Jesus Camp is about the “Kids On Fire School of Ministry”, a charismatic Christiansummer camp located just outside Devils Lake, North Dakota and run by Becky Fischerand her ministry, Kids in Ministry International. The film focuses on three children who attended the camp in the summer of 2005—Levi, Rachael, and Tory (Victoria). The film cuts between footage of the camp and a children’s prayer conference held just prior to the camp at Christ Triumphant Church, a large church in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, a suburb of Kansas City.
All three children are already very devout Christians. Levi has preached several sermons at his father’s church, Rock of Ages Church in St. Robert, Missouri. He is homeschooled, with his mother explaining that God did not give her a child just so he could be raised by someone else eight hours a day. He learns science from a book that attempts to reconcileyoung-earth creationism with scientific principles. He is also taught that global warming is a political speculation, that the speculation stems from temperatures being higher in the summer months, that America’s temperature has only risen by 0.6 °F, and therefore, the rise is not important. Levi preaches a sermon at the camp in which he declares that his generation is key to bringing Jesus back. Rachael, who also attends Levi’s church (her father was assistant pastor), is seen praying over a bowling ball during a game early in the film, and frequently passes Christian tracts (including some by Jack Chick) to strangers, telling them that Jesus loves them. She does not think highly of non-charismatic churches (or “dead churches”, as she calls them), feeling they are not “churches that God likes to go to”. Tory is a member of the children’s praise dance team at Christ Triumphant Church. She frequently dances to Christian heavy metalmusic, and says she has to check herself to make sure she isn’t “dancing for the flesh”.
At the camp, Fischer stresses the need for children to purify themselves in order to be part of the “army of God”. She strongly believes that children need to be in the forefront of turning America toward conservative Christian values. She also feels that Christians need to focus on training kids since “the enemy” (Islam) is focused on training theirs.
In one scene shot at Christ Triumphant Church, a woman brings a life-sized cutout of George W. Bush to the front of the church and has the children stretch their hands toward him in prayer for him. This is a derivative of laying on of hands, a common practice in charismatic Christian circles. In another, Lou Engle preaches a message urging children to join the fight to end abortion in America. Children are shown a series of plastic models of developing fetuses, and have their mouths covered with red tape with “Life” written across it. Engle is a founder of the Justice House of Prayer and a leader of Harvest International Ministries, a network of charismatic-oriented ministries with which both the church and Fischer’s ministry are affiliated. He prays for Bush to have the strength to appoint “righteous judges” who will overturn Roe v. Wade. By the end of the sermon, the children are chanting, “Righteous judges! Righteous judges!”
There is also a scene at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado where Ted Haggard preaches a sermon againsthomosexuality. The scene was shot before the scandal following revelation that Haggard had sexual relations with men. Before the service, Levi mentioned how he admired Ted Haggard and was looking forward to meeting him. After the sermon, Levi informs Haggard that he has already preached sermons and wants to be a preacher when he grows up. Haggard advises him: “I say, use your cute kid thing until you’re thirty, and by then you’ll have good content”. The comment leaves Levi baffled and a bit disappointed. Afterward, Levi, Rachael, Tory, their families and several other children take part in a Justice House of Prayer rally held by Engle in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Throughout the movie, there are cut scenes to a debate between Fischer and Mike Papantonio, an attorney and a radio talk-show host for Air America Radio’s Ring of Fire. Papantonio questions Fischer’s motives for focusing her ministry efforts on children. Fischer explains that she does not believe that people are able to choose their belief system once they pass childhood, and that it is important that they be “indoctrinated” in evangelical Christian values from a young age. Fischer also explains that democracy is flawed and designed to destroy itself “because we have to give everyone equal freedom”.