January 24th: Jesus Camp was just nominated for an Oscar for best documentary.
Jesus Camp Camp
Interview with camp director Becky Fisher
by Jack E. Jett for JewsOnFirst.org, January 22, 2007
Jack E. Jett hosts The Queer Edge television show with Sandra Bernhard; you can see it here. Last fall, Jett interviewed Mike Jones, the gay man who had sexual trysts with Rev. Ted Haggard. Jones' statements forced the megachurch pastor to resign from his church and the chair of the National Association of Evangelicals. Earlier this month, JewsOnFirst.org published Jett's interview with punk rocker/preacher Jay Bakker here. You can see earlier postings on Jesus Camp and clips about its Oscar nomination here.
If you haven't seen the documentary Jesus Camp yet, you should because it is certain to become the next late night cult classic like Rocky Horror Picture Show or Plane Nine from Outer Space.
I predict that people will be saying lines in advance and throwing spitwads at the cut out of George W. Bush. The film is about a children's Christian camp that teaches children to be "warriors for Jesus" through a combination of boot camp tactics combined with vacation bible school. The leader of this group is Becky Fisher. She started the camp and she runs the joint. She looks like a fag hag straight out of central casting. My buddies and I feel in love with her.
I wanted her to be my fag hag. She is perfect for the role. A little heavy, very jovial, always smiling and a great sense of humor, yet with a bit of the patience of Job. So I sent Becky Fisher a fan letter. I also sent one to Gwen Stefani but have yet to hear back. I can just sense that Becky is a better cook than Gwen anyway.
There is one small/huge issue. Becky is a Pentecostal Christian and I am a homo deluxe. I think we all assume that the homo is a no go with the hol rols. Roseanne Barr said she thinks "God made gay people so fat chicks would have someone to dance with", and I have always cherished the homo/homo hag relationship. I wanted to find out why there is such a great divide between the conservative Christians and the gays. Are we, as a gay community trying to reach out to these people and begin a dialogue or are they just waiting for us to pray our gay away.
Becky agreed to chat with me about this by email. My first question was about the closing of Jesus Camp, reportedly at the request of the landlord.
How did this film stop your movement (for the moment)?
[FISHER:]It hasn't stopped us at all. We had our camp already this year in August, and would not have had another one until August 2007. It was only a once a year event for us and only lasted 3 days, but somehow people got the idea from the movie it was all we did and that we did it year round. And actually the nature of the camp caused us a lot of problems because it was always hard for us to find enough counselors to stay with the kids in the cabins, and we always had a hard time finding medical personnel, etc. So in a way it's a blessing in disguise that we won't be having it. We will just replace it with other activities like our conferences that actually are cheaper to attend and more people seem to come to them.
Did you get a more negative response from the secular or non secular movement?
Definitely more negative came from the secular crowd because they have less of a grid to understand what they were seeing, so they just believed what the media told them. There was a little bit of negative from the non-secular, but really we had overwhelming positive reactions from most of the Christian community (those who consider themselves 'born again' Christians). It was almost like people were seeing two different movies.
One of my great hopes as a gay man raised in an evangelical environment is that Christians and the GLBT can find some common ground and begin a healing process. Do you think this is possible in our lifetime?
That's a really huge question because there is so much to the issues from both perspectives. I do definitely wish there could be better dialogue between us. I have to say I absolutely cringe when I see the "Christians" with their placards that say such mean an ugly things like "God hates gays," etc. The crowd of born- again believers that I hang around are equally repulsed and embarrassed by that behavior but what the middle ground is I am not really sure. I do think talking is the best thing we can do, even if we don't agree.
Do you think a person can pray their gay away?
No, not entirely. Without prayer it's nearly impossible, but it takes prayer plus other pro-active behavior. From the little bit I know (and please forgive me if I come off sounding like I'm some kind of expert, because I'm the furthest thing from it!) having dealt with three children in my ministry over the years that had gender identity issues before the age of 12, this obviously as you are well aware goes to the very core of who the person believes him/herself to be. For the person who wants to change (and that's the biggest determining factor right there, because it will be an uphill battle all the way) it requires prayer, counseling, support groups, clinging to the Word of God (Bible) for strength and support, more prayer, changing habits, thought patterns, more prayer, behaviors, changing friends, and more. But having said all of that, there are thousands of people who have successfully made the change. It can be done.
Are you aware of the statistics of gay and lesbian teenagers that commit suicide when they try and change their sexuality and fail to do so?
I don't know the exact statistics, but I know it's a serious problem.
What do you think causes homosexuality?
OK. This is where you either laugh at me or start throwing things because my worldview is going to start coming out. But you're asking for my opinion, so here it is. Here's where the basic problem in the dialogue with the evangelical comes in. Where many believe homosexuality is simply an alternative lifestyle, I believe the cause is because we live in a broken world where human beings have an enemy (satan) that comes to kill, steal and destroy the lives of men and women spiritually, emotionally, mentally, relationally, and physically any way he can. That's a general answer.
More specifically however from research that I have done there are a number of things that can happen to a young child sometimes from birth that can range from subtle to blatant that begin heading a child down that path. It can begin in the womb from something as seemingly meaningless as a parent insisting they want a girl instead of a boy, or vice versa, and then in their formative years continuing to speak that out over the child repeatedly. I know a young woman that had this spoken over her by her parents from conception and struggled tremendously for many years. She is now completely free, but had a huge battle into her adult life. It probably sounds crazy but that's a real story.
This one may sound just as crazy as the last one, but I know of one man who hated his father because he was a truck driver and was never home. The child told himself, if my dad really loved me he'd stay home to be with me. As a reaction the child began to seek out love and affection from other men from a very young age. As an adult he could look back as see he made a willful decision. Who knows what goes on in the head of a child? But this is a real incident. I'm not making it up.
One of the little girls in my ministry came from a home where the mom and her five sisters had been sexually abused by the father most of their lives. As a subconscious reaction to protect her daughter, she dressed her daughter like a boy from birth, right down to the underwear; her room was decorated like a boy's would be and had all boy toys. She was guided into sports activities that encouraged masculine behavior. The first time I saw her she was 8 years old, came to church dressed in a boy's dress suit, and she was already openly talking about having a sex change operation. This child didn't even have a chance to decide whether she wanted to be a girl or a boy. Her mom had forced the issue until the child began to believe it. When I sat down with the family and asked the girl "Do you think your father would love you more if you were a boy?" her answer was yes. (This is a very common belief by the way.) The father was shocked and told her it wasn't true. But ideas had already been put in her head. She's a teenager now. She is one who more than likely could say that from birth she's felt like a boy rather than a girl because that is all she's ever known. An extreme situation? Maybe.
I had a young man who worked for me for a brief time in my sign business who was an emotional wreck. He was a North Dakota farm boy who struggled constantly with feelings of homosexuality because from the age of five, his father, older cousins, and cousins all sexually abused him into his teen years. An extreme situation? Maybe.
I have a friend who works in the medical profession with child development so she has to constantly go to conferences and seminars etc. to keep up her credentials. She recently attended a meeting where they taught that there are two age periods in a child's life that are the most critical in their sexual development and identity. One was between the age of 3 to 5 and the other was between 14-16. If a child was sexually molested or simply had a sexual encounter with someone of the same sex during either of those time frames, the chances of them entering the gay/lesbian lifestyle sky-rocketed statistically. (Is there any chance we could edit out one or two examples? This part has gotten pretty long and I worry readers won't want to stay with itů)
In my research, I ran across the statistic that said there were three common shared experiences (nearly 85%) that gays and lesbians have is that early in their lives there is some type of name calling (i.e. "You run like a girl!") The second one was they have been sexually abused or had a sexual encounter with some one of the same sex in childhood or early teens, and right now I can't think of what the third thing is, but I can look it up later if you'd like for me to. It's on a video that I have, and I'll have to watch it again. It's been a number of years since I watched it.
I know many people believe people are either born lesbian or gay. My belief is if the person knew what to look for, they would see there were circumstances of some sort in their infancy and early childhood and maybe as late as teen years that set them up for this lifestyle. That's just my opinion based on a little bit of research.
If gay people need to be fixed, what methods should be used?
I think I answered that one in an earlier question, but in addition to what I have already said if there is someone who genuinely wants out of that lifestyle, there are specific ministry organizations that exist for that purpose, and they hold conferences, retreats, and tons of helpful books, CDs, DVDs, etc. You can check out their website at http://www.exodus-international.org. My understanding is that all of the leadership from the president on down are former gays and lesbians that have successfully left that lifestyle.
What is your thought on exorcism?
I'm assuming you mean in regards to the gay/lesbian topic just because that's what all the other questions have been about. I believe that any time a person continually yields to any "sin" (can I use this word and not get my house TP'd?:)) that it gradually moves from a habit to an obsession and when it gets to that point you are leaving yourself wide open for demonic activity. It's the far extreme but it happens. The person is usually pretty much out of control of the situation at that point. Rather than "exorcism" which is more of a Hollywood term because of the movies, I prefer to use the term "deliverance." Deliverance can be very helpful in some situations, but it is not a cure-all. A person can have a genuine deliverance experience but he/she will still have to go through all the pro-active steps mentioned earlier to stay set free. Do I think all gays and lesbians need to go through deliverance? No.
Did any children ever come out at Jesus Camp?
No. But as I mentioned I have dealt with three children during my years on staff at churches as children's pastor. Two of them were very outspoken about their feelings. I know you may laugh at me over this one, but this is the honest truth. In one case I felt like God told me to take the little girl shopping and buy her a dress. I got permission from the parents who were also concerned about her, and I did it. Then we went out for a hamburger and I talked to her about her feelings about wanting to be a boy, and in her case just built up the value of womanhood.
She totally turned around in her behavior literally from that day forward. It was like a night and day change. I saw her just a couple of years ago. Where she hated shopping before, after that she wore her mother out going to the mall buying more dresses. She's in college now, and completely transformed into a beautiful, very feminine little girl. I could hardly believe my eyes that it was the same little girl. And she had been one who had been telling all the other kids she wanted to be a boy and dressed and acted the part.
By the way, she also felt that it was inferior to be a girl, and felt like her dad would like her better if she was a boy. There was something going on in the home between the father and mother that made her feel like women were not as valuable as men. I got that from a conversation I had with the parents.
Did you cringe when Rev. Ted was outed as a gay man and a drug abuser?
I cried for him and his family. I still pray for him.
Okay, enough gay chatů
So did I pass the test? Can we still be friends even though I was honest about my beliefs? J
Where did you find the life size cut-out of George W. Bush that was used in Jesus Camp?
Out of a little catalog. But I think you can just Google it and you'll find several places to buy all kinds of famous people. Years ago I had a life-sized poster of Roy Rogers (he was my childhood hero-and now I have just dated myself!) So I knew these kinds of things existed.
You say that the kids were not worshiping this, but many people thought otherwise. Would you have brought in a cut-out of Bill Clinton?
Absolutely. The Bible requires Christians to "pray for those who are in authority over you so that you may live a peaceful life." It never said "pray over all the leaders you like and over those you agree with politically." In fact when that scripture was written, the government rulers were killing Christians. They were commanded to pray for them anyway. I told a couple of reporters that the Christians living in Iraq under Saddam Hussein were just as obligated to pray for him as we are to pray over our presidents.
How do you feel about the innocent children that are getting killed on a regular basis in Iraq?
I despise it.
What happens to these children when they die? Where do they go?
I believe that a child who is too young to know the difference between right and wrong goes to heaven.
Who made the decision to close down Jesus Camp?
The denominational leaders of the campground we rented voted to not have me return because of the vandalism, which was accompanied by much hate mail, angry phone calls and emails. They were getting hit negatively from all sides. But because of the hate mail I was receiving personally I was very concerned about the vulnerability of the children, especially with the school shootings and all, and had already decided it would probably be in everyone's best interests if we didn't have a camp for awhile. They just got to me before I got to them.
What is next for Becky Fischer and her mission?
Well, I probably won't be doing any more documentary films for awhile! This one was enough to last me a lifetime!
But as the dust settles I can go back to our original goals and visions and that's continuing to provide children and their parents with opportunities to experience the true and living God and His amazing power. We will continue to produce curriculums for children's church services and Sunday Schools. I have a number of books I want to write. One will be called something like "Kids Are Hungry for the Supernatural" which will give many stories and experiences of children around the world who operate in the miraculous realm by the power of Jesus Christ. Another one will be for kids based on a true story of a group of 40 orphans in China back in the 2nd world war who had the most amazing experiences in visions and trances of going in and out of heaven and hell. The experiences were captured in a book for adults called "Visions Beyond the Veil." But it's a hard read, so I want to rewrite it for kids. We'll hold more conferences for kids and their families, and we have people in about 15 nations besides the four we are in now who are asking us to come in and help teach them how to work with children spiritually. So we will do what we can to help them.