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CULTURE DIGEST: Hollywood paying more attention to faith & family groups; ‘Jesus Camp’ distorts Christianity; …


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Some Hollywood-based movie producers more frequently are screening their films with faith and family groups and removing offensive material after realizing the conservative, evangelical demographic can deliver a needed boost for box office success, according to a recent report in the Los Angeles Times.

“While mainstream movie critics are widely believed to have dwindling sway over audiences, Hollywood is courting a new group of reviewers who live in Michigan and Indiana and Colorado,” Gina Piccalo wrote for the Times Sept. 18. “… With the phenomenal success of ‘The Passion of the Christ’ and ‘The Chronicles of Narnia,’ Hollywood is more carefully targeting this crowd, who, they’ve learned, can help deliver a box office bump.”

A recent example is 20th Century Fox’s “Everyone’s Hero,” an animated baseball film in theaters now. Piccalo reported that the film’s production company hand delivered a copy to the Dove Foundation, a Michigan-based nonprofit with Christian roots that promotes family friendly movies. When Dove staff members objected to the repeated use of God’s name in vain, the producers slightly altered the wording before the film’s release.

Hollywood executives realize conservative Christians are a “large, motivated, well-organized niche credited with winning the Bush presidency,” Piccalo noted, and the executives view their strategy of film screening as smart marketing rather than bowing to a conservative Christian agenda.

“People have recognized in Hollywood that it’s good business to be in the family entertainment business,” a studio executive who wanted to remain anonymous told Piccalo. “Whether it’s Focus on the Family or Rick Warren, the author of ‘The Purpose Driven Life,’ there are gigantic religious groups that follow people that have a voice. It’s a group that understands who their constituency is better than film critics at large…. They are very, very driven and very focused. They are not a silent majority. They’re very active.”

The Times article mentioned Judy Olson, a mother in Wisconsin who consults Focus on the Family’s Plugged In Online for movie reviews rather than mainstream movie critics because she is interested in the moral messages a film sends.


“When it comes to a family film, it’s far more important to me that our family values aren’t going to be contradicted and that my son’s not going to see something I will regret having exposed him to,” Olson said.

‘JESUS CAMP’ DISTORTS CHRISTIANITY — On the other end of the spectrum, the first shot of children in the newly released film “Jesus Camp” is of them wearing camouflage makeup and singing about going off to war, and it’s causing some secularists to compare fundamentalist Christians to Muslim extremists training for jihad.

The documentary follows Becky Fischer, a Pentecostal who runs a summer camp in North Dakota, as she urges kids to repent, pray, worship, fast and speak in tongues in order to deepen their faith commitment. Jesus Camp was directed by New Yorkers Heidi Ewing, a lapsed Catholic, according to the Denver Post., and Rachel Grady, a Jew.

“Jesus Camp is a sarcastic documentary that paints evangelical, fundamentalist, charismatic and politically concerned Christians as very shrill, warlike and dangerous,” Ted Baehr of the family friendly MovieGuide wrote. “It is a cutting edge, negative portrayal of committed, enthusiastic Christians.”

Baehr also noted that the movie misrepresents Christian references to war because it does not understand spiritual warfare, and it makes the children featured in it look like “little Hitler youth or young Islamic terrorists.”

“This sarcastic hatchet job may work with confused liberals who have never taken a minute to read any passages of the Bible,” Baehr wrote in his review. “It may also confuse children and should not be seen by them. It may encourage, though, committed Christians who will understand that, in spite of the attempt to tar and feather people of faith, the movie actually shows how these people are wiser, more enthusiastic and more committed than other segments of society.”

The Post reported that Ted Haggard, a Colorado Springs pastor and president of the National Association of Evangelicals, “disowned” Jesus Camp on the eve of its release after having agreed to appear in the film. Haggard called the documentary yellow journalism with an agenda akin to a Michael Moore film and the cinematography of “The Blair Witch Project,” the Post said.

“Secularists are hoping that evangelical Christians and radicalized Muslims are essentially the same, which is why they will love this film,” Haggard said.

Plugged In Online said Jesus Camp begins with conservative Christian radio hosts, including James Dobson and D. James Kennedy, asking their listeners to pray “for God’s perfect will to be done” in an upcoming Supreme Court nomination, which eventually led to Samuel Alito joining the bench. It ends with a group of children protesting abortion on the steps of the Supreme Court in Washington.

“What lies in the middle of this documentary attempts to prove that Christianity is little more than an effective means to a political end,” reviewer Steven Issac wrote for Plugged In Online.

Issac said that as a child raised in a conservative Christian home, he was taught to apply biblical truths but was never taught to pray for God to end abortion.

“So on a significantly personal level I am saddened by Jesus Camp’s efforts to try to convince moviegoers that Christians routinely hit kids with these kinds of demands,” Isaac wrote. “Because, clearly, the film is trying to assert that what you’re seeing is broadly representative and repetitive. By using the voices of Dobson, Kennedy and the like as bookends to the main ‘action,’ it wants us to understand that the ‘Christian Right’ is unified in these kinds of ideas and ideals.”

GERMANY PERSECUTES HOMESCHOOLING PARENTS — One of the first acts Adolph Hitler initiated when he gained power in Germany was to create a Ministry of Education that would control all schools, “Practical Homeschooling Magazine” said, and even today German officials are enforcing an anti-homeschooling law.

The European Court of Human Rights Sept. 18 upheld Germany’s right to send parents to prison for educating their children at home, according to a news release from the Alliance Defense Fund.

“Parents should have the final say about the education of their own children,” ADF chief counsel Benjamin Bull said. “German Christian homeschoolers have been criminally prosecuted and jailed for homeschooling as a violation of German law. The decision by the European Court of Human Rights opens the door to continued prosecution and should highlight to Americans the extreme dangers of allowing international law to be authoritative in our own court systems.

“ADF will continue to look for ways to protect Christian homeschooling,” Bull added. “We will fight any attempt by opponents of American homeschoolers to seize upon this opinion and attempt to import it into U.S. courts.”

WorldNetDaily.com reported Sept. 26 that the Home School Legal Defense Association is asking Americans to contact the German embassy in hopes that the country will grant parents there the right to educate their children. The move follows the arrest of a mother in Germany for teaching her 12 kids at home.

HSLDA confirms that at least 40 homeschool families currently are in court proceedings in Germany, facing fines or jail time. Others have fled the nation.