I watched Jesus Camp for the first time last night on DVD, and what a frightening little film it is. All of those hyped up little children whipped into emotional frenzies by creepy adults who claim to speak for Jesus. This follows hard on the heels of a wonderful book I just finished reading called People in Glass Houses, an expose of Hillsong, that ugly Sydney mega-church that spews hate and stupidity in the guise of religion, by Tanya Levin, a woman who grew up in the church. Jesus Camp proves what Levin alleges in her book - that Pentecostalism is an extremist cult that is manipulative, destructive and poisonous. As Levin points out, if Muslim groups were doing and saying the same things they would be under surveillance by the government, but in Australia the Prime Minister turns up to Hillsong services and praises them as good Australians. Right-wing homophobes who believe that everyone but them is going to hell, sure, but model citizens nonetheless.
What is saddest, and rendered most poignant in Jesus Camp, is that the beautiful and innocent souls of young children are infested with this mania and hatred from the very earliest age - lending credence, surely, to Richard Dawkins' contention that organised religion is just another form of child abuse. PLEASE see Jesus Camp, and read Levin's very important (and completely absorbing) book. Pentecostalism is moving into the mainstream, and presenting a benevolent and benign face - we need to be vigilant about maintaining our religious and social freedom, and about according respect to cultists and extremists seeking to exert undue influence in our society. Believe me, the Evangelical Pentecostalist vision of the world is ugly and frightening, and more people need to know this.