Sunday, April 8, 2007

Ruminations on Easter, Jesus, and Political Resurrection (Part I)

The Crucifixion (Part 1 of 3-part Trilogy)

I confess, today was the first time I’ve been to a Christian church service (excluding funerals) in a few years. I have cultivated a strong resistance of joining anything that smacks of collective thought. I’ve quit and rejoined the Democratic Party enough times since the year 2000 that I’m on a first-name basis with the county registrar. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m a big fan of Jesus and the beliefs He espouses; I’m just not into the organized religion aspects of Christianity. Mark Twain said it best: “If Christ were here there is one thing he would not be--a Christian.”

In fact, one of my most prized presents this past Christmas, other than my hard-soul slippers, is my Jesus Action Figure (with poseable arms & gliding action). When I see Jesus looking at me with his outstretched plastic arms, I’m reminded of what draws me to progressive politics. Better yet, because Jesus is indeed an action figure, I’m also reminded that His words were meant to inspire action, not apathy. When I hear people and politicians distort Jesus’ message, my Irony Radar kicks into overdrive, and I feel compelled to take action and expose these ironies and hypocrisies through my satiric lens.

Last night, on the Eve of Jesus’ Resurrection, I watched “Jesus Camp,” a documentary film about the “Kids on Fire School of Ministry,” a charismatic Christian summer camp located just outside Devils Lake, North Dakota. (Irony Radar Bleep: Did anyone else catch the irony of a Jesus camp setting up shop by Devils Lake?) The indoctrination camp is run by Becky Fischer and her ministry, Kids in Ministry International. The film focuses on three kids from Lee’s Summit, Missouri, as they prepare for and attend the Jesus Camp. While watching the film, not only was I disturbed by the indoctrination process of these kids, but I couldn’t help but think they were being mentally or spiritually abused. Why Becky allowed cameras to capture this on film is beyond me. Blinded by her own religious fervor, she must have thought this film would help spread her message and serve as a tool for recruiting Jesus’ foot soldiers. Ironically, the film’s release and public outcry (especially from the locals) forced Becky to close up shop and suspend the camp indefinitely.

I was intrigued by the corporate influence in the Jesus Camp, which ranged from one of the main three kids wearing a Jesus t-shirt parodying Reeces, to Becky dousing bottled Nestle water on the kids as they balled their eyes out while publicly repenting their sins. This was a little different take on the baptismal I had imagined (which is more like the baptismal scene in the movie “O’ Brother Where Art Thou?”) Just before the children had arrived for the first indoctrination ceremony, Becky and her staff warded off the Devil, making sure he wouldn't come and undo her computer and PowerPoint presentation. The PowerPoint went off without a hitch, so I imagine the Devil had other mischief to tend to in the world. As children began spilling in, the staff ramped it up with some thumping Jesus music. “J.C.’s in the House” and “Kickin’ It for Jesus” had the kids gyrating their hips to the Devil’s rhythm and beat in no time.

Towards the end of the film, Becky Fischer contends that her mission is nonpolitical. This was a stark contrast to the George W. Bush cardboard cutout scene, where all the kids were told to touch his two-dimensional façade, collectively blessing him as if he possessed some sort of spiritual healing powers. When considering Bush’s one-dimensional view, this heavy-petting scene merely served as yet another exaggeration on behalf of the charismatics.

End Part I…


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