‘Jesus Camp’ and the day’s headlines

The documentary “Jesus Camp,” now playing at the Nickelodeon in Santa Cruz, is relevant now in a way that the filmmakers could not have anticipated. The Rev. Ted Haggard, the well-known Christian minister and advisor to the Bush White House who resigned over the weekend in the wake of allegations involving a male prostitute, is a prominent figure in “Jesus Camp,” where he is seen talking directly into the camera, joking about a gay lifestyle. “I know what you did last night,” he cracks during a sermon at his Colorado mega-church, and “If you use this, I’ll sue you.”The film focuses on a summer camp held in North Dakota in which evangelical Christians lead children in prayer meetings that involves emotional invoking of Jesus Christ and speaking in tongues, at one point around a cardboard cut-out of President Bush. The camp has reportedly closed its doors in the way of the negative publicity of “Jesus Camp.”
It’s an extreme vision of radical Christianity aimed at children, but many mainline Christians, including evangelicals, can feel with justification that the film plays to certain stereotypes. Meanwhile, Haggard’s sordid scandal has given the film a little more traction, meaning it’s likely to be one of those arthouse sleepers that builds a steady audience. It’s hard not to notice that Haggard rhymes with Swaggart.

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