Jesus Camp Part One
Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Do you think of God as remote and judgmental, ready to swoop down and make you blind if you indulge in impure thoughts? We've got plenty of gods and goddesses here who would overlook that sort of thing, so long as no one got hurt and the furniture didn't get stained.
Readers, I've done the unthinkable. For four years I've fostered homeless kittens and bid farewell to each and every one of them. Until now. Chateau Johnson is welcoming Cat Number Three. Which, if I recall my Greek properly, makes him Gamma.
You'd have to be made of stone to resist this cat.
Today's topic: Jesus Camp.
I saw on the news the other day that a pair of filmmakers have made a documentary called Jesus Camp. It's about a camp for kids run by adults brimming to the plimsol line with good intentions. (See my interview with Satan, few posts back, to find out where that gets you.)
The young campers, who look to be about age 7-9, are strongly encouraged to be born again and to pledge to fight their whole lives to make this Christian nation bend its knees to Jesus. Apparently, warfare metaphors abound. The good tots, from (one presumes) strict Christian homes, soak up the gist and gird their little loins.
We in the Alternative Forms of Worship community might have reason to be afraid, very very afraid, of the images of tender youngsters being inculcated with such philosophy. Never mind that it bears absolutely no resemblance to the Jesus portrayed in their Book. Some very well-intentioned adults are brainwashing little kids to be Christian Soldiers, Marching as to War.
Don't apply for that Swiss citizenship yet, Wiccans. Can you believe it? When I was that age, I went to Jesus Camp. Seriously.
My best friend belonged to the local Assembly of God, then as now one of the more virulent Pentecostal sects. One summer when I was about 8 I went with her to Bible School. It was fine for the first 8 out of 10 days, if you don't count the fact that we marched in singing "Onward Christian Soldiers." Then it got way weird. The leaders started strong-arming us, speaking loudly and forcefully about Jesus's suffering for our sins. On the final night they told us to kneel and put our heads on the floor so we could be born again. Refusing this offer, as I recall, was not an option.
I remember crouching there on the floor, waiting for the well-intentioned Bible School teacher to born me again. And I remember thinking, "This is some crazy lunacy, but I'll go along with it, I don't want to make waves."
Yes, I knew the meaning of the word "lunacy" at age 8. Next month you'll find out why.
So some gray-haired lady prayed fervently over me, and I said yes, I'll take Jesus, and I was born again. Another Model C rolling down the Assembly of God line.
Now get this. About a week after Bible School ended, the two Bible School teachers showed up at my house. My dad wasn't home. My mom let the ladies in. The ladies told her how much they loved me, what a sweet little girl I was, did I go to church? And my mom said yes, First Christian. And they said, well, that's a fine church we're sure, but is it firm on doctrine? Because (Friend X)'s family offered to take me to church with her at the Assembly of God every Sunday! What a fabulous offer! Then they prayed with my mom to help her decide.
If Dad had been home he'd have politely but emphatically shown them the door. Not that he didn't go to church every Sunday. He just didn't buy the total package, only bits and pieces.
But Mom was always in favor of instilling discipline of all kinds, so she dispatched me to the Assembly of God every Sunday. Over Dad's objections.
I lasted about 9 months, during which I heard and saw some of the most bizarre behavior the Faulknerian South can dole out. At the end of 9 months I concluded that these people were unacceptable as role models. I told Dad about the ladies convulsing in the aisles, could I possibly return to First Christian? He said absolutely. And that was that.
My guess is that, in any crowd of kids, there are going to be some that buy the total package, some that pick and choose, some who buy it and then lose it later, and some who just play along to make Mommy happy.
The fire and brimstone tactics certainly backfired in my case, although I didn't exit the mainstream Christian fold for many years thereafter. The point is, Jesus Campers probably follow the normal bell curve, while the rest of the nation looks on, bewildered.
If you're old enough to remember burning all your Beatles stuff because John said they were more famous than God, you'll know what I mean.
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS