Thursday, April 10, 2008

What were they thinking?

When Michael and Amy were at Teen Missions last summer a film crew was there recording the two weeks of Boot Camp, and was going to the field with three of the teams. We were told the crew was from CBS and a documentary of TMI was being made. I had some serious reservations at the time, but since the crew wasn’t following either of my kids’ teams I didn’t think much of it.

As we were watching Survivor tonight (and by the way, Amanda, way stupid to not get rid of Ozzy now) we saw an ad for the TMI documentary. It will be aired this Saturday night on CBS as part of the 48 Hours investigation series. I found myself still concerned but not overly so. Then I went to CBS’ website and found out CBS had a partner in this production: Loki Films. Loki produced the documentary Jesus Camp, an inflammatory look at children attending a Pentecostal summer camp. It made everyone associated with the camp look like moon bats at best, and child abusers at worst. The directors, though, claimed to be making an evenhanded film. Ron Reno of Focus on the Family, said of Jesus Camp: "The directors' claims that they were simply trying to create an 'objective' film about children and faith ring hollow. I don't question the motives of the Christians shown in the film. Indeed, the earnestness and zeal with which the young people pictured attempt to live out their faith are admirable. Unfortunately, however, it appears that they were unknowingly being manipulated by the directors in their effort to cast evangelical Christianity in an unflattering light." And I am very concerned that is exactly what will happen with the documentary on TMI.

I spent two summers with TMI. My children have spent several summers with TMI. This is an organization exposing kids to great poverty, sorrow, and sickness, both physical and spiritual. And TMI is giving kids a way to help, training them to do manual labor to meet physical needs, and training they in effective ways to share the Good News to address the spiritual needs. I am so, so concerned the filmmakers are going to make TMI look like a brainwashing factory… What was the TMI board thinking when they agreed to the filming? Did they have any idea who Loki Films was run by? How could they have not done their homework on this one?

All that to say, if you watch the documentary and it portrays TMI in the same light as the Jesus Film, please know … please know … I’m not even sure what I want you to know. I guess what I’m trying to say is you know me, and hopefully you know I’m not a crazy religious fanatic who wants to brainwash my children to believe they are responsible to save people’s souls. That is work for only the Holy Spirit.

So check your TV Guide, set your Tivo and pray the documentary doesn’t give TMI a black eye. Who knows? It could be a great, positive public relations piece for the mission agency… but I’m not holding my breath.