Sunday, July 3, 2011

VBS / aka Jesus Camp

It seems like I see a new sign for Vacation Bible School pop up every time I drive down the road. They are usually big white banners displayed in the front lawn of your standard corner church, presenting bright smiling faces, crosses, and colorful rainbows.

As a good Baptist child, I went to my fair share of Jesus Camps growing up. I remember lots of praying, going to the front of the church to ask for forgiveness, raising your arms and closing your eyes to sing hymns, people getting Baptized in the lake, and watching the plays (puppets and live-action).

I don't have any bad memories from my time at VBS, but looking back as an adult it seems like a nightmare. I was presented a one-sided story, not permitted to ask questions, and told that if I didn't follow the instructions I would probably suffer an eternal damnation. Ouch.

A documentary came out about 5 years ago called 'Jesus Camp.' I've seen most of the movie by watching clips online and you can also stream it on netflix. The documentary follows a group of children attending a fundamentalist VBS in North Dakota.

It infuriated me. Take a look at the video.

I cried for these children. As you can see from the video, they are brainwashed to the point of delirium. They are told over and over again that they are impure and undeserving of love. They are sinners, vile, and cruel and can only have their sins washed away by listening to their preacher and praying to God.

These are children! My readers know I feel very strongly when it comes to children being treated badly by adults, and once again I will use the term 'child abuse'. What the adults in this video do to these children is CHILD ABUSE - plain and simple.

How do you feel watching this video? What would you think if you saw your children speaking in tongues and twitching on the floor? This video scares me and I just hope these children are exposed to other viewpoints during their lives.


  1. But not every VBS is like this. Most of the VBS's that I have been apart of do not require baptism or force behaviors on the kids in return for love. Most of the VBS's that I have been involved in either as a child or adult included a Bible Story, singing (but never forced singing), games, snack and crafts. The town I grew up in used VBS as free day care for the parents who could not afford it during the summer. Please don't rule VBS out all together because of one documentary. Now granted I will agree with the fact that some fundamentalist groups go too far and do abuse VBS. But every organization or religion has fundamentalists who go to extremes.

  2. I agree that the movie provides an example of an extreme and uncommon type of Bible School. The Bible schools I attended were very similar to what you described... a story, games, crafts, ect...

    The problem is, 99.9% of vacation bible schools present the Bible and Christianity as unquestionable fact. They are not trying to educate the children, and are therefore indoctrinating them. What may be seen as a 'harmless daycare' may actually convice a child to believe a certain dogma based on the narrow presentation they receive at Bible School.

    In a perfect world, a child would be able to attend a summer camp where they are educated about the facts of the religion. How was it founded? What do the followers believe? Who wrote the various parts of the Bible? Not a place where grown-ups say "this happened on the third day and I won't hear any questions about it!"

  3. The Clip you post is most diffently a fundamentalists and I am glad you acknowledge it as not being the norm. I agree with the first post by Anonymous.
    It is Called a BIBLE School that might be why they are teaching the stories from the bible. It is not Vacation PUBLIC School. And the last time I check the attendance was voluntary and not a requirement. Every child I have seen is glad to go to these events and play with their friends. It is very difficult to get a 4-6 year old to understand that the bible is written by several different people. They see and hear a story just like any other story. I know that several I have seen this year teach values (Generosity, Forgiveness, Gratitude, Grace, Etc.) These are surely not bible beating at all put traits that every human needs to learn and should have and sadly a lot are lacking.

    1. "Every child I have seen is glad to go to these events and play with their friends." I disagree. In my childhood experience, I hated VBS and I went to lots of them, at least 4 every summer. My mother used it as free/cheap daycare, and even then I understood that I had to go so that she had time to do her "adult stuff" (like working, running errands, etc.) I found them boring wastes of time. I learned nothing at them and generally just bided my time until it was over. Child abuse? Probably not, but it seemed more aimed at giving the adults the feeling that they were teaching the children religion than aimed at actually serving a need for the child. I learned more values from watching my parents than by any Bible story or VBS.

    2. Anon You say that VBS is voluntary. I very much disagree. If your parents go to church YOU WILL BE AT VBS. I experienced it for 18 years. I was forced to go every year even after I was to old, then I had to help at it. The video is a christian summer camp and yes it is extreme. VBS isn't quite that bad but by friday they are pressuring kids to get saved and baptisted and they do that by putting the fear of hell in them. And this was at baptist churches.