Christianity is one of the most widespread religions across the world. Millions of people believe in God the creator and his son Jesus Christ who sacrificed his life for the salvation of humankind. Millions of people in America share this belief, as well. God has lived in the hearts of Americans since the very beginning. Furthermore, faith in God has had a profound impact on the formation of the entire American nation and identity. Through the centuries, the views of what it takes to become a Christian influenced a public life of the country, determined its political life and culture. For worse or for better, religious pluralism had changed the notion of God in America. One can see all the details of it in the documentary series of PBS called God in America.
A New Adam The intended audience of this documentary is rather broad. It can include those who are interested in history of the nation, as well as theologians that would like to track the origins of the Christianity in America. After all, this film would be useful for everyone who considers himself a believer. The purpose of the first episode is to show the struggle that took place when old religion was transforming into a new one. It illustrates what difficulties American settlers faced when they first came to the land that had to become the chosen one. The main message the director wants to get across to the audience is that Americans and faith are inseparable. Furthermore, faith in God became the grounds of American identity and the American nation.
The events shown in the film take place in 17th century, when American settlers first come to the New World to establish a new society and a new country. The audience can easily grasp the meaning of the New Adam in the title. These are American settlers, who consider themselves the chosen people, and new Adam and Eve, who know the only path to salvation. The film is concentrated on the transformation of people’s mind as European religion changes in the New World. The change comes with such people as Anne Hutchinson and George Whitefield. These characters play the leading role in this film. They introduce the idea of spiritual rebirth, and that idea changes the entire nation. The film expands the notions and the meaning of faith in the life of Americans. It does not require specific knowledge in the field to understand it. Still, it reports the main facts of American settlement in a simple manner. Thanks to this film, I realized why Americans tend to be arrogant so often. They have preserved that sense of being the chosen nations in their genes. Probably, the reason lies in perceiving themselves as new Adam and Eve.
A New Eden This episode continues the story about settlement of America. This is a story about development of the new interpretation of the religious freedom. The film shows the escalation of the conflict between the Anglican Church and Evangelical Baptists drawing converts away from it. The audience gets to know how Anglican Church restricted the Baptists in preaching, and that the latter wrote the petition demanding the right to preach. The viewers will meet the theme of fighting with religious prejudice in this film. Two main characters that contradict prejudice are Thomas Jefferson and John Hughes. The former is a defender of the Baptists and the latter is the defender of Catholics. Each of them demands equal rights to different denominations.
This film shows another turn in the history of religion in America. The narrator concentrates on the events that contributed to the appearance of values of freedom and opportunity in the country. Furthermore, it shows the price the people had to pay for those ideas. Decades of conflicts between different denominations served as a catalyst for a new worldview. Because of the events shown in the film, people realized that they have a choice and that God does not decides where a person goes. Preachers started promoting God’s love instead of God’s punishment. Thus, the concept of God has changed. Conversion became a promise of a change and a promise to go to heaven. Based on that, people decided to make America the kingdom of God, a new Eden.
This episode is crucial for contemporary discussions about immigration. The film provides the viewers with the insight of why America has been thought to be the land of opportunity for so long. One should realize from the documentary that the idea of freedom was instilled in the hearts of the Americans from the beginning. Religion liberty became one of the key principles of American identity and remains such till nowadays. Therefore, this documentary would be useful to all those who are involved in the disputes of immigration.
A Nation Reborn This is a story about the Civil War, the faith and the civil foundations of Civil Rights. The events shown in this documentary took place in the 19th century when Americans still believed that God had chosen their country for a special purpose. Furthermore, they believed that America had to set an example to the world. The film raises an issue that is still urgent to the US. United States still want to set an example to the world and to be the word’s greatest nation.
The theme of the slavery is the main conflict in the film. Slavery became the hindrance to the united vision of the country’s future. The drama uncovers as the society splits into two camps, that of supporters and that of opponents. One of the key figures of the film is Frederick Douglass. He was the head of abolitionist movement and demanded to put an end to slavery in America. For him, America could not set an example to the world as it displayed inconsistencies between slavery and Christianity. Another protagonist of the film is President Abraham Lincoln. He is depicted as most American presidents, brave and ready to fight for justice.Despite his high moral values, he did not manage to prevent the Civil War.
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Though this war is no different from other wars in history, it had received religious interpretation. At that time, Americans treated the war as an apocalyptic event allowed by God. Still, too many people died of this event, and it could not be a will of God. Instead, Lincoln announced another will of God, proclaiming abolishing slavery in the rebel states. According to him, the war was God’s punishment for the nation’s sin of slavery. However, as shown in the film, it was a sacrifice necessary for the nation to be reborn. Americans accepted this explanation. They went even further. Even Lincoln’s death was interpreted in terms of Christianity as if he died for the nation’s sins. Rather delicately, the film shows that Lincoln contributed to the American sense of being the chosen nation. Therefore, it constitutes an interesting material for all history experts, as well as for the rest of society.
To conclude, these episodes showed me how Americans came to believe they are the chosen nation. I saw how every single event in the history could be interpreted through the prism of Christianity. Americans use faith to justify the forceful conversion of the Native Americans and justify slavery. Moreover, Americans can even justify themselves being atheists with the help of God. They have always seen themselves as righteous, and therefore, allowed to do anything they wanted. They became so righteous that they sometimes even stop believing in sins we all have. However, God has not changed. He may still have a purpose for Americans as his beloved children, not as a chosen nation.