While on a Lufthansa flight returning from India immediately after the election, I spoke with a flight attendant about current issues in America. As we talked, she recited to me several "facts" that she had learned from Michael Moore's movie Fahrenheit 9/11. She was not well-informed about history, culture, global events or economics, but because she understood the movie as a nonfiction documentary, she had developed strong opinions about America and President Bush.
Our conversation was reminiscent of a chat I had had three weeks earlier with evangelical leaders in France, who felt deep love for America and appreciated America's influence in the world but were concerned about the effects of Moore's film in their country. They said it had been shown on French television several times and that many educators were treating the film as a reliable source of information about America and Americans.
Michael Moore is a figure we should consider thoughtfully because of what he represents. Moore is a clever guy with extraordinary influence. No doubt he will keep it up, and others like him will continue to use their power to influence public opinion.
With people around the world--from German flight attendants to urban Americans to CNN--willing to accept work like Moore's as journalism, we are in danger of critically confusing fact and folly, truth and a tale well told.
Why are we, as Christian leaders, particularly suited to critique Michael Moore and his legion of followers? Well, for starters, because evangelicals have the largest intelligence-gathering force in the world: missionaries.
Christian missionaries live in the toughest countries and report to us regularly about the decline or development of those countries. They understand the creation of wealth and the terror of poverty, the impact of various forms of government, and the role of life-giving faith in forming a healthy culture.
Who supports these missionaries, reads their newsletters and prays specifically about the issues they are facing? Evangelical Christians. This frontline view of the geopolitical landscape arms us with the global perspective to call the bluff of tawdry charlatans and cheap-trick profiteers like Michael Moore. We have the tools to know that ideological spin that mocks facts will undermine democratic processes. We know truth matters.
The average mother-of-four intercessor at your local church is often the most informed person on her block about the political-social issues facing countries around the world. She is in touch. She cares, she hopes and she makes decisions she hopes will improve the lives of people around the world.
When I was in India during the elections, my only source of news was the BBC. There was a great deal of attention given to evangelicalism, but not one commentator understood why so many Christians embrace or identify with evangelical Christianity. It seemed inconceivable to them, so they mourned and opined and pontificated and ultimately reached the basic conclusion that Americans are stupid.
But we know exactly what we are doing. We have good reasons for making the decisions we're making. We know where we want America to go. We know what we believe about the sanctity of traditional marriage, and about separation of church and state. And we know, despite attempts by the entertainment-news industry to bolster a minority view with political fiction, that facts mean something. Truth matters.
We are not trying to limit freedom; we're trying to liberate individuals to reason based on facts. We are not living in the past; we're looking to the future with a sense of where we've come from. We are not arrogant about American power; we're choosing to make sacrifices so that others might have the opportunities we have to choose our faith, pursue our callings and improve the lives of others.
No doubt, political movements have manipulated facts before. But, until Michael Moore, we have at least maintained the appearance of attempting to distinguish agenda advocacy and fact.
Simply put, the facts are important. Truth matters. In today's culture of satire- as-documentary and yellow journalism, we evangelicals must continue to mobilize one another around the facts. Let's deal in reality and stay true to the task to which we've been called>
Ted Haggard pastors New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He is the author of many books and is the president of the National Association of Evangelicals.