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Who Was Jesus of Nazareth?

Aired December 16, 2004 - 20:00   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening, everyone. Glad to have you with us tonight. Thanks for joining us.
Tonight, who was Jesus of Nazareth? What did he look like? Did he have long hair, fair skin? Does the image recognized around the world bear any resemblance to reality? And what about the way some of his followers behave?

We start tonight by scraping away 21 centuries of art and imagination using the tools of modern forensic science. The results, a face of Jesus that will surprise you.

Here's a look from "CNN PRESENTS" narrated by Liam Neeson.


LIAM NEESON, NARRATOR: Trying to figure out what Jesus really looked like has preoccupied Christians for centuries. And legions of artists have stayed busy trying to supply the answer.

But the difficulty in trying to flesh out the image of Jesus, is that his contemporaries considered his message, not his looks, all important.

Also, Judaism forbids the worship of images and idols, especially of someone claiming to be God. Of course, that did not stop Christians from imagining how Jesus looked.

He was first depicted as a triumphant sun god, like Apollo. Since then, Jesus has been re-imagined by every generation. And movies have never tired of portraying him, from "Jesus Christ Superstar" to the brooding artist in "Jesus of Montreal" to the smiling Buddy Christ of the film "Dogma."

AMY-JILL LEVINE, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY DIVINITY SCHOOL: Jesus is not, as far as I can tell historically, the blond, blue-eyed, Max von Sydow version, or even Jeffrey Hunter, who we get from the movies.

REV. THOMAS FITZPATRICK, DIRECTOR, PONTIFICAL BIBLICAL INSTITUTE, JERUSALEM: I think that he would have looked very much like what we know by the term "hippies."

NEESON: Now we may be able to literally put some flesh on the bones of centuries of guessing. That's what the noted medical and forensic artist Richard Neave did when Biblical scholars gave him a copy of a skull from the first century, found in present-day Israel.

They wanted to get an idea of what a man of Jesus' time and place might have looked like.

RICHARD NEAVE, UNIVERSITY OF MANCHESTER: It's a strong skull. And to live satisfactorily, especially the kind of life that Jesus led, you're going to have to be a fairly tough, rugged kind of fellow.

You know, he walked miles. He carried his staff. He could be flogged. He could carry his cross.

I mean, you know, that takes a lot of physical strength and determination. And so, he's not a wimp.

NEESON: Neave has spent nearly 30 years reconstructing the heads of mystery people -- anonymous murder victims, ancient archaeological finds and suicides.

But how would he approach a recreation of a face from 2,000 years ago?

NEAVE: It's done in exactly the same way as you would handle a forensic case. There's absolutely no difference, except that in this case, a nice, clean, prepared cast, rather than the original skull.

Then you make a copy of that, and that's mounted onto a metal stand. Pegs are inserted into the skull at specific anatomical points. And these indicate the average thickness of tissue that you're going to get, say, there or there or there.

NEESON: Neave's skull was rendered into an image by the BBC, and further developed by the artist Donato Giancola, with the help of Neave and Biblical scholars. The result is a startling image -- nothing like the Jesus that history has imagined.

NEAVE: The nose is quite prominent, and a full mouth, a youngish face, between 30 and 40, I suppose.

NEESON: Neave stresses that his Jesus head is not "the" Jesus head. At best, it represents a face that Jesus himself might have seen or had. And still it attracts debate.

NEAVE: I've had one or two comments from people suggesting that it doesn't look anything like Jesus, which of course doesn't surprise me. They actually -- some of them do go on to say that they know exactly what Jesus does look like, because they took a photograph of him only three weeks ago.

NEESON: Even though science has given us a better idea of what Jesus might have really looked like, Jesus' face wouldn't matter were it not for what he said and what he did, and, the Gospels tell us, in a surprisingly short time -- just three years.

What was the message of this carpenter's son from Galilee? And why did it get him killed?


ZAHN: Fascinating story. And you can see a one-hour special this Sunday night at 8:00 Eastern, "CNN PRESENTS: The Mystery of Jesus," narrated by the familiar voice of Liam Neeson.

And Princeton Professor James Charlesworth is one of the world's leading expert on the life of Jesus. He joins us now.

Thanks so much for being with us.


ZAHN: That's kind of you to say so.

So, you're not only a professor. You happen to be a Methodist minister.


ZAHN: What do you think Jesus looked like?

CHARLESWORTH: Well, I have my own ideas, but I'm trying to be informed what history tells me and archaeology. So we study skulls and bones and get a better idea of what a Jew would have looked like in the 1st century.

ZAHN: But don't you have your own informed choice?


ZAHN: When you take that collection of information and...

CHARLESWORTH: If you ask me to just speak from my heart and not from my head so much, I would say, he was probably between 5'2'' and 5'6'', probably weighed 140, was rather a tough physical person because he's out in the boats with his disciples and from what we know of the crucifixion, he took a lot of abuse and was quite a strong physical male.

ZAHN: You have brought an image that goes back to the 6th century.


ZAHN: And how accurate do you think this depiction is?

CHARLESWORTH: Well, I wish we had a photograph of Jesus to say how it's accurate and how it wasn't so accurate. But we'll never know. There were no photographs in the 1st century. There were no depictions.

As we said earlier in the program, the Jews did not make an image because of the Second Commandment. And one of the ways we have getting to it is Titus' Arch, where you have depictions of Jews that were taken from the temple or from Israel after Titus destroyed the temple. And so these are what Semites look like. I am not a Semite. And we all want to see Jesus in our own image, because we look down the well of history and there we see an image and it's our own face.

ZAHN: Sure.

And no more is that more obvious than in these pictures we're going to show our audience now, paintings where we can see Jesus depicted as a Native American, then black, then Chinese, and Caucasian. So it is really through this, our own prism of reference that we come up with these depictions.

CHARLESWORTH: Well, obviously, those who follow Jesus find him attractive. Therefore, they are attracted to his message and to his power. And they tend to think about him as attractive. And we all think about ourselves as if we're attractive, so we depict Jesus in our own image.

ZAHN: What does the Bible say about what Jesus looked like? Does it give us many clues at all? I should remember from going to Bible school, but I don't.

CHARLESWORTH: But that is really interesting. In the Bible, there is no physical description of Jesus. There is one in it's called the letter of Lentulus. But, unfortunately, it's a medieval forgery. It describes what a Roman soldier saw. But we had to show it was a medieval forgery.

If Jesus were exceptionally tall, that would of been mentioned, I think, so we could think he's probably the same size as others Jews of that time, as I said, between 5'2'' and 5'6''.

ZAHN: What else do we need to know about what forensic science is now shedding on this...


CHARLESWORTH: Well, we do have hairs of a woman that lived about the time of Jesus. It was found at Messad (ph). And her hair is very dark. So we know we have dark eyes, dark skin and dark hair.

ZAHN: Do you put much stock personally in the forensic science? We just saw that scientist show us a skull. And from that, you made the leap that this is possibly what Jesus could look like.

CHARLESWORTH: Well, one has to thing about, what questions are we asking? If we ask, what does Jesus look like in terms of our own dreams, that's different.

But if we ask, what did he really look like if we could take a time machine and go back into Galilee about 27 and sit there and listen to him talk, well, then I think we have some guides. And, as forensic scientists, that helps us. We study skulls and we feel like what a person looks like and then we begin to depict and we say the person probably looks like this. And that's a good forensic science, but we don't have the skull of Jesus and I don't think we ever will.

And so we can get an idea of what a male looked like in the 1st century probably from Galilee. And that gives us a better idea of conceptualizing. That's quite different than Michelangelo did in depicting an Italian. ZAHN: And here we are so many centuries later still trying to figure it all out.


ZAHN: Professor Charlesworth, thank you for your time tonight.


ZAHN: And we'd like your opinion. Do you think Jesus looked like the way he is most commonly portrayed? Go to and tell us. The results a little bit later on in this hour.

What Jesus may have looked like is one thing. What his modern- day followers are doing, well, that's coming up.


ZAHN (voice-over): Tonight, they're political, powerful and especially pious.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, God. Thank you so much.

ZAHN: See how the religious right is changing America.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For people who don't embrace Jesus, what happens to them?


ZAHN: And, later, a matter of life and death for America's sons and daughters in Iraq.

That and more ahead on PAULA ZAHN NOW.



ZAHN: In politics these days, conservative evangelical Christians are hot and many of them are now turning up the heat on America's secular society. But their views worry other Christians, who fear some evangelicals may be spreading a message of intolerance or even worse than that?

Here is Carol Marin.


CAROL MARIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): So, what exactly is an evangelical? There are certain beliefs all conservative evangelicals share.

(on camera): Is there a heaven?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. MARIN: Is there a hell?


MARIN: Does Satan exist?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yes. I believe.

MARIN: And is there a clear path into heaven?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The only way to heaven is through Jesus Christ.

Now, how people get to heaven through Jesus Christ may have a lot of mystery to it.

MARIN (voice-over): It's that mystery that's brought us to Spartanburg, South Carolina, the kind of town where even the car wash posts daily Bible passages.

We've come here to meet the Carlisle family. There's Cassidy, Robin, 15-year-old Rick, Prissy the dog and 11-year-old Caitlin.

CAITLIN CARLISLE, EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN: We're typical, because, I mean, what kind of house we live in, the kind of cars we have and stuff like that.

But we're not typical by being Christian, because Christians aren't typical. They're different. They lead a life that's following Jesus.

ROBIN CARLISLE, EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN: People always tell me, oh, your kids are so good. And I'm thinking, yes, and this is the same kid who just mouthed off at me for something, you know. So, they're good when they have to be.

MARIN (on camera): So, they're normal kids.

R. CARLISLE: Oh, absolutely.

CAITLIN CARLISLE: I'm not perfect. If I was perfect, I wouldn't need Jesus.

Scripture is the best interpreter of Scripture.

MARIN (voice-over): Robin works part-time at their church, full- time at home. Cassidy is a manager of two chemical plants.

It is a mainstream American family. Or is it?

Rick loves video games, but is restricted to ones that don't show gratuitous violence.

This is about the only secular music played in the house. And as for television, well, forget MTV and "The Simpsons."

(on camera): So, if you said to your mom and dad, I think tonight I'd like to watch "The Simpsons."

CAITLIN CARLISLE: I wouldn't want to watch "The Simpsons."

MARIN: You wouldn't want to watch "The Simpsons."

CAITLIN CARLISLE: It's like, when I became a Christian, the Holy Spirit came inside me. And when I see something, it's like the Holy Spirit is my second parent. He's always there. And, no, no, no.

MARIN (voice-over): Their church is Southern Baptist, the largest of the Protestant denominations. Mike Hamlet is the pastor of First Baptist North, a church with over 6,000 members, including the Carlisles.

Among mainline denominations, Southern Baptists are the most conservative. And in the fight over faith, they have all but declared war on American culture.

HAMLET: Every sitcom that you watch, every movie that you see, is pushing more and more to the edge, of the sexual content and the sexual innuendo.

And if America is one nation under God, then we need to stand and act like again.

MARIN (on camera): And so, can there be a Christian perspective in a country where everyone isn't a Christian?

HAMLET: I don't know whether that can be the case, but I believe that should be our mission.

CAITLIN CARLISLE: I ask this in the name of your son, Jesus Christ, who loves me, died for me. He sits on your right hand.

MARIN: Five days a week, there is Bible study.

CAITLIN CARLISLE: Thank you, God. Thank you so much.

MARIN: Salvation comes early here. Rick was just five years old when he says he was born again.

And how old were you when you were saved?

CAITLIN CARLISLE: I was three years old.

MARIN (on camera): Can a three-year-old really understand or know enough to ...

CAITLIN CARLISLE: All you have to understand is, I'm a sinner and I need Jesus, and Jesus died for me.

That's all you need to understand.

MARIN (voice-over): When the church doors open, the Carlisles are there. Caitlin and Rick, Cassidy and Robin, who have instilled their faith in their children. CASSIDY CARLISLE, EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN: We thank you for this food and we ask that you bless it. In Jesus name, amen.

MARIN (on camera): For people who don't embrace Jesus, what happens to them?

CAITLIN CARLISLE: They go to hell.

MARIN: For sure?

CAITLIN CARLISLE: For sure. There's no other way to heaven except through Jesus.

If you don't accept Jesus as your savior, and you don't believe it in your hear that he's died for you, then you're going to go to hell.

And there's no alternative.

REV. DR. C. WELTON GADDY, PRESIDENT, THE INTERFAITH ALLIANCE: I think Christianity is more exclusive now than it was at its inception.

MARIN (voice-over): In 1998, Reverend Welton Gaddy quit the church he grew up in and left the Southern Baptist faith, because of its increasingly conservative beliefs. He says it's the kind of exclusivity found in Spartanburg that is a danger to America's religious diversity.

(on camera): If you believe in Buddha or Mohammed, in your faith there is no salvation.

MIKE HAMLET, PASTOR, FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH OF NORTH SPARTANBURG, SOUTH CAROLINA: Here may be a lot of things about the Bible that I don't understand. But I'm not really given the choice of what I can believe and what I can't believe.

I accept the scripture there, believe that Jesus is the only way to God.

GADDY: I don't trust a religion that causes a person to write people off, rather than want to embrace them.

Our future will either be marked by inter-religious cooperation, or a conflict that will weaken the nation and destroy the integrity of religion.

MARIN (on camera): Are we headed towards the more negative consequence right now?

GADDY: We're running toward it.

MARIN (voice-over): To be sure, there are many different kinds of evangelicals. But in the past 30 years, the meaning of the word has become synonymous, not only with religion, but with social policies and politics, and where a person stands on issues from abortion to gay rights. GADDY: The impact of the religious right has been that you can pass judgment on another person's spirituality. Not by asking the singular question about your relationship to God and your belief in Christ, but where you are on a variety of sociopolitical issues.

MARIN (on camera): There are litmus tests.

GADDY: There are litmus tests.

HAMLET: The liberals in this country are afraid of evangelicals.

Everyone else will compromise. But an evangelical's faith is built on a certain -- on a certain principle. A commitment to Christ, a commitment to God's word.

And we're not moving.


ZAHN: That was Carol Marin.

One of the Christianity's central figures is, of course, the Virgin Mary. When we come back, a new portrait of the mother of Jesus that might also surprise you.


ZAHN: And welcome back.

Christians have disagreed about the meaning of Jesus for some 21 centuries. For just as long, they've also wondered and argued about his mother, Mary.

This look through the eyes of faith and through the eyes of modern scholarship once again from "CNN PRESENTS" and narrated by Sigourney Weaver.


SIGOURNEY WEAVER, NARRATOR: It could be the most popular Christian prayer on the planet.

Every hour, millions of people the world over pray to her, echoing the angel Gabriel's astonishing announcement.

She was to be the mother of God's son.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hail, Mary, full of grace.

WEAVER: "Hail, Mary, full of grace," said Gabriel."The Lord is with thee."

With that endorsement, the Virgin Mary, an icon in blue, was soon elevated by the early church fathers to a lofty throne as the Queen of Heaven. And she hasn't stepped down since.

LESLEY HAZELTON, AUTHOR: They couldn't deal with the real Mary. She was just too strong, too intelligent, too capable.

They had to sort of pare her down, make her two-dimensional, just this icon. They had to make her virgin, and only virgin.

WEAVER: And the icon, as centuries of artists have shown us, is blonde and blue-eyed.

But the reality may come as something of a shock.

BEN WITHERINGTON, III, PROFESSOR, ASBURY THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY: I would assume that she looked like other Middle Eastern women, which would have been dark haired and dark skinned.

And she probably would have been about the same height as women of her time. And what we know about that is, that's probably five feet - 5'1", 5'2" -- somewhere in there.

WEAVER: And scholars say her name wasn't Mary, but Mariam, in the Aramaic language she spoke in a small town called Nazareth.

It was a rural existence, governed by the rituals of Jewish life, and by Roman soldiers in the nearby city of Sepphoris, a frequent target of Jewish rebels.

According to journalist Lesley Hazelton, author of "Mary: A Flesh and Blood Biography of the Virgin Mother," Mary was not just an observer, but directly involved in the politics of her time.

HAZELTON: There's no doubt in my mind that she - because she knew the ins and outs and all the side roads of the hills, where the caves were, where you could hide, where you could safely go and nobody could track you, even at night without a moon, especially on moonless nights - she would have been used to, and she would have wanted to, guide rebels who were fleeing from the military to safety. Rather like a kind of underground railroad.

WEAVER: The Virgin Mary as the Princess Leia of her day, defending the rebels against the evil empire?

Perhaps. Until the 13-year-old Mary, who was not yet married to Joseph, got some news from an angel that she was pregnant. And the father was God.

WITHERINGTON: Imagine a Jewish girl in this era going to their mother and father and saying, well, I've got good news and I've got bad news. I'm going to be the mother of the Messiah. And, no, my fiance is not the father.

I mean, this doesn't work in that sort of setting, you know. It's a scandalous story.

WEAVER: Yet Mary may also have had some powerful supporters.

LEVINE: It might have been the case, as it is in many rural cultures even today, that a pregnant girl was not anomalous, and that the rest of the village -- particularly the women in the village -- would have helped Mary through her pregnancy and supported her.

She was very much at risk in that pregnancy until Joseph decided to throw the mantle, you might say, of his patriarchal protection over her and take the child as his own.

And that gave a stable family life, then, for Jesus.

WEAVER: The story of that birth is found only in two gospels, Luke and Matthew. And while they don't agree on all the details, they do agree that this event was miraculous -- a child born to a virgin.

PROF. KAREN L. KING: This is a tradition in antiquity, in general. If you're important, you had a special birth.

Alexander the Great had a virgin birth. His mother was impregnated by a god. It's what you do, OK.

And so, certainly, that emphasis on Jesus' special birth, the wise men, the angels -- all of it, you know -- have to do with showing that this is somebody you can expect great things of. And, of course, precisely, that's what happened.

ELAINE PAGELS, PROFESSOR OF RELIGION, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Believers in Jesus took that from the prophecy they found in Isaiah, where they read the saying, "Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and call his name Jesus."

And some of them must have read that and said, Aha! That's what it was. His birth was a miracle.


ZAHN: The Virgin Mary story and that of Mary Magdalene are the subjects of an extraordinary program this Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern., "The Two Marys," narrated by none other than Sigourney Weaver.

When we come back, more earthly matters. Stick around. We'll be around in a moment.


ZAHN: In Iraq, Saddam Hussein met with a lawyer today. That may not seem like a big deal but it's actually the first time since his arrest one year ago that he met with a member of his defense team.

Also the Pentagon reports tonight a marine was killed in action just west of Baghdad.

Meanwhile, earlier in Baghdad, assassination. A top official of Iraq's communications ministry was shot dead. Also deadly violence across Iraq claim the lives of at least nine others.

Back here at home, it is now full speed ahead to get military vehicles in Iraq the proper armor they need. Here is Ed Lavandera.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ricardo Hernandez knows his job is about life, death and soldiers he's never met.

RICARDO HERNANDEZ, ARMOUR OF AMERICA: Every night, my wife and I think about how they're doing over there in Iraq and what we can do to improve this type of protection for them.

LAVANDERA: Ricardo is in charge of sewing together all the soft and heavy armor packs manufactured by Armour of America in this Los Angeles factory. He's also the stepfather of a U.S. army sergeant who drives a humvee in Iraq. A few months ago, his stepson e-mailed to say that his vehicle had finally been outfitted with the soft Kevlar armor kit that Ricardo and 30 employees have made here.

Does it help you sleep at night knowing that he's driving around in a product you made?

HERNANDEZ: Of course. Very happy. My wife's very confident of what I do because that protects my -- our son. Very happy. And I'm proud of what I'm doing.

LAVANDERA: In the last year, Armour of America has made almost 3,000 armor kits for military vehicles in Iraq. Some are soft Kevlar which slide on the humvee doors and protect soldiers from roadside bombs.

JOHN NEHMANS, ARMOUR OF AMERICA: In less than five minutes, you've armored the outside of the vehicle. This system is a soft -- feels like a soft blanket for fragmentation.

LAVANDERA: Some kits are hard armor which manager John Nehmans demonstrated for us.

NEHMANS: This is a hard plate. Same concept and the hard plate will stop (UNINTELLIGIBLE) M-16 rounds.

LAVANDERA: John believes this is the kind of protection soldiers want on their vehicles.

NEHMANS: They want to be able to stop a round, stop the fragmentation and they want to have the ability to shoot back. That's exactly what they want to do.

LAVANDERA: These days, business is mostly quiet as John waits for the go ahead to make another 20 million dollars worth of armor kits for the U.S. military. Just in case, he's already started on the armor for humvee doors. Trying to get ahead of the curve?

NEHMANS: Absolutely. This is the hardest part of the process.

LAVANDERA: The military units John has been working with ship out in the next three to four months.

NEHMANS: They are very interested in getting this on before they leave, but, again, they're constrained by the dollars. LAVANDERA: The military says there are some 20,000 vehicles in Iraq. About 4,300 still need armor. For those vehicles, help is also coming from places like the Red River Army Depot in northeast Texas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is where everything comes together.

LAVANDERA: Colonel Michael Savone (ph) oversees the delivery of humvee armor kits. These units will be shipped to the Middle East and put on in the field. Production is ramping up again with new designs to help soldiers in battle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This thing will open up now all the way out which allows the trooper to be able to have a better firing angle if he needs to lay down and get out of an ambush.

LAVANDERA: Ricardo Hernandez fears his stepson is always in danger on missions to the Iraqi countryside. For him, this work is personal.

HERNANDEZ: This may save a life. And I don't want nothing to fail.


ZAHN: That was our Ed Lavandera reporting. The Pentagon now acknowledges the success of the insurgents' roadside attacks against U.S. forces. My next guest knows that firsthand. Captain Marc Chung is a reservist who has just spent nine months with the First Division near Baghdad. In August a bomb hit his humvee but because it was armored he and his crew survived. Captain Chung, good to see you.

How troubling is it to you that 40 percent of all wheeled vehicles in Iraq are waiting for the proper armor?

CAPTAIN MARC CHUNG, U.S. ARMY: Well, that is a problem. But as time goes on, more and more vehicles are becoming up-armored and the Pentagon and the Washington and the generals and everybody up there is working very hard to get all of the vehicles up-armored so the soldiers have better chances of surviving on the battlefield.

ZAHN: I know you also feel pretty strongly, it's not totally up to the Pentagon. You think soldiers need to be resourceful in Iraq, too. How so?

CHUNG: I think that wherever the American soldier goes, he's going to be resourceful on getting all of the equipment that he needs to survive, whether it be up-armoring the vehicles themselves or being smarter on where they go day-to-day. They're going to do everything they can to fight and win.

ZAHN: When you're talking about up-armoring the vehicles themselves you're talking about cases where soldiers have gone into landfills to find pieces of metal that they can use to make make-shift armor for their humvees?

CHUNG: We didn't have to do that. Halfway through our tour, we had the 1114s. So I never saw that happen. Apparently, it did, though. But we took our vehicles to the maintenance shop and the maintenance shop was more than happy to up-armor them. In fact, they were even doing tests themselves to find out what metal and how to arrange the metal on the vehicles would be most effective against small arms and IADs.

ZAHN: So describe to us tonight what it's all like when the bomb hit and how it was that this armor on your vehicle saved your life?

CHUNG: Well, when the IAD exploded about three feet off the front right tire of our vehicle, it was, obviously, pretty traumatic. You basically go blank for 3 to 5 seconds or so. There is smoke everywhere. Even the vents inside the humvee blew out and once everything sort of cleared up, I could see that the windshield was just shattered. But nothing came through the windshield. It's about, I don't know, three or four inches thick and that really stopped a lot or all of the shrapnel to come through that I'm sure would of hit myself in the face, as well as the driver.

ZAHN: So without that, you think you probably would of died?

CHUNG: Oh, you know, it's hard to say if I would have died or not but I can tell you shrapnel was coming right at the windshield. A big huge chunk of metal or something went through the right front tire. It nearly sheared the chassis in half and the whole hood was blown off.

ZAHN: It's hard for us to imagine the force of the kind of explosions you were exposed to. Finally, there was a new study out this week. A Gallup poll suggesting that reservists are dying at a much higher rate than active duty soldiers. Why do you think that is?

CHUNG: Yes, I saw that, too. But I think that they had said that that was not accurate. I just happened to see that on TV. But I don't think that the reservists are dying, you know, faster than the regular army troops. The reservists are over there doing a great job. They're well-equipped. The reserves and the national guard are doing a great job.

ZAHN: Sure. I don't think the study was talking about -- suggesting there was an incompetency on any part but pointing out the kinds of missions you are on are extremely dangerous and they feel that the lack of armor has significantly added to the death toll.

CHUNG: I think the reserves are doing as much stuff as the active duty guys. We're doing everything that they do. I don't think we're in more danger. I don't think we're in less danger. The guard is just doing a great job standing the post. They're out there ten hours a day. We are out there with the first cav. We were doing everything they were doing. We were being safe. And the active duty soldiers were taking us on and they were being as good as they could to the reservists and everybody else. I thought it worked out really well.

ZAHN: Captain Marc Chung, thank you for sharing your story with us tonight. Welcome home. We salute your service. CHUNG: Thank you.

ZAHN: Now let's check in with my colleague Aaron Brown to figure out what is happening on "NEWSNIGHT" tonight. Hi, Aaron.

AARON BROWN, HOST, "NEWSNIGHT": Hello, Paula. And good evening to you. Coming up on "NEWSNIGHT" tonight Dr. David Graham is a classic whistleblower. A 20-year scientist at the FDA, he warns of unsafe drugs on the market, that the FDA culture is not concerned about safety, that it's too close to the drug companies it's supposed to regulate. He told Congress his story and tonight he joins us on "NEWSNIGHT."

ZAHN: We will be looking for that interview. Thanks, Aaron.

On our own security watch, still alive, still in hiding. What else did that new hate tape Osama bin Laden tells us about the world's most wanted terrorist.


ZAHN: Welcome back. In tonight's "CNN Security Watch," it is no doubt a very busy night at the CIA. It's analyzing what looks like another hate message from Osama bin Laden. This time in the form of an audiotape. And analysts are already saying it's probably the real thing.

National security correspondent David Ensor tells us what's behind bin Laden's words.


DAVID ENSOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This time, Osama bin Laden chose to distribute his audio message not through Arabic language television, but through the Internet. That may have helped conceal bin Laden's whereabouts, and it certainly helped with speed.

Local terrorism expert Peter Bergen is a CNN analyst.

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: This is the fastest turnaround tape that can I remember. I mean, usually, the turnaround is weeks or even months. When he's responding to, actually, news events here, it's within ten days.

ENSOR: Bin Laden process that by referring to the attack December 6 against the U.S. consulate in Jeddah.

OSAMA BIN LADEN, AL QAEDA LEADER (through translator): We pray to Allah to accept the Mujahideen who stormed the U.S. consulate in Jeddah as martyrs.

ENSOR: But there's another possible reason bin Laden did not send this tape, as he usually does, to Al Jazeera Television in Qatar. The tape is a 70-plus minute diatribe largely against the Saudi's first family, Qatar's powerful neighbors.

Former CIA analyst Michael Scheuer is the author of "Imperial Hubris."

MICHAEL SCHEUER, FORMER CIA ANALYST: Al Jazeera is reluctant a lot of times to offend the Saudis gratuitously and some of his more scathing marks are excerpted by the Qatari government and Al Jazeera.

So if he has something he wants to say that's very, very harsh toward the Saudis, he has chosen in the past to use other venues.

ENSOR (on camera): Besides Al Jazeera?

SCHEUER: Besides Al Jazeera. Yes, sir. So the message comes out whole.

ENSOR (voice-over): That message is that the Saudi princes are the root of all the problems in the land of bin Laden's birth.

BIN LADEN (through translator): The clear truth is that the regime is responsible for the mayhem inside Saudi Arabia.

ENSOR: Scheuer recently looked over a range of bin Laden videotapes with us. He says too often westerners, the CIA included, waste their time looking for obscure clues to his whereabouts.

SCHEUER: We had the Germans one time bring in an ornithologist to listen to a bird chirping to see if that bird was a resident in only a particular area of south Asia.

ENSOR: Instead of focusing on the birds, trees, a immobile arm or a certain face, Scheuer says Americans should listen to what bin Laden is saying about the United States.

SCHEUER: He's consistently outlined policy issues, whether it's support for tyrannical Arab governments or unqualified support for Israel, our presence on the Arabian Peninsula.

ENSOR: Not that the U.S. necessarily wants to change any of those policies, but Scheuer and other analysts argue Osama bin Laden will be hard to defeat without first listening to him and understanding why he's fighting. Know your enemy.


ZAHN: That late report from national security correspondent David Ensor here at CNN. We're always on lookout for stories about your safety and security.

Coming up next, we're going to turn our attention back to religion and the new face of comedy, Christian comic when we come back.


ZAHN: We've talked a lot tonight about faith, Jesus and Christianity. Some pretty serious stuff. Well, can there be a lighter side of all this? Well, one man says absolutely. He's a comedian whose brand of humor has a certain tone that may surprise some of you.

Bruce Burkhardt has more.


BRAD STINE, COMEDIAN: Sweetheart, I love you to death, but I got a flash for you. I don't care how many rugs you put around it. I don't care how many doilies are on it, don't care how many candles you light. Listen up, sweetie. It's a toilet!

BRUCE BURKHARDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He's a comedian you probably haven't heard of...

STINE: Oh, yes.

BURKHARDT: ... yet, though he's been plying his trade for years.

STINE: The problem is not it's hot in the desert. The problem is why would you start a town there? What are your options? Well, we don't have enough fuel to make it to the surface of the sun!

BURKHARDT: But ever since Brad Stine decided a few years ago to be himself, his career has taken off.

STINE: Hey, he's a Christian comedian. Great. Where's your puppet?

BURKHARDT: A Christian and a conservative, points of view that are very much a part of the act.

STINE: I thank God the man in the White House is from Texas.

BURKHARDT: Another thing that stands out about Brad Stine, no profanity in the act. He's clean. He's funny.

STINE: You're a weatherman! Thank you so much!

BURKHARDT: This is a regular stop on his comedy circuit, a Promise Keepers event, this one in Atlanta. That large gathering of men who come together for spiritual group therapy.

STINE: You got to love a place where you got, like, 17,000 men that can all use the women's restroom and not have to put the seat down. Hallelujah!

BURKHARDT: Before the event, Brad showed me, kind of, how it all works.

STINE: Then we go through this magical -- this, by the way, is what we call high security. Are you kidding me? Nobody is going to penetrate this!

BURKHARDT: But behind the jokes, some rock hard convictions.

STINE: Every time, you know, Madonna hits the stage, she's preaching. Every time Britney Spears hits the stage, she's preaching. Every time Springsteen hits the stage, they're preaching.

They're saying, "Here is my art and I'm going to use this as a vehicle to say here's what I believe."

I'm doing the same thing but the only thing that's been different about me, apparently, is nobody has ever said it from this side of the fence. Nobody's ever said it, and I also happen to have a religious point of view that I'm not ashamed of.

If you think that being a Christian means that you do can't be a cutting edge, in your face comic, hang on, there's a new sheriff in town.

BURKHARDT: With his ranting, aggressive, even angry style, Brad is reminiscent of one of his comic heroes, someone you might not expect, George Carlin.

STINE: I think he's a great writer. He's the antithesis of me. Hates Christians, hates God, doesn't believe in him, but a good writer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mind if I just give you a hug, man?

STINE: Of course.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God bless you, man.

BURKHARDT: Brad is beloved by his natural constituency, Christians and conservatives, who following his performance snap up all things Brad: DVDs, his book, "Being a Christian Without Being an Idiot," and even his picture.

But Brad believes his comedy should and does reach a larger audience.

STINE: It's what could be the greatest thing about comedy, is it can take on hard issues and try to find some humor in it, because there's so much anger right now.

No. 1, I am a conservative comedian. Listen to me. Conservative comedian. One of two known to exist in the western hemisphere.

BURKHARDT: And a lot of that anger seems to be coming from Brad. The problem is, religion doesn't allow too much of that.

STINE: I'm forbidden to hate people. Not that anybody comes to mind off the bat -- France!

BURKHARDT: From jokes to Jesus to politics, tricky terrain pioneered by Brad Stine.

STINE: Because if you're a follower of Jesus, nothing matters but God! I'm gone!


ZAHN: And that was Bruce Burkhardt reporting for us tonight. We'll be back with a little late night humor. Stay with us.


ZAHN: There happens to be a nationwide debate about holiday greetings. Is "merry Christmas" really offensive? Is "happy holidays" too P.C.? We asked Tom Foreman to kick around some possibilities.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): During the most celebrated holiday in America, are you, like so many businesses, not sure how to greet people? Are you embarrassed by misplaced "merry Christmases" and ill-targeted "happy Hanukkahs"? But are you already tired of the lukewarm "happy holidays"?

(on camera) Have no fear. A new seasonal greeting is here, and I call it "happy Chrismakwanhanudan." A little hard to say, but it has a nice swing to it, and I think it could catch on, allowing us to greet and offend everyone all at once.

(voice-over) It's not a fairly balanced greeting. After all, despite declines in organized religion, about 76 percent of Americans still call themselves Christians.

Thirteen percent profess no faith; 1.3 percent are Jewish. And Buddhists, Muslims and agnostics are a half percent each.

(on camera) But "Chrismakwanhanudan" covers almost all the bases. The Buddhists get a little short changed, but I think they're pretty easy going. We'll have to iron out some of the details anyway.

(voice-over) The postal service might struggle to fit "Chrismakwanhanudan" onto a stamp. And I'm not sure St. Rabbi Mohammed Mbuto will be all that popular or even fit into a chimney.

There could be unintended consequences, too, movements to combine other holidays, "The Fourth of Thanksgiving" and "Valenoween" come to mind.

(on camera) But we have to do something. With more schools, offices and local governments giving up Christmas parties in favor of winter celebrations, nobody knows what to say.

I don't "throw merry Christmas" at friends of differing faiths. Rather, I wish them the best of their own holidays, but as a practicing Christian, I do say "merry Christmas" a lot. I don't think respecting other people's beliefs means hiding your own.

(voice-over) That's why even if it "Chrismakwanhanudan" does not work in the long run, I'm not sure "happy holidays" does either. Not when what we mean is happy Hanukkah, a joyous Kwanzaa, a peaceful Ramadan, and a merry Christmas.


ZAHN: We all wish you, as he said, the best of your own holiday.

The holiday season and how some people mark it have been on Jay Leno's mind as well. Take a look.


JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": Happy holidays, happy Hanukkah, merry Christmas. Let me ask you something.

These houses where the people overdo it with the Christmas decorations, do you know what I mean? The houses with the 10,000 blinking lights and the giant inflatable Santa, the loud speakers blaring Christmas music? Are we supposed to believe that these people are, like, deeply religious?

I mean, even God just put up a bright star in the east when Jesus was born, you know? He didn't do a meteor shower with a volcano. "I've got a solar eclipse. It's a boy. Take a look at this!" But a nice little tasteful star in the east and that was it!


ZAHN: Thanks, jay. And here's what the "PAULA ZAHN NOW Meter" reads tonight. We asked you if you think Jesus looked the way he is commonly portrayed in pictures. Nineteen percent of you said yes; 81 percent of you said no.

Remember, not a scientific poll. Just a look at what some of our web site visitors are thinking.

Thanks so much for joining us tonight. Tomorrow night, second- class patients: why women don't get equal treatment when it comes to medical care. "LARRY KING LIVE" is next. His guest: country legend and one-time San Quentin inmate Merle Haggard on what Scott Peterson can expert there.

Again, thanks again for dropping by here tonight. We'll be back same time, same place tomorrow night. Good night.


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