Friday, December 08, 2006

Only Among Charismatic Evangelicals....

... could you not be fundamentally disturbed at hearing that the leader of an organization called "The Fire Center" sponsors an annual summer program entitled "Kids On Fire." Some readers may be familiar with this program, a summer camp which was recently the subject of a documentary called "Jesus Camp," the DVD release of which I am awaiting most eagerly. The camp was the brainchild of Pentecostal pastor Becky Fischer (of said "Fire Center") and was located, of all places, near Devils Lake, North Dakota. Before going further, I should note in fairness to Fischer and other "fiery" people involved that F.I.R.E. is actually an acronym for "Families Ignited for Revival and Evangelism," which in some ways sounds even more disturbing, since it's implying that the fathers and mothers of the children are going to be lit on fire as well. Nero would be pleased: after over a millennium and a half as the dominant religion of the West, now we're going to be doing his work for him. Or we're just going to be burning ourselves (and you can use whatever definition of "burn" that you like there). Or something. The Fire Center's webpage can be found here, and if you want their "spiritual vision" (which is Christianese for "business plan"; the two actually have very similar terminology), just click on the "About Us" tab.

This isn't a church so much as a children's ministry with some of the trappings of a family-friendly church, so we'll start with the youth, just the way church does. Indoctrination works better when you start at a younger age. Their "PowerClub" kids ministry (here) promises to explore "typical topics" like "hearing God's voice, giving prophetic words, being led by the Spirit of God, healing the sick, the blood of Jesus, intercessory prayer, radical worship, the gifts of the Spirit, missions, and so much more." The only ones on that list that don't disturb me are ones that don't sound entirely fit for teaching to six year olds, but I'm sure they know what they're doing. They add that "This is definitely not your "same old" children's ministry! Our mandate is simple--to raise up a generation that can openly display the raw power of God!" Once the kids have been Powered Up, video game style, they graduate to the "Club Ignite!" teens ministry, where "our teens are being filled with the Holy Spirit and stepping into beginning levels of the prophetic through seeing mini-visions and receiving simple words from God that have impacted and encouraged the group." Fantastic. Again, the goal is to display the "raw power of God!" I wonder how they're going to do that. Rain fire down on San Francisco? Among other things, it turns out that they wrap tiny fetus dolls in American flags and pray over them to end abortion in America (here). Isn't that nice. The last time there was a Children's Crusade, the kids were sold off into slavery. Hopefully that doesn't happen again.

Anywho, the Fire Center's leader headed up the Kids on Fire summer camp, which has some truly entertaining and disturbing video footage on the likes of YouTube. (Depending on your views of the copyright laws, I imagine you could also find some othe method of getting the film "Jesus Camp," though I don't necessarily recommend it.) Ninety minutes of chilling footage of children turned into religious zealots, twelve-year-old automatons for Christ. It's like Hamas for Jesus.

What really breaks my heart about the whole thing is that the next generation of activists is being raised "pledging allegiance to the Christian Flag" and being told that "there are two kinds of people in this world: people who love Jesus and people who don't," and believing that "we're being trained to be God's Army." It is time for an end to zealotry. If we must have movements going forth, it should be movements of people willing to think critically and challenge idiocy. Teaching your children that it is good that "Galileo gave up science for Christ" is not just asinine, it is horrifying and immoral.

Writer's postscript: I'd just about finished writing this when Shawn posted that he, too, used to be "on Fire for the Lord." I think it's time for a new organization: Christians Against Self-Immolation.


parodie said...

It's interesting that you mention Hamas, because that was my impression as well when I saw the Jesus Camp trailer - it is very much the Christian equivalent. Terrifying.

Blaisteach said...

I can't remember what's in the trailer, so this may even be what you're referring to as well, but there are a couple of points in the movie where the minister who leads the camp, Becky, explains that she believes indoctrinating children is a good idea (and she does use the word indoctrinating), and that Christians need to train children because the othoer religions are training children, too, and if they have radicals, we need radicals.

I don't think it's her idea that these children should grow up to become suicide bombers, so it is important to keep some perspective here.

(Incidentally, the Hamas's website for kids looks, on the surface of it, to be quite a funny site. Of course, I can't read Arabic and if I could it might get worse in a hurry. It's called Al Fateh, if I recall correctly, and loses a lot of its humour when you remember that it's a terrorist organization.)

Not having children myself, my wild speculative theories about how best to teach children obviously have very little value. However, I'm still pretty sure that what's going on in Jesus Camp is not the best way.

shawn said...

Christians Against Self-Immolation? Wouldn't that be Methodists and Lutherans? LOL. Honestly, when I was 'on Fire' I was involved with the Penecostal church at the time, and it seems to be a recurring theme among those that are 'evanglical', compared to the 'pragmatic' churches. I probably would be against self-immolation today. My sweaters keep me toasty enough.


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