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Jazeera does 'Jesus Camp'

by the stormy present Fri Jun 15th, 2007 at 10:01:24 AM EST

Yesterday, I happened to flip on Al-Jazeera -- the Arabic station, not the English one -- and find that it was broadcasting the the chilling brainwashing documentary Jesus Camp.  (Official film site here.)

My initial reaction included this:

You know, it's maybe weirder for me seeing it in this context than it would be seeing it in a US movie theater or a "western" TV channel.

Oh my.  Now this lady's talking about "our enemies" and how "they're focusing on the kids."  And then she starts talking about Muslims and "training camps in Palestine", so it's pretty sure who she thinks the "enemies" are.


For those who haven't seen Jesus Camp, it's really disturbing.  Here's some more of my initial reaction:

And now she's talking to a kid, who says, "I got saved at 5."  He's talking about the age, not the hour.  "I just felt there was more to life."

At 5.

Oh, now they're onto Evolution.

I'm not sure I can watch this anymore.

Migeru asked:

So, what effect is this going to have on Arabs' views of the US?

My response:

I actually suspect it might help.  Freakishly.

Migeru asked me to expand on that, and then Jerome asked me to make my response into a diary, so here it is, with a couple of minor format edits:

OK, I have a tiny window of time now.  Let's see what I can do.  I apologize if this response is a little rambling, but I haven't really had time to organize my thoughts on it, and we're really just talking about a gut reaction to the film, and the circumstances under which I started to watch it.

On reflection, I'm not sure I was right when I said it would "help."  By focusing on the most obsessively religious Americans, it might change some people's perceptions of the US as a godless, craven wasteland full of morally corrupt atheists.  But it also might reinforce those perceptions, since so many of the subjects of the film (evangelical Christians) seem to feel the same way.

But that was another thing that struck me -- the rather astonishing similarities between the sort of "Christian jihad" approach that the happy-clappy-campers take (and set of beliefs that accompanies it) to the mentality of the serious Muslim fundamentalists.  (Note that I'm not saying "extremists" -- I connect that word to the use or advocacy of violence, but I saw little indication of actual incitement to violence in the brief part of the documentary that I had time to watch.)

I'm not the only one who noticed that.  Wiki has this quote from the infamous Ted Haggard:  

"Secularists are hoping that evangelical Christians and radicalized Muslims are essentially the same, which is why they will love this film."

The designation of the "enemy" is the same as well -- heathens and unbelievers, including secularist forces within their own societies.  By their definitions, "the enemy" includes basically everyone but them.

So this is the thing that I think I was reacting to when I said it might "help."  I think it was a gut response to what I suspect would be the familiarity of the scenes I was seeing.  The rhetoric is similar -- these are people who see themselves as the "true" adherents of their faith, whichever faith they adhere to; they believe that others (fellow Christians or fellow Muslims) who fail to share their particular approach are corrupt or fallen or somehow "less holy."  Not real Christians or Muslims.  At one point, one of the kids in the film comments that she thinks God wouldn't want to go to a mainstream church, one that wasn't like hers.

In Islam, that has a name:  takfir.  In Christianity, it's perhaps more insidious, but probably more common.

The film also includes several scenes with a liberal Christian radio talk show host (I think he's on Air America) who criticizes the approach that the Christian jihadists are taking, and who says they bear little resemblance to the type of Chrisitanity he believes in, in that they lack compassion and forgiveness and commitment to (or concern about) social justice.

I hear this from progressive and moderate Muslims here as well.  I don't tell them that it sounds to me like takfir in reverse -- they're saying that the extremists are not "real" Muslims, an idea that doesn't sit entirely well with me for a few reasons, but that's probably for another post.

I think that a lot of moderate Muslims (and Arabs) might recognize the tension between those two sets of views -- the fundamentalist and the progressive, both laying claim to their faith -- because I have seen over and over the same tension and same dynamic in this society.

So I think some secular and progressive Arabs and Muslims might be deeply disturbed (as I was) by what they saw in that documentary, partly because it might seem so familiar, because they are facing the same battle (and too often losing), and because of everything that those twin battles (and the signs of who is winning them) might imply for the future of our shared world.

So this is what I mean -- it's all familiar.  Familiar and frightening.  And I don't know if the fact that both religions (and the societies they are inextricably linked to) are locked in internal ideological battles for the soul of their respective faiths... I don't know whether people here would find that idea comforting (in that it holds out some hope that the fundamentalists will not triumph, in either case) or deeply depressing (because it seems that at this point, the fundamentalists are winning).

Probably more than you wanted to know.

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So, uh, there it is.  For what it's worth.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Fri Jun 15th, 2007 at 10:02:26 AM EST
Here's the "our enemies" clip:

It's even more chilling than I thought the first time around.  Here's what she says:

It's no wonder, with that kind of intense training and discipling, that those young people are ready to kill themselves for the cause of Islam.

I want to see young people who are as committed to the cause of Jesus Christ as the young people are to the cause of Islam.

Oh yes, that's just what the world needs.  Little Christian suicide bombers?

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Fri Jun 15th, 2007 at 10:48:46 AM EST
Can this woman be locked up for apology of terrorism?

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jun 15th, 2007 at 10:52:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, the odds are unlikely.  This is why Bush tried to pack the federal prosecutors' offices -- to make sure they'd only be prosecuting the right kinds of thought crimes.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Fri Jun 15th, 2007 at 11:01:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Does anyone know what 'discipling' means?
by Gag Halfrunt on Fri Jun 15th, 2007 at 11:32:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I thought it was a typo for "disciplining". But maybe it means "making into a disciple".

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jun 15th, 2007 at 11:41:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, this Christian university offers a "Master of Arts in Discipling Ministries":

The mission of the M.A. in Discipling Ministries program is to prepare graduate students to equip, teach, mentor and lead others to grow and serve as disciples of Jesus Christ.

It sounds like jargon (somebody decided there needed to be a verb from "disciple") and it probably means something like evanglization and ministry.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Fri Jun 15th, 2007 at 11:44:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I thought that it must be something like that, although at first I just read it as 'discipline'.

It's interesting that this woman uses a jargon word from her own community to describe her enemies' activities. She recognises that they're doing the same thing, instead of taking a 'they brainwash their kids, we simply teach the Word of God' stance. Indeed, she seems to be saying that Christians should emulate the zeal of Islamic fundamentalists.

I'm reminded of a news report I saw about Hindu fundamentalists in India, who have apparently taken to issuing fatwas and running madrassas (as in dozens of boys in a room reciting religious texts in a language they don't understand).

by Gag Halfrunt on Fri Jun 15th, 2007 at 11:59:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It does seem at several points that she admires the radical Islamists.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Fri Jun 15th, 2007 at 12:14:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Here are some more clips:

"We can't have hypocrites in the Army of God."  (Note:  "Army of God" is maybe not what I'd call myself if I wanted to avoid connotations of terrorism.)

"We've got to stand up and take back the land." -- This is a 10-minute clip that includes the "our enemies" bit, and something about how President Bush has "really brought some credibility to the Christian faith."

This is Rachel, junior evengelist.

Homeschooling science, the Genesis way.  This one made me think of Vaclav Klaus....

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Fri Jun 15th, 2007 at 11:30:48 AM EST
On the Army of God reference.

During the 2004 Republican convention one of the speakers went on a riff about being the "party of God" needles I'm sure the Arabic translation of that was a shock to them.

حزب الله

That's hezb (party) allah (god), maybe it's just simpler to spell it out as Hizbollah.  >:-O

Like I said, I'm sure the Arabic translation was a suprise.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sun Jun 17th, 2007 at 03:24:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
little indication of actual incitement to violence

did you miss the bit with the kids doing a dance number dressed in camo and warpaint?

it's a great movie, well worth sitting through, and while it's scary it's also insightful -- I mean that the film makers treated their scary subjects (like the charismatic youth minister who runs Jesus Camp) with respect and a degree of understanding.  what struck me was the Dionysian element of the revival meeting and the deliberate stoking of a kind of hysteria among the children -- reminiscent of Altamont, or the witch trials, but also I think symptomatic of people's yearning for autarky, spontaneity, celebration and emotional engagement in the "joyless economy" of mass produced consumerism.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Sun Jun 17th, 2007 at 06:08:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I did see the war-dance number, and it was freaky.  Martial, yes.  Incitement?  Hmmm, not sure.  Certainly not a discouragement, though.

There was this militarism everywhere -- the "army of God," the war paint, the camo, the little girl steeling herself for her soul-saving ambush of the hapless pink-t-shirted woman at the bowling alley....

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sun Jun 17th, 2007 at 06:59:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is militarism everywhere in the US these days.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jun 17th, 2007 at 07:06:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
For those with access to Al Jazeera English, they'll be airing the film six times next week.  If you feel like watching a horror flick.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Fri Jun 15th, 2007 at 11:47:23 AM EST
But, in English, they are not reaching their 'core' audience. Are they airing on the Arabic language channel, with subtitles (or dubbed)?

The point is that extremist fundamentalists are a key challenge for moving forward to a better future, as they want to move backwards.

And, well, that is not limited to Christian and Islamic, but also Jewish, Hindu, etc extremist fundamentalists.

In the mid-1990s, America had a wave of attention to the domestic terrorists (the "militias"), who were fascist right-wing / racist / and often radical fundamentalists.  But, in America's 15 minute attention span, they fell off most people's radar scope.

Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart. NOW!!!

by a siegel (siegeadATgmailIGNORETHISdotPLEASEcom) on Sat Jun 16th, 2007 at 07:04:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, as the diary says, I saw it on the Arabic channel this past week.  It was subtitled in Arabic, which is the way most Western films are handled here.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sat Jun 16th, 2007 at 07:17:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Heard this (approximate) quote a few years back: "Europeans think America is too religious, Arabs think it isn't religious enough."

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Fri Jun 15th, 2007 at 01:38:38 PM EST
I think it's probably safe to say that most Arabs, and most Muslims, don't really care how religious America is.  That's not the point -- the point is the effect they percieve the US as having on their societies.

I've been trying to think of how best to express it, and just couldn't come up with a good way, but then I found this post, which I think actually puts it quite well, in the course of actually talking about something else:

well, I think some Muslims have the view they are oppressed and others do not. Many religious Muslims will argue that Muslims are in a weak state due to the abandonment of religion and the secularization of Muslim societies. Some attribute this partially to the influence of western secular humanism and the falling out of colonialism and some do not. Other Muslims feel that the aspirations of the political desires of the Muslim World are being stifled by US and other Western support for corrupt regimes and nations with perceived  hostility towards Muslims.

Incidentally, the author gave that answer in response to a question by a man who turned out to be a covert operative for an anti-Muslim organization, who had come to his Northern Virginia mosque pretending to convert to Islam, and who then wrote an "expose" of the mosque's "extremism" that, according to members of the mosque, was entirely fabricated.  The story is connected to Insight Magazine, the same one that pushed the whole "Hillary's-people-know-Obama-went-to-a-madrassa" BS story.  And the group apparently also advocates making it a felony to be Muslim, punishable by 20 years in prison.  Nice.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sat Jun 16th, 2007 at 06:44:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, I forgot to include the hat tip.  And this is the link to the stuff about the 20-year prison sentence.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sat Jun 16th, 2007 at 06:45:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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