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Fight Over Faith

Aired October 25, 2004 - 20:00   ET


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Carol Lin. And here's what's happening right now in the news.
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's terror group is claiming responsibility for the killing of 44 new Iraqi soldiers. The soldiers and their four drivers were shot execution style at a fake checkpoint near the Iranian border.

Tonight at 11:00, we're going to ask the experts: If Iraq cannot protect its own soldiers, how can it protect the country?

And Los Angeles police say DNA evidence links a former pizza delivery man to the murder of 12 women. Police say Chester Turner could turn out to be the most prolific serial killer in L.A. history.

I'm going to talk to the mothers of two victims. They happen to be best friends. Tonight at 11:00.

And George Bush and John Kerry both received endorsements from major newspapers today. On the campaign trail, Kerry concentrated on Florida, while Bush made a campaign appearance in New Mexico.

I'm going to talk to our Bill Schneider with election day just nine days away.

And be sure to join us for these and other stories tonight on a special time, 11:00 Eastern.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whether you know it or not, eternity's in the balance.

CAROL MARIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Across the country, across Christianity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a segment out there that simply is an enemy of the evangelical faith.

MARIN: Evangelical Christians, more than 100 million strong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They started the war, and it's about time that our side fought back.

MARIN: Soldiers of the cross in a family feud. DIANE KNIPPERS, PRESIDENT, ASSOCIATION OF EVANGELICALS: You see local congregations split.

MARIN: Based upon a strict interpretation of the Bible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it matters the most, you're going to fight about it the most.

MARIN: It is a fight over faith. And in the balance, the ultimate reward.

ROBIN CARLISLE, EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN, SPARTANBURG, SOUTH CAROLINA: Jesus will return. And in the blinking of an eye, the saints will be taken.

MARIN: For people who don't embrace Jesus, what happens to them?



AARON BROWN, HOST, CNN PRESENTS: They are known as evangelicals, born again Christians. And their power, their influence and ranks are swelling.

Welcome again to CNN PRESENTS. I'm Aaron Brown.

Not that long ago, the Reverend Jerry Falwell proclaimed that evangelicals control the fate of not only the Republican Party, but also President Bush's re-election.

And while such claims are debatable, there is no denying the growing reach and influence of born again Christians in the country. And they are making their presence felt well beyond the pulpit.

But even among evangelicals, not everyone agrees. And that's where things start to get a bit contentious.

It's the "Fight Over Faith." Here's Carol Marin.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Buried in Christ in baptism.


MARIN (voice-over): Over the airwaves and on the ground. For Christians, this is a time of reckoning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To believers around the world, reaching individuals and families.

MARIN: In a nondescript office building in downtown Washington, a small group of believers is doing nothing less than trying to change the religious landscape of America. KNIPPERS: This is a defining time for the Protestant faith. This is absolutely a defining moment.

MARIN: In America's Protestant churches, a fierce battle is underway, promoted by conservative, evangelical Christians and bolstered by a little known but powerful group called the Institute on Religion and Democracy.

Diane Knippers is a battle-tested evangelical.

(on camera): Is it a war?

KNIPPERS: It is. These are conflicts over the things that we believe the most deeply. And feelings run high on both sides.

MARIN (voice-over): Evangelicals make up the largest religious group in America across all denominations. By some estimates, they are 100 million strong.

KNIPPERS: One of our big concerns these days is the whole debate over marriage and sexuality. And particularly in the so-called mainline denominations, there are substantial groups that really want to abandon Biblical teaching.

MARIN: Mostly white and largely conservative, evangelicals believe there is one and only one path to heaven. The Bible is their authority. Salvation is their goal.

A hundred miles away in Richmond, Virginia, where statues mark the great Civil War, Presbyterians have come their annual meeting to debate the rules that could change their church.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We talk of knowing and convincing and winning and deciding, and those closed-minded conservatives and those God-forsaken liberals.

It is so easy to fill our hearts with hate.

MARIN: We have come here to find out exactly what the fight is about, and to meet the man who may be the most polarizing figure in the Presbyterian faith. Paul Rolf Jensen is his name.

PAUL ROLF JENSEN, LAWYER AND PRESBYTERIAN: I am called to action within the Presbyterian church to fight back against those who have made war and would destroy our church.

The management of the church has shifted so far to the left, so far away from traditional Christianity, that it's turning people off in droves. We lost 48,000 members net last year.

MARIN: For the past three years, Paul Jensen, a self-described evangelical activist, has been turning words into actions. He has filed 25 charges of heresy against other Presbyterians who disagree with his strict interpretation of the Bible.

The notion of accusing someone of heresy almost sounds like a throwback to Salem and witch trials.

JENSEN: I'm not proposing that they be burned at the stake. I am proposing that they be evaluated by their actions.

MARIN: Steve Van Kuiken of Cincinnati was one of the first to be charged. In February of 2000, he was pastor of Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church, a progressive congregation in the heart of Cincinnati.

That year, he presided over the wedding of Cheryl and Jennifer McKettrick, in defiance of church law.

In your view, what did Van Kuiken do wrong?

JENSEN: He intentionally and deliberately and publicly defied his ordination vows and our constitution in a blatant attempt to destroy the church.

STEPHEN VAN KUIKEN, FORMER MINISTER, MT. AUBURN PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, CINCINNATI, OHIO: We were aware that we were violating the constitution on that, in the tradition of Martin Luther King, you know, who said, look. We have moral obligations to disobey unjust laws.

MARIN: Steve Van Kuiken's decision ultimately cost him his job. He left not only Mount Auburn, he left the Presbyterians.

His Sundays are now spent in a vacant Catholic church. His flock is called The Gathering - a mixture of straight and gay, some who left his old congregation, some who found solace in his brand of Christianity.

VAN KUIKEN: Thanks. Please be seated.

Faith is not about taking God in our hands. It's about placing ourselves in God's hands.

What's happening is that the Presbyterian Church is becoming a more and more inhospitable place for people who do not interpret the Bible in a literal way.

It's a crusading mentality. It's a mentality that sees the world in black and white, good and bad. If you're not with us, you're against us.

MARIN: Is sexuality the defining issue here?

JENSEN: Sexuality is not the defining issue. It is the most easily identified issue. The dispute is about whether this book means what it says.

MARIN: Evangelicals believe the Bible is literally true, or inerrant. And what it says, according to conservative evangelicals like Paul Jensen, is unwavering when it comes to issues such as gay marriage or ordination.

Is it Matthew who says, judge not lest ye be judged?

JENSEN: That's correct.

MARIN: But you're judging.

JENSEN: I don't believe I'm judging, because I am not condemning anyone to salvation or damnation. What I am doing is judging actions, and calling people to account for those actions.

VAN KUIKEN: Progressive Christians feel like we're being pushed out of the mainline denominations. And we're simply fighting for a place at the communion table.

Whenever you eat of this bread and you drink of this cup, ...

MARIN: Is there room in the tent for those who disagree? Can that disagreement live inside the church?

KNIPPERS: I don't think it can over the long haul.

MARIN: So a religious divorce is inevitable?

KNIPPERS: In some of the denominations, I believe it is.

MARIN: What is happening among Presbyterians is not unique. In virtually every Protestant denomination, similar battles are underway.

VAN KUIKEN: There's a lot of fear, and there's a bending over backwards to placate or to please the watchdogs, the conservative watchdogs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've served this church all of my life. And so I would ask that you find a way to shape a church that is more reflective of a faith in God, who loves us all.

MARIN: In 1863, Presbyterians split into two branches over the issue of slavery. It took nearly 120 years for that division to heal.

(on camera): Things change, though. Societies change. There was a time when people kept slaves, when there was segregation.

And we've seen change and a reinterpretation of both our civil constitutions and our church conduct.

Isn't that how an alive democracy should do it?

JENSEN: The church is not a democracy. The church is a monarchy. And Jesus Christ is the king.

MARIN (voice-over): Next, conservative evangelicals and the strength of belief.

C. CARLISLE: There's no other way to heaven except through Jesus.


BROWN: We now return to CNN PRESENTS, "The Fight Over Faith."


MARIN (voice-over): So, what exactly is an evangelical? There are certain beliefs all conservative evangelicals share.

(on camera): Is there a heaven?


MARIN: Is there a hell?


MARIN: Does Satan exist?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yes. I believe.

MARIN: And is there a clear path into heaven?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The only way to heaven is through Jesus Christ.

Now, how people get to heaven through Jesus Christ may have a lot of mystery to it.

MARIN (voice-over): It's that mystery that's brought us to Spartanburg, South Carolina, the kind of town where even the car wash posts daily Bible passages.

We've come here to meet the Carlisle family. There's Cassidy, Robin, 15-year-old Rick, Prissy the dog and 11-year-old Caitlin.

C. CARLISLE: We're typical, because, I mean, what kind of house we live in, the kind of cars we have and stuff like that.

But we're not typical by being Christian, because Christians aren't typical. They're different. They lead a life that's following Jesus.

R. CARLISLE: People always tell me, oh, your kids are so good. And I'm thinking, yes, and this is the same kid who just mouthed off at me for something, you know. So, they're good when they have to be.

MARIN (on camera): So, they're normal kids.

R. CARLISLE: Oh, absolutely.

C. CARLISLE: I'm not perfect. If I was perfect, I wouldn't need Jesus.

Scripture is the best interpreter of Scripture.

MARIN (voice-over): Robin works part-time at their church, full- time at home. Cassidy is a manager of two chemical plants.

It is a mainstream American family. Or is it?

Rick loves videogames, but is restricted to ones that don't show gratuitous violence.

This is about the only secular music played in the house. And as for television, well, forget MTV and "The Simpsons."

(on camera): So, if you said to your mom and dad, I think tonight I'd like to watch "The Simpsons."

C. CARLISLE: I wouldn't want to watch "The Simpsons."

MARIN: You wouldn't want to watch "The Simpsons."

C. CARLISLE: It's like, when I became a Christian, the Holy Spirit came inside me. And when I see something, it's like the Holy Spirit is my second parent. He's always there. And, no, no, no.

MARIN (voice-over): Their church is Southern Baptist, the largest of the Protestant denominations. Mike Hamlet is the pastor of First Baptist North, a church with over 6,000 members, including the Carlisles.

MIKE HAMLET, PASTOR, FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH OF NORTH SPARTANBURG, SOUTH CAROLINA: Many times, I've been in discussions with people, and they learn, and they know what my belief is. And they'll look at me and they'll say, well, you're really not like I pictured you to be.

MARIN (on camera): How did they picture you?

HAMLET: Mean-spirited, hard, ignorant - about points of view.

MARIN (voice-over): Among mainline denominations, Southern Baptists are the most conservative. And in the fight over faith, they have all but declared war on American culture.

HAMLET: Every sitcom that you watch, every movie that you see, is pushing more and more to the edge, of the sexual content and the sexual innuendo.

And if America is one nation under God, then we need to stand and act like again.

MARIN (on camera): And so, can there be a Christian perspective in a country where everyone isn't a Christian?

HAMLET: I don't know whether that can be the case, but I believe that should be our mission.

MARIN (voice-over): In the Carlisle home, practically every decision is Bible based.

R. CARLISLE: It defines when I let Rick drive, what hours I let Rick drive. It defines the mundane things. C. CARLISLE: I ask this in the name of your son, Jesus Christ, who loves me, died for me. He sits on your right hand.

MARIN: Five days a week, there is Bible study.

C. CARLISLE: Thank you, God. Thank you so much.

MARIN: Salvation comes early here. Rick was just five years old when he says he was born again.

And how old were you when you were saved?

C. CARLISLE: I was three years old.

MARIN (on camera): Can a three-year-old really understand or know enough to ...

C. CARLISLE: All you have to understand is, I'm a sinner and I need Jesus, and Jesus died for me.

That's all you need to understand.

MARIN (voice-over): When the church doors open, the Carlisles are there. Caitlin and Rick, Cassidy and Robin, who have instilled their faith in their children.

CASSIDY CARLISLE: We thank you for this food and we ask that you bless it. In Jesus name, amen.

MARIN (on camera): For people who don't embrace Jesus, what happens to them?

C. CARLISLE: They go to hell.

MARIN: For sure?

C. CARLISLE: For sure. There's no other way to heaven except through Jesus.

If you don't accept Jesus as your savior, and you don't believe it in your hear that he's died for you, then you're going to go to hell.

And there's no alternative.

REV. DR. C. WELTON GADDY, PRESIDENT, THE INTERFAITH ALLIANCE: I think Christianity is more exclusive now than it was at its inception.

MARIN (voice-over): In 1998, Reverend Welton Gaddy quit the church he grew up in and left the Southern Baptist faith, because of its increasingly conservative beliefs.

He still, however, calls himself an evangelical.

GADDY: Some of my critics would not like me calling myself an evangelical. MARIN (on camera): Why not?

GADDY: Because I am open-minded, I believe in the importance of interfaith relations.

MARIN (voice-over): He says it's the kind of exclusivity found in Spartanburg that is a danger to America's religious diversity.

If you believe in Buddha or Mohammed, in your faith there is no salvation.

HAMLET: There may be a lot of things about the Bible that I don't understand. But I'm not really given the choice of what I can believe and what I can't believe.

I accept the scripture there, believe that Jesus is the only way to God.

GADDY: I don't trust a religion that causes a person to write people off, rather than want to embrace them.

Our future will either be marked by inter-religious cooperation, or a conflict that will weaken the nation and destroy the integrity of religion.

MARIN (on camera): Are we headed towards the more negative consequence right now?

GADDY: We're running toward it.

MARIN (voice-over): To be sure, there are many different kinds of evangelicals. But in the past 30 years, the meaning of the word has become synonymous, not only with religion, but with social policies and politics, and where a person stands on issues from abortion to gay rights.

GADDY: The impact of the religious right has been that you can pass judgment on another person's spirituality. Not by asking the singular question about your relationship to God and your belief in Christ, but where you are on a variety of socio-political issues.

MARIN (on camera): Their litmus test.

GADDY: There are litmus tests.

HAMLET: The liberals in this country are afraid of evangelicals.

Everyone else will compromise. But an evangelical's faith is built on a certain - on a certain principle. A commitment to Christ, a commitment to God's word.

And we're not moving.

MARIN (voice-over): Such conviction comes from a firm belief in the prophesy of the Bible. For to be an evangelical is to believe, as foreseen in the book of Revelation, that Judgment Day is coming. R. CARLISLE: Jesus will return and the skies will split and the trumpet will sound. And then in the blinking of an eye, the saints will be taken to be with him in heaven.

MARIN (on camera): Do you believe that the rapture is near?

R. CARLISLE: I believe that I'll see it in my lifetime.

MARIN (voice-over): If this is your idea of an evangelical, just wait.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you ever felt God in the middle of Minnesota?




REV. BILLY GRAHAM, EVANGELIST: He said, I'm going to die to this world. This world will crucify me.

MARIN (voice-over): It is the summer of 1961, and Billy Graham has come to spread the word at the fairgrounds in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

GRAHAM: Jesus offers an adventure. He said, enlist in my kingdom, and let's go out and change the world and turn the world right-side-up.

MARIN: Those who are converted quietly come forward.

Of course, that was then.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, white folks, brown folks.

MARIN: And this is now.


MARIN: Four decades later, on the steps of the capital of Minnesota, nearly 200,000 people have turned out for a kind of Christian Woodstock. Two days of music and message - no sex, no drugs.

This is how evangelicals spread the word today, part of an aggressive effort to bring new people into the fold.

TOBY MATT (ph), CHRISTIAN PERFORMER: Have you ever felt God in the middle of Minnesota?

MARIN: And just in case you don't know, his name is Toby Matt (ph).

The man behind this rock event is a 69-year-old grandfather named Luis Palau, who was born in Argentina.

In 1999, Palau was an old-school evangelist with a shrinking congregation.

LUIS PALAU, EVANGELIST: But I always used to think, can't we rev up the songs? Can't we up the tempo? Can't we have a little fun?

MARIN: The fun quotient increased, and so did the crowds.

PALAU: Jesus Christ calls his own by name.

MARIN: As Palau tailored his message to those 25 and under.

PALAU: Where (ph) are (ph) the (ph) 25 and unders living (INAUDIBLE)?

MARIN: His message is conservative. Yes to sexual abstinence. No to homosexuality and abortion.

Yet it's all packaged in a soft serve way to appeal to a younger generation.

PALAU: When you're wild, when you're out of control, Jesus Christ says no, no, no. I know you by name. Come and follow me.

Fifty-five percent of American kids are the unseeded generation. That is, they don't have the seed of basic Biblical truth in their minds and in their hearts. Most kids have no idea about the creation of the world, about Adam and Eve, about The Fall.

MARIN: Palau is a new breed of evangelical, using the tools of today's culture.

He created a venue for kids and young adults to combine the outrageous with the religious.

Well over 1,000 people have turned out on a sun-baked Sunday to watch an exhibition of extreme sports and to hear what people like Paul Anderson, a born again skater from Portland, Oregon, have to say.

PAUL ANDERSON, BORN AGAIN SKATER: He's the king of kings, you guys. He's alive from the dead, dude. He was the most awesome, the most awesome dude that has ever existed.

MARIN: And one by one, they come to be saved in a skate park. It may seem unorthodox, but it's effective. The Palau festivals attract nearly a million people a year.

For evangelicals, the fight over faith is as much about culture as it is about religion.

And in 2004, there was no better example of that than Mel Gibson's controversial movie, "The Passion of the Christ."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was our kind of movie. When we think about what an evangelical is, the idea of Jesus dying on the cross for our sins is a very central theme.

It was a very encouraging thing for evangelicals.

MARIN: For a pastor like Mike Hamlet, it was a kind of watershed for a group that feels it is often misunderstood.

HAMLET: Our culture is shifting to more of a humanistic culture. We see that in terms of the media, where there is practically no Christian voice in the media.

You never see an evangelical Christian portrayed in a favorable light in the mainstream media. Almost never.

MARIN: In just six months, "The Passion of the Christ" earned over $370 million in the United States, making it the eighth highest grossing film ever, as the faithful flocked in numbers few had imagined.

Among them, Rick Carlisle of Spartanburg, whose mother had no problem letting him watch this R-rated movie.

RICK CARLISLE: Yes, I liked it. I mean, it showed a very depiction of how much torture he went through, and all the pain he suffered for us. A very strong, a very strong movie.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to live my life for you, Lord.

MARIN: Back in Minnesota, the music is from Third Day. And the evening is as much about redemption as it is rock.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to praise the name of Jesus.

MARIN: Experts say evangelicals have become savvier about using popular culture.

It's not, says Luis Palau, that the message has changed. It's just how it's delivered and by whom. And the fact, he says, that the very audience he targets is more and more turned off by tradition.

PALAU: They don't listen to denominational leaders too much anymore.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are beautiful my sweet, sweet Lord. And we will sing to him. You are beautiful my sweet, sweet Lord.

PALAU: The mainline churches are struggling with attendance. Those who don't appeal to the young people are beginning to feel the pinch.

If we don't turn a generation to Christ, the church is one generation away from extinction.

Go in peace and serve Jesus till we see you again. Good night, Minnesota.

MARIN: What's this evangelical doing behind bars? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take the hand of the man next to you, if you would.




BROWN: We now return to CNN PRESENTS, The Fight Over Faith.


MARIN: It's an early Sunday morning along the shores of the Atlantic near Jacksonville, Florida, and Steve McCoy is singing about salvation.


MARIN: Beaches Chapel Church is a non-denominational 800-member- strong congregation of evangelical Christians.

STEVE MCCOY, BEACHES CHAPEL CHURCH: We're about seeing people getting made whole. We're about seeing people rescued out of darkness.

MARIN: But it's not what he does at church that's brought Steve McCoy into the middle of a constitutional debate. It's what he does behind bars.

MCCOY: And all of a sudden, you know, I'm doing interviews, and I have to tell you I'm terrified.

MARIN: In December of 2003, Florida Governor Jeb Bush took a page out of the book of his brother, President George W. Bush, and established the country's first faith-based prison.

GOV. JEB BUSH (R), FLORIDA: People of all faith, people who believe in a higher power are compelled to take actions in their lives that improve their chances of living a wholesome life that is crime free.

MARIN: Under the Jeb Bush plan, religious groups, like Steve McCoy and the Beaches Chapel Church, run the educational programs for inmates at the Lawtey Correction Center.

MCCOY: When it was announced by the governor last December, immediately, there were threats by organizations that they were going to file some suits, and they were concerned, and they were suspicious of what was being really done there.

MARIN: Perhaps no one is more suspicious than the Reverend Barry Lynn, a United Church of Christ minister and head of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

REV. BARRY LYNN, AMERICANS UNITED FOR SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE: It's just as inappropriate to set up a faith-based prison as it would be to set up a faith-based school or a faith-based housing project or a faith-based police department.

MARIN: Every week, sometimes two and three times a week, Steve McCoy heads out for the 124-mile roundtrip to the small Florida town of Lawtey.

(on camera): This is a long way not just in physical distance...

MCCOY: Yes, it is.

MARIN: ... from your congregation.

MCCOY: It is. It is. But I have to tell you the results are well worth it.

MARIN (voice-over): Lawtey is a medium-security prison, population under a thousand. Inmates apply to do their time here. No one has committed a violent crime. They are men like Robert Gunter who's serving a five-year sentence for possession of cocaine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's one of the greatest things that's ever happened to me. This is my second time in a penitentiary. I want to better myself. A lot of the people that are here came from other institutions to get away from rough institutions. That's how I look at it, and they don't want...

MARIN (on camera): They think they'll do easier time...


MARIN: if they come here?


LYNN: Lawtey is the facility that wants to give you religion and that winks at your and then says, by the way, we'll make sure it's easier time here than if you were in a general population somewhere else.

MARIN: I think there are some people who feel that there is an implicit kind of coercion for some inmates.

MCCOY: All we do is go out there and present what we present. No one requires you to convert to anything. You can be atheist, but you're required to be involved.

MARIN: The argument is the state ought to be doing that, not religious groups.

MCCOY: I don't think it's a bad thing to see the private and the public and the faith sector married together. I think it's the missing link.

MARIN: Many evangelicals feel that faith has been wrongly banished from the public arena. It's this intersection of religion and government, bringing faith-based programs into state institutions, that's at the heart of a growing national debate.

The Bush administration supports faith-based programs, like Lawtey's. Critics consider it a constitutional breach. For evangelicals, it's about time.

(voice-over): At Lawtey, Pastor Steve McCoy has come to teach a course on anger management.

MCCOY: In Proverbs 15:18, it says, "Hot tempers cause arguments." Oh, boy! How many of you caused an argument because you blew your stack?

LYNN: You know, the problem with anger management being conducted in a faith-based facility like Lawtey is that it's not offered at most of the other prisons in the state.

MARIN: Since the year 2000, the State of Florida has cut funding for educational programs and prisons by one-third and eliminated nearly 40 percent of the educational staff, leaving programs like Steve McCoy's to fill a very big gap, and congregations like Beaches Chapel to help supplement the cost.

Still, there's no evidence here or nationally that faith-based prisons reduce recidivism or are any more successful than those in traditional prisons.

LYNN: We know what works. It's just that in most places, we're not willing to pay for it, and there are losers and not just the prisoners outside of Lawtey, but the residents of Florida who are going to find people who are not rehabilitated back on the streets in Miami or Tallahassee.

MCCOY: Galatians Chapter 5, Verse 16, "This I say then. Walk in the spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh."

MARIN: And while Steve McCoy agrees that it's too early to gauge success at Lawtey, he says he hopes to see faith-based programs in every prison in the country.

MCCOY: I believe if my vision comes to pass and we see this kind of programming coming from churches in the State of Florida and around this country, you're going to see a dramatic difference.

LYNN: I don't have any problem with churches talking about moral issues, with taking a stand and trying to convince people using moral persuasion that they're right. But when they get the government involved in backing their particular religious beliefs, then I think we have a constitutional problem.

MCCOY: He can interpret the Constitution the way he wants to. We don't see it that way.

Father, in Jesus name, we come boldly to the thrown of your grace.

MARIN: Earlier this year, the State of Florida opened another faith-based prison, this time for women.

MCCOY: I just pastor a church. I just got an opportunity, and I seized it. A lot of it's about telling guys, hey, we're for you, man. We love you.

MARIN: Next, from the pulpit to the polls.

GADDY: Whoever that new president is is going to face a nation that is deeply, bitterly divided.



BROWN (voice-over): We now return to CNN PRESENTS, The Fight Over Faith.


MARIN (voice-over): At the Carlisle home in Spartanburg, it's Sunday morning and things are in overdrive.


MARIN: In evangelical churches all across America, there's a new phenomenon. Just off the sanctuary at First Baptist North is a table to register voters for the November 2004 election.

(on camera): There are people who believe that churches should have nothing to do with registering people to vote.

DR. MIKE HAMLET, FIRST BAPTIST NORTH: That's exactly right, and those people are the ones who absolutely fear the evangelical community. They are the ones who would say to us sit down over there and shut up. Be religious. You're not going to have a part in our culture. We'll run that.

MARIN (voice-over): Evangelicals now hold enormous political influence. There are an estimated 50 million to 60 million eligible to vote, and they have one of their own in the White House.

GEORGE W. BUSH (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... a constitutional amendment to protect marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

DR. RICHARD LAND, SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION: The low-end figure is somewhere around 33 percent. The high-end figure is just a little over 40 percent of people who are registered -- who are eligible to vote in the United States, are self-described born-again, evangelical Christians. Well, that makes us a very significant voting block.

MARIN: So significant that the Southern Baptist Convention launched an all-out effort in the summer of 2004 to drive home that point, literally. In its past life, this 18-wheeler used to ferry around the Charlie Daniels Band. Now it's part of a Christian crusade to get out the vote. This stop was in Asheville, North Carolina.


MARIN: The I Vote Values tour is billed as non-partisan. Dr. Richard Land, the man in the video, heads the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.

LAND: Pastor, you need this resource to lead your church during this critical election year.

MARIN: On-board computers contain the public positions of George W. Bush and John Kerry on everything from the war in Iraq to abortion.

KNIPPERS: Polls show that evangelicals are much like average Americans on a lot of issues. Whether it comes to war and peace or economic issues, they're pretty typical of average Americans. Where evangelicals are different are on value issues, such as the pro-life issue, such as the definition of "marriage."

MARIN: It is those two issues that in large part fuel the evangelical vote.

HAMLET: Next week, the truck will be here. Now you may not be...

MARIN: Down in Spartanburg, they're also getting ready for a visit.

HAMLET: And it educates people on the importance of voting, the importance of moral issues.

I've never made an endorsement in my life.

MARIN (on camera): But it would be fair to say that your congregation knows pretty much where you are.

HAMLET: Yes, they will know where I am.

MARIN: On Sunday, when this church is filled with people, what percentage of this congregation would vote for George Bush?

HAMLET: I don't know, but I think it will be very large.

MARIN: Is the evangelical vote a given for George Bush?

DR. RICHARD MOUW, FULLER THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY: No, I don't think so. I think that -- I think George Bush recognizes that it is not a given. Many of those evangelicals who on issues like homosexuality and other sexual issues and family value issues may like what George Bush is saying, but are much more inclined to agree with Mr. Kerry on questions of economic policy and international relations.

MARIN: Do you worry at all that the terms "evangelical" and "conservative" are now so closely linked, they automatically mean Republican?

KNIPPERS: It does worry me because I don't want to see the gospel of Jesus Christ identified in any sort of partisan way.

MARIN: (voice-over): But in June 2004, a group of Republicans did try unsuccessfully to pass a bill that would let churches endorse political candidates and keep their tax-exempt status.

GADDY: I can't imagine a better way to divide religion in this nation.

MARIN (on camera): Red and blue churches?

GADDY: Red and blue churches. It scares me to death.


MARIN (voice-over): At the I Vote Values truck, there is a distinct mixture of faith and politics and a music video designed to stir the hearts of every potential voter.

But in that video is a reference to only one candidate. Polls show the more a person goes to church, the more often he or she will vote Republican. Religion is a major dividing line in American politics.

GADDY: I'm very concerned November the 2nd. In some ways, I'm more concerned about November the 3rd. Whoever that new president is is going to face a nation that is deeply, bitterly divided. The religious community is the best hope for bringing this nation back together. That means the entire religious community.

LAND: And I believe that if you look out across the landscape of America tonight, you can see the stirrings and you can hear the rustlings of a long-slumbering giant called the people of God, and they're determined that when they go home to their father, they're going to take their country with them. May it be so. May it begin with you. May it begin now. Let's pray.

MARIN: How does someone save a million souls?

PASTOR BOBBY WELCH, SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION: Eternity is in the balance, and you can try!



BROWN: We now return to CNN PRESENTS, The Fight Over Faith.


MARIN (voice-over): Make no mistake about it. Bobby Welch wants you.

WELCH: Maybe some of you can get right in here and lay hands on Brother Bobby Welch.

MARIN: He is a former Green Beret turned pastor and the current head of the 16-million-member Southern Baptist Convention.

Get your motor running because Bobby Welch is about to cover 20,000 miles in 25 days.

WELCH: We're going to each state, including the District of Columbia, and also Canada.

MARIN: The goal is to visit churches coast to coast, to light a fire, to save one million souls.

WELCH: But I am telling you this, ladies and gentlemen, whether you know it or not, eternity's in the balance and you can try!

MARIN (on camera): Is this a fight for faith?

WELCH: It is a fight for faith in a world where Satan is moving against us. Our enemy is Satan. Our enemy is not conservatives or liberals, Democrats or Republicans. Those are not our enemy. And the day a person misidentifies the enemy, that's the day they will lose the battle.

MARIN: Reverend Bobby Welch is headed into the heartland of a country in which 80 percent of Americans call themselves Christian. But the notion of one nation under God and indivisible, at least from a religious standpoint, is far from true.

There is a great battle being fought, dictated in large measure by conservative evangelicals. The issues are both cultural and religious. Is the Bible infallible? Is Christianity inclusive or exclusive? And is a belief in Jesus Christ the only way into heaven?

GADDY: I think Protestantism is going through tremendous rigors that will lead to we don't yet know what.

KNIPPERS: You see families split. You see local congregations split. People are confused. They don't know what way to turn.

MARIN: And now Diane Knippers whose own group is fostering a conservative rebellion in Protestant churches is facing a critical decisions in her own denomination.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Meet your new bishop.

MARIN: In 2003, Gene Robinson, an open homosexual, became the Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire.

KNIPPERS: My church is now teaching and propagating views that are a violation of my deepest convictions.

MARIN (on camera): You're thinking of leaving?

KNIPPERS: I am, absolutely. And I am terribly torn, and I am terribly in grief. LYNN: There is a deep division in this country. One of the reasons that religion does tend to divide people is because it's the most powerful influence in a lot of people's lives. If it matters the most, you're going to fight about it the most.

MARIN (voice-over): The fights are over cultural issues that divide the nation, such as abortion and gay rights.

HAMLET: My position is based on a set of moral absolutes, have been, are and are going to be true. That's the problem that America has. We now have no moral absolutes.

GADDY: There are power-hungry people, both in the church and in politics, who are using those issues to divide congregations in order to identify who the true believers are.

MARIN (on camera): You seem to describe it almost like a religious McCarthyism.

GADDY: There is a religious McCarthyism in our world today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you accepted Jesus as your savior?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good deal. Good deal, Cameron.

MARIN (voice-over): Mainline Protestant churches have since the early 1990s seen a marked decrease in attendance, while the number of evangelicals appears to be growing. In America, 33 percent of 40 percent of the population call themselves born-again Christians.

(on camera): Does it work that there is no other way to get to heaven but to be born again?

HAMLET: Yes. Jesus says I am the way, the truth and the light. No man comes to the Father except by me. Prophet Muhammad is dead. Buddha is dead. The other leaders are dead. But we serve a risen savior through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

MARIN: Would you ever say that there is one way to the Kingdom of God?

GADDY: I will never attempt to play God, and to make any statement that is sweepingly exclusive of other people is to assume that I can make a judgment that I believe only God alone can make.

MOUW: It's not up to us to win the battle. God's going to win the battle. It's up to us to be faithful to the gospel.

MARIN: Is the Bible the infallible word of God?

MOUW: Yes, it is the infallible word of God. That doesn't mean that every one who interprets the Bible interprets the Bible infallibly. Christians have often been wrong in what they believe were their cherished interpretations of the Bible. (MUSIC)

MARIN (voice-over): Faith, it is written in the Book of Hebrews, is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For the Carlisle family, there is a certainty to this thing called faith. It is not an intangible, but a given...

C. CARLISLE: "Dear Heavenly Father, I thank you for everything that"...

MARIN: ... was a reward reserved only for those who believe as they do and have been saved, even at the age of 3.

C. CARLISLE: I didn't understand completely everything about being a Christian right then, but I understood that I needed Jesus. He went through everything he went through because of me. I killed him, and so that's all I need to understand, that he just died for me, and that's all I need to know.

MARIN: What do you hope for your kids in the kind of world that they are going to grow into?

R. CARLISLE: I hope that Jesus returns very soon, and that is an honest-to-God statement. I wasn't ready for the rapture back when I was young and in high school or in college and thought, you know, that I had my whole life before me, but the more I see the turn of events, I don't want Jesus to tarry. If he came back in this instant, it would be -- it would not be soon enough for me.


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