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tv   Religion Ethics Newsweekly  PBS  October 17, 2010 10:30am-11:00am EDT

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coming up, david platt, he urges his congregation to make radical lifestyle changes in order to help the poor. and journalist eliza griswald on muslims and christians in african asia. additional funding by mutual of
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america. designing customized individual and group retirement products that's why we're your retirement also by the henry louis foundation and the corporation for public broadcasting. >> welcome. i'm bob alababernathy. good to have yo we us. as the rescue moved forward. churches across chile held prayer vigils and special services. catholic priests and protestant pastors including baptists, ministers to the families waiting near the mine of what they called camp esperanza, hope. they also provided spiritual support to the trapped miners. sending them rosaries, bibles and mp 3players with sermons and
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christian music several miners said they believed god was with them throughout the ordeal. pope benedict 16th welcomed 200 catholic bishops to the vatican. the main focus of the conference is the exodus of christians from the area. israeli palestinian conflict and the war in iraq are said to have caused most of the immigration. the bishops are also discussing the state of religious freedom from predominantly muslim countries. in israel and the u.s., controversy over thei israeli cabinet to ask the parliament to require any non-jew wanting to become an israeli citizen must take a loyally oath. under the plan only nonjews would have to take the oath. several in the u.s. say a democracy should not have different rules for people of different religions.
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the first clinical trial in the u.s. using embryonic stem cells on human beings began thi;jp we in atlanta. the cells from human embryos will be used to treat patients with severe spinal cord injuries. many religious groups oppose the research. they say it's unethical because human embryos are destroyed while the stem cells are obtained. a federal judge this week ordered the u.s. military to stop enforcing the don't ask, don't tell policy. the judge says it violates the fundamental rights of gay soldiers. the justice department is appealing, because while the obama administration opposes don't ask, don't tell, it also says congress, not the courts, should decide. the religious response to the judge's order has been divided. conservative religious leaders said the ruling will hurt the armed forces, but liberal groups say don't ask, don't tell
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discriminates against gay soldiers. also this week the obama administration announced it will repeal a ruling on the marriage act. a judge ruled unconstitutional the federal law that defines marriage between a man and a woman. a new conversation is taking place in about anti-gay bullying. in recent weeks several young men committed suicide after being harassed because of their sexual orientation. religious supporters of gay rights have launched new anti-bullying campaigns. while some opponents of homosexuality are reexaming their rhetoric. our managing editor kim lawton has more. >> there's been a lot of concern in the religious community about these acts of violence and
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harassment. they've been providing local congregations with resources. they're providing information for youth groups and youth leaders. how to reach young people. a coalition of jewish organizations from the conservative, reform and reconstructionist movement is actually asking jewish leaders to sign a pledge promising to end bullying, this kind of anti-gay bullying within the jewish community. and even the church of jesus christ of latter-day saints, the mormons, they oppose homosexuality. this week they released a statement saying while we are not changing our position, we do condemn any kind of bullying based on sexual orientation. >> and the language involved, that's being reconsidered, too? >> well, there's been some interesting soul searching among those religious groups that do consider homosexuality a sin. but how do they communicate that? how do they come across as they are communicating that? and some evangelical leaders have suggested that perhaps their community has been too harsh in their condemnations, as if homosexuals are in some kind
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of special depraved category or something like that. the catholic church, which considers homosexual behavior a moral disorder, one catholic priest this week suggested that perhaps it should be considered within the pro- life agenda if these kids are committing suicide. none of these groups are suggesting that their churches change their theological position and that then leads to this dilemma how do you communicate dislike for the behavior without condemning the individual and that's a difficult dilemma. >> kim lawton. many thanks. we have a story today about a pastor in alabama, david platt, who disagrees strongly with the so-called prosperity
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goel that many mega church pastors preach. if you accept christianity, will god make you rich? or does following jesus require giving away to the poor all the possessions you don't really need? lucky reports on pastor platt and his message. >> i'm in over my head at every level. don't tell that to this church, but i'm clueless. yeah, if you could keep that a secret, but i am clueless. >> "clueless" is not the word members of the congregation would use to describe pastor david platt here at the church at brook hills in birmingham, alabama. he has a doctorate and two master's degrees from the new orleans baptist theological seminary. at 26, he became the youngest pastor in the country to lead a megachurch, a rich mega church. and then something radical happened. >> i guess i would call it a crisis of belief, where looking at the bible and i'm preaching and i'm thinking do i really believe this? >> he started questioning how
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his christian beliefs are intertwined with the american dream of prosperity and success. >> i don't in any way want to come across as anti-america. at the same time there are some ideals and values that are at the core of the american dream that are really contrary, even antithetical to the gospel that jesus preached, and then the american dream obviously leads us sometimes in pursuits of money and possessions and pleasures in this world. >> what troubled him was the material comfort of his congregation and the multi-million-dollar megachurch they worship in. this was not the picture he had of the humble ministry of christ. >> this idea that if you believe god, have enough faith, that he will give you health or wealth or prosperity, i don't think first of all, that it is a gospel at all. it's not the good news that jesus preached. more than health and wealth, jesus i think gives us a picture of a homeless and wounded
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gospel, and even the new testament church is not a picture of prosperity theology. it's a picture of adversity theology, persecution, struggles, poverty, helping one another out. >> in the name of the father, the son, and the holy spirit. >> recent survey's have shown that while a significant number of mainline churches in the u.s. have been losing members, many of those that preach the so called "prosperity gospel," and the big churches, the mega churches have been gaining members, churches like faith chapel, another even bigger megachurch in birmingham led by pastor michael moore. pastor moore's church has grown from four members to over 8,000. he's dressed casually because this particular sunday was set aside as a casual worship day. members say pastor moore's scholarship of the bible is one reason the church has grown so large. here's his view of the prosperity gospel. >> if you read the scripture, prosperity is all through the
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bible. it's not a prosperity gospel. it's a gospel that includes prosperity. i think god is good, and i think god want to bless us with material things. i think the issue is not whether god want to bless us with material things. i think the issue is why are you pursing god? see, are you pursing god to get something from him, or are you pursuing god for god's sake? now if you're pursuing god for god's sake, then god will bless you with things. >> the church's new domes will soon house a bowling alley, a basketball court, and a play area for children, which pastor moore intends to eventually open for use for his congregation and for poor kids in the neighborhood. >> i think we should all give to the poor. i think we should all bless the poor. i think those who have it should give. the question i would ask him or anyone else, how can i give
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something to the poor if i don't have it? >> many of pastor platt's members do have it to give but some were jolted out of their comfort zone when he told them they should follow the lead of the early christian church and give their lives and their wealth over to god and those in need. he called it a radical experiment and published a book that has become quite popular called "radical: taking back your faith from the american dream." >> for some people that means selling there home, some people it doesn't. for some people that means getting rid of this possession or living at this lifestyle, capping their lives here, capping their lives over here. it's not a-there's no hard and fast rules, i think, for what this looks like. >> the pastor calculates that christian churches in the us spend $10 billion a year on buildings and own property valued at $230 billion. he says too many churches act more like corporations, but brook hills is now constantly looking for ways trim its budget. >> okay, how can we begin to reapportion this?
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well, first of all, how can we put it all on the table and say god, whatever you want us to do and if you want us to sell this building then we will do that. we want to do whatever you want to do. if you want us to reallocate the use of this building for other purposes then we want to do that, and that's part of what we've done in our budget. >> one of the sacrifices pastor platt challenges members to make is to go serve in places where there is vast physical and spiritual need, places like india and africa. over 250 members have moved to third world countries to serve for three months, a year, or more to evangelize and to lend a hand. it was places like these that deeply influenced platt's theology. >> i remember one moment even locking eyes with this five-year-old, six-year-old girl who is standing in her front yard, but it was basically a pile of trash and with a little blue tarp for a home, and i remember thinking my life is
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created for something much more than just a nice, comfortable christian spin on the american dream. >> some members choose places closer to home, like chuck and margaret clark and their three children. they sold their large home in a well-heeled birmingham suburb and moved to the inner-city, though not without trepidation. >> i had two primary concerns, and one was giving up my earthly comforts, and then secondly was just the fear for my children. we were aware of the drugs and the alcohol and the sexual promiscuity downtown, and it was just causing me a great deal of fear. >> well, you can look around and see there's lots of apartments that have been burned out, and there was a girl that got off a school bus here that was shot and killed recently. >> the clarks have only been in their new downsized home a couple months, but they're slowly getting to know the neighbors, evangelizing when its appropriate, and helping out
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where they can. margaret is no longer afraid. >> we want to redefine success for our children. if my children are kind, and if they are compassionate, and that they are willing to take risks for other people the way christ took a risk for us, then i will accept that definition as success for them. >> sacrifices by brook hill members have come in big ways and small, but in ways that are transformational. >> i'm actually a preacher's kid, so i've been in church since before i was born, and it really just changed the way i view the church and the church's role in the world. >> amanda mccollum is a financial planner who went on her first mission trip this summer to guatemala. she now pays her tithes on her gross salary rather than her net earnings. >> that was one of the big steps. i quit my gym membership, and i cut back on my cable. i kind of pause my cable six months out of the year and then turn it back on for football season. >> sitting here in the office
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one day with a very wealthy man of our faith family. he comes in and he says, "pastor, i think you are crazy for saying some of the things you are saying." and i said, "okay," and he said, "but the reality is you're only saying what jesus said," and so he begins to share about how he selling his home and cars and with tears in his eyes this man looks at me and says, "i want my life to count." >> aren't you glad god gives second chances? >> when he first started preaching his radical theology, it was simply too much for some members. they left the church. >> it's been a struggle. i mean, there's been a constant tension, i think, in our faith family. when jesus said some of the things he said and the crowds sometimes left, i mean totally left. the reality is when jesus got to the end of his time on earth there were only 120 people who had actually stuck around and done what he told them to do in acts chapter 1.
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i mean, that's not a megachurch, that's a mini-church. >> he lost members in the beginning, but now platt says the church has more disciples than when he started, which is about 4300. no way to tell what's next. according to the pastor, the sacrifices have only begun. there is a new conversation taking place in parts of the ♪ in other news, david be beckmam, a corecipient of the $250,000 world food prize for work if helping fight hunger and poverty. actor george clooney was in washington this week lobbying u.s. officials about sedan. that nation is preparing for a january refer dumb on whether southern sudan should become
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independent. several religious groups have been rallying in support of peaceful elections there. nearly 2 million people were killed in a decades long civil war between the prodominantly muslim north and the christian south. sudan is just one of many places are christians and muslims are locked in violent cob. journalist griswald has been. in her travels she saw how complicated the congress flikts can be. in her new book, gristwald describes her experiences and the people she met. kim lawton talked with her
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there's been a lot of theorizing about the conflict between islam and christianity, what some have called a "clash of civilizations." journalist and poet eliza griswold wanted to learn about the conflict for herself up close and personal by talking to real people in the midst of it all. >> i wanted to go to where the world is really breaking apart. i wanted to go see what happens when these two religions meet on the ground in villages, in megamtms, floods, droughts. i really feel that i've seen that the world is breaking down on tribal lines, and the greatest of those tribes is religion. >> griswold spent the past seven years reporting from what she considers perhaps the biggest faith-based fault line in the world, the tenth parallel, the line of latitude 700 miles north of the equator in africa and asia. >> these are very contested spaces traditionally, and religion has become grafted onto what makes them so contested today. >> the area includes nigeria, sudan, somalia, indonesia, malaysia and the philippines, all places of bloody battles between muslims and christians. griswold says geography,
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climate, wind patterns and human migration have led to clear lines of demarcation. >> when we think of islam we think of a billion people around the world. we don't usually think that four out of five of those people live outside of the middle east. they're not arabs. they live in africa, and they live in asia, and then you have about half of the world's two billion christians who also live in what we call these days the global south. >> along the tenth parallel, both christianity and islam have been experiencing an explosive growth in numbers and religious fervor. griswold wanted to examine whether fundamentalism necessarily leads to violence. >> the belief that there is one and only one way to find god, and the understanding that that leads immediately to an enemy, because everybody else is wrong. that kind of binary division between us and them, the saved and the damned, i wondered if that was inherently violent because you were setting
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yourself against another person. >> griswold's explorations were deeply influenced by her personal background. her father, frank griswold, is an episcopal bishop who from 1998 until 2006 was the top leader, the presiding bishop, of the us episcopal church. >> i grew up with a lot of fear about what god's will would mean. you know, after being a 12-year-old and watching my dad be consecrated as a bishop in the episcopal church, which involved lying face down on a cathedral floor with his arms out in a crucifix shape. that terrified me. if i submitted to god's will, what would god ask me to do? >> griswold says her family encouraged wrestling over questions of faith and intellect. >> how does the mind work in relation to god? how do all kinds of people believe in god? and how does intelligence apply to that? that notion very much is at the center of what sent me looking along the tenth parallel. so is the idea that people can
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believe in god absolutely without necessarily being dangerous or without necessarily there being a way to explain their faith away. >> her journey began in 2003 in sudan, where nearly two million people had been killed in a civil war between the predominantly muslim north and the predominantly christian south. two years before the war ended, griswold traveled there to observe a meeting between evangelist franklin graham and sudanese president omar al-bashir. she says bashir was afraid the us would invade sudan, while graham wanted permission to do evangelism in the northern part of the country. >> the trip itself was fascinating to me, because it was what happens when faith and foreign policy become interlinked. and it's something we'd heard a lot about, certainly during the bush administration, but both before, because this is a history that dates back to colonialism, and also still
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today there's quite a strong religious lobby that works strongly in our foreign policy that we don't always see. >> you talk in your book about many people saying to you this isn't really a conflict about religion, it's a conflict about oil, or water, or politics, resources. how much is religion truly a factor in some of these conflicts? >> it's almost an impossible question to answer because i have found that each conflict is different. i never saw a conflict that we would see as religious that didn't have some kind of secular or worldly trigger, whether that's land, oil, water, even chocolate crops in indonesia. now does that mean that religion doesn't come to bear on these conflicts? it's more complicated than that. >> adding to the complexity, she says, are clashes within the religions. >> there is a very profound religious clash that we're missing. it is not the clash
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between christianity and islam. it is the clash inside of religions. it is the question between christians over who has the right to speak for god. those same questions are going on inside islam today, and yet we don't hear very much about it. >> griswold saw religion being used to fuel violence, but she also saw it used as a force for reconciliation. >> one of those places is in northern nigeria, this town of kaduna, where a pastor and an imam worked together to really transform one of the most violent fault lines along the tenth parallel into one of the most peaceful ones. how did they do that? community building. >> she says the pastor reminded her that events in the us and other parts of the west can have repercussions around the world. >> he me told me this quote that i just find so relevant now, which is when the west sneezes africa and asia catch the cold. so what does that mean, really? well, that means quite viscerally, for example, with the cartoon riots, the danish cartoon riots several years ago, more people died in nigeria than any other country around the world. >> after seven years of talking
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to people on the front lines, griswold says she didn't discover any easy answers about the volatile mix of religion, politics, and violence. >> what i probably took away is certainly empathy, but also, it's a hard word to use because it comes with so much baggage, but a lot of humility, i guess. because i didn't feel myself in a place to intellectually judge people's lives, although i began thinking i didn't even question that i would be able to sort of assess what people were up to by assessing their sociology, and in truth i couldn't. >> but she did come to see, as she writes in her book, that "religions, like the weather, link us to one another, whether we like it or not." i'm kim lawton in washington.26f
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she died lack wooes of res pri tear failure. she was 81. that's our show. we have more of kim lawton's interview with eliza griswold. you can find us on facebook or follow us on twitter. join us at as we leave you, we remember
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albertina walker. ♪ please be patient with me
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