Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Three Faiths, One Unhelpful Documentary

A documentary is soon going to be airing on public television. It's titled "Three Faiths, One God". It examines the relationship between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It's not difficult to see what perspective the documentary probably is taking when you read the descriptions being released to the press. After a reference to "the crisis of the fundamentalist approach to religious pluralism", we read:

After examining the fundamental crisis that impacts the three religions today, Three Faiths, One God presents a dramatic and moving example of understanding and reconciliation. Judea Pearl, the father of the late Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter who was murdered by terrorists in Pakistan, has dedicated himself to opening a dialogue between Muslims and Jews to create a better understanding between the two faiths. One of the most touching moments during the interfaith dialogue was a surprise visit by a representative of the Pakistani government who made a public apology for the death of Danny Pearl.

We look in on a Muslim-Christian-Jewish conflict-resolution workshop as they dispel myths, misconceptions, and stereotypes about each other’s faith. The group learns to deal effectively with bigoted comments and behavior and understand the personal impact of discrimination.

We frequently get this sort of media coverage of religion. Nobody who loves Jesus Christ and wants Him to be known and glorified for who He is can agree with the modern tendency to minimize these issues. What the media (and other sources of influence in society) ought to be doing is comparing these religions on the most important issues, without giving much attention to lesser matters of how similar their rituals are or what incorrect stereotypes people have, for example. If the most important issues were examined honestly and intelligently, we would have to come to the conclusion that these three religions are different to a highly significant degree, and we would have to conclude that there is evidence available by which we can determine who is correct and who isn't.

What people like the producers of this documentary ought to be doing is explaining the most important differences between these religions and explaining the evidence for each religion. Compare the Jewish explanations of Messianic prophecy to the Christian explanations. Compare the credibility of the historical material we have on Jesus to the credibility of the historical material we have on Mohammed. Etc. If this documentary was done as I've described, it would be far less ecumenical and far more controversial. But it would have the advantage of being significant, truthful, and helpful. Instead, what we're getting seems to be what we've come to expect from public broadcasting, something largely insignificant, untruthful, and unhelpful.