The apocalyptic mindset understands that children are a commodity. They are innocent and pure and they have the potential to offer hope for a better future. Children can be tools to bring about the end of the World throughout indoctrination that teaches to them to hate others. In the film Children of Men and in the documentary Jesus Camp, children show two different sides of the apocalypse and of the apocalyptic mindset in politics. In Children of Men it has been about 18 years since the last child was born and as one woman becomes pregnant, an insurgent groups tries to get a hold of the child in order to gain political leverage. Jesus Camp follows a group of children brought up in fundamentalist churches and homes that teach them not only the word of God, but political ideals affiliated with the extreme Right.
The apocalyptic mindset is very important to discussing politics, specially in the 20th and 21st century. As Catherine Keller puts it, “As we neared the millennium- so popularly confused with the “thousand year reign” of millenarian movements- apocalyptic does where proliferating exponentially.” (Pg. X) In Children of Men the probable apocalypse brings about the importance of what government can still control what is left of the world while in Jesus Camp apocalyptic thought is explored in the fundamentalist mindset that is growing in the political world in the United States.
Children of Men (2006)
In 2027, an infertility pandemic has spread throughout the world causing the world order to fall. As a commercial on the train says, “The world has collapsed only Britain lives on.” Illegal immigrants from around the worlds flood into the British shores looking for a better life, only to be caught like animals and placed in to cages to either be killed later or placed in refugee camps. On the opening scene of the movie, the death of “Baby” Diego is introduced. Diego, an Argentinean, was killed at the age of 18 years, 4 months, 20 days, 6 hours, and 8 minutes. He had a celebrity status around the world as the youngest human and was killed by an angry fan after Diego denied him an autograph. The world is mourning his death, men and women alike shed tears as if he were their baby, and they turn to their computers to see images of his childhood.
The protagonist, Theo (Clive Owens), walks around England surrounded by baby faces on projectors around the city, demonstrators shouting that “Infertility is God’s Punishment” and that he took the most precious gift from humans away, signs that say “Avoiding fertility testing is a crime”, and he is even nearly killed during a bombing. Infertility is the cause for this chaotic and violent world. There is no more innocence or purity in the world without children running around laughing and crying. Those sounds that can bring about compassion and happiness have become silent. This is why the citizens of the world cling to the idea of 18-year-old Diego as a baby, everyone placed their hopes on him. Theo sees him for what he was, an adult that had lost his innocence long ago, a “wanker.” Diego probably stopped seeing himself as a baby long ago, and with denial to sign the autograph, he most likely dislikes his title and celebrity.
The lack of children is in this world creates a cruel world because there is no purity to protect. As a Lee Edelman states in “The Future Is Kid Stuff: Queer Theory, Disidentification, and the Death Drive,” the image of the child calls for protection and those who are against it are against progress, because children promote a future. With no future to protect, the world falls apart and it becomes the epitome of a dog-eat-dog world. The social order ceases to exist because “the child has come to embody for us the telos of the social order and been
enshrined as the figure for whom that order must be held in perpetual trust.” (Edelman 1998: 5) Children not only become the reason for creating a better world, but they also become a justification for other actions that maybe be destructive but are seen as positive because they are “for the children.”
Theo is a drunk, divorced man that has no wife or child to live for. His son Dylan, died during the flu pandemic in 2008 and his ex-wife has since become the leader of the insurgent group, The Fish. Theo used to be a member of this group, but after his child died, he stopped being an activist. His reason for advocating for others was his own child, and his wishes for a better world died with Dylan. He is also a manifestation of the lost hope in world. He does not break out in outward violence, but he is destructive to himself.
Theo is an idle character until his ex-wife recruits him to help in transporting a young woman, who he does not yet know to be pregnant, to a ship called Tomorrow that will then take the girl to the “Human Project,” secret facilities researching fertility. During the trip to the coast, the car containing, Theo, his wife Julian (Julianne Moore), the girl Kee (Claire-Hope Ashitey), her midwife Miriam (Pam Ferris), and another Fish, Luke (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is attacked and Julian is killed. The rest of the group reaches a safe house where Kee reveals her state to Theo.
In a barn surrounded by cows producing milk, as Kee will soon do, she bares her body and shows Theo her pregnant belly. He says “Jesus Christ” amazed at the sight of the first pregnant women in 18 years. When the other Fishes come in a see that she has told him, Luke has the same reaction saying “Jesus Christ.” This baby holds all of the hopes of the future and the baby has the possibility of reconstructing the world from the hell-on-earth that it has become just like Jesus came to wash everyone of their sins and give them salvation. As Lee Quinby mentions on her essay, “‘The Days are Numbered’: The Romance of Death, Doom, and Deferral
in Contemporary Apocalypse Films,” “Children of Men thus turns the Christian story inside out to suggest that salvation will not come from divine intervention but, rather, human involvement in transforming humanity” by having Kee being a promiscuous girl who has no idea who the father of the baby is.(Page 14) (Infertility has only been discussed among women, which makes the father of the baby unimportant.)
Later that night, Theo finds out that Julian was killed by the Fishes because they, unlike her, want to keep the baby and use it as a tool of power over the British government instead of handing Kee and the baby to the Human Project. If they have the only child on earth and the only woman on earth known to be fertile, then they will have the world at their feet. The British government will be willing to give them whatever they want while the rest of the world will turn to that child and begin to worship this new baby as they did “Baby” Diego; except maybe the new child’s title as a celebrity would be replaced with the title of Holy Child. With this news, Theo, Kee, and Miriam escape the Fishes and head to the boat. They break into Bexhill, a refugee camp, and only Theo and Kee make it there safely. It is there that Kee gives birth to her baby girl, which she later names Dylan, after Theo’s son. The baby girl is hope to fertility because she will hopefully also be able to have children later on.
On their way to the boat, now with baby in hand, a battle breaks out in the refugee camp between the army and the Fishes. The most important scene in this movie occurs mid-battle as Theo and Kee try to get out of building is the focal point of the battle. The other people in the building can hear the cries of the baby, and they all become silent and amazed, women cry, even Luke, the traitor, is crying because he could not contain his emotions at the sound of the baby. When the soldiers see and hear the baby, they order a cease fire, and as the firing stops, only the baby cries are heard. Some soldiers kneel and cross themselves at the sight of the baby. This effect doesn’t last long; when a piece of the building falls, the battle continues. Theo and Kee finally make it to the boat and wait for Tomorrow. There is a tender moment between Kee and Theo as he passes on the knowledge of parenting when he teaches her how to burp the baby. Theo was injured during their escape form the fire, and his survival is unknown as Tomorrow finally arrives, with the battle sounds still in the background. As the film ends, there is a message of hope along with signs of uncertainty. This child may have arrived a bit too late or just in time.
Children are very important to the social order, not only because they allow for societies to continue, but because they are the glue of accepted family values. Gay marriage is seen a sign of the apocalypse not just because the Bible condemns homosexuality because it “unnatural” and “impure” but also because it doesn’t promote the continuity of society, as no children can be reproduced through this sexually union. In a world inflicted by infertility, there is no point for marriage, as Edelman writes, sex becomes a tool only for pleasure and nothing else. (1999) John the Revelator condemns sex, Jonathan Kirsh writes, “when [John] writes about sex at all, he cannot seem to conceive as a sexual encounter between a man and a woman as something other than fornication.” (Pg. 79) Perhaps, sex is nothing but an act of impurity, but children are a redeeming quality of this act. If no children result from sex and if people do not have sex with an intention of having a child, then there is no redeeming quality and the world becomes full of fornicators, and therefore the world is doomed. As Edelman quotes Donald Wildon,
Acceptance or indifference to the homosexual movement will result in society’s destruction by allowing
civil order to be redefined and by plummeting ourselves, our children and grandchildren into an age of godlessness. Indeed, the very foundation of Western Civilization is at stake.” (Pg. 7)
This sense of doom is what drove the people in the world of Children of Men to chaos. The issue of homosexuality is not brought up in the movie explicitly, but the world has become a godless world that is plummeting because of a lack of children. There are underlying themes against abortion and on homosexuality, because in present day that is what keeps children for being born and are therefore signs of the apocalypse. It is ironic that the fundamentalist are so against the killing of children while there is genocide, infanticide, and starving children around the world and they are not using their political power to call attention all of these issues afflicting children today. They want to “take back America” but are not paying attention to the rest of world; unless it is a holy war against those that are against Jesus.
If there is no marriage family ties are broken, unless they are replaced by friendship. Children of Men shows a few examples of such relationships. Theo and Julian divorced after their son died. For them, no child meant no more marriage. Other than his wife, Theo’s family is not present in the film, but he has a very close friend named Jasper that helps him when they are trying to get away from the Fish. He does have a person who he can count on unconditionally. Jasper is a married man, it is not known if he ever had children with his now disabled wife. He still takes care of her and feeds her. Their marriage is very much still alive, despite her mental absence from it. This marriage is a sign of hope. They also live isolated from the outside world in the middle of the woods, in their own Eden. Jasper sacrifices himself to make sure that Theo can get away with Kee because Jasper also believes in the hope that the baby will bring to the world. The hopes that lives with Jasper before the baby is born is a signifier that humans can change things without a big catalyst of change, although when the entire world is in chaos, this catalyst is needed.
Jesus Camp (2006)
The Christian Fundamentalist movement in America has been gaining momentum in the 21st century, especially during the George W. Bush era. Jesus Camp was filmed during the time when George W. Bush was trying to pick a nominee to replace Justice Sandra Day O’Connor at the Supreme Court. Fundamentalist from all around the country united in prayer so that nominee Samuel Alito would be voted by the Senate because he would help promote the values of the fundamentalist at the Supreme Court; and by the end of the film, we find out that he is indeed voted into the Supreme Court.
The documentary follows children of fundamentalist homes that are home schooled because the parents do not trust secular education that will teach their children things that go against the fundamentalist mindset. The children are not only thought the word of God, but as it is seen in Levi’s family, they are thought political ideas such as not believing in global warming. Levi is 12 years olds, and he already shows promise of being a preacher. The other two children followed closely are Tory a ten-year-old girl, and Rachel at 9 years old. They are introduced during a Children’s Prayer Conference in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. The pastor leading the service is Becky Fischer, a woman who started the “Kids on Fire” summer camp for children on 2001 located, ironically in Devil’s Lake, North Dakota. In the conference, there is a musical number that has children dancing, the boys dressed in camouflage while saying “Now is the time, speak the name of the Lord.” With this clothing, this message is more of a call to war rather than a call to the word of God. Later on, this same children at the summer camp, chant, “This means war.” Becky Fischer is not subtle about her message that children are a “usable” tool for promoting Christianity. She understand that the enemy, Islam extremist, are using children a tool in their war against the West. She says
I wanna see young people who are as committed to the cause of Christ as the young people are
to the cause of Islam. I wanna see them as radically laying down their lives for the Gospels.
The fundamentalist mirror the ideas of the Maccabees and the Zealots. They “we willing to risk death in combat against their pagan foes and preferred to their own lives rather than surrender when defeated in battle.” Becky is characterized as a person that would advocate for death before surrender.
She tells the children that it is up to them to change things. That there are “too many Christians… that are fat and lazy,” while she is a fat woman herself. She doesn’t seem to preach what she speaks. She makes them repeat a prayer that say “I’m here to be trained,” which continues the war motive. These children are treated as soldiers for an army of God. A conversation between Rachel and Levi with the camera has the kids repeating this words that they are trained to evangelize others.
The children are ardent believers in their faith. Levi was saved at five years old because he “just wanted more of life.” A statistic presented in the film says that, “43% of Evangelical Christians become “born-again” before the age of 13.” The home schooling of these children doesn’t allow them to think for themselves. They are only being taught what their parents want them to think. A Christian non-fundamentalist voice is present in the documentary with clips from radio talk show host, Mike Papantonio. Becky Fischer calls into the show and they have a discussion precisely on the subject that these children are not allowed to learn anything but the fundamentalist mindset. Fundamentalist parents strongly discourage secular education leaving the children without any other option even if they were to request seeking secular education. (Sherkat and Danell 1998) Becky’s response to Mike’s comment about these children and the fact that they will learn what they are thought and they will live it that she seeks indoctrinate these children because other religions are doing it too. Mike makes an accurate statement that Christian fundamentalist are creating “children soldiers for the republican party.” The kids are told that global warming is not real and are led to believe that it is okay to keep taking advantage of this world, to cut down all the trees and to drill all of it’s oil. There is a scene that shows Becky getting ready by using a can of hair spray, if she later changes her mind about global warming, perhaps she will stop using hair spray. Fundamentalist have an apocalyptic mindset and therefore they thing that even if the world does end, they will be saved because they are doing God’s work.
Some scenes in the documentary show the children at the summer camp praying for president Bush. A full-size cardboard cutout of Bush is placed at the front of the congregation while the children pray for him. He is placed in front of them as a divine figure among God and Jesus, just like the cross is placed around them. Tory is also home schooled. Her mother makes her and her siblings say the Pledge of Allegiance to the Christian Flag and to the Bible. The American flag is seen in the hands of some of the children while they pray continually tying church and state together. Political ideals are being taught to them at home and at church along with their faith placing God everywhere, especially within the framework of the government. These children are being strongly encouraged to be advocates for the fundamentalist movement in the government. But they are not creative active citizens within the government, they are being taught that the government is too secular and that it needs to be changed. Mike, the radio talk show host, mentions that 25% of the Americans consider themselves fundamentalist, which mean that if they think the government should cater to their mindset, they are disregarding 75% of the country’s population.
One of the activities at the camp is to smash mugs while condemning the government for taking God out of schools. The children chant as the mugs are smashed for a Righteous Government that places God above everything else. Children do not have a moment to think otherwise. They are constantly reminded that if they don’t believe in God they will go to hell. Becky tells them that they are either a “part of it or [they] are not.” She tells them that they “cannot have phonies in God’s army” bringing children to tears, feeling guilty of straying from the fundamentalist mindset when they are not at home or church. They feel ashamed of their actions that do not perpetuate their faith. One child gets up in front of the room to speak and he voices to everyone the difficulty that he faces in believing in God and in believing everything he reads in the Bible. He feels guilty for feeling this way while everyone around the room gives him weird stares for even expressing this feeling. It would be fair to say that he feels humiliated by this reaction from his peers and the authority figures around the room. These children are humiliated into submitting into their faith because being an outsider in their church, their homes, and their summer camp is much worse.
That particular child feels like an outsider in the camp for not thinking like the others, or perhaps pretending. There is another instance where children stare weird at another child that expresses how he strays from the Christian fundamentalist life style. Becky condemns Harry Potter for creating a hero out of a “warlock” and everyone cheer her on. Later on during lunch, a kid tells others sitting on his table that he isn’t allowed to watch Harry Potter, as most of the other children on the table, except for one boy. He tells them that his mom doesn’t let him watch it, but when he goes to his father’s house he is allowed. All of the children stare at him in shock that he dares do such things. But most of time, these children feel like outsiders in the secular world. Rachel is the best example. She confesses that she has been picked on for her beliefs, but she deals with it by saying that they cannot judge her, only God can. Maybe it is because she was still so young, but it would not be a surprise as she grows up for her statement to change from that to “I will be saved by Jesus and they will burn to hell for not being like me.” She will begin to condemn them as a response for them excluding her.
Thinking like this is what moves the fundamentalist movement forward. They condemn all that do not think like them. Becky is trying to make this children think like the rest of fundamentalist react when they are humiliated or made outsiders by their beliefs. She is trying to create soldiers in the army of God with violent tendencies. As mentioned before, she wants these children to be ready to die, and the implication of killing is included here, for God. This situation is what Terman writes about in “Theories of Group Psychology, Paranoia, and Rage.” Becky is the paranoid leader of the group that is providing everything for the children. The only problem here is that they do not have the choice but to accept her as her leader because their parents are like Becky. “The type of group organization comes from the conflict between the collective unconscious of the group and the individual’s needs.” (Terman:18) In this case, the unconscious in the children comes from their youth. They simply are not aware. They are being offered acceptance and they are being told that “They are there to help [them].” Becky’ needs are to promote the fundamentalist mindset and to create her army for God, even though she says that she is spreading the word of God to everyone she can so that they can be saved when God comes down on Judgment Day.
All of these people are constantly bombarding the children with political ideals because they “eat” these things right up, as Becky says. They tell the children that God loves them and that they are the most specials beings in the world and they believe it, they love feeling special, specially when they might be getting told otherwise by other people. Becky is a very smart woman that knows how to work with these children. She goes to toy stores and finds toys that will help her teach a lesson. She knows that children are visual learners and she caters to their learning styles. And she also knows what people think of this process of evangelizing the children, but she doesn’t seem to care. She understands the power of children. Former Pastor Ted Haggard appears in the documenantary and tells Levi to use his “cute kid face” to preach because people will listen.
The film was received with mostly negative reviews from all sides as a response to how the children were treated. According to The Seattle Times, Becky decided to close the summer for a few years because of the negative reaction they received. The campground was vandalized most likely as a result of the movie. Choosing to shut down the camp occurred shortly after Ted Haggard’s scandal after admitting to being “immoral.” The children are shown to pray in tongues following the example of Becky. She actually says “let’s pray in tongues” and the children all close their eyes, raise their hands, and begin to speak in foreign words making them look like they are in a trance. When children are asked to do something, they will do it. A child does not want to be the one kid not going along with the crowd. Their blank slates allow for anything belief system to be introduced to them as the absolute Truth and they will believe it. These tactics appear more like brainwashing, as Mike tells Becky on their call, but she prefers to call it indoctrination. However, Thesauraus.com places “indoctrinate” and “brainwashing” as synonyms.
These children are most definitely are on a path to fundamentalism. Becky and Ted Haggard try to sugar coat it, but it is clear that the Christian Fundamentalist movement in America has a very strong political agenda.
Children and Politics
The Fundamentalist and the Fishes both understand the power of children in the world. The both disagree with the present government and want to change how the country is run. Fundamentalist are actively training their children to become soldiers for God creating more violence in the world. The warfare mindset is present in both groups. The Fishes are much more violent then the fundamentalist, but as a voice is heard saying in Jesus Camp, “We have to sand up and take back the land.” This message in this film is heard with a “whatever means necessary” attitude. This means mean robbing children of their innocence and of their free will, given to them by God, in order to serve God. Fundamentalism is full of paradoxes, as are the Fish. They do not want the government to find out about Kee because of her legal status. They say that they will take her baby from her and say that the baby is the child of a British citizen; meanwhile, they lie to her about taking her to the Human Project in order for them to use the baby.
The political agenda is at the center and everything else surrounds it. It doesn’t matter that children are being taken advantage of, their ideals are being brought to the rest of the world. It just like when presidential candidates take their children along with them on campaigns. If people see that the candidate has a child, then that candidate must want to create a better world for his or her children making him or her a better candidate. There is a promise for improvement.
Baby Jesus came to world signifying hope for the sinners and a political threat to the Roman empire just as the children in this movie. Jesus paved the path for children to become this power tool because he called them to him, “But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come to me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mathew 19:14) The kingdom of heaven is for the children, and they have the power to create a heaven on earth; an earth that without them becomes a hell.
In Children of Men schools have become obsolete and unnecessary because there are no children to teach anymore. The social order is once again hindered by the lack of children by discontinuing education. When education stops, new thought is not being created. Education is what promotes progress in individuals and in the rest of the world.
The fundamentalists discourage secondary education in the children that do not show promise in continuing the fundamentalist life. (Sherkat and Darnell) Christian fundamentalist children are not encouraged to pursue a secular education because secular colleges are breeding grounds of sin that can stray the children away from the education they have received for the past 18 years of their life. (Sherkat and Darnell: 24). The problem with discouraging education past high school is that it creates children that have no worldly knowledge-which is what the fundamentalist want- and do not develop the skill of analytical thought. How can these children be active members of society and in politics, as they are taught to be, when they are not allowed to go further and learn about the social structure from secular sources?
There is a separation between church and state that the fundamentalists are seeking to erase. They live by the Bible literally, but they do not believe in the Constitution. If they want to be involved in the government, they should show interest in reading the Constitution and on respective the clauses that the Founding Father’s outlined. They want to reclaim the land that was first occupied by Native American pagans and that was alter taken away from them by religious groups seeking religious freedom. There is no holy land to take back, but rather to take over.
The political values in Children of Men and in Jesus Camp are not backed up by educated arguments. These political movements are both extreme in their advocacy of violence. The Christian Fundamentalists are not as violent as the Fishes, but the army of God is being created. George W. Bush declared war on the enemy and there is a war being fought in the Middle East that can be seen as a holy war: The American Fundamentalist vs. The Muslim Extremists.
Children of Men (dir. Alfonso Cuaron, 2006)
Jesus Camp (dir. Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady, 2006)
Edelman, Lee. (1998) The Future is Kid Stuff: Queer Theory, Disidentification, and the Death Drive. (Ohio University Press)
Kirsch, Jonathan. (2006) A History of the End of the World. ( New York: HarperCollins).
“Pastor will shut down controversial children camp”. The Seatle Times. November 8, 2006.
Quinby, Lee. (2009) ‘The Days are Numbered’: The Romance of Death, Doom, and Deferral in Contemporary Apocalypse Films The End All Around Us : Apocalyptic Texts and Popular Culture ( London ; Oakville : Equinox).
Shekerkat, Darren, E and Darnell, Alfred. (1999) The Effect of Parents’ Fundamentalism on Children’s Educational Attainment: Examining Differences by Gender and Children’s Fundamentalism. (1998) Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion: online at
Terman, David M. (2010) Theories of Group Psycology, Pranoia, and Rage. The Fundamentalist Mindset (New York: Oxford University Press, Inc.).