The camp featured in the controversial documentary Jesus Camp will shut down due to negative response from the film, according to camp director Becky Fischer.
The documentary spotlights Kids on Fire, a charismatic summer camp where evangelical children are recruited to "God's army." The children who attend the camp are shown shaking and sobbing over abortion and praying over a cardboard cutout of President Bush.
The camp takes place at a rented facility in Devil's Lake, N.D., but Fischer said the owners of the campground asked her not to return after vandals caused $1,500 in damage in October.
Fischer told CT she would have made the decision to shut the camp regardless, because she is worried about people who would attend simply to disrupt the camp. Since the film's release, she has been bombarded with e-mails and phone calls.
"Christians go after me because of doctrinal issues, whereas the world is going after me because they think I'm another Adolf Hitler," she said. "They're accusing me of raising a Christian jihad."
Fischer has been accused of brainwashing and indoctrination because of the emotional way in which the children respond in the film.
"We have the idea that indoctrination is like the Chinese shoving bamboo up your fingernails or dropping a drop of water on your head until you say, 'Okay, Buddha is god,'" Fischer said. "Indoctrination is nothing more than teaching someone else a set of ideas."
Instead of holding another camp, Fischer said she plans to hold more conferences on the East and West Coasts. However, she won't be changing her message or how she presents it.
"If I change, no one would come," Fischer said. "If you want average, ordinary, Sunday school stuff, that's not who we are. I want kids who are passionate."
The movie takes a political angle and attempts to show a revival in which evangelical Christians encourage youth to take leadership roles in advocating the causes of the movement, such as abortion.
"When [the movie] took the political twist, no one was more shocked than I was, because what we were doing wasn't political," Fischer said. "To me, it was good Christianity."
Fischer has no apologies or regrets about the film. "This is my scream to the church," she says. "You've got to pay attention to what you're doing or not doing to the kids, because we're losing them from the church."
Former president of the National Association of Evangelicals Ted Haggard is shown in the film speaking to New Life Church in Colorado Springs.
"We don't have to debate about what we should think about homosexual activity," Haggard tells the congregation. "It's written in the Bible."
Haggard then looks at the camera and says jokingly: "I think I know what you did last night." The crowd laughs. "If you send me a thousand dollars, I won't tell your wife," He later says, smiling, "If you use any of this, I'll sue you."
After its release, Haggard publicly denounced the documentary, saying that the film poorly misrepresents Evangelicalism.
"You can expect to learn as much about the Catholic Church from Nacho Libre as you can learn about evangelicalism from Jesus Camp," Haggard stated on his Web site before the posting was taken down. "This movie manipulates facts like a Michael Moore film and works the camera like The Blair Witch Project. It's one more 'documentary' that seems to miss the point intentionally."
Many other camp directors also feel that the documentary does not accurately portray Christian camps.
"It shows the Midwest evangelicals are comparative to Muslim camps in the Middle East as if we're training up warriors to battle the world," said Andy Braner, director of the Christian camp Kanakuk Colorado. "It gives people a bad taste of what camps are all about."
Like many other camp directors, however, Braner has not felt many repercussions from the film.
"It hasn't been the bombshell I thought it would be when it first came out." "I just hope that's not the brand of evangelicals we're portraying to the nations."
The Christian Camp and Conference Association released a statement saying the approach and methods Fischer uses in the films are not similar to mainstream Christian camping.
"We feel very strongly that the movie doesn't represent what Christian camps have been for decades," CCCA President Bob Kobielush told CT.
Kobielush said he has talked with camp directors about the documentary but said the directors have not received much response from parents or media outlets.
"We prepared for the scenario that this would have a pervasive impact, but we haven't seen it yet," he said. "While there was concern on our part, we genuinely feel what Christian camps have been for decades will outdistance and be justification enough."
Copyright © 2006 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
Reuters last week ran a related story, "Evangelical camp, shown in 'Jesus Camp,' discontinued."
CT Movies last week noted: Jesus Camp Shuts Down.
Becky Fischer approved of the film's portrayal of evangelicals, in an article written before the camp was shut down.
There are many reviews and commentaries about the movie online. Here are a few:
Brainwashed in the Blood? As a Pentecostal, I'm not too thrilled with the way kids from my denomination are depicted in Jesus Camp. Matter of fact, this new documentary ticks me offfor a number of reasons. (Rich Tatum, Christianity Today Movies)
Christianity Today Movies did not review this film, but rounded up what other critics are saying.
God Fearing Evangelical (by Books and Culture's John Wilson, The New York Times)
Children's Boot Camp for the Culture Wars (The New York Times)
Negative Publicity Is the New Hot Hype (The New York Times)
Jesus Camp: Praiseworthy (The Washington Post)
Tongues of Fire (The Washington Post)
Putting Their Faith in the Audience (The Washington Post)
Let's Stop Stereotyping Evangelicals (The Washington Post)
Jesus Camp (Film Threat)
Viewpoint: See 'Jesus Camp,' and then judge it (Pensacola News Journal)
Jesus Camp: Kids used for Christianity (The Aspen Times)
Jesus Camp leans to the left (The Grand Rapids Press)
Jesus Camp for Kids (The Conservative Voice)
The directors of Jesus Camp have also been answering questions about their movie and the response to it.
On Fire at Jesus Camp A new documentary depicts charismatic kids who are articulate and take faith seriously. But have they been "indoctrinated"? Is it a fair representation of evangelicals? Or too political? We asked the directors. (Christianity Today Movies)
Defending Jesus Camp: An Interview with Director Rachel Grady at Beliefnet.com
Discussing Jesus Camp is a transcript of viewers' questions and Heidi Ewing's responses about Jesus Camp (The Washington Post)