Thursday, August 30, 2007

CNN's God's Warriors program

Last week, CNN presented a three part documentary called "God's Warriors." I watched all three nights and I learned a lot. But I was also a bit disappointed with aspects of their coverage. Of course, it is difficult to cover centuries of history in six hours, so they had to narrow their focus, but I still found a bit of a disconnect. I'll explain.

The general idea of the entire documentary was to look at the three major religions of the world, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, and specifically to look at the "warriors" of those three religions. The first night was "Jewish Warriors" followed by "Muslim Warriors" and finally the last night was "Christian Warriors." Since watching the whole documentary I've had mixed feelings on commenting about them. But I finally decided that I should; it was an interesting documentary overall even if there was an obvious bias and I like history and it had a lot of that. So I did learn something.

The first night I was mostly just curious to see what this whole documentary was about. The focus, as I said above, was on the "Jewish Warriors." The focus was mostly on the Jews in Israel, well almost entirely. They talked about the wars in that area (around the Gaza strip, the West Bank, etc.) during the 20th century. Plus they commented on various other violence in that area between the Jewish people and other peoples of the region. The focus on how religion and politics intermingle was the most fascinating part for me. I was most interested in that based on the articles I read before I even saw the program. In the U.S. we are always trying to create this separation of church and state. Unfortunately we try to take that position in our international relations as well. But for many areas of the world religion and politics are intermingled much more. During this first program it was interesting to listen to the interviews with many people who said that they didn't care what the UN or their government said about which land they could live on and which they couldn't. God gave the Jews specific land and that's the land they want to live on. The state can't change their minds and won't. They also made sure to discuss terrorists among the Jewish people. Now there is something you never hear about in the news. At least not these days. These days if you hear about terrorists we automatically assume a completely different group.

The second part of the documentary was called the "Muslim Warriors." Again, there was a lot of focus on the Middle East and a lot of discussion of history throughout the 20th century with some look back to previous centuries. The Islamic religion is probably one of the most misunderstood religions for most of us. The focus on "warriors" was not not just on violence. Yes, that was discussed and it was interesting to hear what the influences were on people like Osama bin Ladin and others. But they also talked about the peaceful warriors, about the head coverings for women, and, of course, all the politics of the region. Again, there was a lot of focus on how their religion is intertwined with their politics.

After watching those first two nights I was very interested in seeing what the focus would be with the "Christian Warriors" part. I ended up being disappointed. After two nights of politics in the Middle East and some look at international politics and the role the U.S. has played in that region I was curious to see how the Christian peoples of the Middle East would be discussed. I should also mention that in both of the previous episodes they also did interview people in the U.S. who were either Jewish or Muslim who had connections with the Middle East, either directly or indirectly. But when it came to the Christian Warriors the focus went entirely to the United States. I was okay with this to a point, but this part of the documentary was so completely different with a seemingly very different focus that it totally threw me off. The "warriors" they focused on in the part of the documentary was almost exclusively on the more evangelical protestants. Not a bad take, but it certainly narrowed the focus. They discussed the pro-life work of many Christians, the young people who are fighting against our Western culture by pushing abstinence before marriage, and there was a lot of attention on Liberty University, founded by the late Jerry Fallwell.

My biggest disappointment was that, as a Christian, I saw a lot of stuff completely left out. I also found the shift in focus a little jolting and was disappointed that the history aspect of the documentary went down from looking at the past century to looking at only the past 30 years. And it made the U.S. look like it was full of people who were either very secular and not religious or evangelical. No mention of some of the larger Christian denominations and the work they are doing to try and improve our society. As a Catholic I was surprised that Catholicism wasn't mentioned at all. When you talk about the three major religions of the world, how can you leave out Catholicism? At one moment they were showing a group of people outside the White House or some important building who were protesting, peacefully, for a reversal of Roe v. Wade and I happened to spot a rosary in someone's hand as they panned the crowd. That was the only bit of Catholicism in the entire two hours.

I was also disappointed that there was nothing about Christians in Jerusalem. All three episodes started in Jerusalem and comments about the three major religions of that holy city. Oh well, anyone watching who didn't know would have thought that no Christians lived in Jerusalem anymore. They could have at least mentioned Rome, but maybe that would have brought them down a road they didn't want to travel. As a result, once they got past the introduction of the third episode they really didn't mention the Holy City again.

After watching all three and being disappointed with the third part it makes me wonder how skewed the first two parts were and I just didn't notice because of my own ignorance.

One more thing. There was a very interesting moment in the middle of the documentary. Christiana Amanpour, the host, was in one of the Middle Eastern countries (Iran I think) and she was wearing a loose head covering at various times during her coverage of the Muslim people depending on where she was. So, she was sitting in a car and was explaining where she was about to go to talk to some very conservative Muslims. She needed to change her head covering to one that completely covered her head and hair only leaving her face exposed. So she took off her regular head covering and as she did she glanced over her shoulder out the car window with one of those fearful expressions on her face, like she was afraid of being caught. It was very quick and may not have even been noticed by everyone. She is such a confident and intelligent woman and she's not afraid to ask the tough questions. It was kind of strange to see her in a moment like that. As it turned out she had difficulty trying to figure out how to put this particular head covering on and had to go into a dress shop to get help from an expert. It was also interesting that the group she was going to interview were so conservative that they would not look at her during the interview. So, women in this particular group had to be almost completely covered and yet the men were still not allowed to make eye contact with them.

Overall, it was a good program. Obviously a documentary like this can't cover everything, so what they did cover was good. I think the Christian aspect could have been completely different, but otherwise I did learn a lot and found the whole thing very fascinating.

1 comment:

  1. For some more insights into the program, Amanpour answered viewers questions in a CNN article on the website. The questions as well as her answers can be found here: