I Watched Jesus Camp and Now I’m a Little Scared

Six, sometimes seven, but almost never less than five times a day I find myself biting through my fist as I craft a hateful message to WILK, the local talk radio station, to tell them how idiotic they are, but alas, I never send them. By the time I’ve gone through the half dozen revisions necessary to make a hate letter piercing without losing that feeling of spontaneity, my edge is gone and I’ve calmed down enough to realize it’s pointless and I need to get back to work.

Why, you ask, would a person spend their days listening to something that drives them mad? The same reason I watched every episode of Sex and the City while it was on. You need to know what the other side is thinking.

People tend to put it all on Trump for our current state of insane, like he was the Johnny Appleseed of crazy when he came down on that escalator two years ago and said to throw the Mexicans out, as if it was a new idea. No, he was more like a rockstar stage-diving into a waiting crowd of adoring fans who were more than eager to hoist him up.


People have been scary-weird for a long time. This isn’t new. Jesus Camp isn’t new. While they were ragging on Harry Potter in 2006, ten years earlier the same sort of person was ragging on Marilyn Manson. And ten years before them they were going after Dungeons & Dragons. And ten years before. And ten years before. And ten years before.

Kids brains are very malleable, they can learn foreign languages easier than older children and adults because they don’t have all the clutter in the way. The bad habits. The good words. Start them early, and pour it on thick, like they do at Jesus Camp, and no matter how many Ramones albums they stumble upon in their developing years, the fear of God will be set in them. As they grow, you hit em round after round, week after week, day after day, with more and more programming, like you would with water for a plant.

The good folks at our local radio station, WILK (the one I half-craft hate letters to every Monday – Friday), used to have a Lefty host on the air for a few years in the afternoon. You can see his mug featured prominently in the documentary ‘Kids for Cash’ from a couple years ago. He was dropped in the middle of our 18 hour daily Right Wing Propaganda Machine, much like Air America, the radio station in the movie that was trying to wrap their heads around what the hell was going on during the rise of the Conservative Right, when there was no alternative on the airwaves and NPR was busy playing classical music. The guy here was a jerk. I’d see him at the Indian buffet on weekend afternoons and you could just tell he was a jerk. So, when they canned him, they replaced him with a Climate Change denier. Yep, everything is lookin good.

People around here are actually building new Trump campaign signs outside their houses. I saw some guy build this monolith in the middle of a bush that rose up above the hedgeline and was covered in Trump branding. The guy is either ten months too late or three years too early, but none the less, he has a radio station that feels his pain.

Regardless of whether you can easily teach a child sign language or not, parenting is tough. Or so I’m told by parents. At first I thought these parents were insane, then I realized they might be onto something. Making a room full of children cry doesn’t seem terribly difficult, but if you can scare them shitless, maybe they won’t get pregnant at fifteen. See, these kids don’t realize that they are lame, and their parents are insane. But after a few rounds of Jesus Camp, bingo-bango-bongo, the teenage years are an obedient breeze.


I know, laugh laugh giggle, look at these weirdos. Two years after this documentary came out, these people took over the government while the ‘rational crowd’ was playing bongos in some stupid park. I’m sure if we checked in on Levi, Rachel and the rest of cast now, I wouldn’t be surprised to find them serving as Republican delegates somewhere.

Angelo Badalamenti-esque score aside, the most effective element of the Jesus Camp documentary, especially when you view it through Fake News eyes, is the fact that it actually portrays the participants of Jesus Camp in a neutral light. They are framed with Crosses, Flags and President Bush behind them, because they surround themselves with that imagery. The camera is turned on and the subjects are left to make their case, which is perhaps the most damning condemnation available. There’s no Michael Moore, or Al Gore, to tell you what to feel. Here it is. Hear what they actually think.

Ethics are dead, or rather, ethics need to put to bed until a time comes when all the players agree to value them. That’s why it’s an arbitrary debate whether Jesus Camp is right. They don’t ask for permission. And they don’t ask for forgiveness. They just win and this documentary shows us their playbook.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s