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Bill Maher on Jesus Camp

In the clip to the right, Sandy Rios, a Fox contributor and "passionate conservative," agrees that there are disturbing elements in Jesus Camp -- a new documentary about a small evangelical summer camp on a mission to create a generation of God's Army.

Maher is surprised and off they go on the subject of religion, extremism, human nature, etc. Standard stuff, loosely related to the film. But Maher's comfort at hearing Rios, a conservative Christian, decry the subjects of the film is far more sinister than he appreciates. Rios is far more of an activist, and far more powerful, than anyone depicted in Jesus Camp.

In my interview with the directors, they reveal that Ted Haggard, the powerful pastor who appears in the film, wasn't happy with it. According to Greenfield, Haggard states his objection this way: "it makes evangelicals look 'scary' and that 'the filmmakers take the charismatic, evangelical jargon too literally and portray the children's and Fischer's 'war talk' as violent and extremist, when it's just allegorical.'"

The film's main subjects are disappointed because they feel that it was a good representation of their community and their mission. For those with a monolithic view of the evangelical community this may come as a bit of a shock, but friction arises every now and again in the ranks. Before we get into why, it's important to know who we're talking about.

Haggard is described in gleeful detail by Jeff Sharlet in Harper's:


Pastor Ted, who talks to President George W. Bush or his advisers every Monday, is a handsome forty-eight-year-old Indianan, most comfortable in denim. He likes to say that his only disagreement with the President is automotive; Bush drives a Ford pickup, whereas Pastor Ted loves his Chevy. In addition to New Life, Pastor Ted presides over the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), whose 45,000 churches and 30 million believers make up the nation's most powerful religious lobbying group, and also over a smaller network of his own creation, the Association of Life-Giving Churches, 300 or so congregations modeled on New Life's "free market" approach to the divine.
Haggard, and others with high-level connections, do not like to be associated with charismatics and Pentecostals, the more "down home" denominations under the evangelical umbrella. They speak in tongues, writhe on the ground, cry, and otherwise express themselves more aggressively than unfamiliar Americans are used to.

As his notoriety grew, and media appearances poured in, Pastor Ted sent an email to his congregation, found by blogger Non Prophet, and confirmed by Associate Pastor Rob Brendle. A snippet:

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