On Life and Love

Jesus Camp: interesting.

See, now I went to a Christian camp when I was a kid. I learned a few catchy songs about Moses and got to ride a horse for the only time in my life. The camp wasn’t anything like the “[tag]Jesus Camp[/tag]” making waves right now. Better yet, here’s a bit of video footage for you (courtesy of Andrea).

I’ve heard that children can’t possibly make “valid” decisions regarding religion at that age. I think that children can make religious/spiritual choices, even at so young an age. Those choices are perfectly valid, even if they later change as they grow. I also don’t invalidate everyone’s spiritual choices just because they may change or may be based on emotion rather than cold logic or this thing called “rationality”. The changes in their religious beliefs are based on their changes in life experience, just like everyone else’s. If the kids get tired of being yelled at, shamed (if they are), or wearing war paint, well, they may decide that other faiths’ practices are more in line with what they want/need.

Now, to what extent children can distinguish right and wrong I’ll leave up for grabs. I know that I’m still making decisions on what to include as part of my moral/ethical make-up, but my memories of my state when I was five are rather fuzzy. I suspect that I was pretty immature in that area.

Pastor Fisher does say, however, that she doesn’t manipulate the children at camp. I call bullshit on that. Almost any time you approach anyone with emotionally-charged language, you are attempting to manipulate them. Whether they choose to respond to that is an issue of assertiveness, but the first half is there. Many children are pretty susceptible to manipulation–how else do you raise a child with a sense of discipline, after all? I don’t know what those kids were feeling when she called them sinners and told them to repent, and I’m feeling distant enough from my own childhood at this moment to recall my feelings when my own pastor/minister spoke to our congregation of such things. While there was a brief period in my life where I was strongly religious–at the age of some of those children, in fact–that passed.

The ABC News article doesn’t really talk much about the children. Things done to or with the children, but nothing from the kids’ perspectives. Where’s that info?

The ABC News article also doesn’t touch on the parents of these children. Where are they? How informed were they in choosing the camp for their kids? Are they fine with their children being children soldiers of god (in whatever battle they may choose to fight–the spiritual or the physical)? For the younger children, especially, a lot of the decision-making may have fallen on the parents. I want to see their perspectives.

[tags]Christianity, religion, Becky Fisher[/tags]


  • A

    Speaking as one who has watched religiosity closely (and not as a JW), I gotta agree with you. My take on it is that every child is different, but they certainly can understand what is right or not – children are highly rational and reasoning (my three year old cousins never cease to shock me that way). At the very least, nearly every child constantly notes what fits socially and what doesn’t.

    Hopefully, the children will periodically validate their standing and update their viewpoint as needed. Even so, I’m suspicious of anyone who has been unwaveringly sure of their stance since childhood – the deep stuff requires life experience to truly comprehend. If there’s no doubt, then either they really believe, or they’re sheltered. Or brainwashed – that happens too, but I’d bet not as often as people say: many simply would rather stick with what they have and not worry about it; problem solved.

    Hopefully, the children were not subjected to such an imbalanced viewpoint they a) can’t see past their own dogma or b) never take anything like it seriously. Many religions are hokey, but some are quite serious and balanced. I fear those kids will be incapable of understanding the non-extremist viewpoints.

  • WO

    Maybe kids can make meaningful religious decisions at a young age, but I think if you shove them bodily into religion when young, they’ll be hampered in later religious decisions. Until you’re a certain age, things people hammer into you stick in the part of your brain you don’t question. If you are pulled totally into a religion and choose to devote yourself to it when you’re five, you’re probably not going to evaluate the religion rationally when you’re 18. If you don’t make a conscious choice and carefully consider the decision, then your faith means nothing.

  • Lissa

    What if they’ve shoved themselves bodily into religion? I chose to go to Sunday school and Christian vacation camp myself when I was young (although my parents, of course, provided the means).

    Should parents stop stop faith in young children?

  • Lissa

    Also: “If you are pulled totally into a religion and choose to devote yourself to it when you’re five, you’re probably not going to evaluate the religion rationally when you’re 18.”

    Why not? I can evaluate Christianity as “rationally” as I can evaluate anything else I have some knowledge about, and I was speaking in tongues when I was six-ish.

    Choosing to devote yourself to something when you’re young doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind later. After all, I’m not sitting up at MIT right now. 🙂

    “If you don’t make a conscious choice and carefully consider the decision, then your faith means nothing.”

    But aren’t all conscious and carefully considered choices made using the knowledge and life experience that you have at the time? What more can you ask for, and why does limited life experience invalidate a child’s choice or the reasoning behind it? Just think of how condescending every single person older than us could act towards us with that kind of reasoning.