Christiane Amanpour's CNN series, God's Warriors, seems to be a well-intended effort at explaining in-depth religious issues prominent in today's world. Amanpour deserves credit for raising the visibility of international issues. That she has a total of six hours of prime-time television over the course of three days this week to focus on these issues is also a plus. But based on the promotions, it appears the series engages in a blatant case of moral equivalency between Jewish settlers, Muslims fighting to making Islamic law the law of the land and Christians fighting for "the social, political and religious future of the U.S.A." Tuesday will be on "God's Jewish Warriors," Wednesday is on "God's Muslim Warriors" and Thursday is on "God's Christian Warriors."
The Associated Press's David Bauder has a rather incomplete write-up of the series that fails to address this issue. Rather, it lavishes praise on Amanpour and tells us little that the press release doesn't tell us. But the piece provides a good launching point for making my main criticism:
Many people know only stereotypes of these true believers, even the ones in their own country, she said.
Yet it's vital to be familiar with their thinking given the growing importance of these movements in the war on terrorism, the never-ending conflicts surrounding Israel and conservative politics in the United States.
"I'm not interested in drumming up false fears, or falsely allaying fears," CNN's chief international correspondent told The Associated Press by phone from France, where she added last-minute touches to the series. "I just want people to know what's going on."
I know it's unlikely that Amanpour was involved in promoting the show, and it may be true that the piece tries to shatter stereotypes. But based on what I've seen, for instance on the series' website, the overall approach engages in a blatant stereotype: anyone who takes their religious seriously is on the same moral level as anyone else who takes their religious seriously.
Lumping the three groups together all as "God's warriors" also clouds the issues and gives people a false image of all groups that take religious seriously. I would be more comfortable with this if there were only Muslims who wanted to make Islamic law the law of the land, but that's not the case in the world.
Rightfully so, the promotion says an "extreme fringe" uses terrorism as a weapon and I think it is very wrong for CNN to compare terrorism with anything but terrorism. It cheapens the act of the terrorism and lowers the moral standing of political efforts of groups trying to affect society.
Consider this post a preview for the show. I have major issues with equating terrorism with settlers' movements and nonviolent political battles, but the show may surprise me. I have been recently blessed with a DVR. I plan to watch each episode and do my best to report back after each show airs or soon after.