Jesus Camp is a powerful, mind-altering documentary that follows the journey of selected children as they spend a summer in the Kids on Fire summer camp run by Becky Fischer. In this camp strict practices of idealization and object-hunger are intensively practiced. Throughout lessons it has been learnt that the experience of religious idealization can be either healthy or unhealthy according to Jones as both differentiate in growth and maturity, the ability to transmute internalizations and whether the object of devotion is seen as fallible or not (Lesson 5, Online Notes, 2015).
When taken into respect the film Jesus Camp and Jones’s concepts of idealization, it can be referred to as showcasing it in a negative way. Taking into account the lack of possibilities there are for transmuting internalization, the object hungry state the children are in, and the addictive actions and responses within the camp it backs up the thesis that Jones would declare the film Jesus Camp to be a portrayal of unhealthy idealization potentially leading to religious fanaticism and destructive behavior (Jones, 2002, pg. 66).
Jones emphasizes that an unhealthy experience of religious idealization revolves around an object that is seen as flawless while providing “little or no room for its shortcomings to be acknowledged” (Lesson 5, Online Notes, 2015). This form of idealization is believed by some psychoanalysts to be a key feature of any religion. Specifically in Jesus Camp, Jones would describe that the unhealthy idealization resembles some key features used to decide and conclude that the experience of religious idealization in the film is unhealthy. Whenever I run into a non-Christian, you know, there’s always something that doesn’t feel right, something that makes my spirit feel yucky” (Jesus Camp, Film) is a powerful quote spoken from Levi who is one of the children attending Fischer’s charismatic summer camp. The division of two people, Christians and nonChristians is emphasized through Levi’s words also declaring which of the two divisions is seen as ideal and which is not. In turn this has the ability to consecutively turn into a component of what Jones describes as religious fanaticism where Levi is splitting the world into good and evil.
This splitting of the world into two divisions is an example of speudo-speciation; a term used by Erik Erikson that Jones refers to throughout his discussion of idealization (Jones, 2002, pg. 77). The term can refer to the splitting of the human race into external characteristics that set groups apart and against one another, which in result, can lead to a form of idealization where individuals and the religious institutions that behold them insist that their division, their religion, and their form of idealization is the norm and is superior others (Jones, 2002, pg. 77).
This act can cause for the individual to confuse fanaticism with devotion, which is demonstrated throughout the film. The intense group prayers, the washing of the hands to rid any sins performed, and the loyalty and devotion that the students have towards Fischer are examples of what Jones would consider as children confusing the act of fanaticism with devotion. This unhealthy idealizati and devotion has potential to, as Jones would say, impose the assumption upon the children with the belief that these characteristics and traits of fanaticism are part of the devotion expected from them.
The intense devotion towards the bible, God, and the emotional confessions of sins in the film allows the children to access a tragic cycle where they submit to a master who claims to represent perfection in exchange for the demand of perfection from its devotees (Lesson 5, Online Notes, 2015). When one fails to demonstrate this perfectionism they become submissive and devoted. The children attending the camp are taught vigorously that the bible is infallible and that their religion is pure and without error.
The demonstration that Fischer performed where she held a sphere resembling the brain of a Christian and the end of the objects that would stick to it as the bad elements that we are to stay pure of is an example that Jones would use to illustrate the experience of religious idealization as unhealthy, specifically through its insistence of purity and free of error. When elements would stick to the sphere it would be as Fischer said “because we would allow false beliefs to over power our own” (Jesus Camp, Film).
Jones could conclude that their beliefs are seen as unmoral when compared to ones whom see theirs as being proper in a greater sense. To briefly mention, Jones sees this as a reason for causing devotees to be kept in a state of developmental arrest (Jones, 2002, pg. 65) regardless of the immensity of love that is respected towards their religious institution. This performance of the children in the film being kept in a state of developmental arrest is just one of the differences that Jones uses to characterize unhealthy experiences of religious idealization.
The infantile dependency specifically present when Rachael goes bowling as she puts the faith of her ability to bowl a strike in God rather than her own capabilities is a valuable example of a form of infantile dependence, as well as Levi relying on the Lord to direct him throughout his preach to the remaining students. In regards to Jones, he would declare this as the devotees, the children, remaining stuck in a state of object hunger and infantile dependence on an over-idealized other relying on them for strength to do activities rather than relying on their own personal capabilities.
To solve this concern Jones’s idea of transmuting internalizations could be used to improve and change this unhealthy idealization to a more mature and healthy one. Transmuting internalization involves being let down by the over-idealized other in order for our self-structure to slowly be rebuilt (Lesson 5, Course Notes, 2015).
If this concept Jones described was incorporated into the religious faith practiced in the camp, the possibility of growth and maturity can be physiologically developed within them allowing or the realization that idealization makes individuals feel protected, but with a price to pay. The three children that were the focus of the film, Levi, Tory, and Rachael, were all of a young age and risked being exposed to such heavy religious topics and devotions that have capabilities to cause emotional instability. The act of idealization itself conjures commitment in expense for emotion and as mentioned by Jones, is seen as a prerequisite in different religions for commitment (Iones, 2002, pg. 65).
In regards to this, Jones mentions that Freud distinguishes religion as infantilizing and builds on and reinforces a dependence on an all-powerful figure (Jones, 2002, pg. 65) strongly relating to expectations and commitments that is expected of the children in the camp. Such examples of this where religious idealization was intensely built upon them includes the reinforcement of their parents that creationism and evolution is wrong, that global warming is a myth, and that words spoken only from the lord are seen as legitimate (Jesus Camp, Film).
The children that are seen emotionally breaking down and intensively crying over the inflation of their sins would lead Jones into firmly stating that the idealization being integrated and enforced is immature and unhealthy. Furthermore, and in conclusion, the props Fischer uses for comparison towards her method of teaching would suggest for Jones that she is reassuring the relationship where students are in a submissive position to her and her devotion to God who is perceived as flawless and possessing truth (Lesson 5, Online Notes, 2015).
Fischer successfully achieves this by using Barbie dolls for the resemblance of Adam and Eve, blood streaks in the font of “forbidden” words in her presentation and labeling Harry Potter as an enemy of God (Jesus Camp, Film). Fischer uses common references from the children’s current society and diminishes their value labeling them “unworthy” in God’s view, implying that they are to remain unworthy in theirs as well.
Jones would describe this as eliminating opportunity for consideration of other beliefs and a constant devotion to theirs eing perceived as pure and true resulting in a possibility of submission for the children. In the perspective of Jones, the idealization depicted in Jesus Camp reinsures that the children remain vulnerable and weak to Fischer who states that Christianity is powerful too. The over idealization evident in the film turns Fischer and her methods of religious practice into a more holy and conscious state that can have devastating outcomes such as fanaticism.
Yes, idealization may leave an individual feeling protected, safe, and docile, but it also has opportunity to leave one entering a form of submission and remaining in an object-hungry state leading to religious fanaticism (Jones, 2002, pg. 67). Specifically in Jesus Camp this is shown to great extends and if not brought to specific attention it is able to lead children to face the dangers of idealization which Jones interprets as captivating themselves in a state of selfishness, a lost philosophy of life, and dependent on an allpowerful figure (Lesson 5, Course Notes, 2015).