This weekend, as I was packing up my belongings, I finally got around to watching two documentaries that have been on my list for a long time: Super Size Me and Jesus Camp (which, I was pleased to learn, has been nominated for an Oscar).

Super Size Me, as everyone knows, is Morgan Spurlock’s addition to the litany of indictments of the fast-food industry, framed in the context of his own 30-day all-McDonald’s diet. The changes his body underwent were pretty amazing: At the end of his first week, he had gained nearly 10 pounds, and at the end of three weeks, his cholesterol was so high and his liver function so impaired that his doctors were begging him to abandon the experiment. By the end of the month he had gained almost 25 pounds. But Spurlock’s repeated message was very interesting: The food made him feel sluggish and sick all the time, but the more he ate, the more he craved it, which made me realize that perhaps this food should be regulated like tobacco or liquor. Yes, people who consume it know it’s bad for them, but at a certain point it becomes an addiction. And the fast-food industry, unlike tobacco and alcohol brands, markets very aggressively toward children, who are becoming fatter every year.

Jesus Camp was a profoundly chilling film. I spent 13 years living among rural evangelicals, but I guess my 2 years away from them managed to erase most of that memory. Adult Jesus freaks are weird enough (please don’t take that as a blanket statement–I know there are countless good, kind Christians out there who belive in the Bible’s true message of love and peace). But a film focusing mostly on children younger than 10 who already parrot the closed-minded and inaccurate invective of their parents–e.g., God is only present in certain churches (theirs, of course), and global warming is a liberal hoax–borders on horror. At the center of the action is “Pastor Becky,” who runs the Kids on Fire camp and freely admits she intends to indoctrinate children into the unquestioning fanaticism that spurs Islamic extremists to the martyrdom of suicide bombing. Between sing-alongs and arts-and-crafts periods, the children are whipped into sobbing, cringing frenzies at least twice a day (according to Pastor Becky, they’re just “filled with the Spirit”) while casting out their sins. One amazingly prescient passage in the film was an interview with Evangelical minister Ted Haggerd of Colorado Springs–outspoken homophobe and close advisor to Dubya–who a few months ago was released from the leadership of his megachurch when it was discovered that he was a meth addict and had been visiting male prositutes for years. Just goes to show that, the more extreme a person is, the more likely that he or she (a) is hiding something, or (b) will eventually crack and do something crazy. I’m keeping my eye on this army of kids.

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