Tuesday, September 28, 2010

God In America

Every once in awhile, I think of the amazing opportunities Twitter has provided me (See previous post: "Why I Believe In Social").

On this particular evening, Twitter was the reason I stood in the lobby of the Newseum in Washington, D.C. sipping white wine and chatting about religious life in America.

When I checked in, a representative from the partnering Boston Public Radio, WGBH, found my name on the list and said, "Oh, you're one of our Twitter friends! Thanks for the support.") Oh, the wonders a simple retweet will do.

I was at the screening for a new 6-hour PBS series called "God In America". Tonight's screening highlighted three parts of the series, which feature influential historical figures in America's religious identity over the last two hundred years, including Anne Hutchinson, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

A brief panel followed the screening, which addressed production, depth of coverage and accuracy. Below is some of the panel's commentary, though I can't recall everyone's name from the panel, so do forgive me:
  • We can't understand history without understanding America's relationship with religion.
  • The focus of this film is more about the public consciousness of religion at certain points in history (i.e. the Civil Rights movement, and the Puritan/Protestant clash).
  • The film uses NYC actors, and even Michael Emerson, who plays "Ben" in the TV show Lost.
  • In the coming years, how will America live with great religious diversity?
  • The generational struggle with liberty is what keeps liberty alive with each generation.
  • One debate is this: Was America founded on Christian principles, or founded on religious liberty?
  • Thomas Jefferson is argued to be one of the "most secular" of the nation's founders.
  • There is a trend in America's history to expand the sacred canopy. With each struggle (i.e. abolishing slavery, accepting Muslim Americans), there develops a great acceptance.
  • There is only so much that can be portrayed in 6 hours. Scholars who contributed to this project, such as Stephen Prothero, admitted that scholars can continue to write, but film requires cuts and edits, which may not allow for full coverage of a particular topic or faith group.
In any case, the film airs October 11, 12, and 13 on PBS. With the mix of historical footage, actors, and expert interviews, it's sure to be anything but a snoozefest!


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