“Education” vs “Training”…

So, I finally watched “Jesus Camp” this weekend with Mom and Brooke, the latter of which had already seen it and subsequently shown it to the high school Sunday school class at church (heh…). The movie, for those that don’t know, is a documentary beginning in the spring in the general area of Lee’s Summit, MO (near Kansas City, of course) as kids there (ranging from ages 6-12) prepare to go off to summer camp in North Dakota; the kids then go to the camp, and then return. The camp is run by a Pentecostal minister that is preaching to them for the week. It’s close to 1.5 hrs long. Essentially, the movie is about how the evangelical movement in America is affecting the young children involved.

The neat thing about the movie is that it’s told solely from the perspective of the kids and the camp director, along with a sort of “counterpoint” presented through an evangelical radio host (that later interviews the camp director). The film makers say nothing in the movie, but allow the kids, parents and other figures to do all the talking. The people in the film speak for themselves, leaving little room for interpretation by the viewer.

Well, the thing is…because of this fact, you know that these people really believe what they’re saying, and it provides some cause for concern. The camp director is interviewed frequently throughout the film talking about “training” these kids. She constantly refers to it as “training,” and mentions multiple times how “people in other religions” start “training” their kids from the age of 3 to do everything and anything for their beliefs, including strapping a bomb to themselves. She literally talks about how “we Christians” need to start “training” our kids in a similar way.

Now, as my Mom so perceptively noticed, many of the kids depicted in this movie seemed to be brainwashed. Not playing with toys at the age of 9. Not playing video games. Not watching MTV. They were instead going up to a few old African American guys in the park asking if they knew “where they were going after they die.” They said heaven. The 9 year old girl said “are you sure?” They said “yes.” As she walked away with her mullet-donned accomplice (seriously…watch that video…), she says “I think they’re Muslim.”

I guess it’s concerning because, as the camp director says, these are the next generation of voters in our country. I know (or hope?) that this is an isolated group of evangelicals and that this is not how most of them go about things, but I have to wonder if their childhood isn’t being corrupted for something Jesus didn’t intend?

Perhaps I’d feel differently if they were talking about “education” rather than “training.” That word really has the connotation of preparing for a battle or war.

I don’t think I like where this is going.

9 thoughts on ““Education” vs “Training”…”

  1. The evangelical movement is a paradox, as I see it. I really don’t think that their theology is all that crazy, it’s just that they have this sort of militant glossed over feeling about them that no matter what everything they know could never be changed. I really think they fall onto the other side of Christianity from people who seem to just go about the business of making other people think they’re Christian. This side just wants to not be so afraid of dying and like the company they are in to know they are church going but don’t really seem to love God wholeheartedly. Then you have this other side who really think that wholeheartedly means to submit unquestionably to the whims of what our society/culture have us believe the bible means. ie- We’re made from dust? Surely from some special dust that God added water to and sculpted us from– God has to be in our little box and could not have possibly made us, literally from dust, through some scientific process that is complex and beautiful and has many themes from the bible latent in its acceptance.

    I think the magic lies somewhere in between these two extremes of Christianity. Questioning is a powerful evidence of faith. Of course, I also think you should do and live in a way that you are wholly convinced is of God. It matters where your heart is, right?

  2. the good news here being that evalengetical lunatic children are a significant minority. Even I was an apologist when I was 10. I, of course, fall into the “child of Christian parents” camp, instead of “Christian child” camp, so take that for what it is.

  3. I think, Nathan and Stu, that my main problem with it is that these kids aren’t being taught about critical thinking, and I wonder if those that aren’t critically thinking about their faith are more likely to reject their faith later on. Those who are taught to _think_ about what they believe, in my opinion, may be more likely to integrate new information and edit/remove old information from what they believe. Those who are _not_ taught to think about it from a young age don’t know how to modify what they know, and thus group it all together and assume that when/if one part is disproved, all the rest of it is as well.

    I guess I’m saying that I wouldn’t care nearly as much about these kids believing what they believe if I had the impression that their parents had given them a _choice_. Otherwise, it may as well be brainwashing…

  4. Honest question: Do you know of any kids who were raised with a Christian upbringing who were also taught to think critically about their faith, other than yourself? Is that even possilble with younger kids? The only kids I know who taught to think about what they were actively being taught in their church were Unitarian.

  5. Once, they let me be a youth director- and I had kids that were 6 and kids that were 17. It was challenging, but my most memorable day was talking to them about believing what people told them. They all thought of themselves as owning their own faith- but simple questions like, “what fruit was eaten at the garden of eden?” or, “how many wisemen were there?” really struck them when they were challenged to own up to their answers and find, in the bible, what they had always held true. It opens up a critique in their mind of all the even more important things they have learned. One of them asked if people were just lying to them about that stuff, and the best answer I had was just that they kind of were, but they don’t really know that they are because they have also been lied to. Watching them just blossom with questions after that day really just shows me that thinking and questioning is so much better than just glossed over, passed down, misunderstood belief in a cultural legend surrounding a real truth.

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