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The Questionable Foundations of Spirituality

Jesus Camp sheds light on the spiritual world.

No matter what religious faith you throw your chips into, there will always be people with more extreme ways than others. Unfortunately, the exploits of these people tend to become the face of the Religion to which they belong, attracting criticism in the process. A great example of this is shown in the documentary film, Jesus Camp.

In this documentary, a conservative Christian lady named Becky runs a religious camp for young kids in North Dakota. Throughout this film, many controversial scenes were documented. One scene features kids bowing down and praying to a cardboard cut-out of George W. Bush. Another shows Becky expressing rather unsettling views towards Islamic faith. There is many more controversial scenes; just search youtube.com if you wish to see more.

If you have watched the trailer for this movie, I think most logically sound people would agree that some of the scenes are quite disturbing. This begs the question, “When does spirituality cross the morally acceptable line?” As mentioned before, people could spend all day criticizing this lady and her teachings. I find that too easy. Instead of attacking the embarrassing faces of these “spiritual figures”, I prefer to address the foundations of their spirituality. Although my views on what is depicted in documentary of Jesus Camp may be seen as somewhat harsh, what takes place in this film is hardly different from any religious home.

Let me start by saying that early indoctrination is a very powerful weapon. When an infant is born, they are not Christian, Islamic, Jewish, or Buddhist. They are simply the son or daughter of parents with religious faiths. Only after they are indoctrinated into the way that their parents believe, do they become “spiritual”. Every time someone indoctrinates another, you effectively rob them of their ability to think and make decisions on their own—this is where spirituality crosses the line. One could argue that this isn’t even real spirituality; it is essentially ideas that are passed on like a folk tale. Real spirituality doesn’t come from what you were told to believe when you were too young to decide on your own. Being spiritual in the 21st century requires one to reflect on all of their experiences, acknowledged perceptions, and intelligence in order to make a decision based on what is urgent in their life at that time. In other words, being spiritual today is a growing, ever-lasting quality—not some ultimatum that has to be followed, as commonly expressed in religious practices.