"In the Old Testament, Harry Potter would have been put to death!" bellows a Missouri preacher in Jesus Camp, a disturbing documentary about evangelical Christianity that doesn't skimp on fire or brimstone. Following a group of all-American kids on their way to a "Jesus Camp" for some serious Bible study (and JK Rowling bashing), filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady take a long, hard look at the Christian right and ask: at what point does religious teaching become outright brainwashing?
"I wanna see young people as committed to the cause of Jesus Christ as young people are to the cause of Islam," says Pastor Becky Fisher, a Pentecostal children's preacher at the Kids On Fire camp. "I wanna see them radically laying down their lives for the Gospel as they are over in Pakistan and Israel and Palestine." She's not kidding. Among her congregation are wannbe-preacher Levi, a 12-year-old home-schooled by his parents on a diet of Creationism and Christian fundamentalism and 10-year-old Tory, who doesn't like Britney Spears because she dances "for the flesh".
"UNABASHEDLY LIBERAL DOCUMENTARY"
At the camp the kids are cajoled into speaking in tongues; listening to Christian rap ("Who's in the house? J.C.!"); and, in a disturbingly manipulative moment, asked to bless a life-size cutout of George W. Bush. In Louis Theroux's hands this might have been ripe for blackly comic satire. But filmmakers Ewing and Grady aren't laughing. In fact, they can barely hide their appalled horror at how these kids are being groomed into a pro-Republican Jesus Army. With a congregation of over 30 million, the evangelical Christian right is already setting the United States' conservative national agenda on homosexuality, abortion and the Middle East. This unabashedly liberal documentary tries to redress the balance by giving the rest of America a wake up call: not all scary fundamentalists come strapped with explosives.
Jesus Camp is out in the UK on 27th November 2007.