How Paul's Ideas Resonate Today
Peter Jennings on what he'd ask Paul and Jesus, scuba diving, and why conservative Christians don't trust the mainstream media.Beliefnet's Editor-in-Chief Steven Waldman, Jennings discusses the show, press coverage of religion and more
There have been lots of TV specials about Jesus, including the one that you did in 2000. Why did you decide to tackle Paul?
Paul was read at me as a child every Sunday and I took it as something of an admonishment. I was a little bit like those people I interviewed in St. Peter's Square, who knew Paul was ever present, but didn't know anything about him. He turns out to be this astonishingly interesting character. His letters, which as I said, I heard like everybody else in church, are impossible to ignore as the earliest Christian documents we have. And so the paper trail and the character -- and the resonance that Paul's ideas have today -- all make him just simply that much more interesting.
What about his ideas are particularly resonant today?
His ideas about homosexuality are being debated in the United States today. His attitudes about women are being debated today. In the wake of "The Passion of the Christ," his attitudes, or the attitudes which get ascribed to him, about anti-Semitism -- [these] are all issues on which he spoke and we are still debating. I find it amazing.
Did your reporting change your views on any aspect of him?
I'd have to say no because I didn't know very much about him. His ideas about love and his ideas about tolerance are inconsistent, or inconsistent to a laymen, and so I think he is fascinating in that regard. Somebody had written that "His views of tolerance would have made the Taliban blush."
I have been to Damascus a hundred times, and never thought about 'the street called Straight' in anything other than the most casual way. I'd never been to the three places where three different groups believe his conversion took place. But when I got to the house of Ananias which has that wonderful priest -- an ex-fireman from Chicago -- now it comesalive.
As you were traveling around in that area, were there any places where you felt your heart speed up? Where there was just something about being there in this different context that was thrilling?