Frontline & American Experience – PBS
By: Valerie Milano
Los Angeles, CA(Hollywood Today) 10/9/2010–October 11, PBS debuts the first part of a 6 hour series on American religious history, “God in America”. In an effort to discover what more public broadcasting does to explore religion and faith for its viewers. Believing that there is a “religious literacy problem,” this series was created. Religion matters in this country, but trying to understand American history is only part of the story without understanding our religious history.
“God in America” is the telling of the historical story of how religious ideas and spiritual experience shape public life in our country. The series is woven with documentary footage and dramatizations discussing the complexity of Darwin vs science, churches separating and great figures from our history.
Executive producer of “Frontline” and American Experience” Mike Sullivan explained to the Television Critics Association reporters, “America’s religious history is so vast. We had to find a way through it to make a comprehensive series or a series that would hold together at some reasonable length. So we took the route of religion and public life in America. And although we have a Native-American story at the very beginning of the series, it’s a lot of the Protestant and Christian domination of the country that has driven this intersection of politics and religion. We do follow that fairly carefully throughout the whole series, trying to find opportunities to include others in the drama as we move along, it’s not an exploration of America’s spirituality, if you will, as sort of the scene — the religious scene. It’s really an inspection of religion and public life and that intersection and that conflict throughout the history.”
Producer Marily Mellowes adds, “Part of what we’re trying to doing here is show the kind of historical antecedents, the really deep, deep historical roots that we live with today. We’re familiar with the story of evangelical presence in politics in the last, say, 30 years, but not all of us really know how far back in history the evangelical story goes, to the First Great Awakening and even before. And we pull that narrative thread through the Second Great Awakening, the emblematic story of this character James Finley and then we pull it through into the present. Our hope is that it will be fresh and surprising not only to viewers who are, in the more secular side of things, but perhaps also to Evangelicals themselves. Because what we’ve discovered is that people who are religious and think of themselves as being religious are not always necessarily familiar with the history of their own denomination or their own faith tradition. So we’re hoping to bring a lot of light to bear on a whole array of topics of which the evangelical story is a very important narrative thread.”