The kids of Jesus Camp, 10 years later: ‘Was it child abuse? Yes and no’

Jul 9, 2016

By Josiah Hesse

Ten-year-old Andrew Sommerkamp, with his shy demeanor and floppy blond hair, mounts the stage of the Kids On Fire church camp, and nervously tells the crowd that he’s struggling with his belief in God. He’d spent days watching his fellow Christian campers weep uncontrollably, repenting and begging God’s forgiveness, and he has a confession to share.

“I just want to talk about belief in God … I’ve been having a hard time with it,” he says, staring at the ground, scared and confused as the other kids look around at each other with anxiety in their eyes. “To believe in God is hard because you don’t see him, you don’t know him much. Sometimes I don’t even believe what the Bible says. It makes me a faker, it makes me feel guilty and bad.”

It’s one of several emotionally exhausting scenes in the 2006 documentary, Jesus Camp. Over the course of its celebrated and contested life, Jesus Camp has become a Rorschach test for audiences: some evangelicals see it as a fair representation of their culture, while secular, left-leaning audiences typically see an expose against a malicious force of right-wing indoctrination, often walking away with one angry phrase on their lips: child abuse.


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6 comments on “The kids of Jesus Camp, 10 years later: ‘Was it child abuse? Yes and no’

  • Was it (is it) child abuse? Oh, yes.

    Its time we all understood that what is “taught” to children from their earliest years is like nothing that follows. Younger children are trusting and astonishingly credulous. The recently identified phenomenon of over imitation ensures that early education is not material that can be accepted or rejected (and if a little, only by the most intelligent). It more closely resembles indoctrination.

    This is why it is better to be guided by educational experts and never ever allow the young to be home-schooled without the closest of expert supervision and inspection.



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  • phil rimmer #1
    Jul 9, 2016 at 8:46 pm

    Was it (is it) child abuse? Oh, yes.

    Its time we all understood that what is “taught” to children from their earliest years is like nothing that follows.
    Younger children are trusting and astonishingly credulous.

    I have made the point in several discussions; although we promote critical thinking, we must bear in mind the child development stages and not expect later stage behaviour or thought processes, in children who have not yet reached that age and stage of development.

    Indoctrinators know that they want to instil their woo into under sevens!



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  • Young minds are imprinted with parents guidance and it’s not a surprise most people grow up believing the religion their parents were is the correct one and all others are fake. I think Dawkins has a quote on that somewhere. Luckily some of us question, I did at age of 7 and never looked back.



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  • bonnie2 #4
    Jul 11, 2016 at 2:49 pm

    Ark Encounter Park > Ken Ham:

    @ your link – FFRF is also enclosing with the memo its “Top 10” brochure, which explains the most common state-church violations in public schools and why schools must avoid them. In the past two years, FFRF has addressed more than 1,300 violations in public schools and offers this constitutional guide with the hope to see fewer violations in coming years.

    It would perhaps also be appropriate to list 10 genuine science, natural history, or archaeological history museums with displays and exhibits properly dated and labelled!



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  • A person who has been strongly indoctrinated , is sometimes not aware of their indoctrination seeing as they have been taught the religious way since birth. It is like telling an alcoholic they have a problem, they don’t see it but those on the outside do. The sick cannot heal the sick



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