Posted by: Randy Allgaier | August 26, 2007

Christian Madrasah: Becky Fischer and “Kids in Ministry”- Jesus Camp


The formation of Madrasahs can probably be traced to the early Islamic custom of meeting in mosques to discuss religious issues. At this early stage, people seeking religious knowledge tended to gather around certain more knowledgable Muslims; these informal teachers later became known as the shaykhs; and these shaykhs began to hold regular religious education sessions and while Madrasahs are not by founding or tradition breeding grounds for terrorism and extremism- many of them have become exactly that.

Due to administrative mishandling, radical political indoctrination of students and adoption of a more conservative view of the simple teachings of Islam, especially in certain Muslim countries such as Pakistan, madrasahs nowadays are frequently deemed as ideological and political training grounds for hatred against the West.

The west has been horrified by these Madrasahs – especially the conservative Christian fundamentalists in the United States. But after watching “Jesus Camp” and exploring the “Kids In Ministry” web site- Becky Fischer and her ministry have created a Christian Madrasah in the worst interpretation of that word. They openly indoctrinate children through fear, emotional manipulation, quashing an open mind and free thinking, and create, to borrow a phrase from Christiane Amanpour, “God’s Christian Warriors”.

A few scenes were absolutely horrifying to me but what struck me the most was the indoctrination of children about abortion. These are children of an age who probably have not been given any education on sex or, given the thinking of their families, never will have adequate sex education. Yet these children were told horrific things about the killing of innocent babies in the wombs of mothers. They were shown plastic figurines that theoretically showed a fetus at various points of development and what was striking was that the fetus did not look any different at age 7 weeks than it did a later stages of development- it was just smaller. A fetus at 7 weeks is about 5-6 mm is length and while there are distinct features to it that may look like a human baby – it hasn’t fully formed those features – and to show it only getting bigger rather than maturing and developing is wildly misleading. Especially for impressionable children who are being horrified and told that they might have a lot of other friends if they hadn’t been murdered in the womb.

Let me be clear- I am not pro-abortion but I am pro-choice. I know women who have had abortions and in all cases it was a painful decision- but one that they felt was necessary for them.  The rhetoric about using abortions as a regular form of birth control for women is wildly misleading. If young women, especially from low income backgrounds, had accurate sex education as well as information and access to contraception there would be fewer abortions among women who feel that they are not in a position to bring a child into the world. Interestingly enough the same people who would eliminate a woman’s right to choose are the same people who want to make access to contraception for young women impossible and sexual education banned.

But I digress from my point here. How can you talk to children about abortion and not about sex? The answer is that you cannot and that unless Ms. Fischer was conducting a sex ed class before her rants about abortion to her campers, she was doing nothing but brainwashing young minds. Ironically enough- the young girls in this camp- who probably will never get adequate sex education or information and access to contraceptives are the same young women who will probably be the prime candidates for unwanted pregnancies and potential abortions in the future. And of course with the guilt and horror instilled in these young women they will need to be rushed to a therapist too.

The language of war and the political indoctrination of these children was shocking. A phrase oft repeated in the movie “reclaiming the country for Jesus” keeps haunting me. I did not know that Jesus ever “claimed” this country. While the founders may have been men with a deep faith in God they created a country that clearly defined the church and the state and tried to enshrine that among these two never the twain shall meet. To teach children that this country is a Christian nation is to defile the constitution and the tenants of the nation’s founding.

Let’s not forget the scene in the film where the children welcome President Bush and pray over him. Okay – it’s a cardboard cut out, but it sure seems like political indoctrination to me. Maybe a little idol worship thrown in for good measure.

And then there is “speaking in tongues”. For a brief moment in time as a teenager I visited some charismatic ministries and they explained to me that speaking in tongues was letting the Holy Spirit speak through you. OK- I’ll play. But what if I don’t feel God moving my mouth, tongue and vocal chords to make those noises of that Holy language which often eerily sound Semitic? I was informed that it was just fine to start “in the flesh” and the spirit would take over. In other words- start making nonsensical noises sounding like you are reciting Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” and then God will do the rest. That sounded absurd to me as a teenager and sounded absurd again when I heard a similar instruction given to the children in “Jesus Camp”.

The next time any fundamentalist Christian criticizes the indoctrination of Islamic boys in Madrasahs in Pakistan and elsewhere- let them look in their own back yard or even better yet at the “Kids in Ministry” website.


Responses

  1. I agree it was sad to see the things this woman did and exposed the children to and the emotional stress she has brought to so many children.

  2. This is so crazy! I grew up going to church camps (I’m Church of Christ) every Summer (in the Mid-Atlantic, Bible Belt and the mountain West), and it was generally a great experience. We sang a lot of songs, studied the Bible, and played lots of sports and games. The worst parts were typical teenager stuff (crushes, teasing, etc.).

    This movie sounds both fascinating and repulsive. Many of the things written here just make me sick, and seem like these people are simply focused on the wrong aspects of faith. I know of several agnostics and atheists that grew up in such oppressive homes and churches.

    Politics and religion were also not discussed, at least not in the church. We were encouraged to be active civically, mostly through Boy Scouts that met in the basements.

    For others reading this, please understand that these experiences are relatively alien to the vast majority of Christians. This story is about the fringe of the fringe (and I thought *we* were conservative and fundamental!). Radical fundamentalism exists in every religion to one degree or another: Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia, extremist Buddhists in Sri Lanka and Hindus in India, and abortion-clinic bombers in the US.

    Ok, when I was growing up, there was this one church that had the Chick tracts. LOL! Hilarious.

  3. Ah, this whole thing bugs me. One minor point: while I’ve never personally experienced the speaking in tongues thing, the Bible says that if someone does speaks in tongues in the church, someone must interpret:

    “If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God.” 1 Corinthians 14:27,28

    The interpretation part seems to conspicuously absent in many practices. My point, again: fringe of the fringe.

  4. Someone seems really hung up on the abortion issue. I wonder why.
    Why is the abortion issue not ever going away? If there is nothing morally wrong with it then why don’t women watch it on a sonogram as it’sbeing performed? If it’s nothing more than a simple extraction, like say a tooth, then what is everyone including the pro-choice side afraid to see?
    We all know that if we had to watch what abortion really is, and the moving living being that it is destroying, none of us could live with it. We all started out in the womb just like that fetus, and if you check your science you will see that a fetus is surprisingly well formed by 10 weeks. Most women who will have abortion will destroy that child around 12 weeks. So Can you really fault someone who sees this as murder for doing everything in her own sphere of influence to influence anyone not to make this choice?
    No one on either side wants to look at it because it’s so horrific. Why do you think pro-choice people friek completely out when they are shown a picture of an aborted fetus? Why is it not ok for those children to know how a baby develops?What did that crazy lady tell them that wasn’t the truth? See you’re afraid to face it too. But we all will face the truth one day and will ALL be held responsible for the vulnerable who had no one to protect them.

  5. Instead- why not teach young girls how to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies? But no- that is usually not what the radical right wants- you want to stop the choices available to a woman, you defund programs that do not teach anything but abstinence which is a proven failure. I don’t like the idea of abortion- but I also think – it isn’t my choice to make- and I don’t walk in a woman’s shoes. Plus- are you and your buddies all willing to adopt the milllions of babies of color that would be born? Would you commit right now to adopt a little black or brown baby? Are you willing to fund the social and health programs that are important to support these young mother’s and the children that they have? It seems odd that you people are obsessed with “the unborn”- but you don’t give a damn about that same baby those that are born- that’s when your caring heart turns off- you offer these young women no social or medical safety net for her or her child. Are you willing to help these babies or does your care end at the end of the birth canal? Finally- you ask about seeing pictures of sonograms. Women without the ability and/or resources to raise a child may still seek out abortions- just on the black market Have you ever seen pictures of young women who have died having black market abortions? Now that’s scary!

  6. When I watched “Jesus Camp” for the first time last week, contrary to popular emotions, I was in tears because I looked at those kids and wished I was exposed to Christianity at their age.
    I really do not understand all the hype about the documentary-I probably have to watch it again to see whether I missed something.
    All I saw in that video was a re-statement of what Jesus said “Let the Children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children”
    (Luke 18:16 NLT)
    The children were told truths like-God loves you, God created you, etc and were asked to pray for their president, their country, etc.
    How is that harmful or distressing?
    Which is radical- Becky’s teaching or the training given to young boys out there, making them hate the world?
    With regards to abortion, Payton has given an appropriate response so…no further comments.
    What I am wondering however is how anyone can say “I did not know Jesus ever “claimed this country”.
    From my limited knowledge of American History, “America was indeed founded by bible-believing Christians and based on Christian principles…the Founding Fathers envisioned a government that would promote and encourage Christianity.
    All but two of the first 108 universities founded in America were Christian. This includes the first, Harvard, where the student handbook listed this as Rule #1: “Let every student be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well, the main end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ, which is eternal life, John 17:3; and therefore to lay Jesus Christ as the only foundation for our children to follow the moral principles of the Ten Commandments.” (http://www.faithofourfathers.net/ )
    What else can I say? It’s a shame what happened to the pastor-I’d never even heard of him before!!!
    Today, he’s supposed to be the “bad guy” but I wish to announce that even the “baddest” guy who turns to God in genuine repentance will be forgiven.

  7. We’re called to be witnesses, not judges, lawyers or God’s advisors. He doesn’t call such “qualified” people like some of these commentators, but He does qualify those He calls. When something supernatural and holy happens and revelation, truth and wisdom comes to those hungry enough to seek Him, everybody without that supernatural experience attacks it. Could it be that some of you are looking at this with Paul’s eyes – before he was struck blind and God asked, “Why do you persecute me”?. What will it take for you to believe the Word? Murder of the unborn is as evil as it gets. For those who practice this, I say to you, “Stop, Drop and Roll” won’t work in hell, and God will not accept you on your terms. So, don’t put a question mark where God puts a period – “Thou shalt not murder”, and don’t point at a speck in Becky’s eye while you still have a stump in yours, Randy Allgaier. Comparing God’s Kingdom to the Islamic extremist thirst for innocent blood and world dominion under Shiria law is an offense against God, not Becky Fischer.


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