Member Movie Review: Jesus Camp (Review #2)
Membership Level› Guest
Author/Source: Spencer Click
Topic: Movie Review
Jesus Camp movie review by Kidology member Spencer Click
Overall, Jesus Camp was a good movie, but not what I was expecting. I enjoyed it, but found it very interesting to see how people in the theatre reacted to the scenes shown. It is a fair representation of Pentecostal Evangelicals, yet lacks the element of teaching needed to bring understanding.
First, let me say this -- it doesn't matter who you are or what you believe. This movie is going to make you uncomfortable in some manner. If you're a non-charismatic evangelical then you'll be uncomfortable, if you're a charismatic evangelical you'll be uncomfortable, if you're a children's pastor, worker, director you'll be uncomfortable, if you're a non believer you'll be uncomfortable, etc. Not for the whole movie, but at least for part of it... you'll be uncomfortable.
I was fascinated as I watched the movie. If you have an understanding of independent films, you'll be able to process it better. One of the main goals of many independent films is to get people thinking about things outside their traditional comfort zone. That is a lot of the discomfort you will feel throughout the movie. Part of my discomfort was the fact that I was sitting in an openly hostile theatre -– I saw the movie in the Hillcrest area in San Diego. Hillcrest is a predominantly gay area with a strong liberal bias, so a movie about conservative Christians wasn't going to receive a warm welcome.
Probably the most important thing to keep in mind while watching the movie is the fact that this is not a movie about being Charismatic, it's not a movie about Christians -– while they seem to be the subject matter, they really aren't. This movie is a political movie -– essentially what is being asked is "should religion and politics be mixed?" That's the central theme to the whole movie. From Mike Papantonio -- who believes there needs to be the separation of faith and politics -- to Lou Engle -- who's ministry is actively praying for an overturn of Roe v. Wade -- this is a political movie.
This movie is so broad in the scope of what it shows that it just scratches the surface of what it means to be an Evangelical Christian. There will be so many times when you want to yell "I don't believe that!" or you will feel frustrated when something you do believe comes off looking silly or is taken out of context. To give you an example: they show a lot of scenes of kids being slain in the Spirit and speaking in tongues. To me as a Pentecostal, I understand what is going on -– it's a normal thing; I rejoice to see kids with that much passion. For the guy sitting next to me it was comical, he thought it was hilarious to see and at the same time sad to see kids taught something so ridiculous.
Did the filmmakers show something that wasn't indicative of a Pentecostal church? No. Did they paint us in an unfair light? No. They showed us as we are, but to people without understanding of context it looks wrong or silly. I feel that there were only a couple of places where the filmmakers took a bit of liberty and made a few unfair "cuts", merging words being spoken with other images to create a statement. As Becky Fischer is talking about loving America and the American lifestyle, they make a cut to several fast food restaurants -– there are a couple of times that happens. Obviously that is not what she was talking about, but it is what comes across.
They show the group that they are filming as they are for the most part. All of us who have ever talked about outreach have discussed the fact that we talk a different language in Church, "Christianese". This movie is the an example of that. Throughout you hear phrases like "prophecy", "warrior for Christ", "army of God", "Slain in the Spirit", and others without any definition or understanding of what it means or what is meant by people talking. Again, without the proper understanding or context these things don't make us look the best.
The thing I do appreciate about the film is that it shows kids who love Jesus with their whole heart. The true stars of this move are the children –- especially Levi, give me that kid for my church. Throughout the movie we see them speaking about God and their passion for serving Him. The adults throughout the movie don't always come off the greatest, partially because as I said earlier what they are talking about requires a certain level of "pre-knowledge" of the subject. But the kids... they are great. They love Jesus – and it shows. I cannot imagine someone hearing Levi talk about his love for Jesus and concern for the lost and not be moved by him. That was one of the encouraging things in the audience I was a part of -– throughout the movie when the adults would speak or say something, there would be chuckles, laughter, or even someone angrily yelling at the screen. But when the kids were speaking -– there was silence, people listened to them. That was the best part of the movie because truly the kids did the best at presenting what it meant to be a Christian. I was so proud to be a children's pastor at that point. Their pastors should be proud and so should their parents.
When you see this movie keep in mind what I've said previously and you should be able to see the shimmers of God's glory in the movie. There will always be scoffers and those who scorn what we as Christians believe –- even within the Universal Church there is debate and this film won't alleviate that. Don't look to this film to fire up your church; don't look to this film to evangelize the nation. It's not a bad movie, but again it's going to make you uncomfortable. Those who aren't charismatic will probably be offended by what they see at the camp and some of the verbiage. Those who are Pentecostal will be offended by those who don't understand the context or teachings. Those who aren't Christians will probably be appalled at what is being taught to these kids.
But here's the hope –- that even through such an imperfect representation of what it means to be an evangelical Christian... a life will be changed.