Sunday, April 15, 2007

an inconvenient Jesus

Brian and I watched Jesus Camp yesterday afternoon. I don't know how to tell you guys this, but I was a little underwhelmed by it. I mean, it was very well-done, and interesting, and all of that. But after the hype I was expecting - what? Ammo workshops, maybe? Or something like it. Instead, they showed indoctrination of children into the fundamental Pentacostal movement. Honestly, it was not news to me. I lived in that world for a little while. Literally and figuratively - The movie takes place largely in Lee's Summit, Missouri. Brian and I spent most of December 2005 driving from Gardner to Lee's Summit (both are a part of metropolitan Kansas City), considering a job at a church there. The first twenty minutes of the movie I kept saying, "Are you sure they didn't film this at the prayer room? Are you SURE?" Have you guys seen it? What did you think about it? I will say that if you watch it and think, "What were Brian and Stephanie THINKING?", keep in mind that we are not currently a part of a Pentecostal church, and that was an intentional decision. I'm probably most comfortable as a closet charismatic. In all things, at all times, I believe that God is big big big, and while charismatic experiences can be powerful, they are not the only way to worship or be in the presence of God. So while some of their principles make sense to me, it's the application that gets iffy.

Iffy, indeed.

So last night we watched An Inconvenient Truth, better known as The Al Gore Movie, with our neighbors. Like many people in the area, our neighbors grew up going to church, but haven't been back since they left home. Watching the two movies back to back was really interesting. It led us to this question: When did being a Christian become associated with all of these extraneous things? Why is it that because I'm a Christian, I should be against acting to slow global warming? Why should I be against the separation of church and state? Why should I be against science being taught in school?

How did the evangelical church get so blind-sided, as to make following Jesus about evolution and gay rights? This isn't the example of the Jesus I know and love from the Bible. The Jesus from the Bible was a radical, who cared more about the guy standing in front of him than about making a political point. How did the conservative church get so far away from that, from Jesus? What happened to forgiveness and mercy and compassion and loving our neighbor?


Heather said...

I have not seen either movie, but I have wondered the same thing that you wrote about, in your second paragraph. B/c I am a Christian, I must also be A, B and C. You don't want me to assume things about you b/c you are a Science Teacher, Stay-At-Home-Mom, Working Mother, Stripper, insert career or lifestyle choice here... So, please don't assume things about me b/c I am a Christian or a Minister's wife.

And that is my soapbox for today. I probably should take this to my own blog.

Nick said...

I haven't seen Jesus Camp yet but it's on my list. I have seen Inconvenient Truth, and not only do I echo your sentiments, but I don't understand what about being Christians or "conservatives" makes people blind and dumb to the fact that there is scientific data behind global warming. Instead it's just a "liberal propaganda campaign". What happened to being good stewards of God's creation?

mary said...

We watched Jesus Camp and the Dixie Chick's Shut up and Sing documentary back to back one night... an even more interesting combination I think considering the political backdrop in both movies.

I thought it was particularly interesting in Jesus Camp that they kept playing the radio pieces about the Supreme Court nominations. I loved the scenary shots - reminded me of home (and of the ones in friday night lights). I've been there too - I've been to Brownsville & in so many other churches like the one portrayed in this movie so I guess it wasn't shocking to me either in some ways. But in other ways it is interesting to think about one someone would think never having seen it for themselves. Looks a little bit like brainwashing. But so do a lot of other things. It didn't blow me away or anything, but I'm glad I saw it.

However, I do have to say that I cannot recommed Shut Up & Sing enough. It was awesome.
As was the "Al Gore" movie - I think its amazing what he's been doing since he's been out of office, a few votes in 2000 really could've changed our country.

Mercy's Maid said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mercy's Maid said...

I found you through a link at madame rubies. This is a great post. I've never heard of Jesus Camp, but I've got to rent An Inconvenient Truth because I saw a blog the other day where someone was speaking vehemently about Al Gore and how anti-Christian he was. I was confused as to how global warming became a religious issue.

I have a conservative Christian background, but the more ridiculousness I see about issues like this, the more moderate I get.

Jason said...

Really good post Stephanie...I just spent a long weekend in Asheville Nc and it is so wonderful to be in such a open city ...and in the South no less!!

Mary said...

PS (Still curious what you think of Gravity/Love - if you don't have this album, you should get it immediately)

Liz said...

Steph - you know that I can't agree with you more. I haven't seen either of those movies yet, but I have been wanting to see An Inconvient Truth.

I don't like being told that because I am a Christian, I have to act, look, think, live a certain way, or in a certain place, or attend a certain church. No. The only thing I have to do is follow Jesus, to exude His love and honor His Word. Those are the only musts and have-tos, the way I see it. I don't like that the "Conservative Southern Church" has gotten so far away from community involvement that they have fogotten about Grace. And I don't like that the "Liberal Northern Church" has gotten so seeped in political and equality issues that they forget that they are branded, not by their fair-trade coffee and organic meals, but by the name of Christ.

Right, so...who's foot haven't I stepped on yet? Move on up...

ps - Mary, I agree with you that I can't say enough good about Shut up and Sing!! Wow!! And Jason, I don't know you, but I was in Asheville this past weekend too!!! I love that place!! :)

Lane said...

I was neither under nor over whelmed by Jesus Camp. I was simply whelmed. I felt like the most interesting things in the movie are not that interesting to most people. The whole political part of the movie felt very forced. One of my professors has written on children and religion. He's got good thoughts. Here's one:

"Children signal the vulnerability and contingency of a particular religious world and of religion itself...On no other occasion except perhaps in times of physical pain and loss is the fictive quality of religion-the fact that religious meanings are made and sustained by humans-so intimately and unavoidably apprehended as when adults attempt to realize the meaningfulness of their religious worlds in their children."

I think that quote pretty adequately sums up why Jesus Camp was not a great movie. Of course Pentecostalism looks ridiculous in that movie. Any religion whether its Christian or Hindu looks a little ridiculous when an adult is conveying the meaning of that religion to a child. It's the nature of the thing. Of course, if the movie had only been about how religion is transfered to children, nobody but religious studies majors would want to go see it and that, I guarantee would not bring in a big take at the box office.

As far as the second part of your post, I would have to say that I don't think its ever easy, or possible, to just be a follower of Jesus, no matter if your from the Bible thumping south or the free trade coffee north or anywhere else. I think we see this most clearly in the New Testament church actually. You couldn't just be a Christian. The distinction over whether you were a Jewish Christian or a Gentile Christian was what Paul's whole ministry was about. Even then, whatever qualifying word that came before Christian was important and it remains so today.

I'm personally withholding a judgment on whether thats good or bad, just wanted to point out that it is.