Tuesday, September 05, 2006

This one time, at Jesus Camp...

Watch this. Jesus Camp.

Now, I have yet to see this film, so I'll deal more with some of the themes it touches on rather than comment on the film itself. But just the trailer there raises some interesting and important subjects.

Two things stand out in particular: "We pledge allegiance to the Christian Flag..." and the images of the children in camouflage, with painted faces, acting like warriors.

Having been involved (still am, on the surface) in a religious organization regarded by many as fundamentalist itself, I've seen this behavior and dogmatic reinforcement at work first hand. Christian churches of the fundamentalist sort enjoy seeing themselves as under siege morally, ethically, and culturally. It provides them ammunition of the sort enjoyed by martyrs, victims of genocide, and paints them a world of moral superiority for their reviled yet righteous ways. They view themselves unapologetically as the last bastion of righteousness in the world, beset on all sides by agents of the Devil bent on tearing down the Kingdom of God and dragging every last soul kicking and screaming into Hell.

Because the stakes are so high, they must bring their message of hope and salvation to the world or God will hold them accountable for doing nothing in the face of wickedness. In some cases, rejection of the message is accepted though not understood. In others, it is met with vitriol or violence. They cannot conceive of a paradigm where Christ could be rejected.

This mentality of "Us vs. the World" leads to some interesting evolutions of thought and practice. The construction of a monolithic and near unassailable enemy mandates not just the ally that is God, but unwavering loyalty and a separation from that which may corrupt. If it makes you uncomfortable or is not explicitly about Jesus Christ, it is of the Devil.

The problem comes, in large part, when the reality of the world crashes through the front door and these people realize that their comfort zones are defined in large part by homogeneity. Things that are different make them uncomfortable and sometimes include ideas that aren't necessarily at home with the Bible. Suddenly these things that were otherwise innocuous or that may have had the potential to educate and enlighten are evil. Evil they must be, but they are also enticing to the children.

The only way to protect the children, in their innocence and inability to discern the wiles of the Devil, is to indoctrinate them young. Surround them with Jesus, teach them about Jesus, tell them that those who do not believe in Jesus are going to Hell. Tell them at their very lives and souls are on the line, that it is a war and that they are its most vital and powerful soldiers, and tell them that those who oppose them are in league with the Devil. They are evil and if they cannot see the error of their ways, they will be as dry wheat before a raging firestorm.

The End is coming and if you are not with Jesus, you are against Him.

THIS is what frightens and disturbs the rest of us. In our own backyards, neighborhoods, boardrooms and coffee shops there are people who are so opposed to any lifestyle that eschews Jesus Christ that they are bringing up their children to believe they must be Warriors for God, that the only way to deal with the heretics and infidels is through conversion or violence...violence sanctioned by God.

This is about fundamentally remaking American society in the image of the Evangelical. They don't want to share the world with the rest of us. Like the old saying went: "Make the world England." So it is that the Evangelical Christian bloc moves to make the world Christian.

Everyone wants to be able to identify with other people, to see in them pieces of ourselves and know that they aren't that different from us. In and of itself, this is healthy and normal. We select, group, sort and judge in order to facilitate every aspect of our lives. But what happens when we decide that it isn't good enough to try to find like-mindedness amongst the selection and that we simply want to do away with all choices but one? What happens when we value everything different as 'bad?'

We can all look at ideologies opposed to our own and see where they fail in their own doctrine, but it is far more difficult to look at ourselves. Just as this camp continually claims persecution for its ideas, it wants nothing more than to persecute others for theirs. The America they wish to build has no room in it for the rest of us, and in time they would find that it would selectively exclude some of the prior faithful as well, until true homogeneity had been achieved or the entire structure collapsed in on itself.

Perhaps someday their children will begin to think and question in spite of their indoctrination to do no such thing, and perhaps it is in those children that America will find it's true saviors.