Wednesday, August 22, 2007
CNN: Chistiane Amanpour's God's Warriors
CNN's Christiane Amanpour tonight hosted the first of three two-hour documentaries (Aug. 21 through Aug. 23, 2007) on "God's Warriors" -- (link) those who want to impose their religious world view on everyone in their region, and let religion govern secular law.
Tues. Aug. 21
Tonight's segment was about Jewish warriors. The show covered the history of Israel since 1948, with particular emphasis on the high points like the land grab of the 1967 war, then the Yom Kippur war in 1973, the Begin-Sadat conference in 1978 (Jimmy Carter hosted it at Camp David, and it was very strenuous as I recall), the more recent agreement at the beginning of the Clinton administration in 1993, the breakdown of 1999, the second fatwa, and the battle between Jewish settlers and the Israeli government in 2003.
One of the most striking parts of the documentary concerns the Temple Mount, where Jews may not worship in the 35 acres on the summit. Any conflict there takes on tremendous importance.
The other striking part was the controversy when the Israeli government, in enforcing agreements, forces settlers in Palestinian territories to give up their home and cede the land back. But of course Israel has taken land from Palestinians by force, a development that gives them a sense of personal shame and explains much of what goes on.
People in this part of the world live for the religious goals handed down to them by their families and backgrounds. They do not accept the tenets of individualism more common in the West.
Wed. Aug 22 -- Muslims
This report was livelier and more dramatic than the first one. The film did not spend a lot of time on history (such as Muhammad himself when Islam was born). It focused on the mechanisms of radical Islam, starting with a Brit who had been radicalized as a teen and then dropped out; it ended with an American with a similar experience, who turned against radical Islam when going to NYU Law School and helped the FBI. A young woman in the United States decides to practice Islam and follows the rules and headscarf. A significant part of the film dealt with Shiite Islam in Iran and showed snippets of Iranian drama and dance, where men beat their chests. Visually, much of the Islamic world is very colorful. A female member of the Iranian parliament is interviewed, and she rationalizes her feeling that women are well off with the restrictions on them to allow the psychological needs of men (in their social system) to be met.
At the end Amanpour reiterates her thesis that much of the Muslim world feels that the modern world tramples on its belief system. However, many of the "wrongs" have a specific historical context.
Thurs. Aug. 23 -- fundamentalist Christians
The third report, on Christian warriors, was the closest to home. She starts with Jerry Falwell at Liberty University in Lynchburg VA, interviewing him a week before he died. Then she interviews CNN's legal reporter Jeffrey Toobin, who warns that if a Republican wins in 2008 and replaces two more Supreme Court justices with cultural conservatives, we could see Roe v. Wade overturned and prayer in public schools. (I wondered about Lawrence v. Texas and even COPA). She moves on. Early, one pastor made the interesting point that hate crimes laws could make it illegal to cite Biblical passages that purport to condemn homosexuality. She covered Minnesota pastor Greg Boyd, whose congregation flipped as he interpreted conservative social values in an unusual way. Richard Cizik spoke that the Bible really does demand that we become stewards of the planet and protect the environment. However, his detractors claim that he is appealing to logic and science and not "the Bible." He says that evangelicalism is a scriptural term, not economic or political. She shows a Virginia family homeschooling its five children, and protecting them for ideas or subject matter they are not ready for. The family makes a moral point of saying that it wants even more children, apparently just for the sake of transmitting life. Finally, she covers Ron Luce and his group "Battle Cry" which stages huge rallies of Christian teens in San Francisco, confronting the liberal population. Luce says that we have to get away from a culture when anything is OK. He talks about it in religious terms, but the practical reason is that the culture makes it harder for less competitive people to function in marriage.
I'm still left with the impression that many people sell out logical thinking and rationality in order to experience the emotion of faith. After all, being "born again" is to surrender and change into someone else. It seems that many people experience religion as a repudiation that one individual should know too much, perhaps because knowledge seems to keep people away not so much from God but from feeling that they need to take care of each other. I don't think that I agree with that.