God in America – PBS documentary online

I just found out that PBS has been running a series this week on God in America. Here’s the description from the website:

For the first time on television, God in America explores the tumultuous 400-year history of the intersection of religion and public life in America, from the first European settlements to the 2008 presidential election. A co-production of AMERICAN EXPERIENCE and FRONTLINE, this six-hour series examines how religious dissidents helped shape the American concept of religious liberty and the controversial evolution of that ideal in the nation’s courts and political arena; how religious freedom and waves of new immigrants and religious revivals fueled competition in the religious marketplace; how movements for social reform — from abolition to civil rights — galvanized men and women to put their faith into political action; and how religious faith influenced conflicts from the American Revolution to the Cold War.

Has anyone been watching this? If so, what do you think? Is it any good? One of the other faculty here at Western has been watching and was pretty impressed with the overall quality and balance through the first two episodes.

You can watch the the whole series online here. If you do watch it, make sure you come back here and let us know how it was. I’ll probably check it out and see if there are some good segments to use in my church history class.

About Marc Cortez

Theology Prof and Dean at Western Seminary, husband, father, & blogger, who loves theology, church history, ministry, pop culture, books, and life in general.

Posted on October 14, 2010, in Church History and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. It is actually really good! I agree with the faculty member I was very surprised at how balanced a viewpoint it was. I thought it was going to be an all out bash on the effects of religion but overall pretty good. Hope to pick it up on blu-ray when it becomes available!

  2. I watched the series on TV, and frankly, it left much to be desired. It was horrible on the Puritans; Whitefield was reduced to an 18th century Billy Sunday, and altogether separated from the discussion of Methodism (which took place with precious few references to Wesley!); the discussion of 19th-century Restorationism was very weak and short, when arguably this is the most distinctive native brand of American religion; the Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy was reduced to the the Briggs case and the Scopes trial, with nary a mention of Machen or any other of the scholarly defenders of the fundamentalist cause; and more. It was strongest when discussing slavery and the civil rights movement. All in all, however, I didn’t much care for it.

    Oh, there’s also a Stephen Prothero overload in this series. This has caused me to migrate from indifference to active antipathy towards him.

  3. I have watched only a few parts of it, so far. But I did view the portion on Lincoln’s evolving view of God and how that shaped his own engagement in the Civil War, namely that he moved from having a somewhat Deistic conception of God, to one that saw the Creator personally and intimately involved in the events of the world. At least according to this documentary, it was this change in view that moved Lincoln (in part) to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. Fascinating thesis, and worth watching.

    Wasn’t Whitefield an 18th c. Billy Sunday? Or maybe he at least made it plausible for Billy Sunday to even have traction in the late 19th and early 20th c. One of the scholars also interviewed frequently in the documentary, Harry Stout, wrote a very good biography of Whitefield called “The Divine Dramatist,” that is respectful, fair, but highlights the power of Whitefield’s appeal (humanly speaking) – theatre.

  1. Pingback: Watch PBS’s “God in America” | Near Emmaus

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