Faith at Altitude

Religion and spirituality in the shadow of Pikes Peak

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Jesus Camp

I watched a preliminary version of the documentary "Jesus Camp" last night -- a fascinating and, to my eyes, fair look at a North Dakota children's camp that trains its guests to be soldiers of God.

It's the kind of film that will scare some people, most likely. Directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady follow three children around as they shout, weep and prostelytize, as the camp director leads them through a frenzy of religious (and some would argue political) fervor.

While there's a "wow, look at this weird subculture" vibe throughout the documentary, Ewing and Grady let these passionate pentacostals have their say. In fact, the story's told mainly through their eyes and their words, with only an Air America disk jockey inserted here and there to provide a more cynical context. The documentary shows these kids for what they are: Children passionate about their faith and fervent in the belief that they're called to change the world -- starting with abortion. Ewing and Grady have resisted having "Jesus Camp" labeled as a liberal documentary a la Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11": In fact, they pulled the film from Moore's Traverse City Film Festival, fearing the association would turn off the film's potential evangelical audience.

The film, which will premiere in a private screening next month, makes a handful of Colorado Springs references: Focus on the Family's James Dobson is heard at the beginning, and one of the children makes a pilgrimage of sorts to Colorado Springs' New Life Church, where he chats briefly with the Rev. Ted Haggard.

It's worth checking out.

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