One of the evangelical Christians interviewed for CNN's miniseries, God's Warriors, broadcast last week, told CMI that reporter Christian Amanpour misrepresented him and his home schooling family.
Instead, Amanpour simply told her audience that evolution is “not in the Bible. And so, they think it's wrong,” creating the impression that Nevarr and likeminded Christians dispute evolution solely because it conflicts with the Biblical account of the origins of life.
Among other examples, Nevarr said he told Amanpour about “polystrata” fossils, typically fossils of trees, which are found in multiple “strata” or layers of sedimentary rock. According to Nevarr, if Darwinian theories of evolution are correct, such strata must have been laid down over thousands or millions of years – so the portions of the trees in the higher layers of rock would have rotted away long before they could have been fossilized.
Nevarr also objects to Amanpour's characterization that he and his wife, Jennifer, are “turning inwards” and “opting out” of society because they home-school their children. He says he told Amanpour that he and his wife home-school because they believe that, as the people most concerned about their children's welfare, they are naturally the best teachers for their kids. Nevarr says he informed Amanpour that his 9-year-old son, after four years of home schooling, scores above high school level on standardized tests. “We aren't afraid of the public schools, and we aren't concerned with cultural decline,” says Nevarr. But that isn't the story Amanpour told.
Nevarr is “disappointed” in the way Amanpour framed the interview. “The way the questions were couched, it was clear what answers she was after….I was concerned about the editing, so I made my answers brief and concise.” Nevarr believes Amanpour was not malicious, but was “operating within the framework of her presuppositions, her understanding.”
However, as a professional journalist Amanpour is obligated to report, not suppress, relevant information, even when it contradicts her personal prejudices and her story line. The theme of fundamentalists blindly rejecting science crops up repeatedly in God's Christian Warriors.
Here are excerpts from the transcript:
AMANPOUR: But there are also people who are fighting in a very different way, by turning inwards.
AMANPOUR: Jennifer Nevarr, and her husband, Mike, are quiet warriors against a culture they feel is dangerous for their children. They're fighting back by opting out. Teaching their children at home because, for them, public schools are faithless and morally bankrupt.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): And science, specifically
AMANPOUR (on camera): What will you teach your children about science? About where we all came from?
M. NEVARR: We'll teach them the truth, that in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And we will certainly teach them about evolution, about the theory or hypothesis of evolution.
M. NEVARR: Absolutely. It's an unproven hypothesis. I think that's safe to say.
AMANPOUR: Will you tell them it's wrong?
M. NEVARR: You know, yes. We will.
AMANPOUR: How can you be so sure?
M. NEVARR: Well, because the word of God is truth.
Nevarr is not the only one; Amanpour repeatedly misrepresented conservative Christians, or failed to challenge critics who misrepresented them.
Perhaps most offensive was Amanpour's suggestion, in the God's Jewish Warriors episode, that evangelical Christians are anti-Semitic.
AMANPOUR: Some say Jews and evangelical Christians make strange bedfellows, especially given the history of anti-Semitism in the church.
In fact, evangelical Christians have no significant history of anti-Semitism. As God's Warriors itself demonstrates, evangelicals are among the most dedicated supporters of the Jewish people.
Returning to science, Amanpour drew Christian environmentalist Richard Cizik into repeating the stereotype that evangelicals reject science:
AMANPOUR (on camera): You're saying it's the science that led you to this conclusion, whereas some of your fellow evangelicals, those who criticize your position, say it's precisely the science and their suspicion of science which cause them to doubt and to reject what you're doing.
CIZIK: Yes, because, historically, evangelicals have reasoned like this: Scientists believe in evolution. Scientists are telling us climate change is real. Therefore, I won't believe what scientists are saying. It's illogical.
Amanpour failed to challenge Cizik to support his ludicrous assertion. If it were true, evangelicals would also reject every other theory held by scientists, from gravity to relativity.
On a theological note, Amanpour created the false impression that “religious right” critic Greg Boyd, a
BOYD: There is a spiritual war going on. There is a corrupting influence of having power over others.
AMANPOUR (on camera): 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.
In fact, as anybody who bothers to Google “Greg Boyd heretic” will discover, evangelicals call Boyd a heretic not because of his views on politics, but because he believes in “open” theology. Many theologians believe that open theology denies the omniscience and omnipotence of God.
Amanpour also allowed a bitter critic of evangelicals, former President Jimmy Carter, to misrepresent the gospel as taught by conservative Christian churches:
CARTER: We have adopted as our guidelines a gospel based on peace and justice and humility and service and love that really helps people who are in need.
AMANPOUR: Rather than?
CARTER: Rather than more of a fundamentalist commitment where you define who can be and who cannot be a member of your organization.
In fact, conservative Christians believe their gospel applies equally to all people.