"(PG-13) Two and a half stars

I’ll keep this short, as I prattled on too long about The Departed and have used up most of my space. Jesus Camp is a documentary by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady that follows Becky Fischer, a Pentecostal children’s minister training youngsters to believe the way she feels God wants them to believe. Whether you view her techniques as spirited instruction or brainwashing bordering on child abuse will likely depend on your belief system.

Either way, I wish the filmmakers had not included a moralizing radio talk show host to tell us how awful he believes the right wing Evangelical movement to be. The film would have packed more punch without his yammering.

Jesus Camp contains images ranging from silly to shocking. Watching Fisher, a woman quite thick around the middle, berating “fat and lazy” Christians who “don’t want to give up their evening meal, who don’t want to fast” is funny in a sad sort of way. Watching children shout and sob at her annual “Kids on Fire” summer camp in Devil’s Lake, N.D., while she urges them to “Take these prophecies and do what the Apostle Paul said, and make war with them!” is downright scary.

Fisher has seen the finished documentary, by the way, and approves of it. Such is her security in the righteousness of her beliefs.

Whatever you make of it all, bear in mind that 30 million people identify themselves with the groups like those presented in this documentary. They are organized, they are politically active, they are very conservative and they can swing an election.

If Jesus Camp simply presented the crusading Christians without editorializing, I’d recommend the film. What a shame they chose to hammer their beliefs at us the same way Fisher hammers hers at the children.

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