'This Week' Transcript: God and Government

PHOTO: Rev. Franklin Graham, Pastor Tim Keller and Rev. Al Sharpton appear on "This Week" to discuss God and government.
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AMANPOUR: The link between politics and the pulpit has always been strong. And one no one has been a spiritual adviser to more presidents than the Reverend Billy Graham.

These days, it's his son, franklin graham, who continues his father's crusades, preaching to millions of people around the world. He also serves as the president of Samaritan's Purse, an international aid organization that does relief work in the developing world with missionary zeal.

But this Easter Sunday, reverend graham tells us his most pressing concerns lie closer to home, inside the souls of americans and the seat of our government. CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, ABC NEWS: Reverend Graham, thank you very much, indeed, for joining us.

REV. FRANKLIN GRAHAM, CEO, BILLY GRAHAM EVANGELISTIC ASSOCIATION: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: Easter is, obviously, an enormously important holiday for Christians all over the world.

GRAHAM: Yes.

AMANPOUR: What's the word that you most dearly associate with Easter? Is it sacrifice, is it love? What is it?

GRAHAM: It's all of that. It's God's love, it's the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for me.

When I look at Easter, I look at my sins and realize that Jesus Christ paid my debt in full when he died on that cross, he died for me, he died for you, Christiane

AMANPOUR: you have also said that we live in the time of the anti-Christ.

GRAHAM: Yes.

AMANPOUR: How do you reconcile those two?

GRAHAM: I look at the world in which we live today, and the secularism is anti-Christ. It's every bit anti-Christ. We can't talk about Jesus in our schools. God has been kicked out of our government. Whether it's Europe or whether it's here, yes. The spirit of anti-Christ is in the world today.

AMANPOUR: We in this country and around the world are living in very dire times right now. Dire financial times, economic crisis, the gap between rich and poor is growing, not only here, but all over the world.

What can the church do to fill that gap and to step into that gap?

GRAHAM: Christiane, a hundred years ago, the safety net, the social safety net in the country was provided by the church.

If you didn't have a job, you'd go to your local church and ask the pastor if he know somebody that could hire him. If you were hungry, you went to the local church and told them, "I can't feed my family." And the church would help you. And that's not being done.

But the government took that. And took it away from the church. And they had more money to give and more programs to give, and pretty soon, the churches just backed off.

And as a result, now you have generation after generation of pastors in churches that have not done that. And you would have to teach them again how to do it.

AMANPOUR: You do a lot of work, not just in the United States, but overseas. You've been all over the world, to Africa, Asia, Haiti and, most recently, to Japan. And you have said that so many of these earth-shattering events that we're experiencing over the last few years, whether it's natural disasters, wars, or whatever it is, it's almost like the labor pains for the second coming.

GRAHAM: Well, Jesus said these events// would come with more frequency and would increase in intensity, just like labor pains. So, that's what the Bible says.

AMANPOUR: So, describe what sort of era we are, Biblically right now, in terms of a second coming, in terms of a change.

GRAHAM: Well, I believe we're -- no question, I believe we are in the latter days of this age. When I say "latter days," could it be the last hundred years or the last thousand years or the last six months, I don't know.

But the Bible, the things that the Bible predicts, earthquakes and famines, nation rising against nation, we see this happening with more frequency and more intensity.

But there's other things. When the anti-Christ comes, we talk about the number of the anti-Christ, that he'll have an economic mark that will be on your forehand -- or, on your right hand or your forehead. And that economic mark, you can't buy, sell, or trade unless you have that number.

AMANPOUR: And you believe in that?

GRAHAM: I believe the Bible, Christiane, from cover to cover. Absolutely word-for-word. I believe the Bible.

AMANPOUR: So, what will the second coming look like?

GRAHAM: Well, the Bible says that every eye is going to see it. And -- well, how is that going to happen? There's so many phones today.

And just look at what's happening in Libya or Egypt and everybody's got their phone up and everybody's taking recordings and posting it on YouTube and whatever and sending it to you or -- and it gets shown around the world.

I don't know, but he says that he'll be coming on the clouds and the world is going to moan. They're going to groan.

AMANPOUR: I don't mean to be disrespectful --

GRAHAM: Yes.

AMANPOUR: -- but could there be a second coming by social media? AMANPOUR: Is that what you mean?

GRAHAM: No. I'm just saying that how the whole world will see him when he comes, and he's coming back for his people.

How is the whole world going to see him all at one time? I don't know, unless all of a sudden, everybody's taking pictures and it's on the media worldwide. I don't know. Social media could have a big part in that.

AMANPOUR: You've made some very controversial comments about Islam, about Muslims, including on our program when we had our town hall that you joined us on a few months ago. Do you still feel that there's a real divide between Islam and Christianity in this country?

GRAHAM: Well, first of all, I've -- I love Muslim people. I don't believe that Mohammed can lead anybody to Heaven. I believe that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. That's what I believe.

AMANPOUR: Your father, who has been an adviser at the highest levels of power in the United States for so long. How does he think -- how does he think of today's America and today's Christian world?

GRAHAM: Well, I was with him not long ago, and he said, "the world in which I was born, I don't recognize anymore." He just doesn't recognize the world in which he grew up, where people were civil to each other. Politicians, even though they may disagree, were polite to one another and worked together. All of that has changed in our country today.

AMANPOUR: You have traveled to Haiti with Sarah Palin.

GRAHAM: Yes.

AMANPOUR: Is she the kind of candidate you would like to see run for election? Would she be your candidate of choice?

GRAHAM: I don't think Sarah's going to -- I don't think she// likes politics. I think she likes speaking on the issues, and I agree with many of the issues that she brings up, but I believe -- I don't see her as running for president.

AMANPOUR: If she did, would you support her? Would she be your candidate?

GRAHAM: It depends on who the other candidates are.

AMANPOUR: So, that's not a yes.

GRAHAM: No. I mean, we're so early. But I do like Sarah.

AMANPOUR: Well, there are people in right now. Would you support Mitt Romney, would you support --

GRAHAM: I've met --

AMANPOUR: -- Donald Trump?

GRAHAM: I've met Mitt Romney. No question he is a -- he's a very capable person, he's proven himself. Donald Trump, when I first saw that he was getting in, I thought, well, this has got to be a joke. But the more you listen to him, the more you say to yourself, you know? Maybe the guy's right. So, there's a --

AMANPOUR: So, he might be your candidate of choice?

GRAHAM: Sure, yes, sure.

AMANPOUR: President Obama has come to you and your father, you've all prayed together. How would you say he's doing?

GRAHAM: I think he's a very nice man. I think he's a very gracious person. But I think our country is in big trouble.

AMANPOUR: Does it bother you that people ///like Donald Trump for instance right now, are making another huge big deal about birth certificates and whether he's a Muslim or a Christian and where he was born?

GRAHAM: Well, the president, I know, has some issues to deal with here. He can solve this whole birth certificate issue pretty quickly. I don't -- I was born in a hospital in Ashville, North Carolina, and I know that my records are there. You can probably even go and find out what room my mother was in when I was born.

I don't know why he can't produce that. So, I'm not -- I don't know, but it's an issue that looks like he could answer pretty quickly.

As it relates to Muslim, there are many people that do wonder where he really stands on that. Now, he has told me that he is a Christian. But the debate comes, what is a Christian?

For him, going to church means he's a Christian. For me, the definition of a Christian is whether we have given our life to Christ and are following him in faith, and we have trusted him as our Lord and Savior.

That's the definition of a Christian, it's not as to what church you're a member of. A membership doesn't make you a Christian.

AMANPOUR: Do you believe him when he tells you he's a Christian?

GRAHAM: Well, when he says that, of course. I can't -- I'm not going to say, "Well, no, you're not." God is the only one who knows his heart.

AMANPOUR: Coming up...a religious renewal in the unlikeliest of places... New York City. I'll talk to a pastor who battles the demons of Wall Street greed and the dog-eat-dog culture of success. All that and a special Easter Sunday roundtable...when our special edition....God and Government continues.

(Commercial Break)

AMANPOUR: Reverend Tim Keller came to New York City with a daunting mission....to bring the gospel to a town that's all too often written off as a modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah. He came to preach to the Masters of the Universe: Wall Street wizards, media moguls..... but he started with a mere 75 members...That was 22 years ago. Then, a watershed moment: September 11th. On the Sunday after the attacks, 5000 people showed up at his Redeemer church. And ten years later, they are still lining up.

There's no grand cathedral....not even a small chapel. Keller rents spaces around town each Sunday, spreading the good news in a city long thought too tough to tame. I spoke with him at one of his borrowed pulpits: First Baptist church on Manhattan's upper west side.

AMANPOUR: First, thank you for joining us, Mr. Keller.

PASTOR TIM KELLER: Glad to be here.

AMANPOUR: You know, it seems that at the beginning of the last century, so many of the great thinkers were saying religion is dying, it's dead. And yet here we are so many years later and it's not just enduring, one might say it's even thriving. It's undergoing a renaissance.

How do you account for that?

KELLER: Many of the people who believed that thought that religion was really for immature people who didn't understand nature. And it's pretty clear that the reasons for religion are deeper than that, because as we've gotten more technologically advanced, that hasn't gotten rid of religion.

AMANPOUR: And how, also, do you account for the fact that there is so much more secularism and yet there is also so much more religion in our lives, in our politics?

KELLER: What's happening is secularism and devout religion is growing together. And what's going away is the kind of mushy middle, where people are just part of the -- the synagogue, the mosque or the church because it's expected. So what's actually happening is polarization.

AMANPOUR:You've talked about an enormously sick pressure to do well and to make money. What toll does that take on -- on people and on this country?

KELLER: It takes a huge toll. I -- I think most people agree that the -- the economic downturn and recession we just had came, to some degree, because of greed. I don't know of anybody in or outside the financial world that doesn't admit to that. And that -- and that's taken an enormous toll.

AMANPOUR: you also say that things like hard work or too much hard work is an idol that has to be shattered. Why is that?

KELLER: Well, because the -- the essence of sin, according to, I think, the Christian view, is, it's not just doing bad things, it's also turning good things into ultimate things. And, therefore -- for example, if you love your children, that's one thing. But if you -- if you make your children's happiness the very meaning of your life, you'll put too much pressure on them. You might drive them into the ground. You might abuse them if they disobey you.

So even good things that have become kind of God substitutes turn into bad things.

AMANPOUR: Like hard work, like success, money...

KELLER: Workaholism.

AMANPOUR: -- workaholism.

KELLER: Absolutely. There's nothing wrong with wanting to make money, but when it becomes an end all and be all, then you start to trample on people and it eats you up and you're not -- it can't fulfill your soul.

AMANPOUR: America is based on this idea of workaholism and the desire for success. And yet you're sort of questioning it.

KELLER: Yes. Well, the gospel, Christianity is going to question every culture at its root. Eastern, non-Western cultures put this huge emphasis not on the individual, but on the family. What matters is not your own individual success, it's the -- the family.

And we would say that's good, but it can turn the family into a kind of dictatorship, whereas in the West, it's all about the individual. And we would say that's good, except -- individual freedom is great, we're all for it, but it does mean it's dog eat dog. People are consumed by their need for beauty.

AMANPOUR: So the dog eat dog idolatry that you obviously are -- are preaching against, is that something that you saw a lot of in this sort of era of financial crisis that we live in, in these very difficult economic times that we live in?

KELLER: Yes. And -- and, certainly, it contributed to the -- what we just went through. I've seen it and I've -- I've actually told people if you -- if you put things in perspective, you probably won't make as much money, though you might. You might -- you will not probably rise as high on the ladder. You ought to be giving more time to family. You ought to be giving more time to relationships, to God, more time to the poor. But you're also going to be way happier in the long run. And many people are listening.

AMANPOUR: You talk about polarization between left and right. It does seem to be extreme, at the moment, in the United States politically, socially. Is there any hope that that can change, do you think?

KELLER: It will start if we stop demonizing each other. I -- my -- my -- my elderly mother once said that up until about 15 years ago, if you voted for a different person for president and the person you voted against became president, you still considered him your president. He said -- she said 15 years ago, that changed, that if you voted against that guy and he became president, you actually act as if he's illegitimate. And I'm not sure that is a big social and cultural difference. We -- and it really means the other side isn't really just wrong, they're kind of evil. And that's pretty bad.

AMANPOUR: I have to say that many would say the church plays into this highly acrimonious debate -- public debate, not all church, but certainly some parts of the church. What should the church be doing different?

KELLER: At the very least, we should be creating individuals who know how to talk civilly. The gospel should create people who say, I'm loved by God but I'm -- I'm a sinner. So there -- there should be a certain humility and graciousness about the way in which you talk to everybody. As an institution, most of the churches have lost a lot of credibility. So I think my job is to create individuals who can participate in civil discourse.

AMANPOUR: You're saying institutionally, the church has lost credibility?

KELLER: The mainline church identified with liberal politics, the Evangelicals have identified, at least they're identified in people's minds, with conservative politics. The Catholic Church has had the sex scandals. And so institutionally, each church has lost credibility. So I think it's our job as individual congregations to care for the poor, to produce civil -- people who speak civilly, to just serve our neighborhoods and serve people and be careful about speaking ex-cathedra, you know, about these great political positions on issues.

AMANPOUR: So the church should be less political?

KELLER: I think so. And I do. I personally think that the church, as the church, ought to be less concerned about speaking to politics and more concerned about service.

AMANPOUR: Thank you very much indeed. And up next, the battle on Capitol Hill and in state houses around the country. The issues are complex, and today our question is where does faith fit in? Our special Easter Sunday roundtable tackles that one when This Week, God, and government continues.

(Commercial Break)

AMANPOUR: It's easy to dismiss the battles on Capitol Hill these days as primarily a matter of dollars and cents. But in truth, they are moral debates about what America wants to be. Debates infused with deeply held beliefs on both sides. And the conviction that the very future of the country is at stake. These debates resonate deeply in the faith community. So we've assembled a roundtable this morning to pose the question: what would Jesus do? With me today: Dr. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention. Eboo Patel, founder of a the Interfaith Youth Core and a former member of President Obama's Faith Advisory Council. The Reverend Al Sharpton. And ABC's Cokie Roberts and her husband Steve Roberts, an interfaith couple, Catholic and Jewish, whose new book is called "Our Haggadah."

AMANPOUR: One of the huge issues - the huge issues that we're facing right now is this budget some say war; others say debate. Conservatives, Dr. Land, are painting this almost as a moral issue. Why is that? What are the spiritual dimensions of this?

LAND: Well, we're borrowing between $0.40 and $0.41 of every dollar that we're spending at the federal level. And many - many Americans, and that would include myself among them see that as generational theft. And theft, you know, there's a - there's a commandment against that in the Bible. That we're - we're literally stealing our children and our grandchildren's future.

ROBERTS, S.: There's also a commandment about charity and righteousness in the Jewish tradition. The word is "Tzedakah." And it means not just charity, but it's a - it's a obligation of righteousness. And to take care of your neighbor. I understand the question of theft. But there's an equally powerful religious argument to be made of - of - as a nation providing for the least among us. And that is equally a powerful moral argument.

AMANPOUR: But I - but I...

(CROSSTALK)

LAND: ... but not with money you steal from other people - from your future ancestors.

(CROSSTALK)

SHARPTON: ... if you want to deal with theft, then we ought to talk about the rich paying their proper share of taxes.

LAND: Well, they're paying over 50 percent now.

SHARPTON: Well, let me finish. I think that when we deal with the fact that those that raise the moral issue around generational theft, but at the same time want to give tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations, it would seem to me that our children will have to ask who was really robbing us.

(CROSSTALK)

(UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE)

ROBERTS, C.: There - there are a couple of things here. One is that setting a priority inside the budget so that when you're talking about taking away money from our children, yes. Everybody is concerned about the debt and the deficit. That's a given. But then you say OK, what do we spend our money on. And that's where when you - Catholics would call it preferential option for the poor.

So you have those - those concerns. But also I think actually - and there other values other than standard of living. And the - one of the things that we also do want to pass on to our children is a sense of this country all being in it together. And that this - that that's been the great American tradition. And - and they're not the haves and have nots. You know? And I think that that is something that we also have to...

AMANPOUR: Yes, let me turn to Eboo on that note. You know, a country for everybody.

PATEL: Right.

AMANPOUR: You are a Muslim. You have been on President Obama's interfaith-based reach out panel. Many of the Catholics in this country had set a standard for charity in the - in the early days. And I know the Muslim community looks at it as well.

What sort of examples do you think your community is trying to get for themselves in this regard?

PATEL: Well, my son goes to Catholic school. And this being Easter week, we're talking a lot about Jesus. And Muslims have a different theological view of Jesus than Christians do. But what we share with Christians is the idea of Jesus as a messenger of mercy, as an exemplar of mercy.

And the good Samaritan story is a perfect example of this. That the good neighbor, the one who achieves eternal life in the story, is the one who is a mercy upon the traveler stranded by the side of the road. That's the conversation I'm having with my son right now.

LAND: And Jesus is also a truth teller. And some economic systems work better than others. India and China have alleviated far more poverty since they abandoned communism and socialism, and adopted capitalism than they ever did or would have under socialism or communism.

ROBERTS, C.: I don't think we've got anybody here who is against capitalism.

(CROSSTALK)

LAND: ... but it's - you have - you have diminishing returns.

(CROSSTALK)

SHARPTON: ... Jesus always challenged the rich. This is the Jesus that told the rich man to give to the poor. There's no record anywhere in the gospels where Jesus didn't always challenge the rich.

(CROSSTALK)

SHARPTON: And I don't understand how people can come in his name and keep giving a pass to the wealthy...

(CROSSTALK)

LAND: I'm not arguing for giving a pass to the wealthy. What I'm saying is that if you - when you're - when you're - when you have confiscatory tax rates, and when you're taxing people at over 50 percent, that's close to confiscatory, then - then they do not create wealth.

(CROSSTALK)

LAND: They do not create wealth. I'm talking about state - federal, state, and local taxes.

ROBERTS, S.: How - how do you then say to your parishioners what are their obligations?

LAND: Right.

ROBERTS, S.: What as - as people of faith, when you preach to them, what do you tell them is their obligations from their moral traditions...

LAND: I'm - I'm glad you...

ROBERTS, S.: ... to deal with the poor?

LAND: I'm glad you asked that. First of all, we have a requirement, it's a moral requirement and a spiritual requirement to give 10 percent of our income to the church for charitable purpose, And the - and in the tax debates, the idea that we might eliminate the charitable deduction as a way to save money, it seems to me is not cutting off your nose to spite your face, but...

(CROSSTALK)

LAND: ... it's cutting off your head. Because we've been among the most - we've been among the most generous people in the world. And one of the reasons is our government has incentivized people to give, and they give more when they give to what they want to give to.

(CROSSTALK)

AMANPOUR: Cokie?

ROBERTS, C.: That's absolutely right. I mean - and - and it is also true that the - the spirit of charity and volunteerism in this country is - is unlike any other place on Earth. So that there's a tremendous amount of - of personal commitment. The question then is what's the government's role...

(CROSSTALK)

AMANPOUR: Well, I want to ask you that. Because you heard Reverend Graham saying that in fact the church is not able to play as big a role as it used to as a public safety net. He says that the country has become too secular. The government has moved into the space where the church should be. What do you think the role of the church should be? Can it provide the kind of safety net that it used to?

SHARPTON: I think the church must set first a moral tone. And if the church does not set that - that kind of moral tone; if Jesus' message doesn't resonate during the Easter season, it is that we've got to care for the least of those. And that should be reflected in the public policies that we support.

ROBERTS, S.: And when you talk about tithing, I mean for our national identity, our national church, our national religion, taxes is a tithe. Taxes - and it's the same moral principle. That you're obligated to contribute part of your wealth to help others. So the notion that somehow tithing in the church is OK, but taxing the wealthy in a civic context I think is - is - is...

LAND: I'm not saying taxing the wealthy is - is something you can't do. But the point is we're going to have to make distinctions between those who need help and those who don't.We can no longer afford these universal programs that cover everyone from the rich to the poor.

PATEL: I think there's an awful lot of common ground here. And I think it would be useful to have the discussion on common ground. I think we Americans across the board want to make sure that we encourage work, that we reward excellence, that we expand opportunity, and that we provide basic dignity and security. The question is what's the balance between government agencies and private institutions, and what's the partnership?

AMANPOUR: I want to ask each and every one of you what do you think are the key spiritual issues of our time right now? The priorities - Dr. Land?

LAND: Key spiritual issues?

AMANPOUR: Yeah.

LAND: I think we need to have...

AMANPOUR: The pressing spiritual issues of your faith.

LAND: We need more - more Americans to make God serious in their lives, and - and to ask what God would require of them in their - in their personal lives, in their lives as parents, and in their lives as citizens.

AMANPOUR: Cokie, if Americans are very faithful; this is a country...

ROBERTS, C.: Right.

AMANPOUR: ... of deep faith no matter what faith. What is the most pressing spiritual issue would you say?

ROBERTS, C.: I think materialism. I - I guess I have to go with the - the Pope on that one. That it is worrying too much about things, and not enough about spirit.

AMANPOUR: And Steve, you heard Tim Keller say that one of the idols of our time that needs to be broken is the dog eat dog intense materialism. The religion of workaholism, and just dedication to success. Do you see that as an issue?

ROBERTS, S.: I do. But I think an even more pressing spiritual issue is tolerance. Our whole history has been replete with spasms of intolerance. And eventually we overcome them, and we have to do it again.

AMANPOUR: Reverend Sharpton? What do you think is the pressing issue that we face?

SHARPTON: I think that the oppressing, depressing thing is that we must rise above our comfort zones of wherever we are based on religion, or race, or even economic standing. If - with - with all of us sitting around this table from different faiths, if those that we learned and emulate those faiths that Mohammed and Jesus and Moses set out, they wouldn't have a problem.

It's those that come in their names that have so polarized American and world society. And I think if we sought to rise to the level, the thinking, the spirituality of those that we claim to follow, we would be able to break those barriers down.

AMANPOUR: Eboo?

PATEL: Let me first say that some of my secular humanist friends are the kindest, warmest, best people that I know. So I don't want to leave them out. They're an important part of America. They're an important part of my life. Having said that, I think that the role religion is going to play in the 21st century is going to be one of the key issues. Faith can either be a bomb of destruction. It can be a barrier of division. Or it can be a bridge of cooperation. Our job is to make it a bridge of cooperation.

AMANPOUR: And we're going to pick that up when we return right after a break.

(Commercial Break)

AMANPOUR: Welcome back. One of the big issues right now is the state of public discourse; civic discourse in this country. We're going to continue our roundtable on this issue.

Where does religion stand in trying to bring people together, in trying to have a civil public discourse on some of the huge issues that we have to solve as a country, as a civilization? Cokie?

ROBERTS, C.: Well, one would hope that religion stands in the place of trying to make people come together on high ground. But the - the fact is is that - that there's lots of arguing and yelling and screaming and it takes place among religious people; in some cases inside churches. But I don't want to go too far on this because keep in mind this - in this country, we're not fighting with each other over religion. And that's happening in most parts of the world.

AMANPOUR: Precisely. We're not fighting necessarily over religion. But religion and faith and spirituality and scoring points for our own side comes into these political debates all the time. What can religious leaders - what can you do for instance to change the tone of debate. Everybody spoke a lot about it in January after that tragic attack on Gabrielle Giffords. And suddenly, poof - gone. What should we be doing to bring the discourse together?

LAND: Well, we should be calling people on the carpet who demonize their opponents, and who attack their motives. We don't know what people's motives are.

ROBERTS, S.: But - but part of what the clergy has to bring to the table here is more humility. I believe that the - that it is profoundly useful and important that religious inspired people join the American discourse and have a seat at the table. But when they get to the table, and they say, "I have the one true faith, and the one true way, that injects a note of rigidity and intolerance into the public discourse which can be very damaging.

And I think that one of the ways that religious leaders can contribute to civility is by being more humble about their - their sense that they have the one true word...

(CROSSTALK)

LAND: Well, I haven't found that - that lack of humility is something that the monopoly of religious leaders...

(CROSSTALK)

SHARPTON: No but - but - but I don't think others profess to represent a higher calling. So I think it does fall on religious leaders, or those of us that are in the public arena but coming from a religious motive. I grew up here in Brooklyn, and sometime my passion would outrun where I should have cut off. Cause there's - there - where do you go over the line where your passion becomes incendiary? And I had to check myself. Sometime your vanity can outrun your sanity.

And it doesn't mean you're wrong. But it does mean if you're going to represent a high principle, you should act that way.

I remember 20 years ago I was stabbed here leading a march in Brooklyn. And my mother said one thing to me. She says "What would Doctor King do?" who preached in this church. I went to the court and testified on behalf of the assailant who tried to kill me, which everyone was shocked. The message to me was why were they shocked? Because I was not giving that kind of image.

SHARPTON: So I think we all have got to be self reflective. But I would disagree that we're not fighting over religion. Because some of the Islamophobia that we've seen and are demonstrated in the last couple of years is a fight over religion, and I don't think we've dealt with it.

(CROSSTALK)

PATEL: We have a remarkable opportunity in this country. This is the first nation that brings people from the four corners of the Earth from every conceivable ethnic, racial, religious, national background to build together a country. We have an opportunity to be a city on a hill where the Mosque, the Synagogue, the Church, the Tsonga (sp?), the secular humanist society, works together in a world in which those communities are too often at each other's throats.

AMANPOUR: So Reverend Sharpton?

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS, C.: But that's happened more than it doesn't. We shouldn't forget that when we talk about incivility now, you know, just a few years ago there were children being bombed in a church. There were people being beaten throughout the - the south. You know, but we - and we came together as a country, and - and passed the laws that made it possible for Mississippi to now have the most number of Black elected officials of any state in the union.

So I think that, you know, we - we do overcome these things. We have to fight to overcome them, and we must do that. But we shouldn't be too despairing.

AMANPOUR: Let me go to Eboo's point, and actually to Reverend Sharpton's point about Islamaphobia.

PATEL: Yes.

AMANPOUR: Obviously, Islam has been injected into politics, and most particularly after 9-11. What are you concerned about for your own children for the future of your community? What is your community worried about now?

PATEL: Well, my community very clearly is worried that we are going to be less free, and less equal in America than other Americans. That when we turn on the television, we're going to watch a set of American politicians pandering for votes by spreading fear and hatred of people like my children. That when some twisted terrorist carries out an unspeakably horrible act in the name of Islam, people will look at that on the T.V. and draw a straight line between that person, and...

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS,S.: But history tells us that that will change. For 250 years that each new group America says we're now perfect, we're going to pull up the drawbridge, because the next group - the Germans, the French, the Italians, the Irish, the Jews, the Chinese, the Japanese, they're going to degrade our culture. All of the rhetoric, all of the hate, all of the nativism that is being focused on Muslims and to some extent on Latinos today, we've heard periodically throughout our entire history.

PATEL: So as Reverend King said, "History does nothing. The pendulum sometime doesn't swing naturally. We push it."

ROBERTS, C.: That's right.

PATEL: And that in America the great battle has always been between the forces of inclusiveness, and the forces of hate.

(CROSSTALK)

AMANPOUR: Let me just ask...

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS, S.: And they always win.

PATEL: But only if we stand up.

(CROSSTALK)

AMANPOUR: OK. Well, let me ask you this.

(CROSSTALK)

SHARPTON: The problem is what happens to those of us...

(CROSSTALK)

AMANPOUR: All right. We have a very real case study here to test this out. President Obama and the matter of his faith. There are according to a poll some 18 percent of the country which believes he's a Muslim. He said he's not. He's not. He's a Christian. And much of it frankly comes from the right. What should people be doing? Do you support people who say - and question his faith?

LAND: No. I think they're irrational, and a little imbalanced. I - I have no doubt whatsoever that Barrack Obama is a very typical 21st century main line Protestant. He comes - he was converted to the Christian faith as he says by Reverend Wright. He's a member as far as I know of the United Church of Christ. And - and he - you know, I - he doesn't sound any different to me than...

(CROSSTALK)

AMANPOUR: But so -- so - so shouldn't he...

SHARPTON: The problem though with that is that the 18 percent that believe it, believe it and believe it's a bad thing. I mean, it's not that they just believe it. But they believe it as a bad thing. And that's the problem. And - and a lot of them I would - I would argue probably were the same ones...

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): Right.

SHARPTON: ... that were denouncing him for being a - a member of Reverend Wright's church. How do you one election see that you're in the wrong Christian church, and the next election sees you and you're not a Christian...

(CROSSTALK)

LAND: ... may have the cart before the horse. They may...

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS, C.: It's a code word.

AMANPOUR: Are you saying he's racist?

LAND: They may think that Islam is evil.

SHARPTON: I'm saying that it's biased. I - I - I think it's - it's certainly against Islam. I - I don't...

(CROSSTALK)

AMANPOUR: So since (inaudible) - since a lot of people have brought this up, and you've just said it's irrational, do you think people like yourself and others should just go out and say enough already everybody...

(CROSSTALK)

LAND: I do. I do all the time. I say the idea that he wasn't born in Hawaii, and the idea that he's a Muslim is just flat nuts.

(CROSSTALK)

SHARPTON: Amen. Amen.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS, S.: The word Muslim is a code word, and it's a metaphor. It's a metaphor for racism. It's a metaphor for he's different from us, he's not like us, he's got this funny name, which he says all the time. And it is - and he's an alien on some level. But this goes back to our earlier discussion, that there has always been a strain of America that wants to exclude the other. Exclude someone who's different...

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS, C.: But - but - but the bad part about this...

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS, S.: But in the long run, the forces of...

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS, C.: Right. But - but...

(CROSSTALK)

LAND: Forty seven percent of (inaudible) voted for him.

ROBERTS, C.: But - but the bad part about this is that he - that - that it's acceptable to say that he's a Muslim.

PATEL: That's right.

ROBERTS, C.: Because the same people won't - won't say I don't like him cause he's black. So it's - it's - and - and the fact that it's acceptable to dislike him because he's a Muslim is the problem that you were talking about.

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): Right.

AMANPOUR: OK.

PATEL: Racism has no place in our public square for our political contributions.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS, C.: We've killed it as a public issue.

(CROSSTALK)

PATEL: And something - you cannot say it without being called on the carpet.

AMANPOUR: You say that people personally are becoming more tolerant. But in the politics, much more polarized.

ROBERTS, S.: Absolutely, Christiane. I mean, you look at Washington, and it - it's - it looks like Baghdad some days. I mean, in terms of the jihadist mentality.

ROBERTS, C.: But just in words.

ROBERTS, S.: But it - but - but when you look at individualized, particularly young people, first time in American history just a few weeks ago, a majority of Americans approved a same sex marriage. You ask young people about interracial marriage, 90 percent - 90 percent of people under 30 say it would be fine with them if a member of their family married someone of another race.

So you have a - a - a disconnect in America. On the official level, there's very heated and intolerant words. But day to day, family by family, marriage by marriage, kitchen table by kitchen table, people are becoming more tolerant.

AMANPOUR: Thank you. Thank you very much indeed. When we return, a woman who's saving souls one song at a time.

(Commercial Break)

AMANPOUR: This Easter, we bring you the story of one woman who is trying to resurrect an entire community. Vy Hgginsen founded the Gospel for Teens choir in Harlem as a way to connect young African-Americans to their history. Along the way, many of them found their own voices, as well. Today she tells us how she ministers through music.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, ABC NEWS: Vy, thank you for joining us.

Tell me what Easter means to you and to the team gospel choir?

HIGGINSEN: Well, Easter is a form of renewal, resurrection, forgiveness, and faith. That's what it means to me. And it's like the music -- Easter in a way.

HIGGINSEN: The music allows us to tap into that part of ourselves that gives us a place of hope, of forgiveness, of possibility. And gospel music has that kind of power to transcend our present circumstances, and move us to a higher level of consciousness.

AMANPOUR: So many people are in tough present circumstances. People are looking for hope. Some light in their darkness as many face today. How does your music do that? How does it do that for the kids who come here?

HIGGINSEN: I believe that the music of gospel allows us to hear the lyrics. You know, if you say that there is a better tomorrow, encourage my soul, and let us journey on. Those words help us.

AMANPOUR: Gospel is so uniquely American. It's such a part of this country's history.

HIGGINSEN: Yes.

AMANPOUR: Did those kids know about it?

HIGGINSEN: Well, you know, some may know, and some may not. But what I think they realize once they get here is that they feel something different. And they're drawn to come back. And that's what I love. Because they're sitting on the edge of their seats ready to receive the music as it comes from the music masters.

I often say that the music that was born out of the American experience was the first right that African-Americans had in this country. And that music then allowed us to communicate with each other. When there were -- when we could not do other things like learn to read, or be educated, or travel, or have religion. The music was allowed, and that music then became the tool of communication.

AMANPOUR: Tell me a little of -- tell me a little about the -- the kids who come here. Some of them I know come from troubled backgrounds. Some of them have endured all sorts of hardships whether physical or emotional. What -- what are -- who are they, these children who come here? What are you trying to give them?

HIGGINSEN: Well, they're some 13 to 19 years old. And I especially wanted teens to come to this program, because I think that's the troubled time. And we'd like them to know who they are and where they come from musically, and tell a story of a people in song.

I say, you know, I know you have baggage. I know there are things that are wrong. I know that, you know, you will take a blow and you'll be disappointed, cause that's just part of life. And there may be some suffering, but I want to get to that side of you where you can live for just a few moments to understand that this time is for you. This is the time to explore and discover you, and what's inside of you musically, that you will discover something that you didn't know before about yourself and about music. And that's the power of the music to touch and to heal, and to forgive, and forget.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you about community. Those -- the kids when they leave here, or throughout their time with you. Is it -- they obviously form a bond in here. They form a bond with each other, with you, with the music. Does it translate do you think to the community afterwards? In other words, does it enrich the community after the lessons?

HIGGINSEN: You know, I believe it enriches the community after the children sing. I think that these young people have -- these young people have made a choice. They could be somewhere else on a Saturday morning. They could be doing something else, and maybe something else not as positive as what they're doing here. I believe that we have an effect on the community as we go around, and we sing inside of the community.

AMANPOUR: Vy, what do you get out of this personally?

HIGGINSEN: You know, there's not a Saturday morning that I get up that I don't want to be here with these kids. It is if -- if the music is feeding them, they're feeding me. I feel encouraged. I feel nurtured. I feel guided. I feel a sense of hope and possibility while they're singing this music, that they will make good choices, and they will become future leaders in America.

AMANPOUR: Vy and her choir make more of that beautiful music when we return.

(Commercial Break)

AMANPOUR: We thought we'd leave you this Easter Sunday with the inspiring sounds of Vy Higginsen's Gospel for Teens choir. Thank you for joining us here at historic Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims...you can follow us online at ABCNews dotcom, and be sure to join World News with David Muir later today....for all of here at ABC News...Happy Easter!

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