Is The Religious Extremism of Jesus Camp Alive and Well in 2014?

The seminal 2006 documentary Jesus Camp is a look into the religious education of children in the born-again Christian community during the mid 2000s, but it's also an important portrayal of a fearful and confusing time for the nation. Watching the documentary in 2014, it comes across almost like a dramatic mockumentary — a cartoonish vision of what happens when religion gets co-opted by politics. But the thing is: it's all true.

Filmed at the Lakewood Bible Camp in the throes of the W. Bush years, Jesus Camp, while ostensibly all about getting kids into God, is almost as political as it is religious. Indoctrinating young voters on political issues seems almost as important as getting them to "kick it for Christ," and the tactics used to brainwash the kids are shocking — one might expect a lot of praying, but praying to a cardboard cutout to the then-president?

During filming in 2005 and 2006, there was genuine concern among many that neo-conservative Christian values would take over the entire country. Now, it's eight years later and Fred Phelps is dead, Barack Obama is president, and things have changed, a lot. But there's still a lot to learn from the religious fervor of less than a decade ago.

What do you think, are we better off now than we were in 2006, or are we simply putting off a fight about the separation between church and state? Is there a danger in religious indoctrination, or is this a case of live and let live?

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Ned Hepburn
is a writer and editor (Esquire Magazine, Time Out New York, Vice, Interview, National Geographic) currently living in Brooklyn.

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