Jesus Camp, Children, and Love

The Aspen Times News has a review for the Jesus Camp doc­u­men­tary (trail­er). It is said that com­men­tary is kept to a min­i­mum in this film, but that the footage itself more than speaks for itself. And what does it say?

“The les­son is intol­er­ance,” the review­er says. 

Jesus Camp doc­u­ments the goings on of a Chris­t­ian sum­mer camp, which encour­ages chil­dren to grow spir­i­tu­al­ly and to be active with­in the church.

Such a con­cept for a movie ought to make for a great Chris­t­ian film. Such a con­cept ought to be joyful.

Where­as Jesus and the apos­tles admon­ished to go the extra mile for peo­ple, to reach out to the down and out, to sup­port the des­ti­tute, and to out­right love your neigh­bors — James called all of this “pure reli­gion”! — you won’t find such a mes­sage at this Chris­t­ian camp.

Rather, the film high­lights the hall­marks of much of mod­ern Chris­tian­i­ty: anti-abor­tion, anti-Islam, anti-lib­er­al, and so on. How is it the mes­sage of Chris­tian­i­ty has become so unbe­liev­ably negative?

Don’t get me wrong: sin is still sin, and it must be preached against. But as I read my New Tes­ta­ment, I notice far more preach­ing against cor­rup­tion with­in God’s peo­ple (the Jews, the Church) than preach­ing against that which was with­out.

I think that is sig­nif­i­cant. Remem­ber that the church is Jesus’ body. We who are saved are unit­ed to Christ in an immutable and beau­ti­ful way. Prob­lems with­in His body must and will be worked out!

And to those who are with­out? Love them. Do good to them. And if they smite you, turn your oth­er cheek. If they want your jack­et, give them your shirt also. If they hate you, bless them. If they… well, you get the idea!

What­ev­er hap­pened to that mes­sage? Why is it so much eas­i­er to preach that the unbe­liev­ers or those who com­mit our pet peeve sins are an ene­my worth denounc­ing from the pul­pit in the name of “wor­ship”?

And yet the kids at this sum­mer camp are being told that they are a vital gen­er­a­tion for tak­ing back Amer­i­ca for Christ. Wait, for Christ? Would they even rec­og­nize the love-soaked teach­ings of Jesus’ most famous ser­mons? More impor­tant­ly, would they put them into prac­tice if a les­bian who had just had an abor­tion was spot­ted des­ti­tute on a bench some­where? If an impov­er­ished Mus­lim were found, would a Good Samar­i­tan atti­tude be engen­dered or would a “preach and run” method be employed, there­by offend­ing the Mus­lim and leav­ing him lost and destitute?

One of the three kids focused on in this film is Levi. The review­er men­tions some­thing Levy said: “When­ev­er I’m around some­one who isn’t a Chris­t­ian, it makes me feel kind of icky.” So where­as Jesus hung out with the sin­ners, ate with them, befriend­ed them, loved them, Levi — who aspires to be a pas­tor — feels icky while in their company.

As the review­er apt­ly stat­ed… “Would­n’t Christ be proud.”

How far removed from the teach­ings of Christ must the church be before it ceas­es to be Chris­t­ian? And how much can one focus on doc­tri­nal and per­son­al puri­ty before one becomes no more than an unlov­ing “So glad I’m not a sin­ner like those guys!” Phar­isee. Believe it or not, it is enough to be sor­row­ful over your own sins. It is enough to make your own call­ing and elec­tion sure. The sins of oth­ers need not be made much of. Believe me, to “go and sin no more” is vital, but such will not come from unlov­ing injus­tice toward others.

Make much of Christ, and the sin prob­lem will take care of itself. He and He alone is able to sanc­ti­fy peo­ple from the inside out. And He’s able to do it in absolute ten­der love.

I’m going to pub­lish the Ser­mon on the Mount here, sim­ply because they are the words of Christ, they are faith­ful and true, and they are wor­thy to be read again (and again). And bear in mind this warn­ing to believ­ers: Who­ev­er ignores even the least of Christ’s com­mands and teach­es oth­ers to do the same shall be the least in Heaven.

  • Blessed are the poor in spir­it, for theirs is the king­dom of heaven.
  • Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
  • Blessed are the gen­tle, for they shall inher­it the earth.
  • Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for right­eous­ness, for they shall be satisfied.
  • Blessed are the mer­ci­ful, for they shall receive mercy.
  • Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
  • Blessed are the peace­mak­ers, for they shall be called sons of God.
  • Blessed are those who have been per­se­cut­ed for the sake of right­eous­ness, for theirs is the king­dom of heaven.
  • Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and per­se­cute you, and say all kinds of evil against you false­ly, on account of Me.
  • Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heav­en is great, for so they per­se­cut­ed the prophets who were before you.
  • You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become taste­less, how will it be made salty again? It is good for noth­ing any­more, except to be thrown out and tram­pled under foot by men.
  • You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill can­not be hidden.
  • Nor do men light a lamp, and put it under the peck­mea­sure, but on the lamp­stand; and it gives light to all who are in the house.
  • Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glo­ri­fy your Father who is in heaven.
  • Do not think that I came to abol­ish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abol­ish, but to fulfill.
  • For tru­ly I say to you, until heav­en and earth pass away, not the small­est let­ter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished.
  • Who­ev­er then annuls one of the least of these com­mand­ments, and so teach­es oth­ers shall be called least in the king­dom of heav­en; but who­ev­er keeps and teach­es them, he shall be called great in the king­dom of heaven.
  • For I say to you, that unless your right­eous­ness sur­pass­es that of the scribes and Phar­isees, you shall not enter the king­dom of heaven.
  • You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not com­mit mur­der’ and ‘Who­ev­er com­mits mur­der shall be liable to the court.’
  • But I say to you that every­one who is angry with his broth­er shall be guilty before the court; and who­ev­er shall say to his broth­er, ‘Raca,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and who­ev­er shall say, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.
  • If there­fore you are pre­sent­ing your offer­ing at the altar, and there remem­ber that your brothe rhas some­thing against you,
  • leave your offer­ing there before the altar, and go your way; first be rec­on­ciled to your broth­er, and then come and present your offering.
  • Make friends quick­ly with your oppo­nent at law while you are with him on the way, in order that your oppo­nent may not deliv­er you to the judge, and the judge to the offi­cer, and you be thrown into prison.
  • Tru­ly I say to you, you shall not come out of there, until you have paid up the last cent.
  • You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not com­mit adultery’;
  • but I say to you, that every­one who looks on a woman to lust for her has com­mit­ted adul­tery with her already in his heart.
  • And if your right eye makes you stum­ble, tear it out, and throw it from you; for it is bet­ter for you that one of the parts of your body per­ish, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.
  • And if your right hand makes you stum­ble, cut it off, and throw it from you; for it is bet­ter for you that one of the parts of your body per­ish, than for your whole body to go into hell.
  • And it was said, ‘Who­ev­er sends his wife away, let him give her a cer­tifi­cate of divorce’;
  • but I say to you that every­one who divorces his wife, except for the cause of unchasti­ty, makes her com­mit adul­tery; and who­ev­er mar­ries a divorced woman com­mits adultery.
  • Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not make false vows, but shall ful­fill your vows to the Lord.’
  • But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heav­en, for it is the throne of God,
  • or by the earth, for it is the foot­stool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.
  • Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you can­not make one hair white or black.
  • But let your state­ment be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; and any­thing beyond these is of evil.
  • You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’
  • But I say to you, do not resist him who is evil; but who­ev­er slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the oth­er also.
  • And if any­one wants to sue you, and take your shirt, let him have your coat also.
  • And who­ev­er shall force you to go one mile, go with him two.
  • Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to bor­row from you.
  • You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neigh­bor, and hate your enemy.’
  • But I say to you, love your ene­mies, and pray for those who per­se­cute you
  • in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heav­en; for He caus­es His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the right­eous and the unrighteous.
  • For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax-gath­er­ers do the same?
  • And if you greet your broth­ers only, what do you do more than oth­ers? Do not even the Gen­tiles do the same?
  • There­fore you are to be per­fect, as your heav­en­ly Father is perfect.
  • Beware of prac­tic­ing your right­eous­ness before men to be noticed by them; oth­er­wise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.
  • When there­fore you give alms, do not sound a trum­pet before you, as the hyp­ocrites do in the syn­a­gogues and in the streets, that they may be hon­ored by men. Tru­ly I say to you, they have their reward in full.
  • But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing
  • that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.
  • And when you pray, you are not to be as the hyp­ocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the syn­a­gogues and on the street cor­ners, in order to be seen by men. Tru­ly I say to you, they have their reward in full.
  • But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.
  • And when you are pray­ing, do not use mean­ing­less rep­e­ti­tion, as the Gen­tiles do, for they sup­pose that they will be heard for their many words.
  • There­fore do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need, before you ask Him.
  • Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who art in heav­en, Hal­lowed be Thy name.
  • ‘Thy king­dom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.
  • ‘Give us this day our dai­ly bread.
  • ‘And for­give us our debts, as we also have for­giv­en our debtors.
  • ‘And do not lead us into temp­ta­tion, but deliv­er us from evil. For Thine is the king­dom, and the pow­er, and the glo­ry, for­ev­er. Amen.’
  • For if you for­give men for their trans­gres­sions, your heav­en­ly Father will also for­give you.
  • But if you do not for­give men, then your Father will not for­give your transgressions.
  • And when­ev­er you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hyp­ocrites do, for they neglect their appear­ance in order to be seen fast­ing by men. Tru­ly I say to you, they have their reward in full.
  • But you, when you fast, anoint your head, and wash your face
  • so that you may not be seen fast­ing by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.
  • Do not lay up for your­selves trea­sures upon earth, where moth and rest destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.
  • But lay up for your­selves trea­sures in heav­en, where nei­ther moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;
  • for where your trea­sure is, there will your heart be also.
  • The lamp of the body is the eye; if there­fore your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light.
  • But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of dark­ness. If there­fore the light that is in you is dark­ness, how great is the darkness!
  • No one can serve two mas­ters; for either he will hate the one and love the oth­er, or he will hold to one and despise th oth­er. You can­not serve God and mammon.
  • For this rea­son I say to you, do not be anx­ious for your life, as to what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor for your body, as to what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body than clothing?
  • Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nei­ther do they reap, nor gath­er into barns, and yet your heav­en­ly Father feeds them. Are you not worth more than they?
  • And which of you by being anx­ious can add a sin­gle cubit to his life’s span?
  • And why are you anx­ious about cloth­ing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin,
  • yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glo­ry did not clothe him­self like one of these.
  • But if God so arrays the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomor­row is thrown into the fur­nace, will he not much more do so for you, O men of lit­tle faith?
  • Do not be anx­ious then, say­ing, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘With what shall we clothe ourselves?’
  • For all these things the Gen­tiles eager­ly seek; for your heav­en­ly Father knows that you need all these things.
  • But seek first His king­dom and His right­eous­ness; and all these things shall be added to you.
  • There­fore do not be anx­ious for tomor­row; for tomor­row will care for itself. Each day has enough trou­ble of its own.
  • Do not judge lest you be judged.
  • For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your stan­dard of mea­sure, it will be mea­sured to you.
  • And why do you look at the speck that is in your broth­er’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?
  • Or how can you say to your broth­er, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, teh log is in your own eye?
  • You hyp­ocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clear­ly to take the speck out of your broth­er’s eye.
  • Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they tram­ple them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.
  • Ask, and it shall be giv­en to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you.
  • For every­one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it shall be opened.
  • Or what man is there among you, when his son shall ask him for a loaf, will give him a stone?
  • Or if he shall ask for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he?
  • If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your chil­dren, how much more shall your Father who is in heav­en give what is good to those who ask Him!
  • There­fore, how­ev­er you want peo­ple to treat you, so treat them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
  • Enter by the nar­row gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruc­tion, and many are those who enter by it.
  • For the gate is small, and the way is nar­row that leads to life, and few are those who find it.
  • Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep­’s cloth­ing, but inward­ly are rav­en­ous wolves.
  • You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gath­ered from thorn bush­es, nor figs from this­tles, are they?
  • Even so, every good tree bears good fruit; but the bad tree bears bad fruit.
  • Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
  • So then, you will know them by their fruits.
  • Not every­one who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the king­dom of heav­en; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.
  • Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not proph­esy in Your name, and in Your name cast our demons, and in Your name per­form many miracles?’
  • And then I will declare to them, ‘I nev­er knew you; depart from Me, you who prac­tice lawlessness.’
  • There­fore every­one who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be com­pared to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock.
  • And the rain descend­ed, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been found­ed upon the rock.
  • And every­one who hears these words of Mine, and does not act upon them, will be like a fool­ish man, who built his house upon the sand.
  • And the rain descend­ed, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and it fell, and great was its fall.

Jesus, Matthew 5:3–7:27, NASB

Amen, Lord. It is very good to be remind­ed of those our Lord’s words. Make your life reflect those words, do the will of the Father in Heav­en, and let us all make much of Jesus!

If every­one who says to Christ, “Lord, Lord,” would live accord­ing to His ser­mon, this world would be dras­ti­cal­ly dif­fer­ent. We would not have to wor­ry about pol­i­tics and oth­er such world­ly agen­das. But when salt loos­es its salti­ness and can no longer per­form its func­tion, it is no sur­prise that it must seek alter­na­tive means to express itself, no mat­ter how fleet­ing such endeav­ors may be.

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Rick Beckman