Monday, August 20, 2007

Amanpour Gets Three Prime-Time Hours -

Amanpour Gets Three Prime-Time Hours -
"NEW YORK -- Christiane Amanpour's work on the documentary series 'God's Warriors' took her directly to intersections of extreme religious and secular thinking.

She watched, fascinated, as demonstrators in San Francisco accused teenagers in the fundamentalist Christian group BattleCry of intolerance in a clash of two cultures that will probably never understand each other.

Understanding is what Amanpour is trying to promote in 'God's Warriors,' which takes up six prime-time hours on CNN this week. The series on religious fundamentalism among Christians, Muslims and Jews airs in three parts, 9 p.m. EDT Tuesday"
I linked yesterday to a story arising out of this series -- about a young man who started with no particular affiliation with any religion passing through Judasim, Islam, and finally is a Christian.

CNN is tackling a story here that has a lot of significance in how events transpire in the world today, and it seems as if they are devoting more than a sound bite or two to the topics.

It is hard to say how this will all play out. There are a few clues in this article that indicate where this may be headed. One in particular relates to the BattleCry organization in which Amanpour notes that girls are encouraged to wear long dresses at BattleCry events. She asks how this is different from the Taliban.

I find it hard to imagine that a reporter of Christiane Amanpour's experience could fail to see a difference between encouragement to avoid sexually-revealing clothing among teens and how women in Afghanistan had been forced under threats of violence or worse to conform to a dress code that that covers women from head to toe.

As with much of today's media, I suspect that this series will be a mixed bag of good and not-so-good reporting and analysis. I will try and watch it and see what useful things it has to say about these problems of culture, religion, and politics.


Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

Once again, the conspiracy theorist in me comes out. After 9/11 there was an essay in the NY Times that said that the real problem wasn't Islam. The real problem was the mindset that "We're the only ones that are right on spiritual things." That sort of thinking leads to 9/11's the author argued.

The writer called for a sort of jihad on that particular mindset. Which is, of course the mindset of any person who takes his/her religion seriously, including me. Leaders of religions must reinterpret their texts so that they can make room for other people to be right, too.

What the man seems to have been wholly ignorant of is that, at least in Christianity and Judaism, such re-interpreting has been going on for at least 2 centuries. See the interesting article in the NY Times magazine, "The Politics of God" for a history of this phenomenon:

Those who truly believe their texts are not going to be swayed by the dribblers and the waterers-down. We actually hold them in contempt. If I'm on any sort of a jihad at all, it's a jihad against the forces of theological liberalism, and the only bombs it involves are verbal ones.

This trend to lump together all the various people who take their own texts seriously and label them as "fundamentalists" or "God's warriors" is manifestly unhelpful and false. It suggests that everyone's texts all tell them to do the same thing. They don't. A Hasidic Jew will hardly speak with and unbeliever, won't touch him at all, and prefers to seal himself off behind the walls of his community. A fundamentalist Christian might respond to his corrupt culture in a variety of ways, but none should involve violence. It's Islam that's the problem child, and I'm not totally convinced that it's all Islam that's the problem. I think, when it gets right down to it, it's a rare person that will die for their religion, and an even rarer person who will kill for it. People will die and kill when their personal security and safety are threatened, or when the lives of their children and loved ones are threatened, or when they are in despair and anguish and want to lash out. Or to gain riches and power. But that has nothing to do with their religion. Not really. It may be a convenient cover or a justification, but it is not the real cause.

Denis Hancock said...

Well, I was trying to give CNN the benefit of the doubt, of course without setting my hopes too high. I've seen the treatment of faith in the media for too many years to have high expectations. About the best we can hope for is neutrality.

You make some pretty good points, and even if I weren't a Christian, if someone asked which is better: (1) to turn the other cheek, walk the extra mile, or to lay down one's life that others may live; or (2) to kill infidels in great numbers, without respect to gender or age; I'd have to agree the message of Jesus Christ is far superior in terms of fostering peace.

But we have the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, and we know they are true. And because we know they are true we tell others the Good News and let God do the rest. We don't convert with violence to threats, and if people choose not to convert they still enjoy the same civil rights as any other person. The same cannot be said of many countries whose ideas of the relationship between religion and government is not like our own...