Pastor Defends Extreme Bible Camps

Pastor Becky Fischer runs Kids on Fire, the Devil's Lake, N.D., Bible camp featured in the film "Jesus Camp."

On Sept. 27, she discussed the controversy surrounding extreme evangelical Christian camps with "Good Morning America's" Chris Cuomo and Diane Sawyer.

Q: Can talking about dying for God and feeling so fervent about religion be good for kids?

A: You have to understand the Christian community and what's going on, as far as the insider language, if you will. What you see as far as the emotion, for one thing, is fairly typical in charismatic communities. You also see, it's not so much their emotions on the issues, although you do see that, but what we're looking at is children who are passionate about their faith.

Q: Most people think teaching religion should be about teaching love. Seeing these children get so distraught about God, are they getting a different message?

A: They are passionate about this. They're passionate about things like drugs and divorce in our nation, and all the evils. Children are very cognizant of those things. They're much smarter than we give them credit for. So that was that whole service right there. We were talking about all the evils, if you will, of just society that touches their lives.

Q: There is a moment in "Jesus Camp" where the children are passionately weeping and praying to a cutout of President Bush. Would you do this for President Clinton?

A: Absolutely. Here was what you don't see, the teaching we give the children. You have to understand, the Bible tells us to pray for those who are in authority over us, to pray for all of those in government, whether good leaders or bad leaders, so that we might live in peace. When that Scripture was written, the leaders of the day were killing and persecuting the Christians and that's when it was spoken. You pray for those people anyway.

Q: Do you think this camp is teaching children to be tolerant and think for themselves?

A: This is such a fascinating thing. People think kids are going to grow up in some kind of ideological vacuum and then when they're 12 years old we can present them with these heavy ideas and they can make a choice. That's ludicrous. They are bombarded on every side from TV to the music they listen to, to the books they read -- all types of ideas from witchcraft to evolution to morality. To say we shouldn't say anything to them because they can't understand it?

Q: Are camps like yours just merging politics and religion?

A: I can't even speak to that because until I saw myself through the eyes of secular people, I didn't even see it as political. I saw it as biblical. Even things like praying for abortion, to us, of course, it's a political issue. But the Bible constantly talks about the shedding of innocent blood and about how God abhors that. We're teaching children to value life based on the word of God. So merging church and politics obviously happens. As a Christian, I can't divorce my feelings in the voting poll. If I truly believe what I believe on Sunday, I can't leave that, check it at the door, and now go vote.

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