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Fields of the Lord: 'God's Warriors'

August 16, 2007 By:
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Christiane Amanpour gets a settler's perspective on violence.
Hollywood —What would God say? "Good question," quietly replies Mark Nelson, veepee and senior exec producer of CNN Productions, whose three-part "God's Warriors," premiering on the cable network Tuesday night, takes the question, "Whose side is God on?" and plays "Jeopardy" with the answer.

In examining the fierce role fundamentalism plays in Judaism (Aug. 21), Islam (Aug. 22) and Christianity (Aug. 23), "God's Warriors" takes the battle of belief to the cable crowd, where "Good God!" may wind up an expression of approbation of the deity's dealings or condemnation of the way the topic's handled on the six-hour series.

Good question, good quest for truth on the network's part -- or a good bet that someone's going to give them hell for heaven's sake. But then CNN's never stood for Can't Navigate the News and, in this case, its oarsman's efforts place them in an either/oar situation: They'll either row ably or cause a row in the process of crossing what is undoubtedly anything but placid waters.

In the wake of all this comes a wake-up call about fundamentalism and its fundamental power play in the three major religions among "God's Warriors," whom Nelson defines "as those truest of believers," those faithful at the front line "who believe that the secular world has really taken over."

Secular and the city of God: "Our documentary is the intersection of politics and religion and [how fundamentalists] want to put it back in the mainstream of our life."

Have they got a prayer? This is no silent majority: "There are a lot of people uncomfortable with the notion that a certain group, no matter how small or big, has a direct line to God," says the incredibly connected Christiane Amanpour, journalist/chief international correspondent for CNN, whose worldwide, worldwise faith-walk took her to seven countries in search for answers in this series. "Many people feel that it's just time to step back a little bit and to keep faith where it was originally destined for, which is in the mosque, in the synagogue, in the church."

On the front page? Aren't some sects more powerful in forging world opinion than others? Aren't some of "God's Warriors" better armed at public relations while others must bite the bullet?

Such are the rites and rituals in all worlds, defined as secular or sectarian. "It's like in every situation," she says in which "certain political groups, certain social groups, certain cultural groups" are at the front lines of verbal firepower.

Certainly, this blow-by-blow account -- and violence is examined -- of the trifecta of major religions doesn't relate all equally when it comes to their conduct?

"We're not doing equivalency," contends Amanpour.

Adds Nelson: "We have three separate shows and to try to equate them ... in no way, manner, shape or form are we equating what is happening in the Christian right with what's happening in Iraq or Pakistan. There's no equation."

But, all things being equal, giving each segment two hours may appear to be a balancing act, even if the scales of justice are not when it comes to the way fundamentalist followers in each religion proclaim their rights.

Sinatra's "My Way" in three-part disharmony? Mideast midlife crisis? On Tuesday's edition, Israel is really the focus as "we talk about the settlements" and offer, says Amanpour, "a fascinating, if I say so myself, view of what's happened there since the Six-Day War."

War -- what is it good for? Absolutely something, say some, and Jewish extremism is a wailing wall to climb in this edition.

In a region where sheik, rattle and roil is an anthem of angst and anti-Semitic actions, "God's Jewish Warriors" -- examined by Amanpour -- need all the ammo they can muster. Unmuzzling the Muslim view on the Aug. 22 edition? Is it da bomb?

"Yes, we know the stereotype," she concedes. "We know the fringe that uses violence to achieve its means. But the fact of the matter is that there is a huge Muslim population out there which is being encouraged to be democratic."

Give peace a chance: "It might not look what we want it to look like," she says of democracy as a divining rod for justice amid the sand-swept Arab worlds arid with Western concepts. "It might not look like secular American-style democracy or European-style democracy," but it is democracy.

Fair enough. But one has only to study history, it is suggested, to see that religion has served as battle scar, blister rather than balm, antagonism rather than anodyne, for differences among people, that one war after another is based not on good faith but on faith that one's religion is better than the other's.

"Certainly, it seems in recent years that civil wars over religion have increased.

"Nationalism has become another name for religion," as sects often "use it as a tool" to get what they want, she continues.

Certainly, God is not wanting for disappointments in what man has made of man. But that question wasn't acquitted.

"The question for us," says Amanpour, "was how much political power does God have? And how much ability to shape the way we live our lives does God have?"

Good question, but, ultimately, even after a six-hour inquiry, God only knows.


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