Thursday, February 22, 2007

Just Jesus Land

Well, I read Jesus Land. I got it partly right. It does involve the heavy handed treatment of the author, Julia Scheeres and her adoptive Afro-American brother David, at a christian camp for supposedly troubled teenagers, the New Horizon Youth Ministry's camp, Escuela Caribe in the Dominican Republic. But their stay at Escuela Caribe was only part of the tale.

On the larger scale it is a story of abuse; physical, emotional, sexual abuse. It's also a story of racial prejudice and religious bigotry. It is a story of narrow minded stupidity. It is a story of hatred and self loathing. These elements come together in violence perpetrated against children; most pointedly Julia and David, whose childhood is stolen from them by a sadistic father, a self-involved religious automaton mother, another adoptive Afro-american brother who is also a sexual predator, racial hatred at their high school and the Lafayette, Indiana community, and the incredible stupidity and further sadism of those running the camp in the Dominican Republic.

Much of this is done in the name of old testament, fire and brimstone christianity.

While there is an air of predictability about Scheeres' narrative, it is that, perhaps, which makes it even sadder and all the more maddening. This story has been told before, many times. Every time we hear of this kind of abuse, we tend to believe, or at least hope that the act of airing these harrowing tales in books and other media will be useful in putting an end to it. But, of course, it doesn't. Demented, stupid people keep coming down the pike who use religion, among other weapons cruely against people, usually children, who haven't the wherewithal to defend themselves. The biblical concept of original sin is routinely used against children by supposedly pious adults as a justification for violence; all in the guise of turning troubled kids away from satan and toward abject supplication to god.

It should be said that Jesus Land is also a love story; the mutual love of Julia and David. The hell that the two of them lived through as societal and family outcasts served to create a bond between them. Each provided a small island of peace for the other. Julia and David were the only ones who had any understanding of what was happening to them. Each was the only person the other could trust.

I won't divulge the ending for anyone who hasn't but has an interest in reading Jesus Land. Not that it's some kind of mystery, but it doesn't end quite how you might think. Suffice it to say that Julia Scheeres is a survivor. Unfortunately, many others are not.

A couple of web sites of interest: and The first was set up by a group of New Horizon alumnae who use the site as a tell all against the organization. The second is the New Horizon Youth Ministry's web site. They are still in business, and judging from the site, going great guns. That is great, indeed!



Mojoey said...

Great review - I'm goint to run right out and buy it.

Terry S said...

I'm sure Ms. Scheeres would be happy to hear that. Go for it.

I should admit, however, that I got my copy from the library.