‘Jesus Camp’ Debate Rages On

Pastor Says She Does Not Manipulate Children

Sept. 28 – Pastor Becky Fischer, director of an evangelical Christian summer camp featured in the controversial documentary “Jesus Camp,” told “Good Morning America” that she did not manipulate children’s emotions.

“I do not use guilt. I do not use shame or manipulation in those ways,” Fischer said. “This is a very intense moment. These children are passionate about their faith in Jesus Christ. Most people don’t really have much emotion going on in their religion at all.”

“Jesus Camp” chronicles Kids on Fire, a summer getaway for evangelical Christians nestled in Devil’s Lake, N.D.

In the film, young children are often shown weeping over abortion, speaking in tongues, and overwhelmed with emotion, sobbing for their sins.

But “Air America” radio host Mike Papantonio disagrees with the tactics used at the camp.

“I think when you look at what occurs in the camp, there is a use of guilt. There is a use of shame,” Papantonio said. “That is not directed all at Becky. I mean, what is a 5-year-old capable in ways of sin? Maybe stealing an Oreo from a cookie jar.”

Papantonio asked Fischer why children needed to be so emotional at such a young age.

“One repetitive theme is a child crying, a child laying out on the ground and crying. Well, what are they crying about?” he asked. “Why does a 5-year-old feel like it is necessary to cry about their spirituality?”

Some Christian Evangelics Akin to Foot Soldiers

Even though no one is getting hurt, Papantonio believes kids should not be indoctrinated at such a young age.

“Again, this is not directed at Becky, but you have a movement … that is part of the evangelical movement. It is not the entirety of the evangelical movement,” he said.

“At the core of the religion is, they believe, and all religions believe, that when we do good work, the grace of God is invited to work. The same is true in the way we deal with our children. We don’t have to shame them. We don’t have to make them feel guilty.”

In the film, Fischer seems to compare the Christian movement to war.

“Take these prophesies and take what the Apostle Paul said and make war with them,” she shouts at boys with war paint on their faces in the film.

“This means war.”

Fischer insisted that the use of “war” in her teachings was no cause for concern.

“All of the language that has people really upset about [is] the warred language. That is very typical in Christian communities. We are taught to fight the good fight of faith,” she said.

“The sword of the Spirit, which is the Bible, it is a whole vernacular. We are in no way, shape or form trying to get these kids to be militant and go out and strap on a bomb belt. That is nothing further from the truth. Children are far more capable of understanding things than we give them credit for.”

Still, Papantonio insisted that using language that described religion in warlike terms recalled real wars that were being fought on a religious basis all over the world.

“I will tell you what struck me about it. Today, as we sit and talk about this issue, there are children — what we call ‘child soldiers’ in Sudan — who carry AK-47s because for some reason they are emotionally led, for some reason they believe it is us against them,” he said. “They have this belief that their politics are right, and the other politics are wrong. Well, they are led that way at 5, 6, 7 years old not by reason. They are not even at the age of reason. They are not able to determine right from wrong.”

Praises for Bush, Harry Potter an ‘Enemy of God’

In “Jesus Camp,” campers are encouraged to pray to a cutout of President Bush.

“They are laying prostate on the ground in front of George Bush,” Papantonio said. “I think it is wrong to do that with any leader … To build up any leader in this notion that they are anointed by God to lead this nation. I just don’t believe that.”

In the film, Fischer says that Harry Potter is inappropriate for children and that he would be hanged in the Old Testament.

“The Old Testament is full of references of witches and sorcerers, that they are enemies of God, and that is where that comes from,” Fischer said. “The whole world is in love with Harry Potter. I have no problem. I am thrilled that the boys are finally reading books, OK, because of Harry Potter. But making heroes out of one that is an enemy of God — that is where the Christian community — not all Christians, but the people that I hang with — we have a problem with allowing our children.”

Fischer included ABC’s parent company, Disney, as part of the problem.

“Our children in the Christian faith, they have to watch the same cartoons. … Disney is one of the most blatantly witchcraft filled,” she said. “Speaking of brainwashing, our children are exposed to witchcraft on a daily basis — through all of those cartoons. You can’t watch cartoons without some kind of witchcraft [coming] up. You just take the time to watch them. … We have to counteract what they are seeing, you know?”

Disney declined to comment on Fischer’s statement about the company’s cartoons.

Papantonio said he called upon his experience as a father to guide him through the issue.

“As a father, you have an intuition as to what you want to do with your child,” he said. “Anytime you use that heavy hand, and anytime you say, this is the way it must be and I am going to stop all other possibilities, I don’t know that it is sustainable. I think as that child progresses and they learn and they gain a little bit of wisdom and world experience, they are too quick to reject what has been hammered into them.”

Papantonio said he put his faith in God that he is being a good parent.

“We simply have to have a little belief in the grace of God to the way that we parent our child and the way we raise our child,” he said.


(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
, ABC News, via KGO-TV, Sep. 28 2006, http://abclocal.go.com

Religion News Blog posted this on Friday September 29, 2006.
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