Why is it, when Hollywood makes a movie about a segment of society, they have to focus on the most radical or obscure groups within that subset of society? A new movie Jesus Camp, much like Saved before it, focuses on Pentecostalism and how this small section of Christianity raises their children. Like journalists, Hollywood has gone alarmist. By calling these Pentecostals evangelical, they automatically equate the rest of Christianity with Pentecostalism’s bizarre practices (glossolalia, snake -handling in some portions of the country, hyper-militarism and fundamentalism, anti-makeup, jewelry, tv, etc.). Pentecostalism no more represents Protestantism than Traditionalist Catholicism represents Catholics. Don’t get me wrong, I liked Saved but it was very heavy-handed and stereotypes were oozing off the screen.
Television and film (and now journalism) is all about extremes and evoking a reaction against the subjects taken on. You can almost hear the talking heads in the idea room at movie studios, “Let’s take that subsect of society and try to showcase them in such a way as to evoke fear and disgust in the rest of the country! That’ll show those red states!” Journalists and filmmakers love to infiltrate groups they don’t understand and study them, like Dian Fossey among the apes. Academics, sitting in their ivory towers, look down at the undeducated masses and send out their minions to discover what people are really like, those who have the gall to live in a real world without theory and ideas. Unfortunately, they always pick the very different among us to study. Pandering to elites, this style of “documentary” is getting old. Accurate portrayal or not, this movie is more a propaganda tool than anything (and oh my, just in time for elections). I’m sure, it probably does very little to document the real lives of most Christians and does much to promote dissension and bickering among those who already despise George Bush and the rest of Christian America. Watch for more of this kind of stuff in the next couple of years.