God in America
I am a PBS addict. There is something about the calm, rational news shows that I love. I also am addicted to their documentaries especially those of Ken Burns. So when I saw that Frontline and American Experience were working together on a documentary about religion in America, I immediately put it on my calendar. Hillary and I watched the first two segments of the show last night and would definitely recommend it, especially to evangelical Christians.
One of the interesting discussions in the first two segments is why church and state were separated in the beginning. It tells the story of the Baptist preachers in Virginia who were jailed by the ruling Anglicans because they were preaching without a license. Thomas Jefferson came to their defense and passed a bill in Virginia that gave them religious freedom. It also tells the story of the public school system in New York which only taught out of the Protestant Bible. Irish Catholics, led by Archbishop John Hughes, attempted to convince the New York legislature that public money should go to Catholic schools just as it went to the Protestant public schools. He lost, but the issue of what religion public schools would teach was still up for grabs.
The theme that runs throughout the series is the belief that some Christians thought they were the new nation of Israel in America. They had fled the tyranny of King George, crossed the ocean and were now in a new land. The early Puritans had “nation of Israel” theology that if they obeyed God, he would bless their crops and their new nation. They had a sense of entitlement that God was behind them and that led to forceful conversions and murder of Indian tribes. It is interesting to watch this series because it shows how the ideas of the Puritans and others are still evident today.
I would encourage you to watch this show tonight and tomorrow night on PBS. If you miss it on TV, you can also watch it online here. If you watch it, let me know what you think.