Jesus Camp

Since 2001, the Kids on Fire summer camp in Devils Lake, N.D., has gathered thousands of innocent American children and burned them alive. No wait, sorry—that “on fire” refers to the religious experience, available to kids as young as six, of being conscripted for God’s army. “The Devil goes after the young, those who can not fend for themselves,” pastor Becky Fischer says, and filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady somehow restrain an accusation of calling the kettle black. But the intended response from the intended audience for Jesus Camp probably is “Holy shit!” Overwhelmed with guilt and eager to please their catastrophizing elders, the youngsters must steel themselves for battle against domestic abortionists and international terrorists, whose training methods Fisher openly evokes. With Air America talk show host Mike Papantonio standing in for all politely affronted secularists in the same way Fisher stands in for all evangelical fundamentalists, the film feels contextually abridged and therefore not entirely authoritative. But it’s an arresting snapshot. Fischer knows we’ll anticipate the adults these kids become; the question is whether their early immolation portends a serious flaming out. In any case, she’s right that we should pray for them.

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