According to the Merriam Webster online dictionary, conformity is defined as actions manifested in accordance with some specified standard or authority. We have recently watched both a documentary, “The Holy Ghost People”, and movie, “Jesus Camp”, that frequently showed the need for conformity and acceptance. When watching these movies, I was shocked at most of the behaviors that were displayed by the featured Christian groups. Both The Holy Ghost People and Jesus Camp movies exhibited the unforeseen social pressures of religion. In this paper, I will be discussing how a need for conformity or acceptance shape worship styles and a sense of community and voicing a concern on why religious social pressures can be harmful for children.
In the documentary The Holy Ghost People, the Holy Ghost congregation are Pentecostal Christians. Majority of their members are poor and uneducated. They believe that the Holy Spirit will reveal itself to the believers through direct contact. Within this documentary, the need for proof that an individual believes in their religion is evident. This documentary displayed snake handlers and individual’s speaking in tongues – which I believe represent confirming, saving, and possession type of experiences. In order to prove that they believe in their faith, to get people to accept their practices and to prove that the holy would protect them, the members of the church (the snake handlers) put themselves in dangerous situations, such as throwing snakes across the room and holding snakes, and drinking poisons as a testament of their faith. In my opinion, the snake handlers and their determination to prove to their peers that they believe is a confirming type of experience. This confirming type of experience may have affected how the members were seen and treated by the crowd. After someone was stung and struck by an aggravated snake and neglected medical care, the people surrounded him and continued to dance and sing around him. In my opinion, they were sort of praising him for his full commitment. I think the praise was the acceptance and acknowledged that he was a fully committee member of his belief. I believe the saving type of experience was showed when the man was struck by the snake. Staying true to his faith, the man was waiting for his savior to heal, protect and save him. Neither he nor others around him sought out medical care because they were seeking a miracles as validation for their beliefs. I also believe that the man not seeking help made him more favorable or more believable to the crowd. As the man waited on the Holy to protect him, dedication to his religion was present making him a true believer as the community praised him with songs and dances.
The possessional type of experience was emphasize in the documentary the Holy Ghost People. During worship, people fell over in what appeared to be seizure like movements because they have obtained, or had been invaded by the spirit. Others also begin speaking in tongues, a language that not all understand or can acquire. In my belief, when people started speaking in tongues, they experienced mystical and possessional types of experience. In the beginning of the documentary, you hear people talking about how they want to talk in tongues. I believe talking in tongues and being possessed is validation to their religion and make individuals exceptional because glossolalia is a form of esoteric knowledge that not everyone can obtain. In my opinion, validation and acceptance into the religion may cause some to pretend to experience these experiences just to be accepted or feel like a member of the religious society.
In the movie Jesus Camp, I believe there are two experiences shown: confirming and commission experiences. Jesus camp was a Pentecostal Evangelical camp for children ran by Minister Becky Fischer. At this camp, the children learn about their religion and are taught what not to believe in. For instance, the camp teaches the children that the book series and movie collection of Harry Potter is evil. When interviewing, one of the children discussed his beliefs regarding science and evolution. He verbally expressed his disbelief in science. In a sense, I believe this event could be a confirming type of experience. I believe this may be a confirming type of experience because the child may be denying science for the sake of acceptance at the camp and because all other children are also denying science and evolution. The commission type of experience is clear in this film. Children were preaching the word to strangers at bowling alleys and to other children within the camp. The children were doing as they were instructed; they were answering their calling and following the “right” path. Completing these acts gave the children a sense of appreciation and praise from the adult supervisors. When at the bowling alley and the little girl approached a lady, and said that Jesus loves you and would like you to learn about him, the adult in the background gave her a high five as she continued to talk about how it made her feel good. I personally believe that these children have been brainwashed and cannot create their own opinion on religion because they have been spoon fed their religion since they were babies.
Within the movie Jesus Camp, the parents and camp leaders in my opinion are brainwashing the children. From a very young age, these children were not allowed to imagine and think on their own. The decisions were chosen for them by God and their parents. I think having a religion shoved down your throat and closely following that religion can possibly ruin potential character. According to the Guardian, you should not force religion on a child. Children from religious families are less kind than those from non-religious households according to new studies (Sherwood, 2015). I can imagine the children from Jesus camps being extremely rude to children who are not believers or who are uninformed. I can also imagine them persistently trying to “conform” children who are not believers. In the film Jesus Camp, I believe the children are being manipulated into this religion and that they have to conform for the sake of acceptance. It is possible that these children may become less kind in the future as a result.
In the films, the Holy Ghost People and Jesus Camp, there appeared to be the need for both conformity and acceptance. In my opinion, conformity and acceptance have a relationship: people conform to be accepted. Acceptance is being reassured by the community that the individual belongs. For instance, children may conform to the practices at Jesus Camp so they are not disliked by the majority. Between these films, we have witnessed confirm, saving, commission, mystical, and possessional types of experiences. All of these experiences have heighted individuals sense of community. However, I believe that forced religion and the need for conformity may harm the child’s potential character. Bibliography
Adair, Peter. The Holy Ghost People. Thistle Films, 1964, VHS.
Ewing, Heidi and Rachel Grady. Jesus Camp. A&E IndieFilms; Loki Films, 2006, DVD.
Jesus Camp Plot. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0486358/plotsummary
Sherwood, H. (2015, November 06). Religious children are meaner than their secular counterparts, study finds.