Faith in America: A CBS Propaganda Documentary

April 20th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 33 comments

I just finished watching a well done piece of propaganda, produced by CBS News. As I write these words it is Easter Sunday which, this year, falls in the middle of the Passover holiday.  It seemed appropriate to click on a video entitled “Faith in America: a History,” which I was sure would be a celebration of America’s tolerance and religious diversity. Traditionally, this is a time of year when secular networks tap into the holiday season by showing movies like The Ten Commandments or Ben Hur. A documentary on America’s various religious communities seemed to fit that tradition.

Of course, in a historical narrative it would be only honest and fair to mention the sad times when discrimination peppered our history. These would legitimately include, among other examples, early anti-Quakerism, the antagonism the Mormon Church faced, anti-Catholicism and anti-Semitism. However, I assumed that the thrust of the show would express pride and gratitude for our amazing country.

In all fairness, the site that linked me to the video didn’t include the subtitle, A history of Catholic, Jewish and Muslim intolerance in America, which, despite some grammatical awkwardness, might have warned me of the show’s slant.  But I never saw the subtitle.

By the end of the documentary I was shocked breathless. Here is my summary of what I saw: Evil Republicans, especially Donald Trump and anyone who supports him, are channeling anti Catholic biases of earlier years in America along with Nazi sentiments in Europe to promote baseless, superstitious fear of and harm to Muslims.  End of story.

I must sadly acknowledge that the show was extremely well done. As a homeschooling mother I wanted to watch it with my children, get their feedback and then watch a second time, pausing every few minutes to point out or send them searching for rebuttals to the half-truths, false associations, misleading language and blatant disregard for history that made up the bulk of this shameful anti-American propaganda. While not on the level of a Leni Riefenstahl documentary, it was most impressive. (Did you see how I manipulated you there? Leni Riefenstahl was Hitler’s favorite director. Her 1930s movie Triumph of the Will was an effective, ground-changing work that helped Hitler solidify power. By making an analogy to Ms. Riefenstahl, I encouraged you to compare the CBS documentary to her work, leading you to associate the CBS film I’m discussing with a Nazi production, ergo CBS is like Hitler. That is one of the types of manipulative propaganda for which you should be alert should you choose to watch the CBS film.)

I would strongly encourage anyone who saw this piece to take the time to factually refute it and consciously address the tools of disinformation it employs. Too often, we have an underlying gut feeling that something is wrong but don’t bother to intellectually enumerate the problems. CBS is relying on Americans’ notorious lack of historical knowledge coupled with ignorance of current world affairs to encourage viewers to adopt a highly subjective and partisan attitude.

My homeschooling students are grown and I trust that I taught them well enough that they can dissect this program themselves should they choose to see it. My days of running history seminars for children are over for now. However, in closing, I’d like to offer one story from my childhood that in a very personal way exemplifies religion in America to me.

As Easter always falls on or near Passover, this time of the year in Catholic parts of Europe was often a period of fear and bloodshed in the Jewish community. Catholic services too frequently ended with mob violence against the Jewish community, resulting in horrendous pogroms.

In contrast, I grew up in a mixed Italian-Catholic and Jewish community in New York. In days when mothers didn’t view themselves as their children’s social directors, neighborhood children grouped into de facto play groups. My two best friends growing up each lived down the block. I attended a religious Jewish school; Beth, whose family belonged to the Conservative movement of Judaism went to public school; and JoAnn and her siblings were stalwarts of the local Catholic school.

One year, on Passover, Beth’s grandfather, who also lived on our block, died. The funeral took place on the holiday and JoAnn’s mother offered to watch one toddler grandson at her house during the ceremony. My parents thought I was too young to go to the funeral but old enough to stay home alone while they attended. About an hour after they left, JoAnn came running over to say that her mother needed me to come and bring food with me. Her mother’s young charge was crying and she wanted to give him something to eat. In grief and shock at the sudden loss of her father (the burial was less than 24 hours after the death) Beth’s aunt had not sent any food with her son. Yet JoAnn’s mother knew how careful we were with kosher food on Passover and didn’t want to offer the very young child anything, not even a fruit, that might show any disrespect for our religion. To me, that, rather than the agenda-driven, political cudgel CBS produced, represents faith in America.

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33 comments

Randy R. Werner says:

Your ending story was quite beautiful. Thank you.

Susan Lapin says:

I believe that if you leave Americans on their own, that is how they will interact. Perhaps not the first generation, but subsequent ones. As long as the government doesn’t promote hatred with misguided policies and as long as everyone shares a pride in being American.

Karen says:

Thumbs up to your conclusion! I never watch CBS or any other network’s shows, or exclusive documentaries. I automatically assume they would produce and fill such videos with the same slant of information that that particular news outlet almost always operates under. They seem largely liberal, socialistic, and God-less. But, unfortunately, I must confess that I have been guilty among the notorious crowd of Americans who has not studied history thoroughly, nor done my own research on exactly what is wrong with information I have heard or seen, that I felt was wrong. I also homeschool my children, and I have really enjoyed this 2nd education for myself. I have learned a lot more about our American and world history that I never learned in public school.

Susan Lapin says:

One of the secret reasons we mothers homeschool – to have the opportunity to learn as adults.

Tim Mauch says:

I LOVE the story at the end of the piece. As for the Leni Riefenstahl section, you are much craftier(is that a word?) than i suspected! I learned something new without even knowing that I learned it, until you told me. Now, THAT is crafty!

Susan Lapin says:

Even as a teenager, I was impressed by being called to bring food. I’m delighted you appreciated my propaganda lesson.

That was a wonderful lesson and a beautiful story! Thank you. I know you are right about history. I got my own history education while homeschooling my kids. 19 years of schooling left me with a pitiful education! Please keep up the wonderful work you do. We love your show on TCT!

Susan Lapin says:

I learned so much by homeschooling my children. It was the best education! Glad you enjoy the TCT show!

James says:

Your Musing is spot on target, as the current fad in the media seems to drag Christianity systematically through the mire. Such treatment belies all the good that Christian people and their faith have done for America. Yet sadly, as I have said before, Christianity the religion of love was indeed infected early on with the virus of intolerance, as all the bitter sectarian wars, inquisitions, excommunications and purges testify. If the media look for its thorns, they will certainly find them. But if they look for its roses, they would find those, too.

But your final example and its conclusion contain a lesson for us all. When I was in university we lived in an enclave of Arabs of every description. There were Syrians, Egyptians, Lebanese and Palestinians. There was even a couple from Nazareth (today’s Israel!). We had wonderful dinners together in the quadrangle. We assisted each other however we could in the brotherhood of students. Downstairs from us a Palestinian scholar married to a Lebanese woman had two sons. Their eldest son wanted to attend the local Christian school. Although both parents were Muslims, they encouraged him to enroll there. They loved American values, having had positive exposure and experiences in the American University of Beirut Love and tolerance outweigh everything.

Susan Lapin says:

What a fascinating story, James. Are you still in touch with any of these people? They would certainly have interesting insights to today’s world. The show was actually trying to prove that the “religious” and morally right thing to do was to welcome Moslems with open arms.

James says:

Yes, indeed. Despite all the pandemonium of 9/11 and the resulting mistrust and paranoia we are all still cordially in touch. Most enjoyed wide international exposure. One Syrian couple is now headquartered in Texas. The Israeli-Palestinian couple are caterers (yummm!) in Nazareth. The Egyptians (Coptic Christians) are still in the University town. The Palestinian-Lebanese couple moved back to the Middle East, but they had enough sons with American passports to escape as a family from Saddam-invaded Kuwait, back to the USA. In time they had five sons here in America. You could not ask for better Americans among this lot. Some are Muslims, some are Christians. My consuming fear is that xenophobic zealots here will paint all Arabs with a broad, hateful brush. One of the Syrians once said to me: ‘Don’t be too hard on the Arabs. Arabs are good people, but they all have bad governments.’

Susan Hire says:

Hi Susan, thanks for sharing that. I didn’t watch the documentary, but whenever I see anything on the mainstream media about religion my spider senses go up! I hear there’s a movie about Winston Churchill coming out in June that is questionable. I know Rabbi Lapin talks about him on your show Ancient Jewish Wisdom. Have you heard anything about this?

Thanks for all you do.

Susan Lapin says:

I haven’t heard of this movie. I’ll ask my husband if he has. I did just read a biography of Clementine Churchill that was fascinating.

Mark says:

Your concluding story is not only moving, but I read it with the shock or recognition. I had similar experiences in my own childhood. Unfortunately I also experienced occasional but rather nasty anti-Catholic prejudice and behavior–but only from other denominations of Christians! But the good experiences, such as you describe, were far more frequent. Thanks for triggering the good memories.

Susan Lapin says:

Whatever negative experiences I had were so outweighed by friendships that they didn’t register. I do remember JoAnn telling me that a Catholic friend of hers asked how she could be so friendly with me when I killed Jesus and JoAnn telling me that she thought that was weird since she knew I (about 7 at the time) hadn’t.

Martha Weldon says:

Amen my friend! What a wonderful woman was JoAnn’s mama and I’m so thankful you had a good family influence of the “other side” growing up! I so dislike the insulated isolation in which so many children are raised – teaching “us 4 and no more!” Intolerance is such poison – I did my undergrad in European History and Humanities and wrote my senior paper on Hitler’s influence on his “Jugend.” I am still amazed at the manipulative power he had to turn children to sell out their own parents! And yet, we are witnessing parents sacrificing their own children (the fires of Molech?) to take out the “other side!” I’m soooooo glad I know you! Keep speaking truth! 💕

Susan Lapin says:

This documentary purports to agree with you and argues against intolerance against Moslems. However, it ignores facts and reality. It is meant to sway good people who are aghast at how people supported Nazism and other evil movements. We always have to fight the present battle, not the one in the rear view mirror.

Craig S says:

As a homeschooling dad, I appreciate your intellectual insight and aptitude. It seems that many of “us” who see all of the ills of society and our media respond or react in less than helpful ways and shut ourselves off from media such as this. But you choose to engage and respond and have taught your students to do the same. That is inspiring!

I for years have been mystified how so many Germans were duped into embracing or at least not resisting the Nazi regime. Could they not see through the lies?! In recent years I’ve had the opportunity to observe a similar phenomenon here in the United States. People believe and act on faulty information that is disseminated both with foul intent and innocent naivete. I think there is a real lack of the training you’ve endorsed. Surely a result of the GIC’s your husband speaks of :).

Susan Lapin says:

Schools have definitely ceased teaching logic, research skills and debate, all of which train you to look below the surface and see more than one side of a story. 24 hour media saturation from all sorts of corners has exacerbated the problem greatly.

Rebecca says:

The media are spreading lies and hatred. They’re taking the evil acts and lies of a few and labelling us all by them. It is exactly like the propaganda spread by Hitler and his cohorts. But isn’t that just like hate in general. I’m struggling with feelings towards a family member that caused great pain to me and my sister. Was the person that hurt us all bad? No. There is a lot of good too. But the pain, hurt and anger caused by him pushes the good out. I am bombarded by the bad. So only with God’s help will I be able to overcome them and I love this person with all my heart. But I said all that to say this. People today are being bombarded with things on television, radio and the internet. And they are believing everything that is said. Even when there is irrefutable proof that a story was an outright lie, they are so filled with hate, they refuse to believe the truth. It’s getting so ugly. But we have to remind ourselves that just as in the time of Hitler, there were so many people who didn’t feel the same and who did they’re very best to protect and help the Jewish people. Many losing their lives. They loved and respected each other. No amount of lies and hatred could change that fact. But if you have never had any experience or knowledge of an issue or group of people and all you hear is bad, it will color your opinion. Or if you do have knowledge or experience and it’s all bad, it would be very hard for someone to change your opinion. We need to pray and ask God to help us, in our little area of life, to try and change, at least one person’s opinion to the positive. I loved the ending of your story. That’s why God tells us to become like little children and that a little child will lead us. It sounds as if you had a beautiful, well rounded, childhood.

Susan Lapin says:

I pray that your family situation resolves soon with the bitterness dissipated and the person who wronged you recognizing what they did.

Rebecca says:

Thank you so much and we’re praying the same. Your ministry means a lot to me. The explanation of one word or phrase as seen through Ancient Jewish Wisdom can add so much depth and meaning to scriptures that I have read and heard, my entire life. And many times it’s very eye opening. And I really appreciate your no nonsense, straight to the point opinions of issues affecting us today through the truth of the scriptures.

Mark Lampe says:

A very thoughtful commentary Susan! My wife grew up in an interesting neighborhood, one Jewish couple were holocaust survivors, another family kept Kosher and since she baby sat for them she became well versed in what the requirements were and how foods in the refrigerator were to be treated. Another family was Dutch, the father had been a hero of the Dutch underground during WWII. There was an unspoken abiding respect and mutual understanding in the neighborhood between these families.

We find these dark changes you are referring to as very disturbing along with the report of 90,000 Christians murdered throughout various parts of the world last year. It leaves us wondering when it will start here when we hear about the bias against Jews and Christians that is taking place at universities. The universities are producing insurrectionists bent on destroying what we know and revere.

Susan Lapin says:

Mark, the silence in the face of the slaughter of Christians has been amazing. I do not understand why churches are not holding a major rally in DC and NY over this.

Mark Lampe says:

I suspect that the passivity is the result of an errant belief taught in some circles that before anything bad befalls them, the Lord will rescue them. However it isn’t consistent with church history where people down through the ages have been martered sometimes en-masse. If we know that God never changes, then He’s not likely to make adjustments for people who think they are too special to suffer for their faith. This coincides with the general malaise here in America where people delude themselves into thinking that bad things only happen to other people and especially to those on other continents.

Susan Lapin says:

I wouldn’t have thought of that theory, Mark. I’m going to try and ask some of our pastor friends.

Rebecca says:

Very true!

Michael Ooten says:

I appreciate all the comments and am sorry for the persons who have terrible relational problems like the one with a neighbor.
I saw firsthand how people can be deceived about the worst of people when I was in Germany. A Christian couple told me that they just wouldn’t believe that Hitler would be the leader of the holocaust camps after they were told how people were murdered. And history proves that the most beautiful and innocent have suffered and been even tortured and also killed.
We must all read more of our world as well of our American history. A great but most difficult book to read about Ww 11 is “The Holocaust”” by Martin Gilnert
For world and American history books by Daniel Boorstin. Jewish history by
Johnson and “History of the English Reformation” by Merle DuAbigne is excellent classic writing. I am fortunate to have been raised within a loving peaceful setting with lesser prejudices than others but have known holocaust survivors living in W Hollywood for a few years and meeting several pastors in China who were in prison for over 20 yrs because of their faith. We must all pray for more knowledge and love for all people with no compromise of Biblical truth.

Rebecca says:

It’s sad to know that so many here, in the United States, especially in the church, of which I’ve been a part since birth, believes that we are something special, that God loves us best and that He wouldn’t allow us to suffer for our faith. But they’re not reading the same scripture that I am. The Jewish people are God’s chosen but through out the Bible and history they have suffered greatly for their faith. The three occurrences that come to my mind just now are Daniel, the three Hebrew children and Joseph. They weren’t kept from suffering. But God loved them greatly and walked with them throughout their suffering and gave them the courage to face their trials. They were some of the lucky ones that survived. Many weren’t so lucky. But God loved them just as much.

Vallerie Fletcher says:

Dear Susan,
I enjoyed the years that I worked as a governess for a family. I regret, however, that their poor academic habits were formed long before I was able to begin work with them. I remember a teaching from Rabbi Lapin, and it included the Biblical wisdom of “not touching a mountain one will not climb”. I pondered for a while before accepting the position and upon doing so, this was on my syllabus, and I asked for the students to agree with me. I am introducing this comment with this anecdote to illustrate the value of programs such as TCT’s Ancient Jewish Wisdom and Faith in History as they enhance a home school program to such a high degree! I know I am a bit off topic, however, I am so grateful for your and Rabbi Lapin’s program and his podcast! I would LOVE to have a list of recommended reading from either or if possible, both of you. Yours Sincerely, VFletcher

Susan Lapin says:

What ages are you working with, Val?

Maclean Martin says:

Thank you for a touching story. There is an obvious intent to make Jewish and Christian Faith’s the scapegoat for a political agenda that undermines its values and recognition of God. Our histories and faith are based on the same belief of a absolute God. His law requires a moral code of accountable behavior. Today this history of our nation is being replaced by secular hedisim.
Mans nature with out restraints produces exactly what we see happening in all segments of our society. Ignorance and misinformation are the first step towards a system that encourages the lie that breeds intolerance, leading to violence.
Rational thought is replaced with a mob mentality, breeding hatred.
Just like in the days of Noah, we will see evil prevail. Pride, greed, lack of self control, pleasure out of control, contribute to every nations down fall. Man left to his own devices is reduced to the lowest level. Freedom with out laws produces anarchy. We should be worried, one subtle documentary, produced with one intent is only one example of what is going on. Look at public universities, Hollywoods movie message, the P. C. Mindset, safe places, etc. be ready for a cultural up rising by the liberal left.
It can happen over night. We slept while prayer was removed by the government, abortion was legalized ,the definition of marriages changed. Fighting for faith has always been a reality. Now we see our heritage being replaced by tolerance for Islam over Jewish and Christians expression in our cultural. If we are not careful and proactive, we will see sharia law gradually be incorporated in our culture. Ignorance is not bliss. Evil is deceptively affective. We must be avoice crying in the wilderness, willing to be like the prophets of old sounding the truth, or be lost in a nation, like Rome, destroyed from moral rot and decay. Americans remind me of two year olds, spoiled ,self willed and rebellious. Susan please continue your message, and continue to point out the lies and misinformation. Thank you

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