Despite a good seven hours of sleep I still feel as creeped out and edgy as I did last night. I saw the scariest movie I have ever seen and I think it might take some time to get over this one. The Calgary International Film Festival is on right now and so of course there are lots of great movies playing with lots of neat, funky, and mostly liberal vegetarian people watching them. I had been wanting to see Jesus Camp since I first heard about it and I wasn't disappointed. I can't even begin to explain how frightening this movie is. It's all about the far (far, far, far) right evangelical movement in the U.S. and how they are quite literally training soldiers to lay down their lives for Jesus...except that these soldiers are under the age of ten. The movie profiles several children who have been indoctrinated into the fundamentalist Christian right. The main preacher in the film is quite proud and willing to use the term "indoctrinate" and has no issues whatsoever with how she or her ministry is portrayed in the film. Abortion, Satan, Harry Potter being put to death, speaking in tongues, convulsions, rebirths, repentance, screaming, attacks on global warning, evolution and democracy were all featured and culminated in a prayer session over a cardboard cut out of the celestially appointed George W. Bush. These kids were like little robots and were vocally and proudly calling themselves soldiers of God who would lay down their lives for Christ. What stunned me was how anyone could miss the parallels between this and fundamentalist Islam but, as the preacher herself said when asked about the similarity, "Yah, but excuse me, WE have the truth."
It's easy to dismiss these radicals as just that - a fringe group. Mostly uneducated and of low socio-economic status they are not the most intellectually impressive group. But they are large and they are growing. 75% of the children home-schooled in America are evangelicals. They are being taught that evolution is wrong, that global warming doesn't exist and that their country is under attack from the left. The "us versus them" mentality has reached new heights when the world is described as having "two types of people - those who love Jesus and those who don't."
I hope everyone gets a chance to see this movie. I think we need to be aware of what is out there and the influence this group has. One of their greatest preachers meets with the President and his advisors every Monday. As a voting block they outnumber all others. They are passionate, ignorant and determined. They have nothing to lose because they truly believe the world will end soon and they will be here for the rapture. And most importantly, they are self professed soldiers for all the things they believe in and anything that stands against them is a product of the Devil. They want America back.
I left the theatre feeling sad for the children because they are being subjected to what, in my mind anyway, amounts to psychological abuse. Children of six, seven, eight years old, bawling hysterically because they believe the Devil is tempting them and that their family is under siege. Falling to their knees begging for grace for all the sins they have committed and praying to be washed in Jesus' blood. Not being allowed to have any fun because everything they do must be for the glory of God. I also left feeling afraid. Afraid because I know how much influence these people have in America and how much influence America has on the world stage. Mostly I was afraid because if this continues, I don't see any possibility for peaceful coexistence either within America or on this planet. I left feeling a bit hopeless and unsure of what, if anything, I can do to stop it.