I am reposting this review of a documentary I watched in 2018. I’m not why I didn’t repost it years ago, but I discovered it this morning and think it could be of interest to some readers. Bear in mind that this was originally written on March 14, 2018 and is posted AS/IS. That means I will NOT be significantly editing it, and it is appearing just as it was when I posted it years ago.
Yesterday, after watching the most recent episode of Counting On, I decided to watch a documentary called Kidnapped for Christ. This film, which was released in 2014, was produced and directed by Kate S. Logan. The film was mostly shot during a seven week period in 2006, when Logan was in the Dominican Republic visiting Escuela Caribe, a school run by New Horizons Youth Ministries out of Marion, Indiana.
At the time she began shooting the film and interviewing staff and students there, Kate Logan was unaware of the school’s controversial nature. Logan was herself a student at an evangelical Christian university and did not intend to create an expose of Escuela Caribe. But then she got to know a seventeen year old named David whose parents had used a teen transport company to have him escorted from their home in the middle of the night. Although David was a model student with excellent grades, a talent for drama, and a promising future, he was gay. That was unacceptable to David’s parents.
Logan also interviewed two girls who were at the facility. Beth was sent to the school because of a “debilitating anxiety disorder”. Tai was sent there because of behavioral problems that were brought on by childhood abuse.
After she’d spent some time at the school, which by 2006 had been operating in the Dominican Republic for several decades, Logan started to realize that some of the methods employed there were abusive. For instance, participants who misbehaved were required to do push ups, squat thrusts, or run “Casitas”. Sometimes, they would be forced to do intense physical labor or get “swats”, basically a spanking with a wooden paddle. Logan also noticed that the participants were subjected to emotional abuse.
David sent a letter back with Kate Logan. He asked her to give it to one of his best friends, who would then share it with her parents. When Logan shared the letter with the friend, who happened to be attending the same university where Logan was a student, things started happened. A small cadre of David’s friends and adult supporters banded together to try to get him out of Escuela Caribe. Although David was about to turn 18, he was concerned that school officials would try to hold him there beyond his 18th birthday.
I decided to watch this movie after it was mentioned in the Duggar group I joined. I had not heard of Kidnapped for Christ before yesterday, but I have a lot of time on my hands and I’m fascinated by documentaries, especially about cults. “Teen help” programs are also a pet interest of mine. About fifteen years ago, I went through an intense research phase of these kinds of programs desperate parents employ to “help” their teens. Many of them, now mercifully shut down, were abusive in nature.
Escuela Caribe, which closed in 2012, did not sound like the worst of some of the programs I’ve researched. Yes, there was a lot of physical punishment and humiliation involved with their “approach”, but some of the programs run by the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools (WWASPS) and fundamentalist Christian schools such as Mountain Park Baptist Boarding Academy seemed much worse. One reason why they seemed worse is that there’s no way someone like Kate Logan could have had access to those schools. Escuela Caribe apparently initially welcomed Logan to talk to students and film them. That would not have happened at the other schools.
However, even though Escuela Caribe was evidently not among the “worst” of the teen help schools, it still did significant damage to a number of former participants. Some people who had been at the school ended up with symptoms of PTSD. And, of course, there’s also the disturbing idea that a school can “cure” someone of being homosexual. On the other hand, there are some former participants who feel that school saved their lives. One of the people Logan interviewed for this film left the program with a positive impression.
Kidnapped for Christ is very well produced and informative. It’s well worth watching if you have interesting in the topic of “teen help” boarding schools or even evangelical Christianity. Although I can understand that many parents are frustrated by teenagers who act out or get into trouble, I think that for the most part, these kinds of programs cause more problems then they solve. They’re also very expensive and usually run by people with no actual qualifications. At one point, Logan pointed out that the tuition for Escuela Caribe was more than what one would pay for a year at Harvard University.
Anyway… if you can watch this film, I think you should. Here’s a link to it on Amazon.com. If you click through and purchase through my site, I will get a small commission from Amazon.com.