Some years ago in an e-mail list about Humanism, I made the argument that religion indoctrinates children to carry on the faith to the next generation. At that time, some on the list took me to task for using the word “indoctrinate” as if the parents and religious leaders were doing something criminal. I think religious training is child abuse just like when parents try to maintain that Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny are real. The recent documentary “Jesus Camp” proves my point if in a more hyper way.
Jesus Camp is a documentary about the “Kids On Fire School of Ministry,” a charismatic Christian summer camp located just outside Devils Lake, North Dakota and run by Becky Fischer and her ministry, Kids in Ministry International. The camp was started in 2001. The film focuses on three children who attended the camp in the summer of 2005—Levi, Rachael, and Tory (Victoria). The film cuts between footage of the camp and a children’s prayer conference held just prior to the camp at Christ Triumphant Church, a large charismatic church in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, a suburb of Kansas City.
All three children are very devout Christians. Levi, who has ambitions of being a pastor, has already preached several sermons at his father’s church, Rock of Ages Church in St. Robert, Missouri. He is home schooled (as are many of the campers), and learns physical science from a book that reconciles young-earth creationism with “scientific” principles. He is also taught that global warming is a fictional political speculation, and that the earth’s temperature has only risen by 0.6 °F. Levi preaches a sermon at the camp in which he declares that his generation is key to Jesus’s return. Rachael, who also attends Levi’s church (her father is assistant pastor), is seen praying over a bowling ball during a game early in the film, and frequently passes Christian tracts (including some by Jack Chick) to people she meets. She does not think highly of non-charismatic churches (or “dead churches,” as she calls them), feeling they aren’t “churches that God likes to go to.” Tory is a member of the children’s praise dance team at Christ Triumphant Church. She frequently dances to Christian heavy metal music, and feels uncomfortable about “dancing for the flesh.” She also does not think highly of Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan.
One of the points made during a later portion of the film is that Fischer admits the need to “teach” the children since “our enemies teach theirs”.
I also had a good chuckle when the mother of one of the kids in the film says to the child “See how science doesn’t prove anything?”
I said, “Really?”
The main issue with the adults in the film was equating their politics and faith. Getting children to cry out to Jesus to end abortion without going into the details of the debate is just wrong in my view.
The problem with this indoctrination is that it’s indoctrination. You can tell children anything and they will automatically believe you and as pointed out in the film by their teens those teachings will stay with them for the rest of their lives. That’s why some people still think Evolution is only a view point and not a scientific fact.
Then when they do find out not every thing they were told in their youth was true – they can become angry or rebellious.
Parents should be able to educate their children how they wish but not when that teaching makes them stupid or makes them a later burden on society. Don’t take sides. Give the children all the info out there and let them decide what they want when they get old enough to make those decisions.
If my kids come to me and ask me about religion, I’m not going to tell them they will die if they find out or they aren’t good kids if they are religious.