February 13, 2007

By their fruits, you will know them

Matthew, 16:15-23
Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.
You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?
So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.
A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.
Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
So then, you will know them by their fruits.
Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.
Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?'
And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.

Hot on the heels of Vegan Mama’s Jesus freaks blog, I watched Jesus Camp myself, and was left rarely speechless. Expecting to laugh a little at Those Wacky Christians, I experienced a full range of dark emotions: horror, fear, sadness, pity and anger.

As the film began, we watch children in a bizarre “prophecy” dance routine that made me have an acid flashback to watching the Nazi scene from Pink Floyd’s The Wall. (Remember those terrifying crossed hammers, and that boots-marching beat?) As this Oscar Award nominated documentary, directed by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady unfolded, I waited for a laughable moment that never came. Instead, I was treated to an inside glimpse of the psychological indoctrination of very young children into a cult-like Evangelical mindset that more closely mirrored a KKK rally than the Gospel message.

Jesus Camp, an evangelical kiddy camp hosted in the township of Devil’s Lake, North Dakota is the nightmare creation of Becky Fischer – a morbidly obese children’s minister well versed in the tactics of shaping young minds and, unflinching in her methodology, unapologetically strives to whip these kids into ecstatic fervor before inducing them with political and racist ideology.

I actually wept when I saw these children, tears streaming down their own faces, fear stricken at the threats of being sent to eternal damnation if the did not hand their vulnerable souls over to these adults who “knew better.”

Luckily, I was able to feel an uplifting bit of schadenfreude when the film turned to the now disgraced pastor and former head of the Nat’l Assoc. of Evangelicals, Ted Haggard. Watching him talk to children about homosexuality — priceless. Unfortunately, that glee in knowing what happened to old Ted after this film was made was not enough to stave off the anger and outrage of the following scenes. The children are brought to Washington D.C. during the Alito nomination hearings to demonstrate in the name of “Life.” At one point, a clearly disturbed little girl approaches several African-American men in a park across from the senate building and asks “if you were to die right now, do you know where you’d be going?”
An older gentleman responds, “yes.”
The girl, desperate for a chance to proselytize presses on with “are you SURE?”
Again, he responds stoically, “yes.”
She walks away, quipping, “I think they were Muslims.”

At this point, the horror has set in. You can no longer deny that a large segment of our country is living this way, and that they are a political force to be reckoned with. A zealous army of fundamentalist true-believers for the Republican Party, ready to engage in the culture wars and win, by any means necessary.

All of this made me wonder: did I miss my calling as a christo-pagan to rejoin the Catholic Church in hopes of doing my part to dismantle the patriarchy? Should I have joined these wingnuts instead, with the hopes of exposing their hypocrisy and total abandonment of Jesus’ message?

I can only pray that these children are not all permanently lost. That they will grow up and have an epiphany, that God’s grace will TRULY descend upon them, not in a glossiola fit, but in a showering of love and compassion for their fellow travelers. But they have been damaged in their faith, and I can only hope that it is not to late for them to see the light. As a kid, I myself had a pretty strong bullshit dectetor, particularly for religious fallacy, and one scene in the movie showed some that these children, on some level, see the devil is indeed wearing sheep’s clothing. At the point in the movie where the minister declares that if Harry Potter were alive today, he would have been executed, many children looked around with knowing glances at each other, searching for confirmation in each others eyes that they were indeed being lied to. I will walk away from this movie holding onto that small grain of hope, for all of our sakes.

Mark 10:14 Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.
Mt 18:6 But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
Mt 18:10 Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.


vegan.mama said...

I warned you that you'd be horrified... the scary thing is anywhere from 25-40% of the population of the U.S. considers themselves to be fundamentalist Christians. Watch With God On Our Side if you want to be scared about the adults who are leading these children and taken aback at how their involvement in politics is largely under the radar.

Valency said...

Churches scare the hell outta me.