Much of my writing on CNN's God's Warriors has focused on the promotion for the series. Many of you readers have agreed that lumping all religious extremists together with a term that implies violence is not very good journalism. While this is very likely a decision of CNN's marketing department, not the journalists behind the three-part series, it's still bad journalism. That said, one of the things CNN has done well in its marketing and portraying of the subjects -- religious extremists in Islam, Judaism and Christianity -- is that society at large has generally failed to understand God's warriors. Can I get an amen?
It makes me reluctant to watch. Amanpour apparently subscribes to some version of newsroom universalism:
"But as far as I'm concerned, as long as people believe that only their holy book or only their holy word matters and is relevant, then there will be no solution. And that's why it takes committed and courageous leadership to provide an answer and solution that addresses the greater good for all."
Her political beliefs seem incoherent and sophomoric. She says over and over that the only thing that can help the world is "committed leadership" but also laments, "that unfortunately the very vocal minority often dominates the political stage." What do you think a "leadership" consists of if not a vocal minority?
She basically comes off as an ill-informed Universalist with what are commonly called liberal beliefs, and as someone who doesn't, ahem, get religion. This is why I hate these "journalists should disclose their biases" exercises: the CNN series is produced by a lot of people, and from what I've read seems to be fairly well done. But after reading this Q&A, I really have no motivation to watch a minute of it.
It's easy to fall into the trap of believing that Amanpour did all the work on this series, but as anyone who has any experience in broadcasting knows, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of people behind the scenes doing research, shooting film, prepping questions and even doing the interviews. Amanpour is the glorified star of the show.
Another thing about the show that's noteworthy is its ratings. Here they are courtesy of Matt Drudge:
AMANPOUR'S BIG NUMBERS CONTINUE Total Views 8/22/07
FOXNEWS O'REILLY 2,260,000 CNN AMANPOUR 2,201,000 FNC SHEP SMITH 1,308,000 FNC BRIT HUME 1,286,000 FNC HANNITY/COLMES 1,278,000 FNC GRETA 1,031,00 CNN DOBBS 813,000
"Faith in the Halls of Power" is not a perfect book. Mr Lindsay's prose style suggests that he spends too much time reading his fellow sociologists. His failure to discuss the American armed services is bizarre given the number of Evangelicals there. But he has nonetheless written an impressive and admirably fair-minded book: anybody who wants to understand the nexus between God and power in modern America should start here.
I write this before the final episode, "God's Christian Warriors," airs. I wonder if it will be mentioned at all.
Now for my review of tonight's show
The Jerry Falwell segment was nicely done and probably the best way to introduce the issue. There was little effort made to explain the theological differences within American Christianity until the very end of the show. There was little news out of Amanpour's interview with Falwell. One interesting tidbit was Falwell's statement that 2008 could set a new standard for GOP presidential candidates that are acceptable to the religious right.
There was little violence in the episode, unlike previous evenings. The abortion clinic bombings of the 1990s got a little attention, but there's only so much you can do with that. Would it have been appropriate for CNN to explain how these Christians are for the most part not warriors in the violent sense? It was interesting how many interviewed claimed to be God's warriors.
The segment in which CNN's senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin spoke was pretty bad from a legal standpoint. He said that if the Republican Party gets a couple of new Supreme Court justices, the law would be transformed beyond recognition. Toobin should be aware that law evolves constantly and the law today doesn't look like the law last year. That's just the nature of our system. He could have made the point that if conservative Christians got their way the law might look like it did 40 to 50 years ago -- and to some that would be a setback -- but he didn't.
As for President Jimmy Carter, I think he's officially the costar of this show. I found his claim that he didn't express his Christian faith more than others kind of loopy and untrue. The show didn't explicitly show this, but it was there.
The final segment on Battle Cry was tremendously well done. Overall this series has given its subjects the chance to answer the question: Why do you believe that? That's a huge plus that made the show worthwhile.