I’ve been pretty excited about the PBS series, God in America, largely because of Boston University professor of religion Stephen Prothero‘s involvement in it. While Prothero makes no claim to Christian faith, his books are well-written, insightful, and usually (but not always) accurate. I also appreciate his call (albeit in the name of pluralism) to teach religion in public schools for reasons of basic religious literacy. Here goes:
8:10 – Native American pluralism vs. Spanish Catholic exclusivity. Ten minutes in and Christianity’s the bad guy already.
8:15 – Ben from LOST is a Puritan! Weird.
8:19 – Prothero on the Puritans: “The fate of the society hung on the religiosity of the society.” Really?
8:27 – Interesting stuff on Puritan Anne Hutchinson – accused of heresy, sedition, gender.
8:36 – Anglican George Whitefield is up now concerning spiritual rebirth.
8:41 – Historian Harry Stout on Whitefield: “He combined the sincerity of a missionary combined with the thrill of a performer.”
8:46 – Tying Whitefield back to Hutchinson (but on a larger scale) in terms of personal experience overruling Puritan authority.
8:49 – Whitefield impact montage a bit much; “interviews” directly looking at camera too distracting.
8:55 – Timeout. Are they seriously going to skip over Jonathan Edwards, the greatest theological mind this country has ever produced? Seriously? Boo.
8:58 – Yep. They did it. Nothing on the Great Awakening. Zilch. Unbelievable.
9:00 – Hey, it’s my friend, Lauren Winner, starting out part two, “The New Eden.” Way to go, Lauren!
9:03 – Enter the Baptists, complete with token white commentator speaking with southern accent.
9:07 – Girls doing a great job watching and wondering about claims presented, but alas, it’s bedtime.
9:08 – Prothero on Thomas Jefferson: “He was what we might call today ‘spiritual’ rather than ‘religious.'”
9:09 – Irony? Jefferson + Baptists = freedom of religion bill of 1786.
9:14 – Prothero gets distinction right on “wall between government and religion;” it’s not a prohibition of religion but a statement that no religion would be established by government.
9:20 – James Finley leaves his Presbyterian Calvinism for Arminian revivalism; represents shift from belief in sovereignty of God to Americans’ freedom of choice, from more traditional Protestantism to more charismaticism.
9:24 – Lame: reality television camera mounting as Finley walks through the forest. Seriously?
9:27 – Methodism: “a religion of the heart” (but no mention of the brothers Wesley).
9:32 – Actually heard the name “Jesus” used; might have been the first time in an hour and a half.
9:33 – Nice to hear acknowledgment of what evangelicals did in 1800s – schools, hospitals, prisoner care.
9:34 – Here come the Irish Catholics, much to the chagrin of the “strong Protestant ethos” of America.
9:40 – Interesting: Catholic schools formed in mid-1800s as much to deal with Protestant bigotry as to educate children in Catholicism.