I’m OK with that.

  4. Infamous Amos Says:

    Maybe the scariest movie you will ever see. Watch it, and you will soon ruin your bitchin’ new seat covers by the addition of a yellowish hued stain that will not be coming out in one wash.

    Also, a side note, I personally don’t think religious people are going to bring about the apocalypse and kill all of us. I think that angry stupid people are going to bring about the apocalypse and kill all of us. The fact that a sizable chunk of the angry stupid people in the world are religious is purely incidental in my mind. You can have a polite conversation with a sane person of faith, but once a psychopath wearing a t-shirt depicting jesus riding a monster truck decides he’s going to burn you alive for being a warlock, civil theological discourse is not likely to save you.

  5. stephanie Says:

    uggghhh. that was frightening. it’s more scary when you see little children brainwashed over adults…

  6. EvelynChrist Says:

    For a second I felt bad for those kids…. and then I thought: Better them than me.

  7. Tequila Says:

    In my catholic school days we had two polarizing priests involved in our education. It was indirect mind you as they never taught classes but they would on occasion drop in to add a more real world history to our religious courses. One priest was easily the kindest man I’d ever met and always brought a human factor to the endless sermons, bible readings, etc. Always made you think things out from a perspective where you the individual were responsible for choices made. The other priest was much more fire and brimstone but in a very seductive way. He’d always get the boys interested in the old tales of when the church had armies, popes lead by the sword, and endless tales about Constantine The Great. Everything was related back to a struggle, a fight, a very us vs. them mindset but never blindly. It was all about being the only force to properly lead the world. Action over talk.

    Didn’t think much of it at the time until not long ago a friend from those days was telling me of these church youth groups he’d studied around the country. A lot of what this very fire and brimstone priest had taught us was much more common and dominant. The Religious Right was one thing but these smaller satellite movements were far scarier in not only how organized they are but how nearly invisible they operate under the guise of community, faith, and charity. My friend went on to tell me how these religious youth organizations would tailor the faith to almost a Hollywood level of shine but always with focus of emotional impact. If they can get the heart…everything else fell into place. To me it sounded cult like in description and in many ways it kinda was…those old tactics modified for “good” as it where.

    I kept remembering that old fire and brimstone priest since then and how much that man shaped how I saw my then key faith. All of a sudden I felt angry, not sure why until I realized how perverse and long effecting that mentality was.

    Now you have a whole generation or more being raised with this harsher view of something that is suppose to be a benefit to them not a source of anger. It’s not gonna fade away even if they shy away from the more extreme aspects of the movement. With so many of these kids now becoming young adults…I honestly don’t want to think what the social repercussions will be. Angry, ignorant, and violent zealots are one thing…but angry, educated, emotional, and focused zealots are another.

  8. Lina Says:

    Utterly terrifying. Just finished watching. Holy shit!

    That woman – UGH. I hated the part was repulsed by the part where she said that children were “usable in Christianity.” My heart goes out to those poor, poor kids. I consider this child abuse.

    The part where they’re dissuading children from believing in science breaks my heart.

  9. Mer Says:


    Seriously, though? The first time I watched that, it cast me into an incredibly deep, foul depressive state for weeks.

  10. mildred Says:

    I, for one, welcome this new generation of future goths. We will blatantly be seeing mullet boy at an anime convention in the near future.

    Watching this through, I realized that I still remember the pledge to the Christian Flag. THAT creeped me out.

  11. mildred Says:

    Shit, I was right!

  12. Zoetica Says:

    Uncertainty, fear, the need to be part of something, blind hate/commitment? Not necessarily drawing a parallel but this came to mind for me, instantly.

  13. lonelocust Says:

    I’ve never been able to bring myself to watch more than brief clips of Jesus Camp. I’m afraid flashbacks to my childhood will bring about a Carrie-like pyrokinesis. Looking at That Woman makes me ill. The only person with scarier Satan eyes is Dr. Ed Young, who caused me to scream and almost veer off the road when I first saw his baleful gaze from a billboard.

  14. Ruby Says:

    Even though its a eye opening film to watch, people should be able to believe in whatever they want to believe in and bring up their children, within reason, whatever way they like. Parents brainwash their children all the time with their own belief systems.

    I do however, find it scary that these ideals and prinicples have adverse effect on our poltical systems and goverments. Religion and philosophies will never be truely seperated from state, but people should be given a choice in the way that the want to live their lives.

    Christains like these give other Christains who are very pro-choice a bad name. I became a Christian in my mid to late teens and my church (even though I`ve long left the faith now due to my love of quantum physics) would always hold debates debating everything from being gay, abortion, consumerism and we were never once told that we were wrong.

    On another note, there is another really great documentry, kinda similar to this one on the Westboro Baptist Church called `the most hated family in american`….I think it was done by the bbc??? link:

  15. Adam Says:

    I am neither American nor Christian.

    I spent a few important years of my childhood in California, but most of my life, so far, was spent in Israel.

    Having said that,

    I do not think there’s something inherently wrong with people bringing up their kids to believe in their faith.

    I grew up with popular science books, dinosaur TV shows and a father who is a physics professor, showed interest in many aspects of exact sciences, dabbled in existential philosophy and adopted an agnostic way of life,
    but (excuse my post-modern), I don’t think that that is the only way people should think.

    If parents want to raise their children to ignore scientific cannon, to live with what I perceive is gruesome imagery and self loathing, then that is their democratic right. As long as they do not preach violence and let their faith violate the lives of others, there is no reason to stop them from living their lives as they see fit.

    Which is where my qualm is with these people.

    Praying outside the Whitehouse seems to me like barking up the wrong tree. If you want to live in a Christian nation, go out and make people Christians. Preach the word of the lord and whatnot, convince people in a civil manner.
    Making abortions illegal won’t achieve anything other than a rise in backstreet abortions.
    Don’t try to make Christianity a legal matter, forcing people to live a Christian lifestyle. As far as I know, in Christian terms, that won’t even make a difference, if said people don’t have faith.

    So what I don’t understand is why they’re trying to force Christian legislation and not trying to channel those efforts to convert more people.

  16. Jerem Morrow Says:

    For once, I’m not gonna rant. I don’t have to. This film speaks for itself. Passive or aggressive, religion is humankind’s doom, if there ever was one.

  17. cappy Says:

    @Adam I can’t agree with you on that — if parents want to raise their children to ignore scientific canon, I’d be willing to argue that, in today’s world, this is almost child abuse. It’d be same, to me, if parents decided to home-school their children but refused to teach them how to read, write, or add.

    OTOH, my favorite scene from this movie was where That Woman was describing how they “weren’t a political organization, not in any way, no how,” and then the very next scene is them wheeling out a goofy cardboard cutout of President Bush and making all the kids practically bow before it.

  18. badluckshadow13 Says:

    You know, if they’d have kept going with that bitchin’ dance scene from the beginning, they might have won me over… er, anyway…

    The frightening thing is, if I’d gone to a church camp like that I think I’d be a completely different person than who I am now. As it stands though, my childhood encounter with church camp served only to traumatize me.
    I had my glasses broken, I was shoved around and taunted, and I had no clue what speaking in tongues was until they did it.

    I’m still religious though… just not a Christian.

  19. Adam Says:

    @Cappy, well, the difference is that reading and writing are basic forms of communication.
    Science, somewhat like religion, is based on belief, when you get to the root of the matter. Since one single human being cannot possibly observe, analyze and test every aspect of his or her surroundings, some (myself included) choose to put their faith in two things – the integrity of the scientific community (which can be tested and often is) and in their senses. I believe that what I see around me is true, that what scientists tell me is true, that what I read in scientific history is true and so on and so forth. I also try to remember that the fact that something has an academic seal of approval on it doesn’t make it true – a few hundred years ago, no naturalist, philosopher or scientist would have told you that the origin of our species is in primates. Even the term “origin of species”, to many, would have sounded odd and would have needed explanation.
    And as science advances, we usually realize more about what we don’t know than what we do.
    So, saying that modern scientific canon is the only truth is just as close minded and belief based as any religious fanatic’s belief.

    What I’m saying is, that while we have very good reasons to believe what we do, I don’t think that those are the only answers and the only world view that should be taught.

    However, trying to teach a belief-based world view using, essentially, scientific tools, is funny and won’t work.

    Something that did boil my blood was that during one of the homeschooling scenes one of the kids says that “Galileo made the right decision when he gave up science for christ”.
    Those people are lying to their children, misinforming them and re-writing history, and that IS dangerous and irresponsible.

  20. badluckshadow13 Says:

    Yeah the Galileo was interesting, I suppose they didn’t tell the kid that he did it under the threat of death…

  21. Tequila Says:

    @Adam…”What I’m saying is, that while we have very good reasons to believe what we do, I don’t think that those are the only answers and the only world view that should be taught.”

    Agreed but it has to be done with a measure of intelligence. If we as a society condone the teaching of say creationism or intelligence design as “just as valid” as Science we’re essentially teaching organized ignorance. May as well take Mythology out of the realm of literary study and back to the classrooms as Natural Science. Science isn’t about only belief, at the end of the day theories have to be proven for them to have any weight. You or I could become say a priest and more than likely never prove God actually exists let alone things attributed to his/her/its divine hand. Taking paths as Scientists on the other hand leads to actual things being proven, evolved, and tested in a way were it’s tangible, real, and can be studied by academics, skeptics, etc. over hundreds of years.

    Science lets people jump into the natural world around them hands on in ways religious teaching simply do not. If you don’t buy into a theory or idea you can challenge it and prove your own. The tools are all there…one just needs the will, imagination, and ideas to do so. Do that in religion and you’re considered heretical.

    Yes the theory of evolution would have been challenged a few hundred years ago. So would many things we all now known to be controlled by the laws of physics. It takes time to develop theories and the tools to properly study them. Look at Alchemy and now modern Chemistry or the long road The Big Bang Theory had to take. Could everything change 200 years from now? Sure. At least with Science though one knows it’ll actually have good reason for it not just continued clinging to an old faith out of comfort. Science allows for much more growth, freedom, and world changing discovery…not something religion is too keen on with it’s dogma, traditions, and rigid framework.

    Yes the more Science advances the less we seem to know but that’s an illusion…we are simply coming up with more questions to ask with every discovery.

    I agree with Cappy’s child abuse comment, robbing anyone of that sense of wonder and discovery is just cruel. Saying for example “God created fish and that’s that” takes away so much from ones education on a variety of levels. It makes for a far too simple worldview.

    “However, trying to teach a belief-based world view using, essentially, scientific tools, is funny and won’t work.”

    Why is that? If anything it’s easier and much more honest than just sticking to religious canon.

  22. cappy Says:


    I have to admit that I didn’t even get past the first part of your post, since you stated something so terribly wrong. Science is NOT based upon “belief” — it is based upon testable phenomena.

    No, you can’t possibly observe every bit of science there is, but you could if given the time — please, tell how it’s possible to observe most anything regarding the beliefs of major religions.

  23. Mer Says:

    Guys, I fear the thread’s shutting down a bit. Try to stay relaxed as you discuss these things and remain respectful of one another, thanks!

  24. Adam Says:


    “Why is that? If anything it’s easier and much more honest than just sticking to religious canon.”

    Well, because the scientific approach is based on assumptions that are fallible. As a scientist, your starting point is observed knowledge, and you always keep in mind that there may be something you don’t know.

    The religious approach is based on belief. They don’t know god exists as far as scientific proof is required, but they believe in him unconditionally.
    Just like they believe in an omnipotent creator, they also believe in the process he made creation; darkness and chaos, light, water and sky, land, plants, animals, man.

    So far so good. You choose to believe creation is based on some supernatural element, and therefore can accept supernatural answers.

    It gets tricky (and kind of absurd, in my eyes) when you start analyzing the supernatural with scientific tools. The reason is that those tools lead to some sort of logical conclusion; the world was formed so and so years ago (geodata, carbon dating ect.), evolution is a theory, but so is gravity. It is scientifically verifiable and supported by biological, chemical and palaeontological findings.

    You can’t say “We’ll, I’ll use these tools, but only so far as they prove what I say I already know. Once they contradict something, we’ll, then I’ll introduce the supernatural answer”

    This is why I was pissed at the Galileo thing; you can’t say “Yes, Galileo was an historical character, but we’ll ignore that history and say he did something else.”

    (I’ll try to make this short)

    I’m saying two things.

    A) Science is objectively verifiable only if you choose to believe your senses. The moment you doubt that what you see is real, you can’t prove anything. This is called Existentialism in philosophical schools of thought. We can take the Matrix film as an example. As long as you’re in the Matrix, what you observe around you seems real enough, but it doesn’t matter how much you test the phenomena around you, your results mean nothing, or at least nothing about the physical world. (They may indicate something about the programming of the simulation around you, but that’s beside the point)

    B) “please, tell how it’s possible to observe most anything regarding the beliefs of major religions.”

    You can’t. And you don’t need to. A belief-based world view is exactly that – belief based. Belief doesn’t need proof, hard facts or testable phenomena. Once you agree to that suspension of disbelief, once you’ve accepted the given rules of that world view, you can delve deeper into it, have theological arguments rooted in the set of axioms you’ve forced on yourself and so on.

    And what I was saying is that to a lesser degree, science is the same.

    Given, science doesn’t presume as much; merely that what we see around us is true and that our exact measurements mean something.

    But that’s as big a suspension of disbelief as any.

    We choose to believe what we do, be it that our surroundings are true or that there’s a huge, bearded megalomaniac in the sky that likes seeing people suffer and can never be found by the tools we possess.

    And, since both world views (you can make that “all world views”, if you’d like) require a leap of faith, (at least in your immediate physical surroundings) deeming one to be more concrete than the other is difficult to do without being narrow minded.

    @Tequila, Cappy, Mer

    I apologize if I came off as aggressive or angry in these posts.
    I enjoy the content here at Coilhouse immensely, and my starting point (make that a leap of faith :P) is that people visiting this site are probably more intelligent, wellspoken and outspoken than most other places online.
    I enjoyed reading Cappy and Tequila’s replies, and I hope you guys got something out of mine.


  25. A voice crying out in the wilderness Says:

    Hey everybody! Well that certainly was an interesting video. I hope people are still commenting on it. I enjoyed reading most of the comments below. Another video clip you all might appreciate is called Why I hate religion I can totally understand these responses after viewing this clip about a Pentecostal Church. I had a friend in the Apostolic Pentecostal Church who I was very concerned for, and who finally left a couple years ago. She did not give up her belief in God or Christ. She just realized the false teachings of her old church, and now attends a Baptist church. Now there are bad churches not teaching doctrine of all denominations, and while some people believe in the *miracle* of speaking in tongues, it should also be understood that it is not something that happens every Wednesday night at 7:00 P.M. Not even the Bible says you have to speak tongues to be saved.

    Anyway, I’m done ranting about the Pentecostal Church. I love science! In high school I took AP Physics and love the science to death. I wanted to become a physicist until I learned that there really isn’t anything you can do with it other than teach until you have a PhD. (Still plan to go back to school for it when I have the resources to pursue that high of a degree.) I appreciated the comment made about not mixing religion into politics, and I thought that was a very interesting point. The point left out of the argument is also not to mix politics into science as many have been exposed to knowingly or unknowingly, and is especially true in most classroom settings. teachers who teach science are not automatically scientists, and those select few teachers who teach just the facts about science are a precious commodity. While forums are not necessarily the best place to go for fact finding, I thought I would do my part to clear up a few errors in the above comments.

    1) Tequila “Evolution is a theory, but so is gravity.” This is actually an incorrect statement. Evolution is a theory hence the reason it is called “The Theory of Evolution”. According to Merriam-Webster the word theory has several variant definitions, but as applicable to the scientific method, theory is “an unproven assumption”. Gravity on the other hand is a law hence the reason it is called “The Law of Gravity” Merriam-Websters definition of law gets a bit wordy, but in short. a Law is a proven verifiable fact.

    2) Tequila again like above the “Big Bang Theory” is still only Theory. On a similar note so is Global Warming. Now I’m not saying we shouldn’t do more to take care of our planet, just that we shouldn’t do so because Al Gore told us so. There are lists of credible scientists who contend all three of these theories.

    If any of you would like to continue this conversation further, please feel free to email me at aitsu_83 at hotmail dot com. I don’t know if I will be back to this post to see if anyone has commented, but I would like to continue if others are interested.

  26. brooke Says:


    The theory of gravity is a valid scientific explanation for the law of gravity. The theory of evolution is a valid scientific explanation for the phenomenon of natural selection. The big bang theory is a valid scientific explanation for the creation of the universe.

    They are all based on observable fact. They have all yet to be disproved. they are all the most likely reason for the respective phenomena. They are all widely accepted in the scientific community. Theory and law are gradients on the same path towards absolute truth in science. In scientific parlance, theory is the same as “what is observed to happen.” (Merriam Webster gave you the colloquialism that is often abused by everyone.)

    Occam’s razor states, go with the evidence. The burden of proof lies on the person who questions the evidence.

    that’s not a bad position at all, really. It’s what science is all about…except, most experiments and hypotheses, when carried out, lend support to all of these theories.

    A theory is waiting to be disproved, in other words, and it generally can’t be since it is based on empirical data. Therefore, in science, it is the accepted truth.

    I hope that clears things up.

  27. Pech Says:

    Some of the views in this movie I 100% agree with. Some of them I don’t. I am a devoted Christian who has given their life to Christ. I, however, do not agree with using religion to demand a political view. A lot of what these kids say and do is right. They live a life for the Lord and not for man which is what we should do.

    There is God’s science behind the world. No matter what God created everything we have. If you look through Genesis the numbers 7,3, and 10 appear a lot. That coorelates to a lot of degrees and placement of Earth. I suggest watching Everything Is Spiritual. It gives a good use of math and religion. I just wanted to come and share my piece.

  28. Mer Says:

    Hey, Pech? Out of genuine curiosity, are you a regular Coilhouse reader? How’d you find this thread?