Friday, August 13, 2010

Jesus Camp

Without a doubt, scariest movie I've ever seen.  The Globe was right to list it as one of their top 50 scariest movies.

One of the most important parts of the movie, to me at least, was near the end when the radio jockey had the psycho* Jesus-camp lady on the air.  He pointed out the difference between learning and indoctrination, namely that learning involves choice.  And he's absolutely right.  And to me, it's one of the key differences between evangelical and fundamentalist faiths and faiths like (not quite Orthodox) Judaism.**

Growing up in a mostly-non-religious Jewish household was the best situation I think I could have been in.  While a lot of the traditions we engaged in were for tradition's sake, looking back, I don't feel indoctrinated.  Going to Hebrew school, I learned to read a different language, and I learned various songs and prayers.  And I was presented with stories and situations, in which we discussed the right thing to do.  We were never told that Adam and Eve were real.  I was actually told by my rabbi, when I asked at age 12ish, that they weren't.  I learned history as well, specifically about the Holocaust and the history of Israel.  If I did experience indoctrination, it was that I was led to believe that certain Middle Eastern countries were jackasses, something that I no longer believe.

I wasn't just allowed to question traditions or god or the Torah.  I was supposed to.  Ask questions, dig deeper, do research, don't just happily believe whatever we're told by authority figures.

Today, I'm an atheist Jew.  I say that without humor, and it's not a contradiction.  Being Jewish is still a major part of my identity (I met my boyfriend through JDate, a Jewish dating site, I still observe major holidays, and if I do eventually decide that I want to have kids, they're going to grow up with Judaism), and one that has led me to be an atheist.  I've never felt as if believing in god is essential to being Jewish.  I do, however, believe that questioning god is essential to being Jewish.  And I can still study/ask questions and give to charity/do good deeds without believing that there's someone up there, watching me and judging me.

Also, threat of hell has never been a factor, even when I did believe in god.  That is, the afterlife is a non-issue in Judaism.  You do your best in this life, and this life only.  There's no heavenly reward for brown-nosers.  There's no punishment for thinking differently.

So watching these children discussing sin and satan and god and Jesus ... scary.  I hope that these children are challenged appropriately so that they can escape all the brainwashing.

* I chose this word carefully.  I'm trying to cut back on calling things "crazy," since I have a lot of friends with varying mental illnesses, and I myself have suffered from clinical depression in the past.  So when I say "psycho" here, I mean that these people are absolutely out of touch with reality without being mentally ill.

** This is all based on my experience as a Jew.  I figure that a lot of Orthodox Jews do NOT question traditions and Jewish law as much as they would if they weren't indoctrinated.  For example, I find the practice of not touching members of the opposite sex highly offensive and unnecessary.

1 comment:

  1. This, absolutely.

    I was raised as a Conservative Jew with 2 Jewish parents. I also attended a synagogue Hebrew school, and then a Hebrew high school through the Jewish theological seminary. I also went to Jewish camp in the summer. In all of these places, I was encouraged by some of the best rabbis and other teachers I've ever met to ask questions and think for myself, and I learned quite a lot, enough to rival a day-school educated Jew.

    [Unfortunately, I think my experience (and probably yours too) are the exception and not the norm. Too many Jewish kids in the US come away from their Jewish educations feeling as though they have not learned anything, that they just don't care, or they are, as you say, indoctrinated. My partner (also Jewish, of a similar background) and I agree: The improvement of (non-Orthodox) Jewish education in this country is one of the biggest issues facing Jews today. But that's another topic for another time.]

    I went to public school for my whole life, and now I attend a large research university in the Northeast, so I've been exposed to people from different backgrounds for pretty much my whole life. Nevertheless, this is the aspect of Christianity that has always bothered me, and I think you've hit the nail right on the head. I've been following Antitheist Angie's critique of "The Purpose Driven Life" on Youtube, and one of the most frightening things about the book is the degree to which Rick Warren is encouraging people to be blindly obedient to his god. I don't know right now if I believe in God or not, but if God exists, I don't think Zie would want me to be a doormat.