Jesus Camp

Opens at Metro, Fri., Oct. 6. Rated PG-13. 84 minutes.

"They've got to be shaking their heads," says cheerful Missouri evangelical pastor Becky Fischer of the urban liberals who'll presumably be alarmed by this documentary. Well, yes and no. It may shock some naive blue-staters that Fischer and her fundamentalist Christian cohort are training preteens with summer camps and special programs to proselytize in what's repeatedly called "God's army," but that's not what's so dismaying about Jesus Camp. For starters, Fischer is a basically likable soul, quite candidly opening up her life and work to filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady. And the three pious kids we mainly follow through home schooling, field trips, and musical numbers don't really seem such a threat to the republic. (One suspects that hormones will soon pacify these warriors for Christ.) But the way the directors lump together these Jesus campers, Bush's White House, and the organized political right as a collective menace makes their filmmaking suspect. Framed by the Supreme Court vacancy hearings that led from O'Connor to Alito, awkwardly interpolated with the commentary of Air America radio host Mike Papantonio (a voice of liberalism, but surely not the voice of liberalism), Jesus Camp isn't entirely unfair and condescending, but it feels like a documentary produced by Todd Solondz.

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