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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Why I am not a Christian.

How was that for an attention getting title? Am I doing better at headlines??

Seriously though.

I screened the first 40 minutes or so of Jesus Camp last night. I was physically ill. I had to stop and take a walk. It was late, and I ended up walking into the old city and having a beer at a pub where I ran into some of the exchange students.

But, the overwhelming feeling I had was - If this is my religion, what the heck am I doing? What the heck are we doing? I had this overwhelming feeling: if this is it, I am out. I'm cashing in my chips, giving away my winnings and walking away. I will never play this game again.

I talked a bit with Jacob and Matt this morning about it, but neither one of them has seen the film yet. I want to finish it so that I can reflect on it as a whole, and not just a piece - but right now, there is little desire to finish it.

Has anyone seen the film? What are your thoughts on it? How does that affect your personal journey? What about politics?

My head is swimming with questions.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

My thought is this: EVERY religion has fanatics. Do you think there are followers of Islam who don't shake their heads at the fanatics? Or Caatholics who don't wonder the sanity of the Opus Dei members? We are looking at a gorup of extreme fanatics. So, do you let thm define what your religion is? No. Do people like that make you hav eto work harder to prove your faith to others; to show them that Christ isn't crazy? Yep. So...if it weren't for that, would your faith and religion be as exciting? Nah! Get sick at a film like that? Get ill at people like that. But don't let it turn you away, let it light your fire to show people the real Christ. The Christ that works in a real world; who deals with real people. Who loves ALL of us and shows His love to each of us uniquely (sp?)


8/2/07 16:26

Blogger Nys said...

Hey Chris...
I haven't seen that movie, nor even heard of it until today, buuut just going to that page, reading through some stuff....somethings up Chris....the things, and the way some are said....something isn't straight.....so while you should take your faith so seriously and figure things out, etc something tells me this video...somethings not right...Then again, that's just my ideas on it all...

8/2/07 19:03

Blogger Chris said...

Somethings not right. That is the point. Are they extremists, maybe. I know that I have sat and cried at camps just like that. I have been told the same things they are listening to. I have had guest speakers tell me about their down and out testimony and then play my emotions against me. You know how many times I was "saved" as a kid? Three. How many times I "re-committed" my life? More times then I can remember.

I remember really respecting Mark when I worked for WisdomWorks. He was aware that after an intense weekend like PlanetWisdom, that you could really hit the crowd the end of the second night after the emotionally charged worship concert and know that you would have a good turn out for the "altar call." He was aware of that, and didn't drag it out. He said it once - maybe twice if he was really into it. But then, that was it, wrap it up.

I've been to others that took nearly an hour, and they started calling people out of the crowd by name. "Susie - you know who you are... God is pressing on your heart..." Whatever.

Its not extreme if you are a Pentecostal.

I'm just full of questions.

8/2/07 21:53

Blogger Stacy said...

It is extreme. We just wathed the movie and I have to say that I fought wanting to comment on everything. If you think of it...Pentecostal churches are the extreme.

Honestly, I was blown away. That is not the faith of those kids...it is their parent's faith. They will not know what they believe until they are teens...and then they will just barely have a grasp on it. I still struggle and fight with wha tI believe and what my faith and religion look like.

9/2/07 03:29

Blogger Amy said...

It's funny you mention that movie. Dad and I had seen it when we were cruising through Netfix, picking movies for our queue. It's in our lineup, but we haven't received or seen it yet.

9/2/07 07:20

Blogger Amy said...

Hey Chris. It's dad. Haven't seen the movie yet but, just watching a few clips from it in the Netflix menu made me curiously suspicious. It's interesting to me that you've used the word "religion" several times. Religion always elicits a pleathora of questions, most of which can't be answered with any degree of certainty. It's good to question religion. It never fully illuminates the reality of who God is nor can any religious belief change who God is. So go ahead and question. But the answers will be discerned in your spirit, not your intellect. Love you - C U soon.

9/2/07 08:33

Anonymous Emma said...

Hi Chris

We haven't seen this yet. In fact, I had not heard of it till I read your blog. Having browsed the film's webpage what springs to mind is that if this were about an Islamic camp, we would all be very quick to say things like "brainwashing" and "indoctrination". In fact the Pastor in charge makes the same comparison to jihadist schools. Bizarrely, she seems proud of it.

9/2/07 19:34

Blogger Wes said...


Unfortunately I too have not seen this movie yet, but i've heard a plethora of disturbing reviews, mostly by other Christians. I always found that funny. I've seen "extremist" a few times here, and I have to agree with Stacy. Every "religion" has it's extremists. Christianity is no different. When I was "saved" some years ago, it was in a full gospel, bible believing church. Is there anything wrong with that? Not particularly. What struck me hard though was the drive that leaders in the church drilled into the kids. "If you're not praying in tounges, you're not connected to God. Some sin is blocking you from the Holy Spirit." Things like that. After a while it was exceedingly difficult to find a relationship with Christ when i never felt good enough. And it was constant. I never knew any better though, I just figured that's teh way it was. And it made me strive harder to be the person they said i needed to be. But where is grace in all of that? I was just led to believe that salvation and connection to Christ was in one way. I never had a chance to grow for myself. Not to bash the full gospel crowd here, there were a lot of things that hindered my growth in other churches i attended down the road too...

To be honest with you, if you didn't question, I would be terribly worried. I don't know you well enough as I would like. But search, my friend. I know you know who Christ really is, and what we should stand for as people of the faith.

If you'd like to talk more of it, you know you can find me on Myspace. I'm game.


10/2/07 00:02

Blogger talli said...

Hey Chris,
So I actually have seen the full film, and it disturbed me as well. One moment that may have just been edited to look this way (or no one even thought of this as strange) was when one of the kids got up to speak and he talked about how he struggles with his religion and doing what God wants. I thought this was very brave of him, but the congregation was just silent. They didn't know what to say. To add to that, no one tried to comfort him or let him know that he's not alone. And although there were many other disturbing thigs in this film, this was the one that really stood out to me. Something that most people wouldn't think much of. There's this fear in the church of admitting that you're not on the right path or that you need help, and often there's reason for that fear. I think that's one of the scariest things about the state of the church today.

As far as the rest of the movie, I do agree that this is showing one of the most extreme religions in the world, and very likely one of the most extreme congregations of that religion as well. But the scary thing is, I see a lot of what was being said and taught there in churches and Christians today. That is, a much milder version of course. So does this mean that we as a group will continue to become more and more extreme without even realizing it?

I don't usually like to use the word "brainwashing" when talking about children in the church, but it really feels like it here. They talk about things that they couldn't even comprehend at that age, and they probably don't. Most of the time they're just reiterating what their parents have said. The problem with the church in general as far as children goes is that many of these children aren't allowed to make their own decisions, and aren't allowed out into the real world. So they think that they are Christians and that they want to live the way they've been living; but when they get out into the real world, they don't know how to deal.

The one person who didn't bother me as much was Levi. There were a few things that were slightly disturbing, but for the most part I felt that he really is a true Christian and that he has the gift of being able to write and deliver an amazing sermon.

As you can see, I have a lot of thoughts about this film and the topic in general, so maybe we'll talk more when you get back.

11/2/07 00:21

Blogger PJ said...

Hey man
I have been trying to come up with a response to the movie over the past few days, the mere fact that it has taken a few days to come up with a response to the movie should tell that there is something not right with the whole thing. I posted about my thoughts on my blog.

11/2/07 10:10

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with what most everyone else has said. I think my strongest reaction is anger towards the adults who have raised these kids in thoughtless rhetoric. As Jesus said, "It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. So watch yourselves." I can't hold it against the kids, but no wonder people run the opposite way from "Christians."

13/2/07 05:31

Anonymous PJW said...

Thanks for posting this Chris... and the honesty you've expressed. Personally, I felt the same... and have felt this before. Not necessarily towards Christianity, but Evangelicalism.

I hate to say it, but stuff of this ilk is what makes me weary of calling myself an Evangelical anymore. ‘Evangelicalism’ once described breadth of Christian belief (and still does in some circles)... but now it’s often associated with a socio-political agenda and mindset that has little to do with the God I know through Jesus. This may, or may not, be a fair redefinition. Yet ‘Jesus Camp’ (or something akin to it) is what many people think when they hear ‘Evangelical’ uttered.
e.g.: Notice how ‘Evangelical’ is used in this report by ABC; forget all the distinctions we easily make between Pentecostalism and whatever-isms... it’s all thrown in the same pot.

Personally, I didn’t feel that the film was about Christianity per se. It’s about how the garb of Christianity (or any religion/ideology for that matter) can be used to justify all sorts of madness. In this case, a form of extreme pentecostal evangelicalism was under scruitiny.

In relation to what you said earlier about being ‘saved’ and ‘re-committals’ – I have similar experiences. I think a lot of this has to do with an incorrect understanding of the atonement by youth/church leaders... but that’s another discussion.

Not sure if any of this helps. Hope you’re keeping well.

- Paul

16/2/07 03:03

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay, this is the fifth or so time i've read this same blog and i still have no comments to it - i havent seen the movie, and i dont know you too well to find the words that would hit the spot. but i just wanted (all this time) to say that i'm praying for you man. i have no idea what the movie was about and what exactly freaked you out. but please stay intouch with God. Luke in his chapter 9 verses 51-56 describes a couple of freaks that were very close to Jesus and yet did or suggested doing the most crazy mean things. you cant rely on people, you cant follow their examples. thats why i still have a hard time promising myself to a church (getting a membership) and yet i'm becoming a Paradigman. peole, even the ones we trust most, spritual leaders - they are still people. Jesus is the only one you can look at. please dont lose your faith in Him. even when the world falls and youlose all your home and you get too confused, Jesus is the answer. ask Him questions, try Him, and He will not leave you without answers. listen, watch, Jesus may be near but you can be too confused to calm down and hear Him. He has been through all, He knows what confusion and pain is...

I'll keep praying for you. Keep walking. the wall will fall down.

love you,

20/2/07 09:28

Blogger marie said...

I have seen the movie, and I disagree that it is only about "extremists." I grew up in a mainstream church and besides the obvious pentacostal aspects of it--it is not too far from like regular evangelical church camps--sure it is a little scarier, but I think that is just because our camp leaders were too busy trying to be "extreme" and cool so they didnt have time to try to scare us like that.

But you know what? I kind if think that if someone is really a christian--why do they object to this kind of camp? Why NOT scare kids totally and control their brains? If Hell is real, then a little brainwashing and sheltering seems like it would be a lot better than eternally burning on fire with the Devil! The christian church of America is secretly like that movie--they dont encourage people to examine other truths because they are too afraid of people leaving forever. THAT is why when you start questioning God, other Christians just tell you to "examine these doubts from within christianity," "don't stop reading the Bible," "Don't lose your faith"--Christians here are just the same in principle, which makes me think that they shouldnt criticize the film.

I say AMEN to you writing about your true feelings about the movie from an honest standpoint. We should feel free to examine truth in life--and if God condemns one to hell for doing that honestly--then maybe Heaven wouldnt be that cool anyway.

24/2/07 20:10


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