It’s been 10 year since the release of Jesus Camp, a highly-controversial documentary about the evangelical Christian camp, Kids on Fire. Recently, The Guardian penned a 10-year follow-up piece about pastor Becky Fischer and where some of the campers ended up today.
The 2006 documentary definitely creeped out more than a couple non-evangelical Christians who claimed the camp was cult-like and practiced brainwashing. Some even said it bordered on child abuse. Many of us who watched the documentary when it was first released wondered if these children would grow up to be well-adjusted, normal members of society after living such a sheltered, strict, religious life. Surely, we expected more than a few issues to arise as these children hit adolescence and found out that a world exists beyond the church walls and/or could not handle the harsh guilt placed upon them for being human.
It turns out, most of the children reported on by The Guardian and gossip blog Oh No They Didn’t, who also penned a piece on the subject, are mostly fine (aside from a little drug experimentation here and there). Here’s where they are now.
Then: Andrew was the one camper who questioned his faith, and it was a major source of shame for him. The 10-year-old was quoted in the film as saying, “To believe in God is hard because you don’t see him, you don’t know him much. Sometimes I don’t even believe what the Bible says. It makes me a faker, it makes me feel guilty and bad.”
Now: Andrew is 20 years old and has left the evangelical faith. He finds comfort in “eastern mysticism, quantum mechanics, and psychotropic drugs.” He thinks the camp both was and wasn’t child abuse — that the camp leaders had the best intentions, but it was like the sick treating the sick. He definitely didn’t have nice things to say about Pastor Becky, who he claims is a “terrible f—ing person who is fueled by the spiritual suffering of other people.”
Then: Levi had an epic rat tail and was super into pretending he was a preacher. He famously said, “At five, I got saved, because I just wanted more of life. Because there was just nothing I thought was fun.” If you can’t have fun at five, we’re guessing adulthood is even more grim. Levi also abhorred non-Christians. He said, “Whenever I run into a non-Christian, you know, there’s always something that doesn’t feel right–something that makes my spirit feel yucky.” Hate at such a young age is so sad.
Now: Levi no longer has a rat tail, but he is still evangelical. He’s engaged to be married to a woman he met at World Revival Church, and the couple is currently registered at Bed, Bath & Beyond — classy. There’s no word on whether Levi still feels “yucky” when forced to interact with non-Christians, but here’s a video of him five years after the film aired.
Then: Rachael believed that God only entered churches who prayed to him the right way. You’d have to dance, sing and generally, be pretty rowdy, which is what we saw happening in Jesus Camp. She also aspired to be a cosmetologist. She said, “When I grow up, I thought it would be fun to be one of those people who paint nails and stuff, because you would get a chance to tell them about the Lord.” She also frequently tried to convert people to evangelical Christianity, even as a child.
Now: The Guardian didn’t follow up on Rachael, but Oh No They Didn’t found a video she made a couple of years ago about her life view and relationship to God. She talks about how she almost gave up Christianity all together because she didn’t feel awesome and didn’t want to bother with something that made her only feel okay. She is also studying to become an English teacher.
Then: Tory liked to dance. She made a very clear distinction between dancing for God and dancing for inappropriate reasons (the flesh). She said, “When I dance, I really have to make sure that that’s God, because people will notice when I’m dancing for the flesh.” It’s pretty heavy when a 10-year-old is thinking about how the world may already be sexualizing her body, but she seemed to turn out alright.
Now: Tori is reportedly studying dance and communications in college. In 2014, she was a sophomore in college. Apparently, she’s still all about Jesus.