Jesus Camp: One Edit Away From Propaganda?

Jesus Camp: One Edit Away From Propaganda?

That two unbelieving directors don’t understand Pentecostals — or Evangelicals — isn’t surprising. That they produced a film rife with ignorance and bias is also unsurprising. But that ordinary people who can normally tie their shoes and avoid bad movies like Gigli don’t see how insufferably biased this documentary is … well, that’s just depressing.

Julie R. NeidlingerNow the admirably snarky and witty artist, Julie R. Neidlinger (a fellow Pentecostal who’s actually been to the A/G campgrounds featured in the film), has blessed us with a post that might help. Julie has been guest-commenting, blogging here and there, and strenuously trading comments, attempting to defuse the snap judgments and shallow rhetoric inspired by the film and its trailer. And, frankly, she’s about fed up.

So, having seen the film at last, she returns to our unfavorite subject one final time, neither to debunk the film nor to defend the subjects. Instead, she just wants to provoke a little thought about the nature of documentaries themselves.

It’s a good read, and it’s really worth the two or three minutes it’ll take you to enjoy it. Julie’s very bright, and a more efficient writer than I am — she writes more in three snappy sentences than I say in a page of rambling. Check her out.

As good writers do, she saves her best for last (and I’m not above stealing it to use right here because it makes the rest of this post look good):

A documentary is merely one clever edit from being propaganda. That’s all it takes. I’m not sure what Jesus Camp was about, but it wasn’t about Jesus, and it wasn’t about a camp. It seemed more like the traditional pre-November 2nd documentary that I am growing weary of.

Great post, Julie, and thanks for all your support.

Read: “One edit away,” by Julie R. Neidlinger via Lone Prairie Art Works


[tags]BlogRodent, jesus-camp, pentecostal, charismatic, julie-r-neidlinger, lone-prairie-art-works, north-dakota, religion, faith, christianity, liberal-bias, documentary, documentary-films, film-review, heidi-ewing, rachel-grady, magnolia, controversy, evangelical, evangelicalism, charismania, pentecostalism[/tags]

8 thoughts on “Jesus Camp: One Edit Away From Propaganda?

  1. Oengus Moonbones

    Julie: It seemed more like the traditional pre-November 2nd documentary that I am growing weary of.

    That’s why I coined the neologism “docu-agitprop”. Now the word agitprop has, according to the Random House Dictionary, an interesting origin:

    1930–35 — “Russ Agitpróp“, originally for “Agitatsiónno-propagandístskiÄ­ otdél Agitation” Propaganda Section (of the Central Committee, or a local committee, of the Communist Party); subsequently the head of such a section, or in compound names of political education organs, as in
    agitpropbrigáda“, etc.

    Given Michael Moore’s fabulous success in the genre of “documentaries”, it’s not surprising that other film makers would join his merry agitpropbrigade. To scare Liberal Democratic voters into turning out this November and voting is possibly one reason why this “documentary” was produced. The point being “yikes, look at the brainwashed freaks who are voting for Bushitler—we’ve got to stop them before it’s too late”. Another possible reason is to reinforce the “Fundie=Jihadi” meme that is very prevalent among certain segments of the Kossack community: to wit, your next door neighbor who goes to church and reads his Bible is a brainwashed robot who’s out to cut your throat.

  2. Chris L. Rice

    Does it matter that evangelicalism or Pentecostalism is not new? Does it matter that no evangelical preacher I’ve heard of denies the relevance of the Sermon on the Mount? Does it matter that “peace-making” is not incompatible with defending the weak and oppressed? Does it matter that I’ve never once heard of George Bush being referred to as a “holy man” either in church, in private conversation, or in all the pages of Christianity Today? No, no, no, and no. Yet, Papantonio says it, thus it must be, he begins and ever remains unchallenged in the context of this film.

    I would beg to differ that Pentecostals don’t a) deny the relevance of the Sermon on the Mount and b)refer to George W. Bush as a holy man.

    In practice I would press you to tell me that most Assembly of God members in particular use the Sermon on the Mount regularly to encourage involvement in social issues. That’s not the AG praxis for the Sermon on the Mount. Further I’d press you to tell me that most AoGers do not consider George Bush to be the most godly president this nation has ever had.

    I believe in the initial physical evidence of the Holy Spirit. I was raised neo-Pentecostal/charismatic, but what I encountered among many Pentecostals was a straight-up hardline hatred for anything smacking of “liberalism.” You may find left leaning Pentecostals but they are not the mainstream. I would press you to show me that they are.

  3. Rich Post author

    Hi, Chris, thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    I don’t know what your point about the Assemblies of God has to do with anything I’ve written. I say “Evangelicals,” and you riposte with “Assemblies of God.”

    Evangelicals in general and Pentecostals in particular may not emphasize social justice to the degree you would wish, but that’s the beauty of the Body. Nobody can emphasize everything to the same degree. Here the hand is reaching out, there the heart is beating, and over yonder is the mouth.

    For every liberal theologian who castigates a particular sect in the Evangelical church for not hewing to his view of social justice strongly enough, I’m confident we could find a similar “Sermon on the Mount” sect failing to heed Christ’s mandate to go and make disciples.

    My point was and is that Papantonoio painted Evangelicals with a broad stroke. I am saying that I have never heard an Evangelical preacher denigrate the importance of the Sermon on the Mount. You, on the other hand, are arguing from silence. I’m sure if you look hard enough you can find me an Evangelical who would happily elide the Beattitudes from the Bible, but I haven’t met that preacher yet.

    Meanwhile, consider these words from the Assemblies of God’s Enrichment Journal, their quarterly leadership journal for ministers:

    The significant growth of the Assemblies of God worldwide has seen a large portion of that increase take place among the most destitute and vulnerable of the two-thirds world. We have truly been a church of the poor, among the poor, and our local churches worldwide have been a massive network of grassroots efforts caring for the needs of people in their local contexts. The Assemblies of God has not shunned responsibility to the poor. The late J. Philip Hogan succinctly stated our position:

    “We (have) invested millions of dollars and devoted countless lives to feed starving people, clothe poor people, shelter homeless people, educate children, train disadvantaged adults, and provide medical care for the physically ill of all ages. We have always generously responded to the pleas of foreign nations after natural disasters — hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes. As the director of this Fellowship’s overseas efforts, I want the world to know that the reason we do these things is because Jesus Christ did them. The reason we love people is because Jesus Christ loved them. We have no other motive than that. Our relief efforts are inseparable from our gospel witness.”

    –From Enrichment Journal, “Compassion Rooted in the Gospel That Transforms

    You wrote:

    I’d press you to tell me that most AoGers do not consider George Bush to be the most godly president this nation has ever had.

    I don’t know what most A/G adherents think about Bush. I’d be happy to see your research data, but I haven’t seen any polls. Have you?

    And even if so, so what? Being considered the “most godly president” is no great shakes. It’s like being the most virtuous mafioso.

    And when did this equate to being “annointed a holy man” (Papantonio’s words)?

    Chris, you’re simply arguing points I never tried to make.



  4. Oengus Moonbones

    Greetings, Rich.

    I answered some of Mr. Rice’s points, but even though I thought I clicked the Submit button, what I wrote didn’t seem to “take”. But it’s just as well. I was rather trenchant, being the feisty old fart that I am. But you, on the other hand, were all sweetness and light and rose petals. Thanks.

  5. Oengus Moonbones

    Somewhere, Rich, I mentioned that these things come in waves. I don’t think it’s entirely just coincidence that this docu-agitprop came out shortly before the November elections, just as several book publishers are pushing hard some anti-xtian books. May I refer you to this article by Michael Medved.

    I don’t necessarily endorse everything Medved says, but I think he is correct on one essential point remains: to wit, there is a definite segment of the population (which tends to be secularist and “Liberal”, and usually Democratic) that fears and loathes xtians (especially the conservative ones), and is even terrified of them. Unfortunately, for many of this pursuasion, there is really nothing that you can say (however doused in honey and showered in rose petals it be) that will change their minds.

  6. Mike

    Can someone tell me what is propagandistic about this film? What has been misrepresented? What belief of this particular sect of Christianity has been mischaracterized? I’m sorry if you’re defensive about your religion. I’m sorry that it is so fragile that any criticism or questioning of it sends you in to a fury about the “secularists” and the “liberals.” I’ve got news for you, and all the equally defensive religious folk, God doesn’t need a bodyguard. He also doesn’t need to brainwash children. By the way, the whole praying to Bush thing is down right pagan. I’m going to go ahead and guess that these people didn’t pray to Clinton, once also a leader of this country.

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