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Jesus Camp

Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady


Jesus Camp
Directed by: Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady
(Magnolia Pictures)
Early in Jesus Camp, Pentecostal children’s minister Becky Fischer says she wants to see kids “radically laying down their lives for the gospel.” The documentary is about the Kids on Fire Summer Camp Fischer runs each year in North Dakota, a series of intense and apparently kid-friendly evangelical sermons about sin, hypocrisy and the evils of abortion. The camp is designed to indoctrinate in its attendees the zealous devotion that makes people willing to die for their beliefs, and it appears to work—the kids weep and speak in tongues. The movie also shows where Fischer’s determination comes from. “Excuse me, but we have the truth,” she says. Jesus Camp, nominated for Best Documentary at this year’s Oscars, would have been effective even if documenting the camp and the extreme ideology that brought it into being was its only purpose. But directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady also have a political point to make. “If the evangelicals vote, they determine the election,” fundamentalist minister and presidential confidant Ted Haggard says, presumably before the gay-rights opponent was outed by a male prostitute. The campers pray to a cardboard cut-out of George W. Bush, visit a pro-life clinic and condemn “unrighteous government.” It’s easy to imagine the voters they’ll become.
—Lindsay McCarney

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