I'm halfway through Jesus Camp and I need to make a few comments before I can stomach the rest.
There's a wonderful scene where the camp organizers wander around the camp before it opens, blessing things. They bless the pews and the general space, but then they start to bless the wiring, and the computers, saying that they know how the devil likes to sabotage their works. They're basically exorcising electrical equipment...equipment that crashes for EVERYBODY. Even Al Gore.
This, and the extreme conviction of the people in the film, clued me in to something that hadn't ocurred to me before: evangelical belief systems are so attractive because they exist outside of doubt, they provide certainty, they make sense of the world. When computers crash, it's because the devil is trying to sabotage the people who use them, which makes whatever they're doing seem so much more important...it's so important that the devil wants to stop it! When one of their children die, these people can explain it as God's will...it isn't cruel or random or in any way meaningless, it happens because it's part of a plan.
I think it's important and natural for people to search for explanations for things, because the world is a scary and confusing place sometimes. So in a sense I admire their conviction, though I strongly believe that they don't realize how PROUD they are in their convictions. These people aren't humble at all.
Anyway, this should be benevolent except for four things. First their belief system is contrary to fact...these people should be SEARCHING for the truth, not just sitting in a manufactured "truth bubble" that permits no further seeking or revision. There's nothing scary or empty about searching for facts, but these people don't seem to believe that.
Secondly it's based strongly around the ideas of guilt and suffering. Humbleness and delayed-gratification are, I believe, parts of a positive belief foundation...but guilt and suffering are NOT positive. They get you nowhere unless they're intermediate stages to further growth or understanding. To watch these Jesus Camp kids crying and rolling on the floor because the teacher suspects some of them are harboring sin...holy cow, that's cruel and twisted, you ugly camp counsellor f*ck. I see her doing that and all her good works are wiped away. If there's a devil it's people like her.
The third problem I see is the need to convert others to their cause. Again there is something noble and benevolent at the ROOT of conversion -- if you believe that somebody needs your help, you should probably consider helping them -- but *I* don't need help from these people, and I sure as hell don't want them writing the laws that I live under. We have a right to refuse help, especially when we see basic flaws in the help being offered. If I have a cut on my leg and some quack doctor decides I need an amputation, that doctor is NOT doing a good thing.
The fourth problem is their emphasis on fear as a control mechanism. As usual there is a grain of goodness to this because kids need to be taught to fear dangerous things. But when the dangerous thing is an imaginary devil that sabotages powerpoint presentations you start sounding like the mother from Sibyl.
So I see good and bad elements to all this. It must take extraordinary time and patience to homeschool a child, and I get the sense that these parents really DO want what's best for their children. I'm sure they LOVE their children. But when they convince their children that their basic human desires and curiosities are sins that they'll BURN IN HELL FOR, I'm sorry: you're bad and twisted.