I counted it a blessing a few weeks ago that I had a trial subscription to Netflix while I was sick a few weeks back. Their streaming content has given me access to thousands of choices of films spanning any genre you could possibly think of. I was even able to locate a few films I had forgotten about like “Wierd” Al Yankovic’s cult, underground film debut “UHF”. I have been entertaining myself quite thoroughly with the help of an internet connection, my Xbox 360 and Netflix. But sometimes you get thrown a curveball.
The film starts out at a church and there are a bunch of kids and their parents. It’s explained that this is a Pentacostal church. Immediately, my mind is thrown a curveball as they’ve got a woman preaching to these people. That’s not to be sexist, but to have a female preacher is, well, wrong in my opinion. She begins talking about how important these preteens are in saving this wicked, evil world from its sin. They talk about being saved and idolatry, all things sounding good so far. Then things start to head south.
The woman calls for those in attendance to praise God and commands them to speak in tongues. And they all do, which is the scary part. In my church such things are unheard of and I don’t really know enough about it to throw stones, but it does strike me as odd that the entire group of people are experiencing this gift of the Holy Spirit. Did I mention there were upwards of 500 people in the church when this happened and this was everyone’s experience? That just struck me as odd.
This documentary is also great at showing the true reality of salvation even though I’m not sure that was the intent. One child states they were saved at age 5 because they “wanted more out of life”. This boy was about 13 and had a fantastic mullet and, thankfully, you get to see why he is the way he is. He was homeschooled. That’s not to knock homeschooled kids because I know a few that were and they turned out quite alright. These are the homeschooled kids who received no outside world experience and this has left them lacking any sort of grasp on reality. So, it makes me question the validity of what they believe because they were brought up and this stuff was force fed to them. Is that how we need to create Christians now? Build an assembly line and just upload them with bible knowledge?
Now, if that wasn’t enough, there was talk about how abortion was bad and how evil it is. But this camp doesn’t give a whole lot of rhyme or reason. Only by the yanking of guilt straps and shock-jock like illustrations are they fed their convictions. They are sent to this camp to be made evangelists in an almost brainwashing fashion. Salvation by osmosis? I’m not sure I buy that. And if that wasn’t enough, there was a point where they have these kids praying to [or for] a cardboard cutout of President George W. Bush [Keep in mind, this film was made in 2001] which is an odd if not scary form of idolatry, in my opinion, but I’m not the pastor and I’m certainly not cramming doctrine down the throats of impressionable children.
The truth is, I don’t get rattled often. But for the reasons above and a few other things they show in this documentary it makes me realize how backwards the approach to salvation is for some groups of people. I guess the thing that really bothers me and I mean shakes me hard is that these children don’t know any better and may not ever. So, it’s almost as if they’re being preyed upon by this pyschotic woman and her brainwashing brigade. This documentary shows just how off the mark some people can be and how much they’ve sort of strayed from the teachings of Jesus. The idea of becoming a disciple of Christ comes not from over saturation being bombarded by the word but by obedience to Jesus when he calls you to follow. Look at Matthew 4:19:
“19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him.”
It doesn’t say Jesus bombarded them with scripture until their minds could take no more. Simon and Andrew were just doing their everyday routine. Jesus has only to say, “Follow me” and the two brothers dropped what they were doing. Bible thumping never built disciples. Eventually, and hopefully, those kids eventually put some thought into what it was they were saying and doing. Blind faith is almost more scary to me than no faith at all. Luke 6:39:
39 He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.”
Does that have double meaning, I wonder? Are those learning discipleship from a poor teacher damned to be poor teachers themselves? Something to ponder, I suppose.
Anyways, I deviate… deal with it.
Overall, despite the fact this film made me very uncomfortable, I felt that it was a good and fair portrayal of this particular group of people, as disturbing as it may be. I would certainly recommend it to those who would like an outside view of the more “out there” forms of Christianity without getting your hands dirty. The bottom line is that I think I’ve been sheltered from some things in this life, though few they are. The content of this documentary is enough to make me glad I missed the bus on this one.