“Jesus Camp”: Turning Kids into Christian Soldiers

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(Washington, D.C.) – On this Sunday’s “State of Belief,” The Interfaith Alliance Foundation’s show on Air America Radio, Rev. Welton Gaddy takes a look at the new film “Jesus Camp,” a documentary about an evangelical Christian summer camp for children in Devils Lake, North Dakota. 


But this is no ordinary Bible camp – here, campers perform spiritual war dances and learn how to bless a cardboard cut out of President Bush. The mission of this camp is to teach kids to become dedicated Christian soldiers in “God’s army.” The film’s directors, Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, join Welton to discuss the film, which is now playing in New York and will be released nationwide later this fall.

Welton considers the implications of the film with Mike Papantonio, co-host of the Air America Radio show, Ring of Fire.  Papantonio concludes that the camp crosses the dangerous line between religious education and political indoctrination.  “When you look at everything going on in this administration, you have to ask, ‘How can the leaders of this camp be telling those kids that President Bush is God’s anointed savior for our country?,’” he says.


In his “Preaching to the Choir” segment, Welton observes, “Knowing the difference between indoctrination and education of young people is crucial, especially in the realms of religion and politics.  The results can vary as widely and dramatically as a person who grows up to live as the puppet of a particular religious ideology – at the greatest extreme, becoming a suicide bomber – or a person who develops a capacity for critical thinking that appreciates questions as well as answers and refuses to place faith in conflict with honest inquiry any more than with personal compassion.”


Plus, Welton highlights a more pluralistic summer camp, the Interfaith Alliance’s own LEADD camp.  The week-long program, which stands for Leadership Education Advancing Democracy and Diversity, empowers high school students to become informed and engaged citizens in our religiously diverse nation.  Welton states, “I want to argue vociferously for a form of religious education aimed at the development of a mature person who can think and act for herself or himself about religion, a young person who sees religious actions not as some form of warrior behavior, but as evidence of responsible engagement with and in a civil society.”