God's Warriors

God’s Warriors
Kelly Baker

CNN is airing a special, entitled God's Warriors, starting this Tuesday, Aug. 21st at 9 pm ET. The special, hosted by Christiane Amanpour, documents supposed warriors for God in Judaism, Islam and Christianity. For a preview, the CNN website contains various video clips for each religious tradition that provides a sample of what the larger documentary is like. For Judaism, Amanpour reports on Jewish settlements in Gaza that pit settlers against soldiers. For Islam, there is a riveting video on the importance of martyrdom in Iran as dedication to both religious faith and nation. For Americanists, the information of Judaism and Islam is more global, but I think this might still be helpful for understanding the current fascination among the media with violent “tendencies” within religious traditions. (I field questions from students all the time about whether Islam is inherently violent or not, and I am not sure whether this documentary will prove to be a resource for educators or add more fuel to the fire for my students at least.)

The segment on Christianity, at least from the previews, seems to focus on American evangelicals. This should not be surprising because of the popularity of Jesus Camp. There is a great video about Battlecry, which is a ministry for teens to help them survive in our “secular” society. The ministry also has fantastic Christian merchandise, which is a combination of punk and skater aesthetic. This is a ministry that strives to be “hip” while encouraging teens to embrace faith rather than the immorality of American culture.

Amanpour also has an interview with the late Jerry Fallwell, a week before his death, about his role in the anti-abortion movement in which Fallwell sticks by his assessment that 9/11 signaled God’s disfavor with the American nation. Overall, the God’s Warriors might prove to be interesting with the comparison between the Abrahamic faiths, and it might prove to be a provocative resource in the classroom.


Anonymous said…

I'd love to hear what readers thought of last night's episode on God's Christian Warriors, and the entire series. I thought her interview with Jimmy Carter, which sought to "balance" her attention to extremists, was unfortunately thin, and limited to an assertion that "He's different than them," without ever getting into the substance of Carter's incredible work for disease and poverty reduction around the globe. In short, I share your concern, Kelly, that this "documentary" will fuel the charges of "religious violence" that locate the phenomenon in episodic martyrdoms and hate-speech, rather than in the SYSTEMIC violence with religious causes produced by states and militaries and markets. The series had its moments, but most of it was journalistic popularizing of the contemporary stereotypes (Hitchens and Harris and company) that treat as alarmist any public expressions of "faith," while manifesting (at least implicitly) incredulous naivete or faith regarding militaries and markets. The presumption, at the same time, is that only "violence" is news. If you visit the website (cited in my essay on Love Jihad), and go to the "Travelogue" section written by the CNN Producer, Brian Rokus, he describes attending a pro-government rally in downtown Beirut. He and Christiane and crew show up in their "riot gear," expecting (and it almost seems like they were hoping for?) confrontations between government forces and Hezbollah. Instead, he reports, "It's clear within hours that the day will bring nothing. The rally, attended by a sea of Lebanese, goes off peacefully." Everything you need to know about this show is contained in that conjunction of "peace" with "nothing." A sea of Lebanese don't matter--it's all about the violence, rather than about, say, the religious qualities of the rally, or the religious beliefs of those rallying (who might, for instance, differ radically from those of Hezbollah). But Roker does report that they made it back safely, in time for "a great dinner." Good to know.

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