One of these days, CNN will have to dispense with the ominous music it uses for Christian documentaries and go for the full effect, using the Jaws soundtrack.
Last night, in the third segment of a six-hour series called God’s Warriors, CNN served up a two-hour, heady brew of fear, distortion and manipulative media techniques to paint a scary picture of conservative Christians in America. The first two segments, featuring Muslims and Jews, reportedly racked up just over two million viewers per night. All three segments will air again late Saturday and Sunday evenings.
Reporter Christiane Amanpour generally effects the air of a National Geographic anthropologist trying to appear open-minded while exploring a slightly disturbing culture. However, she can’t quite conceal her hostility, making loaded statements in the guise of questions, such as this line to youth leader Ron Luce. Luce had just explained his group’s standards for girls’ modest dress. To his credit, Luce, who directs Teen Mania, keeps his cool.
AMANPOUR: But Ron, that’s what the Taliban said. They kept women in their house because men couldn’t be trusted around them.
LUCE: Well, there’s extremists, and you came to our event and can see we’re not extremists. The kids are normal. They have fun. And they wear normal clothes. They have not adapted. They haven’t adopted the dress code for sexualization that’s happened in our culture.
Perhaps Amanpour was asking the straw man question to allow Luce to knock it out of the park, which he did. In fact, the segment on Teen Mania and its Battle Cry rallies portrays the Christian kids as normal, if emotionally overwrought, and gives some crucial and damaging airtime to San Francisco protesters who scream epithets and accuse the Christian kids of hate, bigotry, etc. One man dressed in a nun’s habit and Kabuki-like makeup gets an up-close moment to exclaim, “This city is about joy, not about hate.” Well, okay. Who would you want your kid hanging around with, the freshly scrubbed teens singing worship music or the guy with the spiky blue Mohawk?
Similarly, the opening segments filmed at Liberty University with the late Jerry Falwell and Liberty Law School Dean Mat Staver come off without too much liberal angst, as do portions featuring Fairfield Christian Church Ohio activist pastor Russell Johnson and Seattle-area Christian political activist Danielle Turissini. That’s because Falwell, Staver, Johnson and Turissini handle several loaded questions with ease. Turissini especially shines as sincere, savvy and guileless. Despite the presence of much flag-waving footage of an emotional rally, the clips featuring Israel advoate Pastor John Hagee generally allow him to make his case that Christians are sincere in their defense of Israel.
It’s in the domestic political issue sections that Amanpour gives vent to her liberal bias.
To wit. she features:
1) Former President Jimmy Carter, who gives a radically one-sided picture of the Southern Baptist Convention’s political stances and its resolution about the role of women in the church. Carter mangles Jefferson’s famous “wall of separation” letter to the Danbury Baptists, and accuses the Southern Baptists of creating a (gasp) “creed” that must be followed by all pastors. No one from the Southern Baptists is allowed any response.
2) Rich Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals, who claims, absurdly, that that his fellow conservative Christians reject global warming because they reject science itself out of fear of evolution. Amanpour seizes the opportunity to take a swipe at Intelligent Design, crudely characterizing it without anyone to defend it. Cizik, it seems, is the Only Reasonable Christian Leader.
3) Greg Boyd, a self-described conservative pastor in Minnesota who has earned media plaudits as a “heretic” by trashing his fellow Christians for being politically influential. Boyd helpfully notes: "I am very concerned about the extent to which what's called the kingdom of the world, the politics of the world, is being fused with our faith. In some cases almost like a Taliban, Islamic state. Where, you know, it's like we want to run a Christian society and enforce Christian law. And my concern is that is very damaging for the church." Wonder if Boyd thinks comparing some Christians to the Taliban does any damage to the church? And, by the way, he is considered a heretic by some not because of his political views but because of his open-ended theology.
The message at times is so ham-handed during the political segments that anyone with even the slightest skepticism of CNN’s motives should see through it. Ominous music, weird camera angles and one-sided portrayals of key issues are standard fare.
Rich Scarborough of Vision America comes across as intelligent in the interview portions, but God’s Warriors uses footage of some of his more emotional calls to arms, and freeze-frames on Scarborough with his face distorted, as scary music rises to let us know we should Fear This Man.
In the legal portion, Amanpour introduces the segment by declaring that “the Supreme Court is ground zero in the combat between law and religion.” Catch that?. Amanpour implies that evangelicals are somehow either “against” the law, or are trying to conquer it. Note to Christiane: in a democratic society, all people, even those you disagree with, are allowed to try to write their values into law. That said, the practical agenda of “God’s Christian Warriors” is not to rewrite the law, but to restore the interpretations of the law commonly held before liberalism corrupted American jurisprudence.
To her credit, Amanpour acknowledges that the Supreme Court itself sits in the presence of an image of Moses and the Ten Commandments. The stone visage of Moses graces the Court every day from the frieze overlooking the justices’ dais.
AMANPOUR: I went there with CNN Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin. So here is this phenomenal bastion of jurisprudence. Inside are the Ten Commandments.
TOOBIN: Including very prominently on the ceiling of the courtroom.
AMANPOUR: How do the Ten Commandments get onto the Supreme Court building?
TOOBIN: The Constitution has never been interpreted to mean that you could have no reference to God anywhere. Many courtrooms say, “In God We Trust.”
AMANPOUR: “In God We Trust” is part of the American dialogue and yet the Religious Right would have you believe there’s no mention of God anywhere in our public sphere. (Author’s note: They would? I’ve never heard anyone make that claim.) It’s on the currency.
TOOBIN: It’s on the currency and they say because it’s on the currency there’s nothing wrong with it being in the schools or in the courthouses or in the capitol.
AMANPOUR: But they also play the victim somewhat. Are they victimized?
TOOBIN: They feel like they’re losing the culture wars. They feel like it’s an increasingly secular society and keeping prayer out of the schools, keeping the Ten Commandments out of the courthouses is part of how they’re being victimized.
Not bad for a man who once described the ban on partial birth abortion as a threat to the health of the “mother and the fetus.”
The next segment features two Liberty University sisters, Mandy and Megan Chapman. Megan had been a class chaplain at her Kentucky high school, and had been warned not to recite the Lord’s Prayer at her graduation ceremony. So the entire senior class stands in defiance and recites the prayer, to thunderous applause from the audience. It is very striking footage, and proves the students’ point that it’s the courts, not the people, who seem obsessed with wiping out any public religious observance.
But CNN then goes right back into the scare business again.
The creepiest moment comes when U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito, accompanied by sinister music right out of Fox’s ’24’ counter-terrorist series, walk down a set of marble steps.
Toobin ticks off the awful (to liberals) things that will happen if liberal justices John Paul Stephens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg are replaced by more judges like Roberts and Alito:
TOOBIN: You’re going to have abortion illegal in large parts of the country. You’re going to have schools allowing a lot more religious observance within them.
AMANPOUR: That is music to Mat Staver’s ears and a division of America that he and his students would embrace. The answer to their prayers.
Egad. If all this comes to pass, the public schools might have to start admitting that they break for “Christmas” in December, and stop teaching kids that promiscuous sex is inevitable and as wholesome for them as Cheerios.
Amanpour devotes much of the program to grassroots Christian political activism, leaving the impression that conservative Christianity is all about politics. In fact, politics is a side issue to most Christian believers. At one point, she opines: “God’s Christian warriors know where they want the country to go. And they’re not going to stop fighting until their battle is won.”
The takeaway message? Secular-minded Americans, you had better do something, because these Christian warriors are power-hungry and coming for your freedoms.