c. 2006 Religion News Service
(UNDATED) Reaction to the new documentary “Jesus Camp” has been heated, to say the least. The film, which profiles evangelical Pastor Becky Fischer and her “Kids on Fire” summer camp in Devil’s Lake, N.D., shows children wailing in prayer, protesting abortion and praying in front of a cardboard cut-out of President Bush.
Fischer predicts in the film that this display of religious fervor will have liberals “shaking in their boots.” Indeed, they have been.
Fischer, who has been a children’s pastor for 15 years, never expected the film to generate such controversy. From her home office in Bismarck, N.D., the 55-year-old spoke about the film, the need to “reclaim America for Christ” and why the world has become “unglued” over “Jesus Camp.”
Q: What do you think of the film?
A: I have mixed feelings. I don’t like the political side of it, but I like what they did with the kids.
Q: Do you think it’s an accurate portrayal of what you’re all about?
A: It’s merely a glimpse of what we do, a snapshot in a photograph album.
Q: What are some of the reactions you’ve gotten from viewers?
A: It’s all over the map _ everything from people hating me and wishing ill upon me, all the way to the other extreme, where people will sit in the theater and weep because they’re so touched. It’s almost like people are seeing two different movies.
Q: Why do you think people have totally divergent reactions?
A: There is a segment of the population that is just looking for more proof that Christians are weird and radical. This (movie) feeds right into their preconceived ideas. The Christians who see it see something completely different. They understand the language, they understand what we’re doing. They can relate.
Q: In the movie, you compare “Kids on Fire” to militant Palestinian training camps. That scares some people.
A: You only hear a few sentences of an entire conversation. If you could hear the context, you would hear me say that there is a real crisis in the Christian church. Seventy percent of our kids, by the time they become teenagers, leave the church and never return.
My comment, in context, was that, while on the other side of the ocean, those people are doing something with their children, so that by the time their kids become teenagers, they’re ready to die for their religion, our kids are leaving the church like rats on a sinking ship.
Q: But in the movie, the kids do proclaim their willingness to die for God. Some wear military fatigues and carry wooden swords. How is that so different?
A: It’s extremely different. The Christian message is a message of love, not of hate. It’s not a message of kill yourself and see how many other people you can kill at the same time. It’s a message that you lay your life down to save the life of another.
Those children in the camouflage suits were at a prayer conference. They were being taught to be what we call “prayer warriors.” Their weapon is the word of God.
Q: In the movie, you see children sobbing and wailing and looking emotionally overwhelmed, even distressed. Some people would ask, what have you done to these children?
A: We didn’t do anything to them. Those children are praying for others, weeping for children who have been abused. They’re weeping for children who sleep on the streets. They’re weeping for our nation.
Q: Targeting children as young as 6, are you not brainwashing them?
A: “Brainwashing” is a loaded word. Any time you repeat a message over and over to somebody, until they believe what you’re saying, it’s brainwashing.
Our school systems brainwash our kids every day. They brainwash them on evolution, on a number of issues. But they don’t call it brainwashing; they call it good education. It becomes brainwashing if you don’t agree with what the person is telling you.
Q: You say you want to “reclaim America for Christ” and “stand up and take back the land.” What do you mean?
A: We are tired of the liberal agenda rewriting history, trying to tell us that this nation was not founded on God, trying to rip the 10 Commandments out of our schools and courthouses, trying to keep our kids from singing Christmas carols.
We’re not trying to force anybody to be Christian. What we want is just the right to be Christian in a Christian nation.
Q: If you had your way, would you replace our democracy with a Christian theocracy?
A: My understanding of theocracy is that we declare a certain religion and force everybody to be a part of that religion. I do not believe that America should be a theocracy. Christianity is based on choice. That’s why we have a battle going on, because people have a free will.
Q: Do believe in the separation of church and state?
A: I don’t believe there should be separation of church and state. Here’s what people don’t understand: “Separation of church and state” is not in the Constitution. The separation of church and state is a phrase that came out of a letter by Thomas Jefferson.
This is really getting way off the subject of the movie.
Q: I’m bringing it up because the radio host in the movie _ the opposing viewpoint in the film _ charges that you are doing something wrong by mingling politics and religion.
A: How can you not? If you believe that the shedding of innocent blood is wrong, such as in abortion, how do you not take that to the polls?
Q: I want to read you something from a New York Times review of the movie and get your take on it: “Mao Zedong’s Red Guards turned the world’s most populous country inside out. Nowadays the possibility of a right-wing Christian American version of what happened in China no longer seems entirely far-fetched.” Is this comparison justified? Are you gearing up for a revolution?
A: This is fear-mongering. You know what I find so amazing about this whole thing? “Jesus Camp” didn’t cause hatred of Christianity; “Jesus Camp” unearthed how far-spread it is.
Christians are the most meek and mild people on the face of the Earth. Their message is love. Their message is peace. Yet the world is coming unglued over “Jesus Camp.” They see us as the biggest threat to worldwide peace.
Q: Do you think Christians will “take back the land” in your lifetime?
A: It’s hard to say. God can do anything. I think we’re gaining ground. That’s what’s scaring them.
Q: When you say “them,” do you mean non-Christians or non-evangelicals?
Q: As a charismatic Christian, you believe in miracles. Tell me about one that’s happened to you recently.
A: This film is a miracle. Someone spoke to me one time and said they felt in their heart that I was going to be on national TV someday, and look what’s happened. (Laughs.) Here I am.
KRE/PH END BROWN
Editors: To obtain a photo of Becky Fischer, go to the RNS Web site at https://religionnews.com. On the lower right, click on “photos,” then search for “Fischer.”