Now that I've watched all three segments of Christiane Amanpour's CNN special, God's Warriors, I'm left wondering why the series left me feeling so dissatisfied. True, it was mostly interesting to watch (though I'll confess I dozed off a couple of times: chalk it up to the late hour, for this vacationing geezer), and the topics were thoroughly discussed. What was missing, for me, I think, was a sense of the controversy and outrage that swirl around the influence of religion in current political life. This may have had to do with Amanpour's decision to separate her three segments by religion, Jewish one evening, Muslim the next, and Christian the last. The fact that they never came head to head in the broadcast--the source of such animosity and bloodshed in the real world--made them seem insulated from each other, and thus relatively benign.
Lacking, too, was any real critical analysis of the views that Amanpour generously allowed the subjects of her interviews to discuss. There was little effort even to present opposing views. We saw a procession of mostly well-meaning folk whose passionate embrace of their particular religious bias seemed, well, almost laudable without the context of the dire results of their fanaticism. What's deeply troubling is not that strong religious views exist, but that their intolerance of other views results in terrorist acts, hostility, and outright warfare. It's the clash that is causing such problems in the world, and the clash that the series format effectively avoided. Amanpour's careful and compassionate listening was impressive, but left this viewer wanting more by way of challenge.
That said, I think that we progressive, liberal democrats do ourselves a serious disfavor by too easily discounting the depth of the contemporary desire to rediscover the values that religious practice--in all its manifestations--once represented. There's clearly something going on in the world, some major shift in consciousness, in reaction perhaps to the scientific and philosophical rationalism that has dominated human thought since the eighteenth century and that brought with it the industrial and technological revolutions. It seems evident, at the beginning of the 21st century, that while these may have brought "progress" on the material front--flush toilets, refrigerators and, yes, even the computer on which I write and post this entry in the blogosphere, these are surely advantages we would be reluctant to live without--they have also left an aching void in the life of the human spirit. As I see it, these warriors of God are seeking, each in their own way, to fill the void. Their mistake--again, strictly in my own view--is to be sifting through the already discredited myths of the past to find their answers.
In this context, this might be a good moment to return to...
The Buddha Diaries Recommends
... because we're happy to see that Mark, at Marko Polo and Eli at Memory Palace are both back at the keyboard and posting new entries on their blogs after a prolonged absence. (I guess summer breaks for students tend to break up the rhythm of the year.) Anyway, here are two young bloggers who are not loath to engage in the hard process of wrestling with religious ideas and beliefs, and are willing to question their own as well as listen to others. It's good to stay in touch with the heartland, where they reside. And I mean that in both senses of the word. I'm looking forward myself to hearing more from them.