RSS Feed

Monthly Archives: December 2010

Do you see what I see

My latest Netflix documentary find is “Jesus Camp.” “Jesus Camp” is described as


“an unfiltered look at a revivalist subculture in which devout Christian youngsters are being primed to deliver the fundamentalist community’s religious and political messages. Building an evangelical army of tomorrow, the Kids on Fire summer camp in Devil’s Lake, N.D., is dedicated to deepening the preteens’ spirituality and sowing the seeds of political activism.”
Unlike some of the documentaries I’ve recently watched, I was familiar with “Jesus Camp” and could vividly recall the first time I saw the trailer for this documentary. It is a documentary that I had no desire to view, but decided I would give a chance (instant streaming via Netflix has released many movies and documentaries out of my “don’t see” closet). Approximately 10 or 15 minutes into the documentary, I knew my initial response to the trailer was correct. Before I explain why I believe that “Jesus Camp” is one of the most disturbing documentaries ever recorded to film, I should say that I identify myself as a Christian. While as of late, I haven’t been as conservative a believer as I once was, I nonetheless believe that God exists, that Jesus Christ is God incarnate and that He died on the cross, rising on the third day, defeating death and sin and that the gates of heaven are open to all of those who believe and receive Him. “Jesus Camp” is one of the most egregious distortions of Christianity that I have ever seen. From beginning to end, “Jesus Camp” bombards the viewer with a steady stream of indoctrination tactics used by camp directors, camp personnel, and parents on the children they are grooming to become evangelical foot soldiers in their army of Christ.
One of the most striking moments in the documentary for me is the scene when one of the campers confesses to having a lack of faith in God. The camper, a young boy, receives nothing but jarring stares from the adults and the children when he reveals that at times he has a hard time believing in the existence of God and in the bible. This confessional ended with the young boy crying and praying profusely over his bible. At various points in the documentary, this young boy can be seen disturbingly and desperately crying out and praying to a God that he confessed he did not always believe existed. Could there have been a trans formative shift in this young boy’s faith that was not highlighted in the documentary, I suppose there could have been. However, for me the point is not whether this young boy genuinely came to a faith in God, rather, it is with the demeanor and tone of the camp itself. Almost immediately, I became aware that this camp is not designed to nurture and dialogue with sometimes questioning young children, it is structured to tow a hard line against sin and to rapidly set apart and expose the people the camp director labels phony, wishy- washy Christians. The phony and wishy- washy Christians are those the camp director says are not prepared to fight in the army of Christ, those who question the Word of God and who frequently allow the devil to beguile them into sin. With a bottle of water in hand, the camp director calls out the phony, wishy-washy campers to come front and center have their sins washed away so that they may be fortified to fight in the army of Christ.
As a Christian, is it okay to have moments of doubts with respect to the existence of God and His Word. The answer to that question for me is yes, and as such, I find it deplorable that the “Jesus Camp” attendees are made to feel like they are enemies of God for having what are normal doubts and questions. Probably more so than adults, children tend to have an insatiable desire to question the world around them, to experiment and soak in as much of the world as they can. It is not uncommon for children (and adults) to go through many stages of exploration. The challenge for Christian parents and adults is to carefully and lovingly steer children through the Christian faith, being careful not to superimpose their beliefs onto the children. Ultimately, a genuine faith in Christ is something that happens outside of tutelage, it is a working of the spirit of God. God calls and seals those that are His to Himself. No amount of badgering or paramilitary training will quicken or secure that process. It is my hope that despite the exposure to Christianity that the “Jesus Camp” children have experienced thus far that they will one day come to a genuine belief and faith in God.

Do you see what I see

My latest Netflix documentary find is “Jesus Camp.” “Jesus Camp” is described as


“an unfiltered look at a revivalist subculture in which devout Christian youngsters are being primed to deliver the fundamentalist community’s religious and political messages. Building an evangelical army of tomorrow, the Kids on Fire summer camp in Devil’s Lake, N.D., is dedicated to deepening the preteens’ spirituality and sowing the seeds of political activism.”
Unlike some of the documentaries I’ve recently watched, I was familiar with “Jesus Camp” and could vividly recall the first time I saw the trailer for this documentary. It is a documentary that I had no desire to view, but decided I would give a chance (instant streaming via Netflix has released many movies and documentaries out of my “don’t see” closet). Approximately 10 or 15 minutes into the documentary, I knew my initial response to the trailer was correct. Before I explain why I believe that “Jesus Camp” is one of the most disturbing documentaries ever recorded to film, I should say that I identify myself as a Christian. While as of late, I haven’t been as conservative a believer as I once was, I nonetheless believe that God exists, that Jesus Christ is God incarnate and that He died on the cross, rising on the third day, defeating death and sin and that the gates of heaven are open to all of those who believe and receive Him. “Jesus Camp” is one of the most egregious distortions of Christianity that I have ever seen. From beginning to end, “Jesus Camp” bombards the viewer with a steady stream of indoctrination tactics used by camp directors, camp personnel, and parents on the children they are grooming to become evangelical foot soldiers in their army of Christ.
One of the most striking moments in the documentary for me is the scene when one of the campers confesses to having a lack of faith in God. The camper, a young boy, receives nothing but jarring stares from the adults and the children when he reveals that at times he has a hard time believing in the existence of God and in the bible. This confessional ended with the young boy crying and praying profusely over his bible. At various points in the documentary, this young boy can be seen disturbingly and desperately crying out and praying to a God that he confessed he did not always believe existed. Could there have been a trans formative shift in this young boy’s faith that was not highlighted in the documentary, I suppose there could have been. However, for me the point is not whether this young boy genuinely came to a faith in God, rather, it is with the demeanor and tone of the camp itself. Almost immediately, I became aware that this camp is not designed to nurture and dialogue with sometimes questioning young children, it is structured to tow a hard line against sin and to rapidly set apart and expose the people the camp director labels phony, wishy- washy Christians. The phony and wishy- washy Christians are those the camp director says are not prepared to fight in the army of Christ, those who question the Word of God and who frequently allow the devil to beguile them into sin. With a bottle of water in hand, the camp director calls out the phony, wishy-washy campers to come front and center have their sins washed away so that they may be fortified to fight in the army of Christ.
As a Christian, is it okay to have moments of doubts with respect to the existence of God and His Word. The answer to that question for me is yes, and as such, I find it deplorable that the “Jesus Camp” attendees are made to feel like they are enemies of God for having what are normal doubts and questions. Probably more so than adults, children tend to have an insatiable desire to question the world around them, to experiment and soak in as much of the world as they can. It is not uncommon for children (and adults) to go through many stages of exploration. The challenge for Christian parents and adults is to carefully and lovingly steer children through the Christian faith, being careful not to superimpose their beliefs onto the children. Ultimately, a genuine faith in Christ is something that happens outside of tutelage, it is a working of the spirit of God. God calls and seals those that are His to Himself. No amount of badgering or paramilitary training will quicken or secure that process. It is my hope that despite the exposure to Christianity that the “Jesus Camp” children have experienced thus far that they will one day come to a genuine belief and faith in God.

United

Last night, I saw the movie Precious and for me it lived up to all of the talk of it being gritty and alarming. What struck me almost immediately about the movie, however, was not the abuse suffered by the main protagonist, although that was very disturbing, instead it was some of the settings and characters featured throughout the movie. One particular scene that touched a nostalgic nerve for me was the first classroom scene. The chaos and lack of respect for the teacher and fellow students depicted in that scene mirrored many of my junior high school classrooms, minus the boom box that blared in the back of my English class. To say that I was not the model junior high school student is an understatement at best. I was a terror who mouthed off to students, teachers, deans and security guards. There was no shortage of kids like me at my junior high school for poverty and dysfunction have a way of creating little monsters who wreck havoc on just about everyone who crosses their path. At that time, my main little monster in crime was a girl named Lauren. Lauren and I were quite the exhibitionist in seventh grade. We were two twelve year old girls hell bent on disrupting as much of the status quo we could, up for just about anything at anytime. One of our regularly scheduled stunts included rollerskating down the hallways of our junior high school.

I don’t recall whose idea it was, but there we were, two rambunctious pre-teen girls furiously skating up and down the hallways of our junior school. Every now and then, we’d peeped into classrooms making eye contact with some of our friends laughing and throwing obscene gestures at teachers without them detecting us. It was during one of these peep sessions that a dean screamed at us from the other end of the hallway. Lauren and I quickly bolted down into one of the staircases, clanking clumsily down the steps with our skates. Unbeknownst to us, the dean had radioed for assistance and Lauren and I were apprehended before we could skate off to freedom. That day, our rollerskating stunt ended up where many of our others stunts did, the dean’s office. It did not phase Lauren or me that we ended up in the dean’s office. After all, we had become kindred spirits in all things rabble- rousing and this latest trip to the dean’s office was not going to alter that bond.

As close as Lauren and I were at school, I never went to Lauren’s apartment. The closest I came to Lauren’s apartment were the days when I’d wait for her outside of her apartment door, the days I’d hear a tirade of verbal abuse being hurled at Lauren by her mother. On occasion, Lauren would come to my apartment when my parents weren’t there and we’d talk about almost everything under the sun, except for her mother. The only thing Lauren ever told me about her mother was that she is a bitch. It was like this with most of my friends, we’d hang out, laugh, cry, scream and fight, but when it came down to parents, most of us typically stuck to one word adjectives like bitch. Looking back, I think it was too painful for us to delve into the area of our lives that made the least sense, our home life. At that point, all we knew is that we were caught in a maze of circumstances that we knew deep down wasn’t right, but that nonetheless influenced every aspect of our lives. Just like the character Precious, “Why me?” is a question we repeatedly asked ourselves to no avail. For me, it is a question that will never provide a satisfactory answer because nothing will ever erase what we have respectively experienced.

There are days when I think about Lauren and wonder if she managed to escape her mothers verbal (and most likely physical) fury. I hope that she did, I hope all of my precious friends did.

United

Last night, I saw the movie Precious and for me it lived up to all of the talk of it being gritty and alarming. What struck me almost immediately about the movie, however, was not the abuse suffered by the main protagonist, although that was very disturbing, instead it was some of the settings and characters featured throughout the movie. One particular scene that touched a nostalgic nerve for me was the first classroom scene. The chaos and lack of respect for the teacher and fellow students depicted in that scene mirrored many of my junior high school classrooms, minus the boom box that blared in the back of my English class. To say that I was not the model junior high school student is an understatement at best. I was a terror who mouthed off to students, teachers, deans and security guards. There was no shortage of kids like me at my junior high school for poverty and dysfunction have a way of creating little monsters who wreck havoc on just about everyone who crosses their path. At that time, my main little monster in crime was a girl named Lauren. Lauren and I were quite the exhibitionist in seventh grade. We were two twelve year old girls hell bent on disrupting as much of the status quo we could, up for just about anything at anytime. One of our regularly scheduled stunts included rollerskating down the hallways of our junior high school.

I don’t recall whose idea it was, but there we were, two rambunctious pre-teen girls furiously skating up and down the hallways of our junior school. Every now and then, we’d peeped into classrooms making eye contact with some of our friends laughing and throwing obscene gestures at teachers without them detecting us. It was during one of these peep sessions that a dean screamed at us from the other end of the hallway. Lauren and I quickly bolted down into one of the staircases, clanking clumsily down the steps with our skates. Unbeknownst to us, the dean had radioed for assistance and Lauren and I were apprehended before we could skate off to freedom. That day, our rollerskating stunt ended up where many of our others stunts did, the dean’s office. It did not phase Lauren or me that we ended up in the dean’s office. After all, we had become kindred spirits in all things rabble- rousing and this latest trip to the dean’s office was not going to alter that bond.

As close as Lauren and I were at school, I never went to Lauren’s apartment. The closest I came to Lauren’s apartment were the days when I’d wait for her outside of her apartment door, the days I’d hear a tirade of verbal abuse being hurled at Lauren by her mother. On occasion, Lauren would come to my apartment when my parents weren’t there and we’d talk about almost everything under the sun, except for her mother. The only thing Lauren ever told me about her mother was that she is a bitch. It was like this with most of my friends, we’d hang out, laugh, cry, scream and fight, but when it came down to parents, most of us typically stuck to one word adjectives like bitch. Looking back, I think it was too painful for us to delve into the area of our lives that made the least sense, our home life. At that point, all we knew is that we were caught in a maze of circumstances that we knew deep down wasn’t right, but that nonetheless influenced every aspect of our lives. Just like the character Precious, “Why me?” is a question we repeatedly asked ourselves to no avail. For me, it is a question that will never provide a satisfactory answer because nothing will ever erase what we have respectively experienced.

There are days when I think about Lauren and wonder if she managed to escape her mothers verbal (and most likely physical) fury. I hope that she did, I hope all of my precious friends did.

Out with the old, in with the new

Traditionally, Christmas is a time that has engendered images of families huddled close next to a tree, unwrapping presents and sipping on non- alcoholic eggnog. The family at the center of this traditional holiday bliss includes a mother, a father, usually two children, and perhaps a dog and/or a cat. Over the years, this picture of traditional bliss has changed to reveal a family where many of the parents are divorced, children are the product of different partners, and no one is home to take care of the dog or cat.

In an article titled “Single by Choice,” Melissa Kanes details her experience treading through the non-traditional world of artificial insemination. Like many women, Melissa dreamed of meeting “Mr. Right,” marrying and settling down in a home filled with children. By the age of 34, fearing that her biological clock was running out of steam, Melissa opted for what she called “Plan B,” artificial insemination. The home Melissa dreamed of sharing with a husband and children, were now substituted with two children conceived via artificial insemination and a nanny. Of this non-traditional choice, Melissa states that at times it has been challenging, but that she is satisfied with her choice and plans on telling her children the truth about their origins. To her eldest child, Ariana, Melissa has said “Mommy bought some seeds from a doctor to make a baby because I wanted you so much.” I wonder, will this explanation be sufficient for Ariana as she grows more into herself, developing into a distinct human being with genetic characteristics from two family branches. Will there come a time when Ariana sets out on a quest to discover how the second branch of her family tree meshes with the first branch?

Some may balk at my questioning whether this type of family construct will cause harm to the children it produces, arguing that all that is required is love, not a home where there is full knowledge of family origin. However, I think it would be remiss not to question the possible effects this type of household may have on children. For in our rush to redefine the traditional family landscape, we often ignore or belittle the effect this attempt at redesign will play in the lives of the children it houses. To say that the distinct role played by a mother or a father is inconsequential is to ignore the power of these roles in not only the lives of children but in society as well. Each role serves a function and a purpose that should not only be acknowledged, but that should also be respected. As a society, we cannot expect that a continual disintegration of the traditional family construct will not leave a footprint, nor should we close our eyes to the reality of how this disintegration has played itself out thus far in the world. While we should not be afraid to rock some traditional boats, there are some that should cause us to pause and mindfully reflect on the effect this rocking will have outside of ourselves.

Out with the old, in with the new

Traditionally, Christmas is a time that has engendered images of families huddled close next to a tree, unwrapping presents and sipping on non- alcoholic eggnog. The family at the center of this traditional holiday bliss includes a mother, a father, usually two children, and perhaps a dog and/or a cat. Over the years, this picture of traditional bliss has changed to reveal a family where many of the parents are divorced, children are the product of different partners, and no one is home to take care of the dog or cat.

In an article titled “Single by Choice,” Melissa Kanes details her experience treading through the non-traditional world of artificial insemination. Like many women, Melissa dreamed of meeting “Mr. Right,” marrying and settling down in a home filled with children. By the age of 34, fearing that her biological clock was running out of steam, Melissa opted for what she called “Plan B,” artificial insemination. The home Melissa dreamed of sharing with a husband and children, were now substituted with two children conceived via artificial insemination and a nanny. Of this non-traditional choice, Melissa states that at times it has been challenging, but that she is satisfied with her choice and plans on telling her children the truth about their origins. To her eldest child, Ariana, Melissa has said “Mommy bought some seeds from a doctor to make a baby because I wanted you so much.” I wonder, will this explanation be sufficient for Ariana as she grows more into herself, developing into a distinct human being with genetic characteristics from two family branches. Will there come a time when Ariana sets out on a quest to discover how the second branch of her family tree meshes with the first branch?

Some may balk at my questioning whether this type of family construct will cause harm to the children it produces, arguing that all that is required is love, not a home where there is full knowledge of family origin. However, I think it would be remiss not to question the possible effects this type of household may have on children. For in our rush to redefine the traditional family landscape, we often ignore or belittle the effect this attempt at redesign will play in the lives of the children it houses. To say that the distinct role played by a mother or a father is inconsequential is to ignore the power of these roles in not only the lives of children but in society as well. Each role serves a function and a purpose that should not only be acknowledged, but that should also be respected. As a society, we cannot expect that a continual disintegration of the traditional family construct will not leave a footprint, nor should we close our eyes to the reality of how this disintegration has played itself out thus far in the world. While we should not be afraid to rock some traditional boats, there are some that should cause us to pause and mindfully reflect on the effect this rocking will have outside of ourselves.

If it’s broke, try and fix it

It has always been disconcerting for me to of learn of the news that a couple I know has filed for divorce. This past week, yet another couple I know has been added to the growing list of soon to be or already divorced friends. With the state of divorce being what it is in the world, you’d think that such news would no longer rattle me, but it does. There is an inherent sense of sadness that comes over me when I learn of the dissolution of what was vowed to be a lifetime commitment. And with each tale of divorce I come across, there is the angst of learning how divorce infiltrated my friends holy state of matrimony. Still, no news of divorce hits me harder than those where there are children involved. Although I am not a child of divorced parents, I feel a certain affinity with children who come from divorced homes. Where I was raised in an environment where there was little attachment to my parents (more so with my mother than my father), children of divorced homes must contend with the separation anxiety that follows the departure of one of their parents from the home. Likewise, my feelings of loss over a sense of familial structure and security is, I believe, similar in nature to the experience of children who must now learn how to navigate a family landscape that has been forever altered by divorce.

Challenging situations such as divorce typically bring to the forefront tried, but true, adages that, while at the time may elicit little more than a scowl and a hiss, in hindsight serve to remind us of our fragility and humanity. “Whatever doesn’t kill you will make you stronger,” is one such adage that I’ve initially balked at for its cliche sounding nature but that I have nonetheless come to appreciate as having both a bark and a bite. Life has continuously broken and scarred parts of me. Yet, despite the number of blows I’ve received, I’ve managed to get up and move past the charred pieces of my life more resilient than before life knocked me down. Time will reveal how the children of my divorced friends will fare in their effort to move past their own individual broken pieces. But that there is always a chance to rise up and move forward, of that they can be certain.