At the Nashville Film Festival, I saw a number of documentaries on Christianity or their interaction with the world: Pussycat Preacher, At the Death House Door, Prophets Rising, and Join Us. There is also another recent documentary I’ve seen twice (CBS and the Biography Channel) – Jesus Camp. Given that I love movies, I want to take some time to talk about what I thought of these movies and how they portray believers and how non-believers might view them.
I didn’t get this up in time for you to see it on IFC, but check their schedule periodically. Hopefully it will air again. It is now playing on Comcast OnDemand. This documentary is why documentaries should be made and seen.
Yes, it has a point of view. The filmmakers are opposed to the death penalty but – BUT – they let the voice of Rev. Pickett shine through. His honesty about where he had been and where he is now, based on experience, is heart wrenching. Rev. Pickett was the prison chaplain at a TX prison with a very active death chamber. He was present at many executions, including one he truly believed was an innocent man. He went from supporting the death penalty to actively opposing it over the course of many years. He would spend the day of the execution with them, talking, praying and being there for them.
How this relates to faith in Christ: Rev. Pickett did not talk about what happened at the prison to his wife or children. He only saw a counselor a couple of times (after the innocent man was executed – he nearly quit). Where do you turn when? He would put his thoughts onto audio tapes (the real treasure of this movie; they are being documented for posterity by the Innocence Project) and to God. Where does the strength to meet 90+ men and walk with them into the death chamber come from? It’s more than duty or a responsibility to perform a job. It can’t come from a man. I can’t imagine the images buried in his head.
I just don’t what to make of a movie like Jesus Camp (or the similar movie The Lord’s Bootcamp, profiled further down the page). Part of me want to believe that they are doing something right yet another part of me is very disturbed to see children pledging allegiance to a Christian flag and to the Bible. They send their children out to talk to people and ‘witness’ and ‘win souls for the Lord.’ At the end, one young lady walks up to a group of old men sitting in the park:
Girl: If you were to die today, where would you go
Girl: Are you sure?
Girl walks away and mumbles as she crosses the street ‘they are probably Muslims.’
They say they aren’t teaching them a political agenda but talking to cardboard cut-outs of President Bush, wearing LIFE tape over their mouths and praying outside the Supreme Court is rather political to me.
This is out on DVD and available on Netflix. It was made by the same folks who made Missionary Positions (about XXXchurch.com).
Ministries like XXXchurch, JCs Girls, and Hookers for Jesus, are extreme forms of evangelism. The danger with such ministries in that they attract alot of media attention is: are they doing it for God’s glory or man’s? In meeting Heather Vetch from JCs Girls, I believe she is truly appointed to reach out to strippers and show them God’s love, grace, and the way to forgiveness and out of a destructive lifestyle.
Now, my problem with the movie is their statement “we are here to show that you can be a Christian and still be sexy.” In what context? Sexy for your spouse – by all means! But there is a point, I believe, where that can/does affect one’s witness to the world. Can you espouse a belief in Christ that requires chastity until marriage when your girls are nearly hanging out for the whole world to see?
Nashville Scene article that I’m pretty sure is the basis for the documentary. The movie itself is fair, even to the point of being favorable (I don’t recall any direct criticisms of those profiled). The article is also fair, presenting both sides. I would take Professor Volney Gay’s criticism as a reminder that we as believers need to test the spirits – take what we see and hear and run to the Word of God to compare it.
I know I’m guilty of blindly accepting what I hear and see, assuming that if it is from a pastor or teacher, it is true. This can lead to believing some very wrong things.
The film showed a bit of one of Sandy’s prophetic activation services. I could feel the spirit moving. It made me tired in just the few minutes on screen. I couldn’t imagine what it felt like in person.
How can reasonably intelligent people get sucked into a cult? This movie explores how and its very real affects. After abuse by a spiritual leader, they have since had trouble re-connecting with a faith community. That is the real tragedy. There are good, authentic, loving churches out there, full of people who love Jesus and want to serve with love and grace, and those abused by a ‘church’ will view all people with a serious amount of distrust. With pretty good reason. How can you trust again after dealing with a leader that hurt you, lied to you, stole from you, told you to hurt your children (that still baffles me – what mom or dad would allow that to happen.. and the guilt afterward of what you put your family through… failing to defend your wife, failing to defend your children).
And they leave to go back on the “mission field”, likely never to face any earthly justice. To rinse/repeat.
This is a movie about the Teen Missions organization. There is a marked contrast in the behavior of the two different missions groups profiled. One went to Africa to work with children in an AIDS orphanage (their parents died of AIDS) and brought shoes, washed their feet. That is probably some of the first real contact these children had in a long time. Seeing that… being Jesus’ hands and feet to the poorest of the poor… humbling oneself to serve… that was good to see.
The second group went to the Iowa State Fair and set up a booth and targeted teenagers with the “would ya like to take a survey?” approach. “Got another one.” as if God is keeping count of how many people you’ve led to Him and using that in your favor… especially when there is an undercurrent of holier-than-thou-ness. Like Jesus Camp, it was disturbing on many different levels.