The documentary Jesus Camp came out over 10 years ago and it is still just as shocking today as it was then. Viewers of the controversial documentary were shocked by what went on at a Jesus camp that was created by a Pentecostal children’s ministry in North Dakota. The charismatic Christian summer camp had some unusual and terrifying practices that were much more radical than the activities found at most Christian camps around the world. The camp in Jesus Camp was extreme and it did show people just how messed up these charismatic Christian ministries can be. Now that many of the kids who attended these kinds of camps in the 90s and early 2000s are grown, they are finally able to tell their stories and there are a lot of things that were not covered in the 2006 documentary.
Any former church kid can tell you that church camp is just like church, except it’s every day. It was the sort of place that church kids would get excited about, mostly because they would get to spend time with their friends and maybe their secret crush, but the point of the camp was always to build a stronger relationship with Jesus. You would get to camp armed with your Extreme Teen Bible, a cross necklace, and an Audio Adrenaline t-shirt, ready to have a life-changing experience that you would be able to brag about for weeks in youth group. Church camp is a strange and mysterious place and there are a lot of things about it that aren’t covered in Jesus Camp.
15. Speaking In Tongues
There is a story in the Bible that involves a bunch of Christians meeting together and speaking to each other in an unknown language while flames burned above their head. According to the Bible, this is called “speaking in Tongues” and it is something that people do if they are true believers. The practice itself is as strange as it sounds but it’s not strange at all if you went to church camp. To Christians, it is believed that when speaking in Tongues, you are being possessed by the Holy Spirit and channeling the language of God. The language that they speak is not any language that is spoken on earth and it often sounds differently depending on who is speaking it. There are some denominations who do not abide by the practice at all and there are also some who do not allow people to speak in Tongues unless there is someone who has an interpretation. It sometimes involves writhing around on the floor and sobbing.
14. The Universe Was Created In 7 Days. Period.
Though Christianity and evolution can go hand in hand, there are still many Christians who refused to believe it. In the beginning of the Bible, it states that God created the earth in seven days and many Christians interpret that to mean seven 24-hour days but there’s a catch–in Hebrew, the word “day” actually means a “span of time” which does not necessarily means 24 hours. Of course, there are plenty of people out there who forget that the Bible wasn’t originally written in English and that everything in it must be completely literal. Regardless of the facts, it is still often taught in church camp that evolution does not exist and that God created the earth to be exactly as it is right now. There are many church kids who can tell you that when they were growing up, the name Darwin was essentially a dirty word.
13. Modesty Is The Best Policy
Many former church girls know the struggle of going to the beach or the pool during the summer and having to be completely covered. Modesty is something that is taught at many churches and church camps because it is important for men to not look at women in a sexual way and girls should not “tempt” them by wearing bikinis. This basically enforced the idea that women should be ashamed of their bodies and were responsible for keeping young men from sinning while no responsibility was put on the men. Wearing a bikini or even a one-piece swimsuit is often forbidden at church camps and if you showed too much leg and even a sliver of your midriff, you could gain a bad reputation. Of course, if you want to wear a “modest” swimsuit, you can but as long as it’s your decision and not a decision that is forced on you by your church.
12. Leave Room For Jesus
Have a crush on another kid at church camp? Too bad! There are no summer camp romances at church camp because boys and girls are usually forbidden from spending time alone together and must always have a chaperone with them. If a boy and a girl are sitting too close to each other, someone is bound to come up to them and say that they should leave some room for the Lord. Even touching a member of the opposite sex is looked at as a no-no which ends up causing a lot of strange sexual tension that is hard to understand and process as a kid. Christian kids are supposed to save themselves for their future spouse and some churches forbid not only sex but also kissing. That means that there are a lot of awkward first kisses shared at the altar that have to be observed by the wedding guests.
11. Eternal Damnation
While some churches and denominations teach that you should not base your faith on fear and you should, instead, base it on God’s love. However, there are many churches who want you to live in constant fear of spending an eternity in Hell and that if you don’t follow every single one of the rules, you will be subjected to eternal damnation. This is a good story to tell your kids if you want them to keep them from doing drugs and having premarital sex but it will also scare the crap out of them and possibly scar them for life. In church camp, many kids are taught that they need to follow the teachings of the Bible or else they will burn in Hell and also that the better you are, the bigger your crown will be in Heaven. Seriously, they really do teach that.
10. Guilt Trip
If you are taught to believe that you will go to Hell if your relationship with God isn’t strong enough, you’re going to be terrified and guilt-stricken pretty much 24/7. At church camp, even the most obedient church kid can feel guilty by the constant sermons and Bible studies. Reading the Bible alone can make any church camp attendee feel guilty. In the Old Testament, it says that if a child disobeys their parents then they should be stoned to death. Seriously. At church camp, you’re bound to feel guilty for that one time you visited an adult website or the time when you listened to songs with dirty words in it–and when it’s time to sit around in a circle and confess your sins, you’re bound to blurt it out in front of everyone. You may feel better after you confess but, as soon as you get back home, you’re definitely going to do it again.
9. Love Is Between A Man And A Woman
It may be 2017 but there are still many Christian churches all over the world who still have anti-LGBT views. Though, in the New Testament, Jesus teaches his followers to be loving and accepting of everyone, many Christians still don’t allow members of the LGBT community into their church and they often advocate against gay marriage. Many kids at church camp who are gay, bi, transgender, etc. may not even realize it until later on in their life because it is hard to accept something about yourself that you are taught to hate. There are many former church camp kids who have talked and written about having a same-sex crush on another church kid but they couldn’t admit it to themselves. At most church camps, you are taught that being gay is a choice and choosing to be gay is a sin. Yikes.
8. Casting Out Demons
Exorcisms are a real thing and while many church camp kids were not allowed to watch an R-rated movie like The Exorcist, they had the opportunity to watch actual exorcisms being performed at camp. Exorcism is the practice of evicting demons out of a person who is believed to be possessed and it doesn’t happen the way it’s depicted in the movies. There are many stories from former church kids who either had an exorcism performed on them or they watched one performed on someone else. One such story was about a teenage camper who was pinned down on the ground by a preacher after a sermon because he saw a “demon” inside him. The preacher yelled for the demon to reveal itself and then “banished” the demon to Hell. Because many of the children and teenagers at church camp are told to never doubt the preachers or ministers, many of them just believe that there really was a demon inside them and they don’t dare to question it.
7. Get Ready For Marriage
It doesn’t matter if you’re a teenager or an eight-year-old who still thinks that boys have cooties, if you’re a church kid, you are constantly taught that marriage is the ultimate goal. At many church camps, the boys and girls are separated and the boys are taught to do “masculine” things such as hunting and building while girls are taught to do “feminine” things like sewing or cooking. Overall, boys are taught to be leaders and girls are taught to be followers. This all sounds very old-fashioned and that’s because it is and it goes all the way back to Biblical times. There are many Bible verses that support this teaching such as 1 Timothy 2:12: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.” And let’s not forget about Ephesians 5:22: “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.”
6. The Cool Youth Pastor
Whether it’s youth group or church camp, there is always a “cool youth pastor” who tries to relate to the kids by not being as stuffy as the other pastors. The cool youth pastor talks about video games, has tattoos, uses outdated slang, and always finds a way to quote a line from a G-rated movie. Though the youth pastor is obviously trying way too hard to be cool, you can always tell that their efforts are working when every teenager in youth group tries to copy his style. Sure, the cool youth pastors hearts are in the right place but they are still the same people who preach about how homosexuality is a sin, evolution is a lie, and having sex before marriage will kill you. Just because they wear flannel shirts and play the guitar doesn’t mean that they don’t teach the same things that other pastors teach.
5. Bible Drills
One way to impress your crush at church camp is to win a Bible drill. What is a Bible drill? It’s a game where you take out your Bible and wait for someone to call out a Bible verse or a book of the Bible and everyone has to scramble to find it. Whoever finds it to the first is the winner. Yes, this is a real game and it is played in Sunday school, youth group, and church camp. Any church camp kid who wants to prove that to everyone that they love Jesus the most will memorize the books of the Bible in order to be ready for the inevitable drill at camp. There are between 66 and 81 books in the Bible, depending on which edition you have, and church kids are encouraged to memorize all of them along with memorizing specific passages. All of the cool kids can recite 1 Corinthians 13 by heart.
4. Getting Saved Every Day
At the end of many sermons, there is something called an altar call which is when the minister calls on unsaved individuals to come up and accept Jesus as their lord and savior. This is particularly effective on the more gullible members of the audience who can easily interpret this as a sign that they need to change their ways and turn to Christianity because it seems like the minister is speaking directly to them even though what they are saying are just vague words that are relatable to most people. At church camp, altar calls can happen after every sermon and since children and teens are especially susceptible to them, it often leads to the same kids coming up every time to get saved all over again. There are also some stories from former campers about altar calls at church camp where no one went forward and it left the minister either angry or embarrassed.
3. Only Christian Music Allowed
Any former church camp kid will tell you that they were taught that mainstream music was full of sin and while other kids were listening to Radiohead and Linkin Park, they were listening to Audio Adrenaline and Relient K. Christian rock has been corny since its inception but it was the only option for church kids who wanted to be edgy or grunge but weren’t allowed to listen to mainstream rock. While not all Christian bands sang about God, Jesus, and Christianity, the lyrics were generally wholesome and did not contain profanity or references to drugs or sex. If former church camp kids listened to some of the music they loved as a kid, they will probably cringe from embarrassment. “What if Cartoons Got Saved” by Chris Rice and “Breakfast in Hell” by Newsboys are two Christian songs that are hated by even the most devout Christians.
2. Long Hair, Don’t Care
At church camp, there is always at least one girl who has ridiculously long hair that goes past her waist and is never, ever styled. These types of girls take “modesty” to a whole new level and almost always wear ill-fitting, floor-length skirts or dresses with tops that completely cover their breasts. The reason why many young Christian women is usually because they believe that there are some passages of the Bible that condemn any attempts of outer beauty which means modest clothing, no earrings or body piercings, no makeup, and no haircuts or hair styling. There are also many who believe that long hair is to be seen as a sort of veil. For example, Corinthians 11:15 reads, “But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.” Not every Christian girl follows this practice but you’re bound to find at least one at church camp.
1. Purity Ring Until Engagement Ring
In recent history, there have been some celebrities such as Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez who have tried to make purity ring a sort of fashion statement and the Jonas Brothers made headlines when they revealed a few years back that they wore purity rings as a symbol of abstinence–though they don’t wear them anymore. However, purity rings are often worn by Christian boys and girls as a reminder to stay “pure” and they are taught that if you have intercourse with anyone other than your spouse that they are “dirty”. At church camp, many campers wear purity rings and there are many stories of former campers being called up to the podium during sermons to make a virginity pledge in front of everyone. However, because churches are so against sex before marriage, church kids are only taught abstinence and are not provided with any of the proper teaching in regards to protected sex which sometimes results in unexpected pregnancies. Oops.
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