Jesus Camp, a new film about Christian camps for kids (released this month September 2006), is already stirring up a lot of controversy. Concerns and criticisms are coming from both secular and evangelical sides. New Age website Spirituality and Practice), while saying the film is important because of what it reveals, calls the movie “scary” and suggests that this accurately represents conservative Christianity. Also upset with the film is CCCA (Christian Camps & Conference Association) that responded with a statement on their website, saying:
The camp philosophy and program depicted in the recently released Jesus Camp film, a documentary by Magnolia Pictures, are not truly representative of those in most Christian camps in the United States.
Unfortunately, both Spirituality & Practice and the CCCA have misunderstood what this film really conveys.
Spirituality & Practice got it wrong when they said this film exposes what conservative Christianity really is. What is taking place in this film is not indicative of biblical Christianity, which holds to the fundamentals of the faith, and is much different than the spirituality being taught to kids at the Kids on Fire camp. What S & P fails to understand, as does much of the secular media, is that there is a large segment of Christendom (Rick Warren falls in this camp) that believes the Church can and will change the entire culture, turning the world into a Christian world before Christ returns. Such beliefs fall within the parameters of Dominionism and Reconstructionism. So in actuality, when S& P says that the film exposes a “campaign to recruit the younger generation to fight for the very soul of America” that may be an accurate assessment. Unfortunately, most leaders who are Dominionists and/or Reconstructionists are increasingly being drawn into mysticism and contemplative spirituality as a tool to implement their goals of changing the culture. And this film is further proof of this.
Jesus Camp focuses on an organization called Kids in Ministry and their Kids on Fire summer camp. Children’s pastor Becky Fischer, featured on the film, believes this generation of kids has God-given supernatural proclivities, and God is raising them up to be a Joel’s Army. In an ABC news report video clip on Kids on Fire camp, you can see kids dressed in camouflage doing what looks more like military exercises than Christian worship. One girl says they are being trained to become warriors (supposedly Christian ones). Couple this mind-set with books like The Barbarian Way that talks about beheadings and barbarians (metaphorically) and the new Left Behind video games, in which Christians are killing people, no wonder the secular media is calling this stuff scary.
But this film reveals something equally alarming. What the kids in the Kids on Fire camp are being taught and trained is the very thing that Lighthouse Trails Publishing and its authors have worked so hard to expose and warn about–and it is not biblical Christianity. On the contrary, these kids are being introduced to mysticism that is becoming increasingly indicative of Dominionist-type thinking. In essence, there is a union of mysticism and militancy taking place.
Not only has the secular media missed the relevancy of this film, Bob Kobielush of CCCA is also missing it. His concern, while somewhat legitimate, is that people will think this is how all Christian camps operate. That is an understandable concern for him since his organization represents and services Christian camps (about a thousand of them). Kobielush says that the “approach and methods” used at the camp are not employed by “the mainstream of Christian camping.” Unfortunately, this particular camp is not an anomaly. What is unfolding is indeed a spiritual perspective and practice that is being widely accepted in the evangelical world (eg., contemplative prayer, labyrinths, lectio divina, etc.) within all aspects of it, including Christian camps.
CCCA’s attempt to let others know they don’t approve of what is going on at the kids camp may be noble, but right under their very noses they are promoting the very same thing! On their website directory, they list labyrinths, and twice now (including a phone call we made to them yesterday) we have contacted CCCA to warn them about the use of labyrinths. Yesterday’s phone call resulted in an email reply from Kobielush, who informed us:
While you certainly have the right and privilege to publish what you want, I’m disappointed that you have extrapolated pieces of information from our public material and then posted concluding statements that could serve to malign our long-standing ministry and the people we serve.
He may be referring to a June 2006 newsletter article we posted, which reported that CCCA is bringing in emerging church leader and sufi sympathizer Tony Campolo as a speaker to this year’s CCCA Convention. Incidentally, the CCCA Convention has also included Duffy Robbins in the speaker lineup. Robbins and his wife, Maggie, frequent speakers at Youth Specialties, recently wrote a book, Enjoy the Silence, about contemplative spirituality, and Maggie Robbins was trained at the Kairos School of Spiritual Formation, a strong proponent of contemplative. CCCA’s promotion of contemplative spirituality is even more remarkable in that they are recommending, and selling, Erwin McManus’ book, Uprising. McManus has been the subject of recent reports on the Lighthouse Trails blog, and is quoted as saying, “It is my goal to destroy Christianity.” What he means by this is he is out to destroy traditional, doctrinal Christianity and replace it with an experience-based, mystical Christianity. Shockingly, respected and trusted Christian pastor David Jeremiah has recently told his congregation that McManus’ book, The Barbarian Way, will help to transition them into a “major paradigm shift.” (See our report.) Both Jeremiah and Kobielush see nothing spiritually amiss with McManus, and yet the spirituality shown on Jesus Camp is the same spirituality that is promoted by Erwin McManus, Tony Campolo and Duffy Robbins. Thus CCCA’s warning about Jesus Camp is missing something far more important that their fear that people will think all Christian camps operate this way.
If you have the opportunity to watch the Jesus Camp trailer, in one scene you will spot a young boy laying on the floor, shaking and convulsing. There is a near identical scene on a recent movie (starring Richard Gere) called Bee Season. In this movie (watch only with careful discretion and for research purposes–not for children), an 11-year-old girl is taught by her father to meditate. However, he warns her not to practice alone as it can be dangerous. When she ignores her father’s warning and does this deeper level of meditation, she goes into a convulsive state.
For those who have studied Kundalini and understand the Kundalini effect, you will recognize the scenes from these two films to be exactly that. And in our research we have been able to show the strong connection between Kundalini and what is called Soaking Prayer (which is promoted by Kids in Ministry International).
You will need to draw your own conclusions, but remember, the images portrayed on Jesus Camp do not represent biblical Christianity. Unfortunately, the secular media is lumping together mystical Christians with biblical Christians, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. And just as much of an oversight, organizations like CCCA are condemning approaches and methods that they themselves are also promoting.
While, like Christendom at large, many Christian camps and retreat centers are indeed heading into contemplative, there are some which still adhere to the faith and continue to present an unadulterated gospel to a lost world. One of those is Good Tidings Bible Conference in upper state New York. This year round camp ministers to kids from the inner New York City as well as kids who were affected by Katrina. The foundation of this ministry has been the Word of God. Good Tidings has not forgotten that “the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
If you know of other Christian camps or retreat centers that do not promote contemplative spirituality, please let us know and we may be able to post them on our site.