REVIEW: CNN’s ‘Pope’ might be worth a watch
What do you get when you produce a six-part series about the Pope that even a history-loving Southern Baptist might enjoy?
Answer: CNN’s Pope: The Most Powerful Man In History, which begins airing Sunday (March 11) at 10 p.m. ET/PT. It is narrated by actor Liam Neeson and follows the papacy, from its beginnings to the modern day. It includes interviews with Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, D.C.; Bishop Paul Tighe, the secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture; and Eamon Duffy, Cambridge University professor and expert on the papacy. Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R.-Neb.) also is interviewed.
It includes several left-leaning scholars, too, but from what I saw in the first two episodes I screened, they get most of the history right.
First things first, though: Peter wasn’t the first Pope, and he wasn’t Catholic (or Baptist), either. He was simply an apostle and a devoted follower of Christ. But once you get past that mammoth divide, CNN’s Pope is a pretty good church history lesson, even if at light speed.
“Peter preaches that Jesus Christ died for the sins of man, and accepting that truth is the key to salvation,” Neeson said.
We learn that first-century Christians were seen as a threat to the Roman Empire, and that Christians taught that all people – even slaves – had worth. We then hear scholars discuss the Edict of Milan (which legalized Christianity in 313) and the Nicene Creed in 325.
Viewers learn about Pope Leo III’s alliance with Charlemagne (A.D. 800), the split between Catholicism and the Orthodox church (A.D. 1054), and the Crusades.
Martin Luther and the Reformation receive fair treatment, too. (Luther, we’re told, was horrified by the selling of indulgences and – unlike the Catholic Church – believed that salvation was a “free gift.”)
I can’t vouch for the episodes I didn’t screen. But if you like history – and specifically church history – CNN’s Pope may be worth a watch.
Recommended resources for studying church history: Church History In Plain Language (Bruce Shelley); Christian History Made Easy (Timothy Paul Jones).