With a Pit in My Stomach...

It's with a great pit in my stomach that I'm writing this.  We recently signed up for netflix, which we love, and my favorite thing so far are the endless documentaries that we have at our fingertips.  I'm always fascinated watching anything about the government or about biographies.  I've watched several on the FBI, the Secret Service, Special Forces, Air Force One, The White House Photographer (so great!!), Lebron James' story (also fascinating), The NFL Draft, and there are many more waiting in my instant list. 

Today, I sat down with Carter and scrolled through the list, stopping on one title that I knew would be insteresting, if not gut wrenching.  It's called "Jesus Camp" and here is the Wikipedia description of it:

Jesus Camp is a 2006 American documentary film directed by Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing about a charismatic summer camp, where children spend their summers learning and practising their "prophetic gifts" and being taught that they can "take back America for Christ."[1] According to the distributor, it "doesn't come with any prepackaged point of view" and tries to be "an honest and impartial depiction of one faction of the evangelical Christian community".[2]
Jesus Camp debuted at the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival, and was sold by A&E Indie Films to Magnolia Pictures. Several television news programs and print media articles discussed the controversy surrounding the film in 2006.
On January 23, 2007, Jesus Camp was nominated for the 2006 seventy-ninth Annual Academy Award (Oscar) for Best Documentary Feature.[3] It lost to Davis Guggenheim and Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth.

I don't know what to even say after watching it.  Have you seen it??  I have so many things running through my mind and I could probably write a book on each point, but for the sake of both of us, here are some bullet points...

  • My take so far, is that it's a horrifying thing to watch adults, specifically Church leaders, pervert and abuse the Gospel with children.  And all in the name of Jesus of course.  And it's no small sin in his eyes.  Here is what He has to say about that:  Mark 9:42, "And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would better for him to thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck."  To add to the Gospel, indicating that there are works that have to be done in order for salvation to be granted, is wrong.  It's a perversion of truth and there is a great penalty in the eyes of God.  To manipulate a child, to prey on their emotions and to brandish them with GUILT that is never from the Lord is reprehensible. 
  • It is our responsibilty as parents, to know WHO is teaching the Word to our children and WHAT they are teaching.  And I say that as a Pastor's wife.  Do not trust the words of men as TRUTH, check it and weigh it against the Bible.  That is our standard of truth.  Don't let anyone and everyone tell your child what to do and how to do it.  Check in regularly with your kids' leaders and teachers.  Ask questions, participate, talk to your kids about what they are hearing and learning.  Don't assume that someone else will raise your child for you and don't leave their spiritual training up to the Church alone.  God gave them to YOU to raise.  Be the parent.  Point them to CHRIST in all things and be wise about where you worship.  If it's not in the Gospel, don't fall for it. 
  • As the wife of someone who has given his life to love, teach, and share Christ with teenagers, and with great humility and obedience to the Word, it bums me out when all Pastor's get swept under the rug with the few who are outspoken and flat out wrong.  The crazy few do not represent the faithful many. 
  • Heaven help us if this is what the world thinks of the Church and more importantly, what they think of Jesus.  While there are some people featured in this film who said things I agreed with and whose hearts I have no right to judge, there are of course extreme examples of people who are sold out to a theology that is not rooted in scripture.  It has nothing to do with Jesus and His Word, and yet, they go around using His name to advance their agenda.  How often has history misrepresented Him and worse yet, has his own Church credited things to Him that have nothing to do with Who HE says He is.  I would imagine those are the things that must grieve His heart because they grieve mine. And yet,  Lord don't let me think I'm above doing the same thing...Keep your Word before me and help me to weigh all things in light of YOUR truth, not mine. 
Having said all of that, I am still struck by the irony of this movie and the truth of 1 Corinthians 1:18..."For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God."  Not everyone will choose to believe the Gospel and to those who don't, it's foolishness.  Much like this movie portrays Christians.  The Gospel is radically simple and it is offensive at it's core.  To believe that we were born with a sin nature, that we cannot approach a holy God because of the sin we have and that without Him, it's a problem we can't resolve is offensive.

HOWEVER, to know and believe that God did not leave us without a rescue plan, that He chose to humble himself and come to earth as both God and Man, so that he could die in our place is radical. Furthermore, to also believe that he died to take the penalty of our sin upon Him, only to raise to life after three days, conquering death and sin forever, is far too simple.  Isn't it??  No wonder our human nature always wants to add to it.  To assign some kind of "works plan" that would make it seem like we might deserve even some of it.  And yet, the radically simple part about it, is that it's available to ANYONE who is willing to believe it and take it.  No matter who you are, no matter what you've done, and with no works required to earn it, He died for YOU.  Without Jesus, we have no way to the Father.  He is the way, the truth and they life. (John 14:6).  He is the great rescuer, sent from our loving Father. 

But in order to be rescued, it does require a belief that you need rescuing.  And simply put, many people can't get past that.  So, to those who don't believe, this whole "christian" life and this entire way of thinking is foolishness.  But to those who do believe in Christ and in the truth of His word, and to those who have staked their eternity on the life, death and resurrection of Christ, it is LIFE. 

It was an eye-opening film and one you might consider watching...I will say, some of it is nauseating because it's such a distortion of truth and to see kids being manipulated to believe, is sobering. But it's a reminder that we don't have to "manipulate" people into becoming Christ followers.  He is the draw alone and He does the work of salvation anyway, not us.  So, that's my initial take on this movie, but don't just take my word for it, watch it yourself and come to your own conclusion.  I know this is a diversion from my usual recipe posts or updates on how much my kids weigh :) But it's on my mind today...

So, have you seen it??  What did you think??


Ron and Peggy said...

Thanks for the suggestion. I will check it out.

Rebecca Jo said...

You are so right with all your words here...

I did see that & just kinda aggravated because its shows like this that makes people assume ALL Christians are raising their kids in a "kooky" way of Biblical teaching. And its SCARY to think they believe so full hearted in their mission...

but love your advice here!!

I'm totally addicted to the documentaries on Netflix!!!! I am going to go search right now about the white house photographer!!!!

Darla said...

Saw that on our Netflix as well...didn't watch it after I read the description. That kind of stuff bothers me deeply. I think Brian watched it...very sad. Glad for your conviction, Stephanie!

Jennifer said...

Love Netflix, and was NOT impressed at all with the idea of "Jesus Camp". It's depressing and degrading how Hollywood rates and portrays the church today. Thank you for this post. It was an encouragement to read that other people feel the exact same as I do. God bless and thanks for sharing your heart!