We just finished watching the documentary Jesus Camp (because those are the kinds of movies we get from Netflix. We have weird taste in movies- most of them are serious relationship dramas or social commentaries or independent films or something. Why? I don't know. We are eclectic).
It was intense. If you didn't follow the link above, it's basically a documentary about a Pentecostal woman who runs a children's ministry (and some of the families who participate). I had such a visceral reaction to so much in this film - and while I know that it wasn't created objectively, it doesn't seem like the makers have really had to try to present a negative representation of the ministry, since the leaders of the ministry do it well enough by themselves.
I am very uncomfortable with many aspects of the Pentecostal faith, and it largely stems from how emotionally driven it seems. While I do believe in some of the same "spiritual gifts" they cling to (e.g., speaking in tongues), I believe they are put into practice wrongly, especially in environments like those portrayed in "Jesus Camp." The very chaos and frenzy during times of worship, even with these very small children is frightening to me. The documentary showed children weeping and rocking during preaching, and yet I can't believe that a 3 year old child can truly grasp the concepts being described by the minister. To hear the children interviewed about their faith reveals how little they understand and how much they spout back grand sayings and ideas. Even the portions of the film taken in the homes of the families who homeschool shout forth the reality of the parents' unfounded and uneducated ideas about the public school system, their deeply entrenched fears about the "world," reveal the shaky foundations of their faith and theology.
In addition to the emotional focus in place of than true understanding and belief, I am very uncomfortable with the political focus and indoctrination with the church body and in particular, the children. I know many people underestimate children's knowledge, and yet, I think wisdom and discernment should be utilized when discussing the sin and darkness in the world. The undercurrent of the teachings are all incredibly political, which is startling and confusing to me. Essentially they preach hate and overthrow of the government (one scene with children using hammers to smash mugs with the word "government" printed on the side all during an emotional frenzy) and yet basically worshiping Bush (another scene with a cardboard cutout of Bush in front of the kids and everyone laying hands on him praying for the choice of the new Supreme Court judge). There was almost always an underlying political agenda in each message or session, be it pro-life, creationism, or many others. They are trying to "raise an army" and freely admit it; they have camo-colored face paints and camouflage clothes and their children's programs are violent - slashing sticks along to the tunes of Carmen's music.
It was an excellent movie. I hated and liked it at the same time. I recommend it, but not for the faint of heart. The narrator at the beginning and end of the movie is also a bit crazy in the direction of the left and I don't agree with all of his assessments of the activities of the fundamentalist right, but the movie is worth seeing, pondering, feeling uncomfortable about, and ultimately knowing that the Lord is in control with his sovereign plan, even for these tiny children being raised in a scary and sad environment.