Early in the film “Jesus Camp” , we hear the words “We must not keep silent in this time of decision”. One of the few views expressed that I agreed with.
In “Useful Idiot” I commented on the Dispatches programme that showed how British fundementalists were pulling Nadine Dorries’ strings over the abortion amendment. That programme also mentioned that the Evangelical Alliance claims two million supporters in the UK and showed that there were links with American fundementalists. According to “Jesus Camp”, eighty million Americans – about a quarter of the population – describe themselves as Evangelicals.
Like their British counterparts they are trying to influence the political process; with George W. Bush in the White House since January 2001, they have been a lot more successful.
Becky Fischer, the organiser of the Camp in question, makes no secret of her policy of targetting young people and pushing them towards support of the Republican Party and very conservative social policies. She justifies this in part by claiming that Islam gets to their youth at a very young age and saying that this needs to be countered. Consequently she feels it acceptable to indoctrinate “protect” children as young as five. Like Britain’s Andrea Williams, she sees no irony in using the very same tactics she criticises Islam for using.
I wouldn’t have thought there were many mullahs wandering through North Dakota trying to convert America’s youth and of course Islam here is a red herring; her real target is American liberals and secularists. Fischer claimed that the film would have “extreme liberals” quaking in their boots. Being a socialist and an atheist I am probably what she has in mind. I have to say that while I am not “quaking” I do have very real concerns over her activities.
She describes children as “so usable” for Christianity – presumaby because they can be conditioned to take her line without question. She talks of fighting a war against God’s enemies ie everyone with whom she disagrees. Even as an adult non-believer I could see the attraction for the kids – being chosen as the agent of a deity is heady stuff.
Even if we could offer anything as attractive as this, rationalists and the liberal religious cannot counter this tide of bigotry and wilfull ignorance by using the evangelicals’ tactics. What we offer does not have the same emotional appeal and even if it did, using such tactics would make us part of the problem not part of the solution.
It is becoming clear that we are at one of hiostory’s major decision points, where actions now will decide the path Western (and possibly world-) civilisation is to take. Thus all of us who like living in a non-theocratic society must counter the radical religious message wherever we find it. We will not persuade the likes of Becky Fischer but we must show that there is a workable alternative to her mesage.
If we fail, we are starting back towards the Middle Ages and the prospect of refighting the Crusades with 21st Century weaponry.