God (in America) Coming Soon

A week from tonight, “God in America”, a film by Marilyn Mellowes, will begin on PBS. The six-part series will air over three consecutive nights. Ms. Mellowes is quoted in this morning’s New York Times saying:

“America cannot possibly be understood without understanding the role that religion has played over the centuries. And that role, the series demonstrates, is not only to stir personal faith but also to inform civic values and political decisions.”

It’s an argument we’ve been making here at KtB for nigh on ten years, that it is impossible to understand politics and culture in America without understanding the religious underpinnings of the people who make up our population. Even more so as that population’s demographics continue to shift.

The Times’s piece by Samuel Freedman brings in a bit of the backstory of the series, pointing out how PBS had little interest in a show about either Jefferson’s relationship to religion or about atheism, but instead chose an encyclopedic portrayal of America’s religious history, attempting to address the lack of religious literacy that our country suffers from. Buddha-killer and Boston University religious studies professor Stephen Prothero, who is featured prominently in the series, has written and spoken extensively about this lacuna.

And we hear that those dramatic historical reenactments, (you know, the ones that identify that the tv is tuned into PBS the second you walk into the room), are done better here than in much of their programming. The minor critique Freedman has is that the show was made by mostly non-believers. Even filmmaker Ms. Mellowes describes herself as a “member of the Church of the Wandering and Confused.”

Can I get an Amen?

Tune in to your local PBS station October 11, 12, and 13 to see for yourself.