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God's Warriors

Aired August 22, 2012 - 15:00:00   ET



CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.

And this week, something special. A few years ago, I had the rare opportunity to spend almost a year traveling the world to report a series that we called "God's Warriors," illustrating in dramatic detail where religion and politics collide and sometimes explode to change the course of history.

Each night this week, I'll bring you these reports on Islam, Judaism and Christianity, because much of what we discovered remains so vital to the challenges that our world faces today.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The scripture is the blueprint to life and living.

AMANPOUR: (voice-over): They are sure of their mission.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our role is to redeem the entire world.

AMANPOUR: What they have in common ...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: God promised we would return to this land.

AMANPOUR: ... Jews, Christians and Muslims, the belief that modern society has lost its way.

RON LUCE, CO-FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT, TEEN MANIA: They're raping virgin teenage America on the sidewalk and everybody is walking by and acting like everything is OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The problem we have now with the civilizations is you don't offer the man where to go. He doesn't know his place in life.

TZIPPI SHISSEL, DAUGHTER OF RABBI SHLOMO RA'ANAN: The people that don't keep the Torah, they don't understand the meaning of being Jews; they're wasting their life.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): They say God is the answer.

REV. JERRY FALWELL: I would like to see America become the nation under God again.


AMANPOUR: Tonight the focus is on God's Christian Warriors, particularly on the issue of how evangelical Christians have transformed American politics. In this election year here in the U.S., the fight for the Republican nomination for president has been dominated by the issues that fire up millions of conservative Christian voters. The fight over gay marriage, abortion, the role of prayer in public life and those same values will play a powerful role in who wins the presidential election in November.

Both President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney often speak of their religious faith, and that emphasis is largely due to the life's work of one man. His name is Reverend Jerry Falwell, and he died five years ago, just after I conducted the interview I'm about to show you.

Falwell was driven by his passion for a single idea, that a strong America is one in which there is no separation of church and state, despite the U.S. Constitution.


FALWELL: Good Christians ought to make good citizens. Vote in every election. Become a part of every campaign.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): In the beginning, there was Jerry Falwell --

FALWELL: After 55 years of ministry --

AMANPOUR (voice-over): -- the Baptist preacher who became the godfather of the Christian right.

FALWELL: Our politicians need to be men and women who take their faith into the halls of Congress, into the voting booth.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): And from the beginning, there was controversy --

CROWD: Go home! Go home!

AMANPOUR (voice-over): -- as Falwell thrust religion into politics. His mission was to change America.

FALWELL: Let's see to it that we keep a president and a control in the Senate and the House of men and women who believe in the moral values that this nation was built on.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): I was the last journalist to interview Falwell in the spring -- a week before his sudden death.

FALWELL: That's the Blue Ridge Mountains out there.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): He showed me around his Liberty University, which now has 10,000 students on campus in Lynchburg, Virginia.

AMANPOUR: Are you expanding?

FALWELL: We're growing by about 1,000 students a year.

This is the first dorm we ever built.

AMANPOUR: This one?

FALWELL: Right there. It's got a number one on it. You can't see it now.

AMANPOUR: Yes, I see it.

FALWELL: Can you?

AMANPOUR: Number one female.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Dorms are either male or female. At this Liberty, there is no freedom to go astray.

FALWELL: We're an alcohol-free zone, we're a tobacco-free zone, we have no coed dorms. Catch a boy in a girl's dorm, we think about shooting him. We don't, but we think about it.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Here, faith is at the top of the curriculum. All students must take classes on the Old and New Testaments and a course comparing science and scripture, evolution and the creation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to be trained for Christ and I want to have strong Biblical values.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): It took Falwell a third of a century to build Liberty University --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is my first semester here at Liberty.

FALWELL: What are you studying?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Business management.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): -- to ensure these students carry on his crusade and shape his legacy.

AMANPOUR: You say you're raising a generation of pit bulls to go out and grab the world by the throat. What is it that you want them to do?

FALWELL: We're trying to raise up a generation of young people who will confront the culture.

CROWD: Not the church, not the state!

AMANPOUR (voice-over): A culture he believed has gone seriously awry.

CROWD: Marriage is a privilege (inaudible).

FALWELL: We're trying to force God out of -- and we have pretty well done it -- the public square, the public schools, our public lives.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): When Falwell became a minister half a century ago, America was very different. School days began with prayer and the right to abortion was not the law of the land.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): Then came the social revolution of the 1960s and American lifestyles changed.

BRUCE LAWRENCE, DUKE UNIVERSITY: America in the '60s, it had a revolution of excess, where you had Elvis and you had drugs and you had sex. And at the same time you had a very punishing foreign war -- the Vietnam War.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Religious historian Bruce Lawrence.

LAWRENCE: You saw all these other elements, both international and national, that seemed to portend a very dangerous and uncertain future, push people to look for other answers.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): In 1973, the Supreme Court, decision Roe versus Wade, allowed the right to abortion and touched off a Christian counterrevolution.

FALWELL: And out of that Moral Majority was born.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): It would mean a sea change in American politics and in the courts.

FALWELL: When we started Moral Majority, we were novices. You could have gotten most of our preachers who were interested in public policy in a phone booth at the time.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): His movement transcended denominations.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): Falwell joined ranks with Catholics, Mormons and social conservatives.

By the 1980 presidential election, the Moral Majority mobilized millions of voters. And while Ronald Reagan needed almost no help in his landslide victory over Jimmy Carter, with Falwell in the ring, 12 Democratic senators did lose their seats over issues like abortion.

FALWELL: We just got everybody registered. We got them to the polls. And they pulled an R for Reagan and went on down with Rs and 12 liberal senators went out of business.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Suddenly, conservative Christians had become a political force --


AMANPOUR (voice-over): -- portraying themselves then and now as an endangered species whose values were under attack. Issues would be cast in moral terms. Faith and politics would become inseparable.

FALWELL: The press found us the next day. They had -- we were not on the radar. They named us the Religious Right, intending to be pejorative, but I sort of liked that.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): At commencement now, Republican stars and presidential hopefuls make the required pilgrimage to Falwell's school.

In 2006, John McCain delivered the commencement address.

In 2007, it was Newt Gingrich.

FORMER SPEAKER NEWT GINGRICH: We must recognize that we are a nation founded and sustained by our Creator.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): But did Gingrich set the right example for students of the Moral Majority, given his public admission of an adulterous affair?

AMANPOUR: How do you resolve what looks sort of hypocritical?

FALWELL: We're not trying to elect a pastor or a Sunday school teacher, not a pastor in chief. We're looking for a commander in chief.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Great to be here.

Happy Fourth of July to you.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): In other words, all sorts of compromise is possible in a presidential season when none among the current field of Republican candidates has excited the conservative Christian base of the party. Falwell even told me the 2008 Republican presidential nominee could meet quite a different standard than usual.

AMANPOUR: You basically said that for you, in this next election, correct me if I'm wrong --


FALWELL: It's security.

AMANPOUR: -- it's security rather than the social issues --

FALWELL: Well, certainly, we'd love to get, in one package, a man, a woman who is strong on security and right on the social issues. We've got to find the person closest to where we are.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: I believe those prayers. Keep them coming.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): He dismissed Democrats like Senators Clinton and Obama.

FALWELL: That's like the story, Chelsea Clinton interviewing some Marines returning from Iraq.

And she asked one of them the question, "What do you fear most?"

And he, after a thought, said, "Osama, Obama and your mama."

Well, I'm not saying that really happened, but that's how I feel.

AMANPOUR: That's how you feel?

FALWELL: That's right.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): And Falwell continued to connect liberal beliefs to Islamic terrorism, such as blaming the attacks of September 11th on the prevalence of abortion in America.

AMANPOUR: You know, you caused a huge amount of controversy after 9/11 when you basically said that the Lord was removing his protection from America.

FALWELL: I still believe that. I believe that a country that is --

AMANPOUR: And that America probably deserved it.

FALWELL: Here's what I said, what -- no. I said that the people who are responsible must take the blame for it.

AMANPOUR: You did.

FALWELL: We were killing --

AMANPOUR: -- but you went on to say what I've just said.

FALWELL: We're killing a million babies a year in this country by abortion.

But I was saying then and I'm saying now, that if we, in fact, change all the rules on which this Judeo-Christian nation was built, we cannot expect the Lord to put his shield of protection around us as he has in the past.

AMANPOUR: So you still stand by that?

FALWELL: I stand right by it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Back up. Clear out. Back up.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Radical opponents had long waged their holy war against abortion clinics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What the hell was that?

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Bombings, arson, assassinations that terrified many women.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We do have one confirmed fatality.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): This bombing at a Birmingham clinic killed a police guard. In the mid-'90s, from Boston to Florida, angry zealots murdered seven people -- three of them doctors. The violence not only frightened a number of abortion clinics into closing, it also caused a public backlash.

FALWELL: It can't be the yelling and the screaming and the bombing abortion clinics and the marching outside and waiting. It's got to be the soft but intelligent sell of the facts.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): And so the courts became the new battleground over the unborn. But year after year, the Religious Right lost every Supreme Court decision on abortion. Falwell and others were determined to reverse that, using their political clout to make sure new justices --


AMANPOUR: -- passed the Christian conservative abortion litmus test. The two men president George Bush nominated to the Supreme Court, Chief Justice John Roberts --

GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I had a cup of coffee with the nominee.

AMANPOUR: -- and Justice Samuel Alito.

SAMUEL ALITO: I, Samuel A. Alito Jr., do solemnly swear --

AMANPOUR: -- met their test.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: The U.S. Supreme Court today handed a major victory to abortion rights opponents.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): A month before Falwell died, the Supreme Court, on a 5-4 vote, did put an end to one practice called partial birth abortion. Justice Alito became the decisive fifth vote.

FALWELL: That is the culmination, for me, of about 35 years of work.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): A welcome victory for Jerry Falwell, but not yet enough.

FALWELL: I don't think we have five votes on Roe v. Wade. I think we are probably one or two votes short.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): As we talked that last week of his life, Falwell seemed to recognize that his battle to end all abortions would have to be won by the next generation of God's Warriors.

FALWELL: My children are more likely to see this victory won than I am. I think we're 50 years away. We've got to just stay with it, stay with it, stay with it and never give up.


AMANPOUR: The Reverend Jerry Falwell leaves behind the university he founded and a generation of evangelicals who continue to unabashedly blur the line between church and state. But all fundamentalists are not the same. We'll meet a pastor who practices what he preaches. And what he preaches will surprise you -- when we return.


AMANPOUR: Welcome back to our encore presentation of "God's Warriors." As evangelical Christians have become the most powerful force in conservative America, one fundamentalist Christian has fought back.

Pastor and theological scholar Greg Boyd holds traditional religious views, but he insists that politics has absolutely no place in the pulpit. And that, he preaches, is how Jesus wanted it.

Today, Boyd has a vast following for his books and his videos, as well as a loyal congregation. But that wasn't always so. I spoke to him as his so-called heretical ideas had just begun to make headlines.


PASTOR GREG BOYD, WOODLAND HILLS CHURCH: And just join with me in your heart and in your mind.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Greg Boyd doesn't look like a firestarter.

BOYD: The enemy is evil, but you are good.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): But don't let appearances fool you.

BOYD: There is a spiritual war going on. There is a corrupting influence of having power over others.

America is not the kingdom of God.

AMANPOUR: So, Greg, if I were to Google you, all it says is heretic, heretic, heresy.


BOYD: That's not all it says. Come on. It can't be that bad.

AMANPOUR: You stirred up a bees' nest.

BOYD: Yes. There's a certain amount of controversy that surrounded some of my ideas on stuff.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): In American society, where conservative Christianity and right-wing politics have become married, Greg Boyd wants a divorce.

BOYD: 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, an Islamic state, where, you know, it's like we want to run a Christian society and enforce Christian laws. And my concern is that that is very damaging for the church and it's also very damaging for society.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Boyd was raised a Catholic, lost his faith as a teenager, and then was born again at age 17. He studied religion at the Yale Divinity School and Princeton's Theological Seminary. As a professor, he taught theology for 16 years, before feeling the full-time pull of the pulpit.

BOYD: Be blessed.

AMANPOUR: How many people do you count in the flock here?

BOYD: Judging from how full it is, whatever, on a typical weekend, it's around 4,000, I guess. S

AMANPOUR: That's a lot, 4,000.

BOYD: Yes.


BOYD: Get your life from Jesus Christ. Get your life from Jesus Christ, all your life from Jesus Christ.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Visit Boyd's church, and you will hear a Christian message with a strong focus on personal relationships with Jesus Christ.

BOYD: On the one hand, I'm a conservative Christian. And I am pro- life to the core of my being. I also believe that homosexuality misses God's ideal.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): But listen to what Boyd says next.

BOYD: But the Bible also says that gossip -- in fact, right next to homosexuality, it mentions gossip, and it mentions greed and it mentions gluttony. In fact, greed and gluttony are two of the most common sins, held up in the ancient world as the supreme sins. And they're frequently mentioned in the Bible, way more than homosexuality.

I never quite understand what sin gradation scale some people go by where they decide that certain sins are worse than other kind of sins, and those are the ones we need to go against.

AMANPOUR: Be specific. In order to be pro-life, do you then have to support a candidate whose mission is to overturn Roe versus Wade?

BOYD: Christiane, I don't think so. To be pro-life is not just to be about -- concerned about the womb. It's to be concerned about life.

For example, what's the relationship between poverty and abortion? And studies show that there's a direct correlation there. So, maybe the best way to lessen abortion in society is to go for the candidate that you think is going to do the most for poverty.

And, so, we need to take great care not to naively think that we can translate our particular value into a particular vote. Don't label your way of voting Christian.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Boyd's concerns over the fusion of faith and politics began building shortly after the first Gulf War, when he attended a video presentation at a Fourth of July service at another church.

BOYD: And there was patriotic music playing and a flag waving in the background. It showed a silhouette of three crosses. And four fighter jets came down over the crosses and split, with a flag waving in the background.

And there were some people who stood up. They were ecstatic. And I started crying, because I wondered, how is it possible that we went from being a movement of people who follow the Messiah, who taught us to love our enemies, to being a movement that celebrates fighter jets, that fuses Jesus' death on the cross with killing machines?

And that was, I guess, a wakeup call to me about how serious this problem is among evangelicals in America.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Those feelings were reinforced prior to the last presidential election.

BOYD: I, like many -- probably most evangelical pastors, were -- I was getting a certain amount of pressure to steer the flock in a certain way -- here's how you should vote.

And it was, in fact, the Republican way.

AMANPOUR: How does it work? What do they do? They call you? Tell me how that works.

BOYD: What happens is, there's a lot of Christian leaders out there on Christian radio and Christian television, and people in your congregation watch them. And, so, a lot of the questions come from the congregation, saying, aren't you going to -- going to tell us how to vote and aren't you going to this or whatever?

The enemy isn't the liberals. And the enemy isn't the conservatives. The enemy is not the abortionists. The enemy is not the gay-rights activists.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Instead, Boyd did something radically different. He preached a series of six sermons called "The Cross and the Sword."

BOYD: Whenever we find politicians who start quoting Bible verses to support their agenda, we ought to be the ones saying, uh-uh!

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Many members of his congregation disagreed, and told him so.

BOYD: And, after the message, a lady came up, a wonderful lady, sincere. You know, God bless her heart. But she was livid, because she was saying, "If you don't stop preaching liberal politics on the pulpit, I have got to leave."

And I said, "Ma'am, I'm quoting Jesus. Jesus said this."

AMANPOUR: A lot of your flock walked out, didn't they?

BOYD: Yes. We, over the long haul, lost roughly 1,000 people, in the light of this message.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): But, as that 1,000 left, another 1,000 took their place.

BOYD: But I will tell you, I don't regret a thing. It was -- it was a turning point for our congregation. I felt that we got a clarity about a vision of the kingdom that we're supposed to be furthering.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Greg Boyd is a different kind of pastor, a man fighting to keep partisan politics out of the church, a man who dismisses the question, how would Jesus vote?

BOYD: Jesus never so much as commented on the politics of his day. And he lived in a politically hot time. I mean, it was hot, a lot of hot- button issues. And Jesus consistently refused. We're to follow his example.


AMANPOUR: And today, Greg Boyd continues his ministry as senior pastor at his megachurch in Minnesota. And in 2010, he was named one of the 20 most influential Christian scholars in the company of Pope Benedict XVI, no less.

A final thought when we come back.


AMANPOUR: And a final thought, we'll return tomorrow night with more of God's Christian and Jewish warriors. Unless you think God's Muslim warriors are strictly male, we'll meet an Iranian woman who wears the traditional veil and defends Islamic law with a vengeance.


AMANPOUR: I can't imagine any religion that would say it's all right to stone a young girl to death, no matter what she's done.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (through translator): We've only three to four cases of stoning in the past 28 years.

AMANPOUR: Do you not think it's violent to stone a woman to death?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (through translator): If Islamic law mandates a specific punishment to stamp out a specific vice, I will defend it, even if the whole world is against it. Understand?


AMANPOUR: That's our program tonight. I'm Christiane Amanpour. Thank you for watching and goodbye from New York.