Belief Beat

I’m looking forward to catching Monday night’s debut of God in America, a six-part series that aims to explore how deeply religion has influenced and informed public life in the United States, from Catholic missionaries’ first encounter with Native Americans to the political marriage between the GOP and conservative Christians. The joint presentation from PBS “American Experience” and “Frontline” series will air Oct. 11-13; check the official site for more information, including this description of Monday’s episodes:

Episode One, “A New Adam” The first hour of God in America explores the origins of America’s unique religious landscape–how the New World challenged and changed the faiths the first European settlers brought with them. In New Mexico, the spiritual rituals of the Pueblo Indians collided with the Catholic faith of Franciscan missionaries, ending in a bloody revolt. In New England, Puritan leader John Winthrop faced off against religious dissenters from within his own ranks. And a new message of spiritual rebirth from evangelical preachers like George Whitefield swept through the American colonies, upending traditional religious authority and kindling a rebellious spirit that converged with the political upheaval of the American Revolution.

Episode Two, “A New Eden” Hour two considers the origins of America’s experiment in religious liberty, examining how the unlikely alliance between evangelical Baptists and enlightenment figures such as Thomas Jefferson forged a new concept of religious freedom. In the competitive religious marketplace unleashed by this freedom, upstart denominations raced ahead of traditional faiths and a new wave of religious revivals swept thousands of converts into the evangelical fold and inspired a new gospel of social reform. In a fierce political struggle, Catholic immigrants challenged Protestant domination of public schools and protested the daily classroom practice of reading from the King James Bible.

Some related links:

Will you be watching? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below, where I will also post my reactions to the episodes.

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