updated 3/15/2007 12:28:55 PM ET 2007-03-15T16:28:55

Guests: Tom O‘Neil, Kirk Cameron

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Superstar?  Media mega-star is more like it. 

A generation after “Time” asked whether God was dead and John Lennon declared himself bigger than Jesus Christ, the man that over a billion people still think is the son of God seems to be getting the last laugh.  From the White House to Hollywood, from politics to the workplace, from mega-churches to mega-businesses, from theaters to recording studios to bookstores, Jesus rocks.  Jesus rolls.  Jesus sells.  Some like to paint the faithful as a small flock of extremists who have undue influence over Washington and pop culture, but when the faithful flex their economic muscle, their pocketbooks pack a powerful punch.  Call it Christian capitalism, or maybe just “In God We Trust,” our topic tonight on SCARBOROUGH REPORT.

From the Roman empire forward, no force has shaped Western civilization like Christianity.  In America, most Founding Fathers professed faith in Jesus, but almost 200 years later, I can tell you that many in Washington and Hollywood have taken, let‘s say, a more expansive view toward faith.  But 40 years later, after the social revolution of the 1960s, the success of “The Passion,” the “Left Behind” series and Christian rock is moving Hollywood in a more conservative direction.

Now, for the next hour, we‘re going to show you how faith has morphed into a multi-billion-dollar message, and not just for Christians.  But we begin with the fastest-growing Christian movement in America, evangelicals, whose beliefs and bank accounts have made Jesus Christ a superstar once again.

Here‘s CNBC‘s Tyler Mathisen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BISHOP T.D. JAKES, THE POTTER‘S HOUSE PASTOR:  The Lord sent me here to feed somebody this morning!  Hallelujah!  I‘ve been hand-selected!  I‘ve been divinely picked!  I‘ve been Holy Ghost anointed!  I‘ve been designated (INAUDIBLE) God, I will not fail you!

I think that Jesus is the product.

TYLER MATHISEN, CNBC (voice-over):  If Jesus is the product, then bishop T.D. Jakes is one of the Lord‘s top salesmen.

JAKES:  I think that he is what we are after. He is what we bring to the table.

I know who I am!  I know where I came from!  I know what he did for me!

MATHISEN:  Part pastor, part businessman, Bishop Thomas Dexter Jakes runs a Dallas church called The Potter‘s House with 30,000 members, more than 300 employees and a $45 million sanctuary that seats more people than Radio City Music Hall.

He‘s also CEO of a separate multimedia business empire, all based on Christianity, a product that, according to Jakes, almost sells itself.

JAKES:  When the product is excellent, it doesn‘t require a big sales pitch.

MATHISEN:  Pitch or no, Jesus is selling, and well.  In today‘s America, whether you detect it or not, all sorts of businesses, from health clubs to Hollywood movies, from publishing to pizza parlors, from cleaning services to financial planning services in one way or another have Christian vales at their cores.  As evangelicals have understood for a long time, Jesus is, frankly, a great hook.

LAURA NASH, PH.D., AUTHOR, “CHURCH ON SUNDAY, WORK ON MONDAY”:  The first evangelicals in the 19th century were often salespeople, people who understood a customer, knew how to sell a product.

MATHISEN:  Her book, “Church on Sunday, Work on Monday,” explores the nexus of faith and commerce.

NASH:  There‘s always been this kind of interesting connection between marketing and evangelicalism.

MATHISEN:  Michael Cromartie of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington has examined the economic clout of evangelicals.

MICHAEL CROMARTIE, ETHICS AND PUBLIC POLICY CENTER:  Some people who‘ve not known about these people start recognizing them.  Some people in the blue states have just discovered that a lot of these people buy a lot of goods, they buy a lot of music, they buy a lot of books, and they also now vote.

MATHISEN:  We all remember the old-timers evangelists like Billy Graham, Pat Robertson and Oral Roberts, who preached to audiences on television, redefining the preacher‘s tent.  Inevitably, money followed the message.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Can you send $100?

MATHISEN:  And sometimes with the cash came trouble.  You remember Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker.

JIM BAKKER, TELEVANGELIST:  God is a God of new beginnings, and God is on your side.

MATHISEN:  Today the tent is bigger than ever.  Not only are televangelists reaching larger audiences electronically, they are preaching in person to mega-congregations, and the ministers and their flocks are multi-million-dollar economic forces in their own right.

JOEL OSTEEN, SENIOR PASTOR, LAKEWOOD CHURCH:  All right, hold up your Bibles!  Let‘s say it together!  Ready?  This is my Bible.  I am what it says I am.  I have what it says I have.  I can do what it says I can do.

MATHISEN:  Meet Joel Osteen.

OSTEEN:  I promise you we‘ll make you feel right at home.

MATHISEN:  The Houston pastor is today‘s hottest TV minister, and like T.D. Jakes, Osteen is the head of a Christian mini-conglomerate.

OSTEEN:  ... indestructible, ever-living seed of the word of God...

MATHISEN:  Besides the church, Osteen has a company that produces and distributes CDs, DVDs and TV programming.  Then there‘s the always sold-out road show, “An Evening With Joel Osteen.”  Though he doesn‘t personally ask for money, Osteen‘s ministry is rolling in it.  It‘s got a $50 million annual budget, and his ministry spends an estimated $20 million a year buying TV time on religious and non-religious stations alike.  On any given Sunday in his massive Lakewood church, he preaches to 25,000 believers, some of whom travel thousands of miles to hear the word.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  (INAUDIBLE) 23 hours.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m Susan.  I‘m from Charlotte, North Carolina.

OSTEEN:  Oh, thank you!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You have changed my life.

OSTEEN:  We do see the movement of the Lord here and the spirit of the Lord, and we just see this happening all over the country.

I believe the Christian market is definitely growing.  I mean, we see it in our own ministry just every day.  People say, I‘ve never been to church, but you know, I‘m watching your broadcast, I‘m reading your book.  So I think, you know, that faith is definitely growing all across America.

MATHISEN (on camera):  God is a growth business?

OSTEEN:  I think he definitely is.

MATHISEN (voice-over):  And that growth, says Osteen, is having a big impact on the local economy.

OSTEEN:  I had a guy on the radio the other day, I heard him say that

he says, Lakewood through the year‘ll bring in more people than the Super Bowl did.

MATHISEN:  Osteen‘s best-selling book, “Your Best Life Now,” has bigger sales even than “The South Beach Diet.”  Its largely secular “think big” message appeals to more than just evangelical Christians.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  This is the dream of my life, Joel~!  I love you!

OSTEEN:  I think we are blessed so that we can bless others, but I just can‘t stand to see people get stuck in a rut when I know God has more for all of us.

MATHISEN:  A few hundred miles to the north, in suburban Dallas, is where former ditchdigger and chemical plant worker T.D. Jakes moved his ministry from West Virginia about a decade ago.

JAKES:  I wish I had somebody who could be a witness!

MATHISEN:  Since then, like a tech company with a hot product, there‘s been nothing but growth.

JAKES:  It‘s a lot of responsibility.  The economics is probably not the first thing that I think of when I think about preaching to them.

MATHISEN:  But it‘s not exactly far from his mind, either.  This CEO is well known in the Christian community for hammering home a message of hard work and economic independence to his largely African-American congregation.

MATHISEN:  To be anointed literally means to be empowered!  Empowered!

It is very much an issue in our community, and we have to address it if we‘re going to be relevant.

MATHISEN:  Jakes has a move and TV production company, a music recording studio and his own record label.  He has distribution deals with the likes of Sony, EMI, Time Warner, Clear Channel and Trinity Broadcasting.

Jakes and his ministry have also used some of the millions made by his media empire to supply satellite dishes to prisons around the country so inmates can see broadcasts of his sermons.  He works as hard as any CEO, and makes no apologies for living like one, too.

(on camera):  Some people criticize that about you.  They say, He lives well, he has beautiful clothes, he drives well, he lives in a good house.  Is there anything wrong with that?

JAKES:  Living well in America is not wrong.  It‘s how you go about getting the money that is an issue.  It gives me a great deal of credibility when I‘m working with ex-inmates to say that it is possible to have the American dream without selling drugs.  I cannot say that if I haven‘t done it myself.

MATHISEN:  When Jakes takes his act on the road, it‘s big business.  At his four-day mega-fest in Atlanta, a cumulative 560,000 people from 55 countries passed through the turnstiles at the Georgia Dome.  Not surprisingly, totally secular businesses, hotels and the like, lined up for a crack at that market.

JAKES:  They are beginning, and I think wisely so, to understand that they need to go after our business just as well as they would anybody else.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER:  Coming up, the separation of church and work, with more workers worshiping at the office and more employers bringing Bibles to their places of business.  We‘ll examine the Almighty in the workplace.

coming up, the racket over the rapture.  We‘ll look at the hugely popular “Left Behind” series that examines the end of days and hear from the series‘ star, Kirk Cameron, when SCARBOROUGH REPORTS “In God We Trust” returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  We‘re back with SCARBOROUGH REPORTS, “In God We Trust.”  Now, with workers spending more time at the office, employees are bringing their faith into the workplace more than ever.  But are Christian principles good for the bottom line?  Once again, here‘s CNBC‘s Tyler Mathisen, who found that all work and no prayer may make Jack a less productive worker.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATHISEN (voice-over):  Christians, of course, have been toiling in the workplace for 2,000 years.  Jesus, after all, was a carpenter.  In the 21st century, more and more American employers are trying to accommodate their employees religious beliefs, making it more comfortable for them to express faith on the job.  Companies like American Airlines and Intel support prayer groups in the workplace.  In fact, according to an NBC News poll, 1 out of 10 U.S. workers say they participate in a prayer circle with fellow employees at least monthly.  In today‘s workplace, religious expressions aren‘t limited to the millions of Americans who call themselves evangelical Christians.

NASH:  There are Torah readings at lunch hours.  There are Muslim prayers.  The whole idea that this is only a Christian phenomenon just isn‘t true.

MATHISEN:  Ford Motor Company sponsors the Ford Interfaith Network, which includes mostly Christians but also has Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu and Jewish members.  But Laura Nash says Ford and many corporations that allow on-the-job prayer are prudent about the practice.

NASH:  I think what they‘ve tried very carefully to do is say, This is voluntary, this is not endorsing this religion, it‘s giving it an outlet.

MATHISEN:  Os Hillman helps provide those outlets.  The author of books on how to blend Christian beliefs with work life, he‘s also a self-described workplace minister.  From his Todaygodisfirst Web site, Hillman e-mails Scripture and inspirational messages to more than 80,000 workers each day.

OS HILLMAN, TODAYGODISFIRST.COM:  There‘s a lot of people that are searching for purpose in their work lives.  They‘re spending more time at work.  On average, we‘re spending 30 days longer at work than we did 10 years ago.

MATHISEN:  Some businesses, like Tyson Foods and Coors Brewing Company, are run by CEOs who call themselves evangelical Christians.  But the enterprises themselves are totally secular.  In other cases, like the Curves Health Club chain and the 10-million-customer Servicemaster—the name itself a play on “serving the master”—companies try to keep Christian principles at the heart of the business.  Servicemaster operates Terminex, True Green Chem Lawn (ph) and Merry Maids, and though you might not ever know it when their workers come a-calling, Servicemaster‘s publicly stated objectives include this: “to honor God in all we do.”

You might not feel God‘s spirit at Chick-Fil-A, either, but make no mistake, he‘s there.  That company‘s mission statement says the fast food chain exists, quote, “to glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us.”

S. TRUETT CATHY, FOUNDER/CHAIRMAN, CHICK-FIL-A:  And I guess Jesus Christ tells many stories about dining out.  I guess he‘s the most dined-out character in the Bible.

MATHISEN:  Truett Cathy is Chick-Fil-A‘s founder and a devout Christian who teaches Sunday school without fail every week.  And he says, for him at least, the restaurant business is a divine calling.

(on camera):  So you serve the customer, but you also serve God, and you put those two together.

CATHY:  Well, I feel God (INAUDIBLE) successful.

MATHISEN (voice-over):  And Chick-Fil-A is successful.  And it generates those sales on a six-day work week.  On the seventh day, just like the Creator himself, Chick-Fil-A rests.

(on camera):  Are you richer because you close on Sundays?

CATHY:  I think I am.  I think Sunday is an important day, a family day, and I think that you devote one day toward thinking about more important things than dollars and cents.

MATHISEN (voice-over):  Cathy opened his first Chick-Fil-A in Atlanta in 1967.  Today, the chain boasts 1,200 stores in 38 states.  Cathy says some of his wealth goes to support more than 150 foster children.  And he says Chick-Fil-A has given out around $20 million in college scholarships to restaurant employees and their families.

CATHY:  The Bible tells us the more you give, the more you‘re going to have.  And I firmly believe that.

MATHISEN:  In fact, the Bible mentions money more than 2,300 times.  It‘s a topic second only to love.  So perhaps it‘s no surprise that today, several American banks have self-consciously styled themselves as Christian institutions.  Riverview Community Bank in suburban Minneapolis was founded by the faithful, started by three evangelical Christians with just $6 million in seed money and deposits.  And no, you don‘t have to be a Christian to work there or open an account.  And Riverview Bank is growing.

CHUCK RIPKA, FOUNDER, RIVERVIEW BANK:  Heavenly Father, we ask that you continue to bless our organization.

MATHISEN:  Chuck Ripka is one of Riverview‘s founding fathers.

RIPKA:  You‘re really not going to tell that this is a Christian bank, if you want to call it that.  But if you look at the front of our building, it says “In God we trust” on our cornerstone.  It‘s on our money.  (INAUDIBLE) it‘s a word that we really believe here at the bank because we do trust in God.

MATHISEN:  Ripka‘s main job is approving mortgages and other loans at Riverview, but he says his secondary job is saving souls.

RIPKA:  Between customers and employees, I probably pray with two or three people every single day here.

MATHISEN:  On the day we visited, Ripka was helping 19-year-old Jake Wyer (ph).  He wants to buy a house from his friend, Jim Estrum (ph).  Even though the house was appraised for $320,000, Jim is willing let Jake have it for just $295 grand.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE) Jake‘s a nice guy (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  (INAUDIBLE) my house.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE) No, that‘s (INAUDIBLE)

MATHISEN:  Once Jake finished the paperwork, Ripka asked everyone to pray.

RIPKA:  Oh, Lord, we just thank you, Father, for this time (ph), and Lord, we just thank you, Father, for this blessing (INAUDIBLE) for your will to come (INAUDIBLE)

MATHISEN:  And those prayers were answered.  Jake‘s loan was approved.

RIPKA:  They want to walk in obedience, Lord...

MATHISEN (on camera):  Can businesses successfully be organized around Christian principles and live them in the marketplace?

NASH:  I think they can selectively live Christian principles.  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” the “Golden Rule,” is in the New Testament.  It is a Christian principle.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  Today about 4,000 chaplains are working with businesses, providing counseling and prayer to workers.  The debate over how much religion should be allowed in businesses—well, that‘s going to continue well into the future.  But it seems fairly clear that allowing faith in the workplace can be good for the bottom line.

ANNOUNCER:  Coming up on SCARBOROUGH REPORTS, “In God We Trust”—

Hollywood finds Jesus after faith-based blockbusters rake in billions.

And later:

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  All the surveys say that evangelicals have the best sex life of any other group.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER:  HBO takes a look at sex in the suburbs, cashing in on the evangelical movement.  Move over “Sopranos,” there‘s a new boss in town.  When SCARBOROUGH REPORTS “In God We Trust” continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH REPORTS, “In God We Trust.”

Now, religion can always spur debates, but few topics cause more arguments among the faithful than the end of the world.  The “Left Behind” series examines the last days on earth from an evangelical viewpoint, and it‘s become one of the biggest Christian moneymakers in decades.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Armageddon, the prophesied end-of-the-world battle between the forces of good and evil, a topic Hollywood has tackled for years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  “Armageddon” is a word which appears only once in the entire Bible.  It refers to a valley in Galilee.  The term has been amplified and enlarged and made into a more general term to refer to the cataclysmic battle between irreconcilable forces.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  He was telling them that the temple was going to be destroyed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  But for many, this catastrophic conflict is no movie plot, it‘s real.  It‘s what evangelical Christians call “the rapture,” the faithful will vanish from earth, taken to a better place, while those left behind face damnation and the second coming of Christ.

The idea is central to a series of enormously popular novels by authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The “Left Behind” series is a story about the end of the world, and it‘s the story that evangelical Christians believe will happen someday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The series is attracting believers and non-believers alike.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  They‘re based on Bible fact, but they‘re written like a novel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We believe in the Bible.  We believe that it‘s true and that the prophecies say will happen someday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  In fact, a recent poll found that almost 6 in 10 Americans believe the prophecies in the Book of Revelations will come true.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The authority of the Bible in American culture is still considerable.

HARVEY COX, HARVARD DIVINITY SCHOOL:  People are confused about what‘s happening in the world.  They‘re bewildered.  They‘re ready to grab onto an idea which seems to make sense of things.

JENKINS:  I think there‘s a God hunger out there.  People are looking for something beyond themselves.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  A faith that will bring in comfort in what they see as chaotic and uncertain times.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER:  Coming up: It‘s has made millions of dollars and a born-again star of TV‘s Kirk Cameron.  We‘ll talk to the star of the “Left Behind” series, Buck Williams himself, about his journey from child star to self-described evangelical next.  And later: Jesus is the rock that rolls.  We‘ll show you what happens when the public meets pop culture.  When SCARBOROUGH REPORTS “In God We Trust” continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Funny thing about a dream.  When you‘re asleep, no matter what happens, no matter how crazy it might be, it all seems to make sense.  I was there when millions of people vanished off the face of the Earth, but I didn‘t wake up.  I cheered as the world came together in the name of peace. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Kirk Cameron is the star of those “Left Behind” films you just saw.  At 17 years old, he was a teen idol and on top of the world.  On the hit TV series “Growing Pains,” he made a lot of money and got 10,000 fan letters a week, but he was also an atheist and began to realize then he had everything but salvation. 

Now, 20 years later, Cameron‘s not only religious, he also shares the gospel with others.  In addition to starring in three motion pictures based on the “Left Behind” series of books, he also produces and appears in “The Way of the Master,” and reality series on CBN showing viewers how to share their faith. 

Kirk Cameron now joins us.  Kirk, thank you so much for being with us again. 

KIRK CAMERON, ACTOR-PRODUCER:  Oh, my pleasure.  Thanks for having me. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Talk about the “Left Behind” series, and Armageddon, and the Rapture, and why these concepts are so popular and why they really interest so many Americans today. 

CAMERON:  I think that, ultimately, all of us know that we‘re, ultimately, in essence trapped in a room with a great big elephant called Death, and it‘s going to stomp on every one of us sooner or later.  Ten out of 10 people die. 

And the most loved and the most popular book that has ever been published in all of the world, the Bible, talks about the problem of sin and death and a coming day of judgment, standing before a holy God, and the solution to man‘s greatest dilemma, and that is God providing a savior and people having an opportunity to be saved from Hell and find eternal life.  That‘s why people are so interested in it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Do you believe that we are in the end times, that the second coming may be soon? 

CAMERON:  Well, I think that we can turn on the news, and it worries and frightens all of us.  Who knows how long the world is going to be around?  Biologists, scientists can‘t predict the future even 50 years from now.  They‘re not sure if Planet Earth will even be around by then.  And that lines up perfectly with what the scriptures say. 

And I am a believer that Bible prophesy is still coming true.  And, you know, one of the most significant is the fact that Jesus talked about the Jews regaining Israel.  And in 1948, some pretty amazing things happened.  Regaining a homeland after 2,000 years of not having it is a pretty good indicator that the Bible is true in what it says and that it can be trusted.  

SCARBOROUGH:  Do you believe that may be why these “Left Behind” series has been so popular? 

CAMERON:  I think it‘s one of the many reasons why it‘s been so popular.  Prophecy‘s one of the things that substantiates the truth of the beginning. 

And you have to understand, Joe, that, if you look at the beginnings of Hollywood, it was much different than we see it today.  I mean, way back in the days of the Cecil B. DeMille, when he came to California, Hollywood was known as a Christian settlement offering free parcels of land to anyone willing to build a house of worship.  And movies like “Ben-Hur: A Tale of Christ,” won 11 Academy Awards, “The Ten Commandments,” reflecting the faith of a country that has faith in God. 

When Hollywood took a turn and decided to push God out of the mix and build an industry on greed, and lust, and sex, and violence, pornography, it creates this spiritual vacuum.  And then, when a celebrity dies, death‘s on our mind.  When 9/11 happens, and people perish in front of our eyes, all that needs to happen is a movie opens up about Jesus Christ.  That spiritual vacuum is penetrated, and the audience gets sucked into it, because it‘s looking for answers to life‘s greatest dilemma. 

And then all of the studios frantically hope on their faith-based surfboards to ride the financial wave all the way to the bank with Mel Gibson. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Why do you think there is such a hostility toward evangelical Christians in Hollywood, in the movie industry, in the television industry? 

CAMERON:  Well, I think there‘s a couple of reasons.  When Jesus began preaching the message of his gospel, they tried to kill him 10 times before he ever made it to the cross.  The first recorded sermon he preached, they tried to throw him off a cliff. 

So there‘s something inherent with the message that either infuriates people or it causes them to fall on their knees in gratitude and worship to God.  So the nature of the message is explosive, for sure. 

I think the other reason people want to keep Christianity at arm‘s distance is they confuse Christianity with hypocrites in the church.  They see priests that are pedophiles and pastors that are involved in adultery and pornography.  And they want to say, “Oh, we should just throw the baby out with the bathwater.” 

SCARBOROUGH:  Talk about your conversion from being an atheist in Hollywood to being a born-again believer of Jesus Christ. 

CAMERON:  Well, I‘ve got to tell you, Joe, I had the American dream. 

I was rich; I was famous; I was young.  I had it all at about 17 years old.  And I was asking the normal questions everyone asks.  What‘s next?  What else is out there?  Have I arrived?

And I knew that, in an instant, I could die in a car wreck and all this would be taken for me.  And if what I had heard in church the week before, that there was a God who made me, and that there are things that he requires of me, requirements that I have fallen so far short of that I need to be made right with him, and he‘s provided a way for this to happen, for me to be forgiven, I wanted to check it out. 

It‘s kind of like not being a believer in electricity.  All you have to do is stick a metal fork into a light socket, and you suddenly become a believer, because the power surges through you.  As an atheist, I plugged into the gospel by repenting of my sin and putting my trust in Jesus Christ to save me from sin. 

And that experience was so charged with power, in that it transformed my heart from the inside out, that I began to love the God that I once hated, and I began to hate the sin that I once loved, and found that all of the empirical evidence of science, and history, and prophecy supported the decision that I made to believe the gospel message. 

And, today, it continues to be supported to the point where I just simply don‘t have enough faith to be an atheist anymore. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Kirk Cameron, a great place to end it.

Thank you so much for being with us and continued success in the future. 

CAMERON:  Thank you very much. 

ANNOUNCER:  Up next, HBO, the network known for its edgy programming, finds Jesus.  The pay channel is cashing in on evangelicals in America with a look at the documentary, “Friends of God,” coming up.

And later, the power of Christ compels you to buy.  Religion goes mainstream:  books, music and movies.  And it‘s not just the devout who are buying Bible-based merchandise, when “SCARBOROUGH REPORTS: IN GOD WE TRUST” continues. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s a network known best for hip, edgy programming, like “The Sopranos” and “Sex and the City.”  But now, even HBO is trying to tap into the evangelical Christian market and drive some of that high-paying audience their way. 

Filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi, who‘s the daughter of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, took on the hot issue of that spiritual power of evangelicals in America in her HBO documentary “Friends with God.”

I talked to Alexandra about the role they play and also talked about the most controversial evangelical leader of late, Ted Haggard. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN WILLIAMS, HOST, “NBC NIGHTLY NEWS”:  A developing story tonight about one of the most influential evangelical leaders in the United States, one who has enjoyed extraordinary access to the White House, the Reverend Ted Haggard has stepped down as president of the National Association of Evangelicals, and also has temporarily stepped down as head of his church in Colorado Springs, all of this after being accused of paying to have sexual relations with another man. 

PASTOR TED HAGGARD, FORMER PRESIDENT, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF

EVANGELICALS:  All the surveys say that evangelicals have the best sex life than any other group. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, come on.

ALEXANDRA PELOSI, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER:  No way.

HAGGARD:  Oh, yes.  But let‘s just find out.  How often do you have sex with your wife? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Everyday.

HAGGARD:  Everyday?  How about twice a day sometimes?

SCARBOROUGH:  Were you surprised at all when Ted Haggard had the scandal that basically finished his preaching career?

A. PELOSI:  Well, the reason that I chose him Pastor Ted Haggard as my tour guide through the red states was because, when I met him in Colorado Springs, he seemed reasonable.  He wasn‘t fire-breathing, and he wasn‘t homophobic, and all of the things that we think a leader of the evangelical movement would be.  We had really reasonable conversations. 

He didn‘t seem to me like a hypocrite.  When all of that came down, it seemed to me that, you know, I was just as surprised as the next person.  But now, looking back, of course, I‘m in the position where I have to say, “Well, I guess I should have suspected it, because he was so open-minded.”  When we had conversations, he didn‘t seem to be as hard-line as the rest of the evangelical leaders. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Tell us why you chose the subject of evangelicals.

A. PELOSI:  Well, because after the 2004 presidential election, people like you on TV were saying that the evangelical Christians had all of this influence in the outcome of the 2004 presidential election.  So I wanted to figure out, who are these evangelicals?  And what is their influence in our electoral process?

So I packed my bags and went out and hit the road to meet some.  I followed the Christian wrestlers in the documentary.

A lot of pain for Christ. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, it is.  Buy you know what?  It‘s all worth it, because when you think about the pain Christ went through on the cross for us, this pales in comparison.

SCARBOROUGH:  If you look at the exit polls, a lot of pollsters and pundits said that it was the evangelical crowd that put George W. Bush over the top over John Kerry.  I‘ve talked to a lot of evangelicals over the past six months.  They seem very disillusioned with this president and even with the Republican Party.

Did you find that while you were out there making this film?

A. PELOSI:  Not so much, because I tried to stay completely apolitical.  Because whenever you get to politics, it gets confrontational, and I was trying not to document, you know, the politics of evangelicals, but more the cultural influence that they have. 

SCARBOROUGH:  There are a lot of people on the coasts that do have cartoon-type images of the evangelical community and are very scared, very scared about the so-called right-wing religious nuts.  What do you find most frightening or most off-putting about your time around the evangelicals? 

A. PELOSI:  Well, funny that I should be the one defending the evangelicals here, but that seems to be what I‘ve been doing these days, because everyone I met seemed really reasonable.  I didn‘t go really deep into the fire-breathing dragon side of the evangelical movement, if there is such a side. 

I tried to stay on the periphery, with the really nice, more moderate evangelicals.  I didn‘t go towards like the Pat Robertson side, because I always got the impression that he wasn‘t a very good representation of evangelicals, so I thought, instead of furthering the stereotypes, I should try to meet some new, average, ordinary, everyday evangelicals and see what they think, instead of trying to just stick to that same, old caricature that we‘re—on the coasts, we‘re really used to.

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, Alexandra, thank you so much for being with us. 

Greatly appreciate it. 

A. PELOSI:  Thank you.  I‘m really glad to be here, and I‘m glad to see—look, we can all get along!

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER:  Still ahead, from Hollywood blockbusters to hit songs, religion goes pop, when “SCARBOROUGH REPORTS: IN GOD WE TRUST” continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  In the early 1970s, a singer named Larry Norman invented something called Christian rock.  Now, many derided it as sacrilegious and the work of the devil, but today Christian rock is so mainstream that it‘s making more money than classic rock.  NBC‘s Don Teague has that story. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, I ain‘t going to smell it, if that‘s what you want.

DON TEAGUE, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  The box office triumph of the “Chronicles of Narnia,” yet another sign that Christian themed entertainment is turning mainstream.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Take him.

TEAGUE:  If that‘s a surprise to you, then you probably won‘t recognize Lauren, Alyssa, and Becca Barlow doing a little Christmas shopping.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Hey, Bec, did you see this purse?

TEAGUE:  But million of their fans know Barlow Girl it is one of the hottest new groups on Christian radio.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Girls...

TEAGUE:  Singing of broken lives and faith in God.

ALYSSA BARLOW, MUSICIAN:  Even if people, you know, think we‘re weird or whatever, I have to tell them about who he is, because of what he can do, and I think that I want to be a part of healing this world.

TEAGUE:  And entertaining it.  Barlow Girl is on tour with Christian artists ranging from rap to reggae, all with a message.

MATTHEW WEST, MUSICIAN:  If you‘re facing something this Christmas that seems beggar than you, it is bigger than you, but there is a God who promises to walk beside you.

TEAGUE (on screen):  For Christian artists, sending a positive message can also mean making a lot of money.  Tonight‘s concert in Nashville is sold out; that‘s more than 5,000 tickets.

(voice-over):  Christian entertainment has boomed into a $3-billion-a-year industry, on concert stages, in praise nightclubs, and on television.  Gospel Music Channel has MTV-style videos and its own version of “American Idol.”

For kids, there are Christian skate board parks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  My gosh!  I was here first.

TEAGUE:  And Bible-based video game.  In theater, the blockbuster “Passion of the Christ and the “Left Behind” movies helped open the door for films like “Narnia,” which Disney actively marketed to churches.

ASLAN, LION IN “CHRONICLES OF NARNIA”:  The future of Narnia rests on your courage.

TEAGUE:  And some independent film makers are going a step further, making movies with a direct message for Christian audiences.

DAVE CHRISTIANO, DAVE CHRISTIANO FILMS:  They‘re looking for a message that‘s going to help them grow in the faith, get to know the Lord better, learn something, a truth about Christ.  They‘re not afraid of the message; they want the message.

TEAGUE:  Nearly 87 percent of Americans classify themselves Christians.  They flexed their buying power in bookstores for years. 

AMY COTTER, SHOPPER:  It makes you comfortable that there is a place you can go and that they can get things you feel like the content will be wholesome.

TEAGUE:  But Christian music may be making the biggest strides.

DEBORAH EVANS-PRICE, “BILLBOARD” MAGAZINE:  It‘s not your grandpa‘s Jesus freak music anymore.

TEAGUE:  Billboard magazine‘s Deborah Evans-Price.

EVANS-PRICE:  From a business perspective, I think that people are realizing the power of the Christian consumer in this country.

TEAGUE:  Even as the sisters of Barlow Girl realize their power to use music...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  To show the world there‘s another way to live.

TEAGUE:  ... as ministry.

Don Teague, NBC News.

(END VIDEOTAPE) 

SCARBOROUGH:  So what kind of good news has Christian music been sending to a mainstream audience in Hollywood?  Well, how about almost 45 million units sold in 2006.

Here now to give us the gospel on the big business of religion, not only in music, but also in Hollywood films, is “InTouch Weekly‘s” Tom O‘Neil. 

You know, Tom, it seemed 10 years a lot of Hollywood moguls were openly contemptuous of Christianity.  What‘s changed? 

TOM O‘NEIL, “INTOUCH WEEKLY”:  The almighty dollar has convinced them. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Amen.

O‘NEIL:  They haven‘t seen Jesus.  They saw green.  And, of course, it started with “Passion of the Christ” bringing in $300 million domestically, $600 million worldwide.  Then “The Chronicles of Narnia” brought in $750 million worldwide, even topping that.  Suddenly, they said, well, gee, guess what‘s in the works for next year?  A sequel to “Narnia” called “Prince Caspian.”

Oh, they‘ve discovered those other C.S. Lewis books, like “The Screwtape Letters,” which will be in production now and out next year.  So it‘s huge. 

By the way, Joe, we just looked at the Christian music category.  It‘s now larger than the traditional rock category, in terms of sales. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So how is Hollywood adapting? 

O‘NEIL:  Well, they‘re adapting in very interesting ways, Take, for example, 20th Century Fox, the studio.  It now has a division called FOX Faith that releases four to five movies a year.  There are now as many as at least 15 major movies a year that are released as feature films targeted to the Christian market. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Why did Hollywood seem to be at war with a lot of those traditional values that Christians supported for so long? 

O‘NEIL:  I think it was a throwback to the old Vietnam era, Joe.  When you look at the early days of film—let‘s say the ‘40s and the ‘50s—what were the big Oscar winners, the big gross-making movies at the theater?  They were “Ben Hur,” and they were “The Robe” and “The Cardinal.”    And these were the mainstream movies that everybody went to see. 

And then when we got into the cynical area of the ‘60s and ‘70s, we kind of turned our backs on that, in terms of pop culture.  It‘s taken Hollywood this long to rediscover it, and not just in film, but let‘s take huge hit TV series like “7th Heaven” and “Touched by an Angel,” which are absolutely staggering in their success. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, of course, you can talk about books, also.  Part of that package was talking about Christian book stores.  These “Left Behind” series also sell an awful lot of books, don‘t they?

O‘NEIL:  Sixty-three million copies of the “Left Behind” series alone.  But it doesn‘t always—you can‘t just say, well, that Christian market, they‘re a bunch of suckers.  You can‘t say that, because, quite frankly, for every “Touched by an Angel” success on TV, there‘s an unfortunate one, like “Joan of Arcadia,” which the critics loved, starring Amber Tamblyn, which failed.  And then, most recently, the big Christian flop was “Nativity,” at the movie theaters in December, which starred Keisha Castle-Hughes, unfortunately who was a teenager who got pregnant without a daddy just as she was portraying the virgin mother in cinema. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So what do you think the future is for Christian-themed movies, books, records?  Should we expect continued growth in the future? 

O‘NEIL:  Oh, Hollywood has seen the light, hallelujah.  We‘re going to see a lot of this now, because it is finally accepted here, and we‘re going to see more studios having these branch divisions devoted towards faith-based films and TV.  And, you know, who ever thought heathen Hollywood would turn around, huh? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Amen, the almighty dollar speaks to all.  So thank you so much, Tom.  Greatly appreciate it. 

For more than a generation, Christians have come under attack by some in Hollywood and Washington, D.C.  But with the “Passion of the Christ,” Mel Gibson and evangelicals across America fought back.  Hollywood moguls may have ignored all those noisy protests.  They may have turned their backs on the product boycotts.  But the one thing they did take note of over the past five to 10 years, the bottom line. 

Jesus Christ is back, he‘s bigger than ever, and he‘s a pop culture superstar.  If you don‘t believe me, just go to the movie theaters, the bookstores, or to iTunes.

I‘m Joe Scarborough.  That‘s all the time we have for “SCARBOROUGH

REPORTS: IN GOD WE TRUST.”

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

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