I highly recommend the miniseries “God In America” which began last night on WTTW  and continues tonight and tomorrow beginning at 9:00 pm.  It reveals so much about how religion has impacted the United States and how this country has affected religion.

One of the things that struck me about the opening segment was how choice—real choice—evolved in the thirteen colonies and then after 1776.  This country slowly came to the conclusion that religions competing with each other is better for a culture than having one established religion.  In other words, they created a spiritual marketplace.

I see an upside and a downside in that.  The upside is of course that every individual has the freedom to choose what to believe and how to worship and which church (or no church) gets their money. 

The downside is that every individual gets to choose what to believe and how to worship and which church gets their money.  It’s sort of a theology by vote, and that can be a problem. 

Coming to WTTW October 11, 12 and 13 at 9:00 pm

How has religious belief shaped American history? What role have religious ideas and spiritual experience played in shaping the social, political, and cultural life of what has become the world’s most religiously diverse nation? GOD IN AMERICA, a presentation of AMERICAN EXPERIENCE and FRONTLINE, will explore the historical role of religion in the public life of the United States. The six-hour series interweaves documentary footage, historical dramatization and interviews with religious historians.

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This groundbreaking new miniseries considers the role religious ideas and institutions have played in social reform movements from abolition to civil rights, examining the impact of religious faith on conflicts from the American Revolution to the Cold War, and how guarantees of religious freedom created a competitive American religious marketplace. It also explores the intersection of political struggle and spiritual experience in the lives of key American historical figures including Franciscan Friars and the Pueblo leader Po’pay, Puritan leader John Winthrop and dissident Anne Hutchinson, Catholic Bishop John Hughes, abolitionist Frederick Douglass, Presidents Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, reform Rabbi Isaac Meyer Wise, Scopes trial combatants William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow, evangelist Billy Graham, civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Moral Majority’s Jerry Falwell. Don’t miss it.

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Tom Holmes

Tom's been writing about religion – broadly defined – for years in the Journal. Tom's experience as a retired minister and his curiosity about matters of faith will make for an always insightful exploration...