Transcript

God in America

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Part 1: A New Adam

Written, Produced and Directed by
David Belton

Co-Produced by
Cathleen O'Connell
Callie T. Wiser

Principal Cinematography by
Tim Cragg

Edited by
Chyld King

[The words spoken by the actors in this film are from transcripts, sermons and personal journals of the characters they portray.]

ANNOUNCER: Beginning tonight, a special series exploring how religious faith and the quest for religious liberty has shaped public life in America for over 400 years.

- You can't divorce faith from the American experience. It really is our historical and cultural DNA.

ANNOUNCER: This is the dramatic history of the struggle for faith and freedom, rewritten by war, by politics and by spiritual imagination.

- We've had this notion, from the very beginning of American life, that this is a special place and what makes it special is that we have some kind of special relationship with God.

ANNOUNCER: It is the story of how Europeans' attempts to convert native Americans was met with violent rebellion, how the Puritans fled religious tyranny in the Old World to build a more perfect society in the new.

JOHN WINTHROP: We must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill.

ANNOUNCER: And how new waves of immigrants demanded their religious freedom.

- Hughes genuinely felt that the public schools were engines of converting Catholics into Protestants.

ANNOUNCER: It is the story of faith, the Civil War, and a president's private spiritual journey.

- Lincoln decided that the war had been decreed by God.

ANNOUNCER: And the religious foundation of Civil Rights.

Rev. MARTIN LUTHER KING, Jr.: I just want to do God's will, and he has allowed me to go up to the mountain!

ANNOUNCER: It is a story of spiritual awakenings and political awakenings.

Pres. RONALD REAGAN: I know that you can't endorse me, but I endorse you.

ANNOUNCER: Of the freedom to believe and the struggle to be free from belief, of the quest for truth, faith and power in the most religiously diverse nation on earth.

Pres. BARACK OBAMA: We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus and non-believers.

ANNOUNCER: It is a complex history full of surprises and insights, a fresh and challenging journey through the American story.

Tonight, Part One of God in America.

THE NEW ADAM

NARRATOR: When the first Europeans came to the New World, they brought with them Christian traditions and beliefs that had endured for more than a thousand years. But in this new land, religion would be forced to change.

STEPHEN PROTHERO, Professor of Religion, Boston University: It's this new place, the New World, the new Jerusalem, the new Israel, whatever you might call it, but "new'' is the operative word. And that's being made here. And what's being made is precisely up for grabs.

NARRATOR: This is the story of America's struggle from old religion to new.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: There was this idea that we are the new Adam and the new Eve. We are these new people, and we're being made by this new environment. And that's what we're sort of straining toward early on, some new kind of narrative, some new kind of story that we, as Americans, can tell that is going to be a story of us in relationship to God.

NARRATOR: A story that would change American religion forever and help give birth to Americans' identity.

A century after Christopher Columbus came to the New World, the first Spaniards reached the land that they would call New Mexico. Their conquistadors came in search of silver, their missionaries came to save heathen souls.

Father JACK ROBINSON, Franciscan Friar: It was important. This was life and death. Not simply life and death here on earth, this was eternal life and eternal damnation.

NARRATOR: For they believed theirs was the true path to salvation.

Father JACK CLARK ROBINSON: "I'm supposed to go to places where they haven't heard this story before and share this story, share this Gospel message, because I believe it's true.''

NARRATOR: But the people the Spanish encountered had their own religious traditions. For more than a thousand years, the Pueblo Indians had led a spiritual life that had flourished among the hills and valleys of the Rio Grande.

PORTER SWENTZELL, Santa Clara Pueblo: Our whole world around us is our religion. Our way of life is our religion. The way we behave towards one another and towards others- that's our religion, you know? The very moment we wake up in the morning to the moment we that go to bed, and even when we're asleep, you know, that's our religion.

NARRATOR: The Spanish began to settle on Pueblo lands.

PORTER SWENTZELL: We welcome people coming to visit, give them food. We provide them a place to stay. That's the kind of hospitality that they met the Spanish that were coming in with. They were looking for that the Spanish would see what kind of people they are and respond in kind. They never did reciprocate that kind of relationship.

NARRATOR: Within a decade, the Spanish had built more than 40 Catholic churches. The Franciscan friars conducted daily Mass, and the Pueblos came.

PORTER SWENTZELL: The Pueblos were not closed saying, "Our way is the only right way.'' When the Church came in, the Peublos said, "Hey, we'll go to your Mass and listen to what you have to say.'' And so the Spanish thought that was a willing acceptance of Catholicism.

NARRATOR: But the Pueblos had no intention of letting Christianity take the place of their own religion.

Father JACK CLARK ROBINSON: The Pueblos could say, "We'll add the blessed mother. We'll add the baby Jesus.'' There was obviously some confusion because the friars didn't realize that they were being- that they were an addition rather than a replacement.

NARRATOR: But the Franciscan priests saw no room for any other religion. Eternal damnation, theirs and the Pueblos, was at stake. Catholicism was the only religion that could save the native souls. By the early 1600s, they began to report that hundreds of Pueblo Indians were converting, but the Pueblos themselves saw things differently.

JOSEPH H. SUINA, Historian, University of New Mexico: The Catholic Church was saying one true God, and no others. Well, it's not that way with Pueblo religion. You know, it's- we don't think that there's one true God for all people in the world.

JOE A. GARCIA, Okhay Owingeh Pueblo: Converting means you let go of your way and you take on another way. And I don't believe that happened ever.

NARRATOR: Some friars began to notice that even many converted Pueblos continued to practice their own religion. They demanded that the colony's soldiers enforce their one true faith. Native ceremonies were banned, religious icons burned, sacred places of worship destroyed.

JOSEPH H. SUINA: As far as you could go in terms of saying, "Look, forget it. This is not going to ever be again. This is what we think about your religion.''

Father JACK CLARK ROBINSON: It was a time of militancy about your faith, and the friars brought that with them. "We have the truth. This is the truth. This is the truth that the whole Spanish empire is behind me supporting. I'm going to get this truth in there.''

NARRATOR: Some priests became notoriously brutal. One beat a Pueblo man so badly, the victim was described as bathed in blood. The breaking point came in 1675. Forty-seven Pueblo religious leaders were imprisoned in Santa Fe for sorcery. One of them was a man called Po'pay from the Okay Owingeh pueblo. He was publically flogged, but three others were dragged before their people and hanged.

JOSEPH H. SUINA: It got to that point when about the time he was in prison, when things were really getting worse, you know, and so for him, this was- this was time to do something.

NARRATOR: Po'pay sent a message to the Pueblo tribes calling for war.

PO'PAY: I say to you, my brothers, go to your owingehs. Wait further word. Senge de ho.

NARRATOR: Two thousand Pueblo Indians descended on the Spanish. Hundreds died in the fighting, but it was the Catholic priests who were specifically targeted. More than half their number were murdered. It was August 10th, 1680. Ten days later, the Spanish fled New Mexico.

The Catholic empire had faltered. It was a sign that European religion would not survive unchanged in the New World.

JOHN WINTHROP: For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us.

NARRATOR: On the harsh and rocky shores of Massachusetts, a small group of men and women had already begun the struggle to create a new Christian community. The Puritans who came to America in 1630 were fired by a zeal to save Christianity from the corruption of a European church.

STEPHEN PROTHERO, Professor of Religion, Boston University: They're carrying with them this story, "We're leaving because we're going to remake Christianity. We're leaving because we're going to remake the world.'' And so it gives them a sense of specialness. "We're the chosen people.'' And then they come over here and they act that way. They start to act like they're the Israelites. You know, they've gone across the ocean. You know, they've escaped the Pharaoh.

NARRATOR: They had been persecuted for accusing their king of failing to cleanse the Church of England of Catholicism. They had been hounded as radicals for their fervor for the Protestant Reformation.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: The whole point of reformation was to make Christianity right, to bring it back to the beginning, bring it back to its pure origins, bring it back to the Bible. And the Church of England wasn't doing enough of that. And so that's where they got their name from, the Puritans. They were going to purify the church.

NARRATOR: The burden of creating this "godly enterprise" fell on the shoulders of John Winthrop, a provincial lawyer in England but now governor of the new colony.

JOHN WINTHROP: The Lord will be our God and delight to dwell among us. The Lord will be our God and delight to dwell among us as his one people.

MICHAEL P. WINSHIP, Historian, University of Georgia: When he committed himself to the colony in 1629, he committed himself all the way. I mean, he had a profound determination to see the colony succeed.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: The New Englanders were aware that there had been other efforts, like at Jamestown, that was a miserable failure, and they didn't want theirs to be a miserable failure. And they knew that the odds were against them. You know, they knew that the climate was difficult. They knew that it was going to be hard to get agriculture going. And Winthrop- he's the father to all these people in some very important way, and he's in charge of them. And if things screw up, it's sort of on his shoulders.

NARRATOR: As governor, Winthrop was careful to record the events of his Bible Commonwealth. His journals, he hoped, would be testament to the mission's success. The colony would shine like a beacon back to the Old World, a lesson in how Christianity should work.

JOHN WINTHROP: For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So if we deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause him to withdraw his present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword through the world.

NARRATOR: That first winter, nearly half the Puritans froze to death or starved. The colony was on the brink of collapse. They feared it was a sign that they had not been pious enough, had not prayed hard enough, that their God had abandoned them.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: The fate of the society hung on the religiosity of the society, you know? And if they turned away from God, God would turn away from them. If then- you know, "If we are good, then God will bless us and we will prosper. And if we don't, if we screw up, if we start to fight with one another, if we start to seek our own ends, God will turn on us and this will be a total miserable failure.''

[www.pbs.org: More on the Puritans]

NARRATOR: If even one offended God, the whole colony could perish. Laws governing behavior were strictly enforced. Those who questioned the religious laws of the colony risked banishment into a hostile wilderness.

FRANK LAMBERT, Historian, Purdue University: The ideal was conformity. The ideal was to have a single, pure, orthodox community in which everybody conformed to the true religion.

NARRATOR: But Governor Winthrop faced an impossible dilemma. His colony depended on absolute conformity for its survival, but this contradicted what lay at the heart of Puritan religion.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: The Puritan experiment of saying, "We're going to do something totally new'' starts out with this impulse of giving authority back to the individual, right? The Catholics are saying, "OK, the Pope will tell you how to read the Bible. The Pope will tell you how to be a Christian.'' And Protestants say, "No, no, no, no, no! Pope? That's not the Pope's job. We can read the Bible for ourselves. We will see how God tells us how to be.''

That's the Protestant imagination that's inside these Puritans who are coming over. It's a rebellious notion. But it's also a dangerous notion. I mean, how are you going to set up a society where everybody is reading the key document? If everybody can read the Bible for themselves, how are you going hold society together, right?

NARRATOR: And it would not be long before one person's ideas about God would threaten to tear apart Winthrop's fragile colony.

MICHAEL WINSHIP: At the end of 1634, Anne Hutchinson and her husband arrive in Boston.

MARY BETH NORTON, Historian, Cornell University: She was the daughter of a clergyman. That's all we know. But she must have been very well educated by her father or someone else. She knew her Bible. She could match scriptural references with anybody. And she was clearly very, very smart and very independent.

NARRATOR: Educated and well-off, Anne Hutchinson quickly became a prominent member of Boston society.

MARY BETH NORTON: There usually was a high-status woman present at births, and Anne Hutchinson was that person for Boston.

NARRATOR: As mother of 11 children, she was a reassuring presence to women facing the perils of childbirth.

MARY BETH NORTON: And so she participated in childbirth gatherings called "gossipings," and it was in that context that she began to spread her own ideas among the women of Boston.

NARRATOR: Hutchinson had a riveting story to tell- God had spoken to her directly.

MICHAEL WINSHIP: She's having an intense prayer session, and then this verse rises up in her mind. And the first part of this verse she interprets as God saying to her, "You're among the saved. This is it. This is my message to you.''

NARRATOR: But for Puritans, being "saved'' could never be guaranteed. Since Adam's fall, man was born damned, hell his destiny. The only hope of God's salvation required Puritans to devote themselves to studying their Bible and to live a pious life. To understand God's will was a lifetime's struggle.

MARY BETH NORTON: Puritans were supposed to wrestle with this idea. They were never supposed to be sure that they are saved. And Anne Hutchinson basically says to Puritans, "Yes, you can be sure. Yes, you can be sure if God speaks to you the way God has spoken to me.'''

NARRATOR: Hutchinson's story electrified her listeners. They gathered at her house to hear about her revelation from God, just yards from where the governor lived.

JOHN WINTHROP: She keeps open house for all comers, three score, four score people. She comments upon the doctrines, interprets all passages at her pleasure and expounds dark passages of Scripture.

NARRATOR: As much as Winthrop disliked her talk of messages from God, Hutchinson was a good Puritan and had broken no law.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: This is what makes her so dangerous is because she is speaking the language of Puritanism itself- "The drama is happening inside each of us. God is speaking to each of us. We need to listen to that voice of God inside us.''

NARRATOR: And as Hutchinson's popularity grew, Winthrop feared for the future of his colony.

JOHN WINTHROP: Her doctrine appeals to many profane people because it is a very easy and an acceptable way to Heaven, to see nothing, to have to do nothing but wait for Christ to do all.

NARRATOR: Hutchinson's easy path to heaven undermined Winthrop's orderly society. He needed his people to struggle with their salvation.

STEPHEN MARINI, Historian of Religion, Wellesley College: It is relentless, difficult, arduous on the individual level. But it is fantastic social glue if everyone is doing this. Everyone notices everything. Everyone has an opinion and a moral judgment on everybody else, on the criteria of what God's law says. It will hold together church, family, state.

NARRATOR: Hutchinson's challenge to official doctrine threatened to destroy Winthrop's fledgling colony.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: What happens if you start to lose control of your society and you're John Winthrop, right? You need to be able to say, "No, no no, that's not what the Bible says. The Bible says such and so. This is how we should run our society.''

NARRATOR: Anxious ministers visited Winthrop. John Eliot from Roxbury, and from Salem, Hugh Peters, reported that some members of their congregations preferred to listen to Hutchinson's biblical interpretations to theirs.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: Why listen to the black-coated minister read a dry, boring sermon when you can go to Anne Hutchinson's house and hear this heartfelt, real thing?

NARRATOR: And Hutchinson was gaining powerful allies who were attracted to her message- the minister John Wheelwright and Henry Vane, a fierce political adversary of John Winthrop's.

JOHN WINTHROP: I observe first her success. She had in a short time insinuated herself into the hearts of much of the people, who grew into so reverent an esteem of her godliness and spiritual gifts, as look at her as a prophetess.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: And that's where the Puritan men, who are running the society, say, "No no no no. God speaks through the Bible, and the Bible is mediated through us.''

NARRATOR: In November 1637, the General Court brought Anne Hutchinson to trial. The charge was sedition.

MICHAEL WINSHIP: Her sense of possession, her sense of self-confidence, her absolute refusal to be intimidated is extraordinary.

JOHN WINTHROP: Mrs. Hutchinson, you are called here as one of those that have troubled the peace of the commonwealth and the churches here. You have maintained a meeting and an assembly at your house which hath been condemned by the General Assembly as a thing not tolerable in the eyes of God nor fitting for your sex.

ANNE HUTCHINSON: I hear no things laid to my charge.

JOHN WINTHROP: I have told you some already. And more I can tell you.

ANNE HUTCHINSON: Name one, sir.

JOHN WINTHROP: Have I not named you some already?

ANNE HUTCHINSON: What have I said or done?

JOHN WINTHROP: You have joined with them in the faction.

ANNE HUTCHINSON: In what faction did I join with them?

JOHN WINTHROP: You have counseled them.

ANNE HUTCHINSON: Wherein?

JOHN WINTHROP: Why, in entertaining them.

ANNE HUTCHINSON: What law have I broken?

MICHAEL WINSHIP: Her initial defense is to nitpick absolutely everything that's thrown at her. He hasn't thought out his prosecution, and then she rips him to shreds. You read the transcript and you just watch him squirming with frustration.

JOHN WINTHROP: We find it greatly prejudicial to the state to seduce many honest persons who are called to these meetings. Your opinions, being different from the word of God, may seduce simple souls who resort unto you.

ANNE HUTCHINSON: Sir, I do not believe that to be so.

JOHN WINTHROP: Well, we then see how it is that we must therefore put it away from you or restrain you from making this course.

ANNE HUTCHINSON: If you have a rule for it from God's word, you may.

JOHN WINTHROP: We are your judges, not you ours! And we must compel you to do it.

ANNE HUTCHINSON: If it please you by authority to put it down, I freely let you for I am subject to your authority.

[www.pbs.org: Read the trial transcript]

NARRATOR: The court adjourned for the night.

MARY BETH NORTON, Historian, Cornell University: He's accustomed to questioning people. He's accustomed to questioning miscreants who've come up before him. He's accustomed to getting confessions. That's what magistrates did. They got confessions. He can't get a confession out of her. It has to have been extraordinarily frustrating for him.

NARRATOR: For John Winthrop, the day had been a disaster. But overnight, the situation was to change dramatically. No one knows why Anne Hutchinson changed her approach to the trial, but the next morning she arrived in court determined to share the truth that God had revealed to her.

MARY BETH NORTON: It's definite hubris. Absolutely. But she's convinced that she knows the truth. And in the end, that's her downfall.

ANNE HUTCHINSON: If you please to give me leave, I shall give you the ground of what I know to be true. I bless the Lord. He hath let me see which was the clear ministry and which the wrong. Since that time, he hath let me distinguish between the voice of my beloved and the voice of Moses, the voice of John the Baptist and the voice of the antichrist. Now, if you condemn me for speaking what in my conscience I know to be truth, I must commit myself unto the Lord.

THOMAS DUDLEY, Deputy Governor: How do you know that that was the Spirit?

ANNE HUTCHINSON: How did Abraham know that it was God who bid him offer his son?

THOMAS DUDLEY: By an immediate voice.

ANNE HUTCHINSON: So to me by an immediate revelation.

THOMAS DUDLEY: By an immediate revelation.

ANNE HUTCHINSON: You have power over my body, but the Lord Jesus hath power over my body and soul. And assure yourselves this much, if you go on in this course, you will bring a curse upon you and your posterity, and the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.

MARY BETH NORTON: She dares to say that God has told them that if they do anything to her, they will be doomed to all eternity. They're not about to listen to that revelation.

JOHN WINTHROP: I am persuaded that the revelation she brings forth is delusion. Mrs. Hutchinson, the sentence of the court you hear is that you are to be banished from out of our jurisdiction as a woman not fit for our society. You're to be imprisoned until the court shall send you away.

ANNE HUTCHINSON: I desire to know what reason I am to be banished.

JOHN WINTHROP: The court knows the reason and is satisfied.

NARRATOR: In the spring of 1638, Anne Hutchinson and her family were forced to leave the colony forever. But her influence would outlive both her and John Winthrop.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: Anne Hutchinson is the future in the sense of religious conscience, in the sense that conscience speaks out against the state. And so the America that's going to be founded later on is going to make room for Anne Hutchinson. We're not going to banish her. We're not going to put her in jail. But she's also the future in the sense of this, "Religion really happens inside us,'' you know, that "the drama is inside us. And God can speak to any of us.'''

NARRATOR: But it would be more than a century before America would become fertile ground for Anne Hutchinson's ideas. And it would await the arrival of more than a million people of different nations and faiths.

Lutherans, Baptists, Presbyterians, Anglicans, Quakers, Anabaptists, Jews, Methodists, Catholics- all came seeking to recreate themselves in a land that was still taking shape.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: People coming over here are disconnected from their homes, from their traditions, from their jobs, from their extended families. And they're coming over to this new place. And it's almost like there's this whisper in the ear of the colonists and the early Americans, "Who are we? Who are we Americans who come from such different places and have so many religious backgrounds? And what's the story that we're playing out?''

NARRATOR: One man offered an answer. Reverend George Whitefield believed he could unite people with a simple message that everyone could share. For Whitefield, the surest path for a people seeking a new identity lay in being born again.

STEPHEN MARINI: Whitefield has experienced something he wants to call spiritual rebirth, which he defines as the transformation of the soul by the Holy Spirit of God. Boom, we're back to this perennial radical Protestant idea of immediate connection between God and the individual human soul. And he says, "That's it. It really happens. It happened to me.''

NARRATOR: Rebirth, he believed, could happen to anyone, anywhere. It had happened to him years earlier, as a student at Oxford. Preaching in England, he'd achieved huge popularity but run afoul of his Anglican superiors for his unconventional message.

Now he'd come to America. And as he traveled the country, preaching wherever he stopped, he found people eager for his message of salvation.

STEPHEN PROTHERO, Professor of Religion, Boston University: Even contemporary Christians now, even many evangelicals, they just don't believe in sin anymore. But in this period in American history, people believed in sin. And what they believed is that we were born sinful. We're not born good. Like, everything's not OK. We're born with things haywire. And unless something unhaywires us, turns us around, we're going to go to hell. And because the sin is so deep and so powerful and so strong, it requires, like, a powerful, you know, "Voom'' to turn it around, and that is the moment of rebirth.

So he decides he's not going to read these boring sermons like these other ministers are doing. They stand up in the churches and read these boring sermons that people are required to come to sit and listen to, hour after hour after hour, and not just on Sundays, either. And he's going to stand up and he's going to tell stories and he's going to speak from his heart. This is the key thing. He's going to speak from his heart.

Rev. GEORGE WHITEFIELD: Methinks I see the good old man walking with his dear son in his hand-

HARRY S. STOUT: He's creating a scene. He's creating a dramatic scene. And the capacity, the faculty that he wants to draw on more than anything else is not understanding but imagination.

Rev. GEORGE WHITEFIELD: -and now and then, looking upon him, loving him, and then turning aside to weep.

HARRY S. STOUT, Historian, Yale University: It catches the audience by surprise. They're caught up in the story and the description of Abraham and Isaac walking up the mountain, tears streaming down Abraham's face. And they're kind of locked into this message. It's one they've heard before, but he had a voice that could make people melt.

Rev. GEORGE WHITEFIELD: I see the tears trickle down the Patriarch Abraham's cheek. And out of the heart and out of the abundance of the heart, the abundance of the heart, he cries, "Adieu, adieu, my son. God gave thee to me, and God calls thee away.''

HARRY S. STOUT: And then there's this abrupt turn, dramatic turn.

Rev. GEORGE WHITEFIELD: I see you affected. I see your hearts affected. I see your eyes weep. And I would willingly hope that you are ready to say it is the love of God in giving Jesus Christ to die for our sins.

HARRY S. STOUT: He bursts onto the scene and he generates, in his own unique way, religion in a new key, a new way of understanding and engaging religion that was unprecedented. It's the sincerity of a missionary combined with the thrill of a performer.

NARRATOR: As George Whitefield traveled through colonial America, he encountered dozens of different religious sects, but he quickly discovered that how they were treated varied enormously. The Puritans had renamed themselves the Congregational Church and were the official established religion in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire. Funded by local taxes, they governed hand in hand with the civil authorities.

Other dissenting denominations were barely tolerated. Those groups - Baptists, Quakers, Lutherans, Catholics and Presbyterians - could find a home in other colonies. Rhode Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware had no official established church and tolerated many different religions.

But further south, a single official church had kept its iron grip. Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia were all Anglican colonies. Dissenting faiths were treated with suspicion.

In March 1740, Whitefield arrived in Charleston, the seat of South Carolina's powerful Anglican establishment.

STEPHEN MARINI: They think of themselves as the true religion that ought to have the state as its partner, and the dissenters either shouldn't be here or "We have to keep them under control.''

STEPHEN PROTHERO: The whole idea that we have now of religious pluralism, religious diversity is a good thing- that was just- it wasn't something hardly anyone thought of back then. The idea was that it was a threat to the unity of the state.

NARRATOR: As an Anglican minister himself, Whitefield was welcomed into the pulpits of Anglican Charleston. But his message of rebirth was not part of their tradition and shocked his fellow ministers.

STEPHEN MARINI: They say, "This is disorderly. There's not an article about you must be born again. You're saying it's necessary to be a true Christian. We actually don't believe that. We think if you conform and lead a morally good life, you're in.'' He says, "Oh, no, that's not right.'' And they say, "OK, you're not welcome here.'' He says, "Fine, I'll go out and preach in the fields. We'll send some fliers around and people will come.'' And they did.

Rev. GEORGE WHITEFIELD: The Son of man comes to save all that are lost, all of every nation and language that feel, bewail, and are truly desirous to be delivered of their lost state.

NARRATOR: His Anglican superiors were appalled. They'd banned him from their pulpits, but he continued to preach.

STEPHEN MARINI: The Baptists and Presbyterians invite him over to preach, and he does. It's a scandal. The place is packed.

Rev. GEORGE WHITEFIELD: He will in no wise cast out, for he's the same today as he was yesterday. He comes to sinners now, as well as formerly. And I hope-

NARRATOR: For Whitefield to preach in front of dissenting faiths was a direct challenge to Anglican authority.

FRANK LAMBERT, Historian, Purdue University: Whitefield ignored denominational lines. His message was, "There's the one thing needful. It's not needful that you are Presbyterian or Congregationalist or Baptist, or what have you. It's only needful that you have this life-changing Christ-inspired new birth experience.''

Rev. GEORGE WHITEFIELD: And I hope this day I will be sent out to bring you home, the lost sheep of the House of Israel. What say you? What say you? Come, friends. Would weeping, would crying prevail on you? I could wish my head were made of water and my eyes a fountain of tears that I might weep out every argument and melt you into love.

FRANK LAMBERT: There were plenty of people who said, "This is a sham. You're bringing disorder. Where's the verification?'' I mean, anybody can say, "I've had this experience, God has taken over me.'' In a sense, it was Anne Hutchinson's experience on a big scale. Now everybody is having this experience directly from God.

NARRATOR: Like Anne Hutchinson, Whitefield had fallen afoul of a religious authority that distrusted any message that gave an individual power over their religious experience.

HARRY S. STOUT: They were still part of a view of the world as a world divided between superiors and inferiors, and you had to know your place. And if you didn't know your place, order would break down and all chaos would ensue. Whitefield smelled the dissolution of the old aristocratic order. He saw that what had been was not what was going to be.

NARRATOR: In 1740, Whitefield journeyed 5,000 miles through America, preaching more than 350 times in 75 towns and cities. Twenty thousand came to hear him on Boston Common, twelve thousand in Philadelphia, eight thousand in New York City. In 15 months, as much as a quarter of the country heard his message.

HARRY S. STOUT: People couldn't talk about anything other than Whitefield. He becomes secular news, as well as sacred. The only name that Americans would recognize more than George Whitefield would have been King George III.

[www.pbs.org: Watch the series online]

DANIEL DREISBACH, Legal Scholar, American University: People that in a previous age would never sit down together in a religious setting, would not break bread with one another, and yet they're being brought together by a common message of revival.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: There's this wrestling match between you and God. And are you going to keep fighting God? Are you going to collapse into the arms of God? Are you going to, you know, feel the conviction of sin that's upon us? Are you going to pretend it's not there? Are you going to turn to Jesus and have him save you?

Rev. GEORGE WHITEFIELD: God had shown me what true religion was. It was a ray of Divine light that instantaneously darted in upon my soul.

YOUNG GIRL: Being at a meeting, I found my heart in some measure drawn forth to God. Sermon being over, my soul was filled with ravishing transport. My desires increased and my heart still reaching forth after God, at last I fainted.

Rev. GEORGE WHITEFIELD: To be in him not only by outward profession, but by an inward change and purity of heart-

MAN: To talk so powerfully and wonderfully of the thing of God in Christ-

Rev. GEORGE WHITEFIELD: To be in him, so as to be mystically united to him by a true and lively faith, and thereby to receive spiritual virtue from him-

SARA: When the Reverend Mr. Whitefield came here and I attended his preaching-

MARILYN: -the best way. He speaks from a heart all aglow with love and pours out a torrent of eloquence which is-

MAN: -and are full of the love of God and Christ-

YOUNG GIRL: And looking forward, I see a place I thought was heaven.

MARILYN: New purposes and a new light from the day on which they heard-

SARA: My darkness vanished. My distress fled-

MAN: -were it not by the spirit and the power of the Almighty.

Rev. GEORGE WHITEFIELD: -in such a manner as the apostle, speaking of himself-

YOUNG GIRL: -and coming near, I see the gate standing open.

HARRY S. STOUT: And the next thing that happens is the realization, "We are the people. No one can silence this. No one can put this down. There is no standing army in the New World. There is no big police force. We are the law.''

NARRATOR: But the people were not the law, and the established church was. In Massachusetts, the Congregational minister Charles Chauncy began to publicly challenge Whitefield's populist appeal.

Rev. CHARLES CHAUNCY: Reverend Sir, the affection of popularity is the ruination of the soul and the destruction of understanding. But how wide am I from the mark to talk of conscience or scruple to one who is unsteady and variable as a weather-cock, and is yet enthusiast enough to boast of his frequent intercourse with the Almighty.

NARRATOR: Chauncy was an influential Boston minister who believed the new spiritual enthusiasm was leading congregations away from reason, away from the established church, towards social chaos.

FRANK LAMBERT: Chauncy said, "This isn't God's work. God's not a God of disorder. This is the work of a slick promoter.''

Rev. GEORGE WHITEFIELD: Reverend Chauncy represents things in the most ridiculous dress. He takes upon to condemn all the converts to a man, though he could not be acquainted with a hundredth part of them.

NARRATOR: But Whitefield was no longer that well acquainted with his flock, either. New, extreme ideas were finding a voice, and an following. Preachers like James Davenport went further than Whitefield, urging congregations to purify their faith and reject modern religion. He ordered his followers to burn the books of Charles Chauncy and other contemporary ministers.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: For Chauncy, reason is supposed to be important in religion and religion is supposed to be reasonable, which has to do with order. You know, what's going to happen to this society if it's turned so topsy-turvy?

NARRATOR: If Davenport's extremism could be dismissed by the establishment, it was more difficult to ignore the respected voices that now led the growing spiritual movement. Prominent thinkers such as Jonathan Edwards preached on the necessity of rebirth for everyone. And Gilbert Tennent focused his attention on ministers who had not been reborn.

FRANK LAMBERT: People begin to go back to their former congregations and challenge their ministers. "Have you had a new birth experience?'' And if the answer was no, or if the minister could not satisfy them that he had, one of two things often happened. One, he was fired, or two, people would leave and form their own congregation.

NARRATOR: Chauncy's fears were being realized. Established religions were fragmenting. Those fired by the message of rebirth were separating and offering people an alternative.

FRANK LAMBERT: So here is the day of services. There's the regular service. Now there's an alternative. You've got a choice.

STEPHEN MARINI, Historian of Religion, Wellesley College: If I'm being presented with multiple options, surely I must have the right to choose among them. It's not self-evident which one of these is true. And if God's spirit speaks to me through one of them, the state has no standing in telling me I shouldn't or I couldn't. The spirit is the absolute empowerment of my individuality. So my individual choice is not just an option, it is a divinely mandated course of action.

NARRATOR: People began to insist that it was their right to worship as they wanted in a church of their choice.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: So people start to have a sense of ownership over their own experience. It isn't so much they're reading some book and coming up with "Oh, liberty!'' It's more that they have the experience of liberty. They have experienced liberty. And this is the language Christians talk about, Christian freedom. They've have had the experience of freedom, of being freed from sin.

NARRATOR: Men such as the Baptist preacher Isaac Backus and the Congregational minister Jonathan Mayhew led calls for an end to established religion. Their voices joined the chorus for political liberty that was sweeping through the colonies.

The arguments over taxation and representation that had gathered momentum through the 1760s now found common cause with the cry for religious liberty. The revolutionary fervor had acquired a new moral force.

STEPHEN MARINI: In the act of defending their rights and their good service to the empire, they characterized themselves as innocent and virtuous.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: And in that spirit of things, the revolution becomes- if not inevitable, it becomes perfectly logical.

STEPHEN MARINI: And now- now the God of nations will surely look on our cause and see that it is just.'' And the sermons, dozens of them, begin articulating just this scenario.

MINISTER: King George III, adieu! No more shall we cry to you for protection! No more shall we bleed in defense of your person, your breech of convenant. The God of glory is on our side and will fight for us.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: And so as the farmer is picking up the rifle and putting down the plow and marching off, yes, he's thinking about, "I want rights.'' You know, "I want to be able to run my own society.'' But he's also thinking, "This is righteous. This is a righteous cause. And God is with us in this cause.''

MINISTER: We have reason to conclude that the cause of this American continent against the measures of a cruel, bloody and vindictive ministry is the cause of God.

STEPHEN PROTHERO, Professor of Religion, Boston University: I think America is a story. And Americans, as they move - as they first come here, as they move west, as they move out into the world - they're telling a story. And the story they're telling is a Biblical story. I think it's the Exodus story. They're telling a story about the movement of a people out of slavery into freedom, out of the old world into the new, out of the place of the Pharaoh, or George III, into this place of freedom.

And this started to become a new world instead of just the old world in a new place. And so much of what drives the story of America is figuring out what that new thing should be.

What should that new thing be?

Part 2: A New Eden

Written, Produced and Directed by
David Belton

Co-Produced by
Cathleen O'Connell
Callie T. Wiser

Principal Cinematography by
Tim Cragg

Edited by
Chyld King

[The words spoken by the actors in this film are from transcripts, sermons and personal journals of the characters they portray.]

LAUREN F. WINNER, Historian of Religion, Duke University: OK, you've created this nation. What's the story? What's the story of this nation? What does it mean to be an American? Suddenly, you have both opportunity but also the imperative to construct something of an identity.

NARRATOR: For Thomas Jefferson, the new republic must be founded with religious freedom. And that, he believed, was a God-given right.

STEPHEN PROTHERO, Professor of Religion, Boston University: One thing he says is, you know, "God created us in such a way that we can make our religious choices. Who is the state to tell us something that God chose not to tell us?"

NARRATOR: It was not just a matter of principle. He had already witnessed the struggle for religious freedom with his own eyes. And his remarkable partnership with the Baptists in his home state of Virginia would help define what freedom would mean for America.

In 1773, 27-year-old Jeremiah Moore, a Baptist from Fairfax County, Virginia, found himself arrested and thrown in jail. His crime, preaching without a license.

JEREMIAH MOORE: I have felt the effects of an ecclesiastical establishment and have been told by the judge in his seat, "You shall lie in jail until you rot," when my crime was no other than preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.

NARRATOR: Virginia's Baptists were evangelical Christians who came from Pennsylvania, migrating south to the Piedmont hills of central Virginia, looking to spread their Gospel message.

Rev. JAMES SLATTON, Baptist Minister: They were looking for converts and were bringing to people the idea that people can encounter God, and can encounter and experience God for themselves- in fact, not only can but must.

NARRATOR: Baptists called it "rebirth" and it meant choosing Christ as your personal savior and being baptized as an adult.

LAUREN WINNER: You had to testify persuasively to that dramatic conversion, and then you would be taken to this river and immersed sometimes in quite cold water. And there would be crowds. Crowds weren't just politely observing this ritual, they were also sometimes being slain in the spirit and falling down, laughing, shrieking, praying.

NARRATOR: The experience began to attract hundreds of converts in rural Virginia.

STEPHEN MARINI, Historian of Religion, Wellesley College: They're singing and they're preaching the terrors of hell and the glories of the gospel of Christ. Everybody's praying for them and they're crying. If you are moved somehow, these people will embrace you, they will love you, they will support you. And the next day, you're telling your neighbor and you're inviting your neighbor to the next meeting. And it goes like that.

NARRATOR: But to convert to a different religion was dangerous in colonial Virginia. America's oldest and most prosperous colony was run by a powerful ruling class, and at its heart was its religion, the Anglican church.

LAUREN WINNER: Everyone was an Anglican. I mean, everyone was part of an Anglican parish. By definition, you were. You were a parishioner in an Anglican parish.

NARRATOR: Citizens paid taxes to maintain their parish church and their minister.

LAUREN WINNER: And everyone in Virginia society understood that when you left your house and saw that society was functioning, you were encountering the work of the church, the established church. And you were also encountering the work of these elites who were overseeing that work.

NARRATOR: For more than a century, Virginia's elites had held power along with the Anglican Church. Now the Baptists were drawing converts away from Anglican parishes.

LAUREN WINNER: To share the Gospel with you is to call you into a whole new way of being. Of course, that's not particularly appealing if you're a happy elite person who likes your way of being as it is just fine, thank you, and everything's hunky dory. It's quite appealing if you're a person who lives a life of toil and suffering. And you would, of course, be compelled by a message that says, "Come into this new religious society, into this new community."

STEPHEN PROTHERO: There was a sense that religion was a big factor in what would hold a society together. And the Baptists, as a growing, gathering force, were seen as a significant threat.

NARRATOR: The colony responded by restricting where non-Anglicans could preach. Any preacher without a license could be arrested.

Rev. JAMES SLATTON: This was very burdensome. And it offended their sense of what was right because they believed that they should obey God and not man. They needed no man's permission in order to go somewhere and proclaim the gospel.

NARRATOR: Jeremiah Moore was one of many Baptists who'd refused to get a license and had been thrown in jail.

JEREMIAH MOORE: God himself is the only one to whom man is accountable for his religious sentiments simply, nor has he erected any tribunal on earth qualified to judge whether the man worships in an acceptable manner or not.

STEPHEN MARINI: When you start getting preachers like Jeremiah Moore and John Waller and Samuel Harris getting arrested and tried and thrown into prison, either they knew or they found out right away that the more trouble they got in with the government, the more appealing they were to the rank and file out there on the Piedmont. They said, "Well, at least these people are convinced. At least these people are committed to what they believe. They're willing to put it on the line. They're willing to risk."

NARRATOR: Moore turned his incarceration to his advantage, preaching to crowds through the bars of his cell.

JEREMIAH MOORE: God is our refuge. God is our strength. And the righteous God in his wrath-

STEPHEN MARINI: He's not just preaching to the converted, he's making news. And so the government comes down harder. All of a sudden, in almost every county, militiamen are arresting these folks, sending them to jail. And it spreads all the way across the Commonwealth.

Rev. JAMES SLATTON: But all this backfired because actually being persecuted and being willing to go to jail, this gave great credibility. Rather than discredit them, it empowered them.

NARRATOR: In October 1776, Jeremiah Moore brought a petition to the Virginia Assembly demanding the right for Baptists to be free to worship without fear of persecution.

PETITION: Equal liberty, that invaluable blessing, which though it be the birthright of every good member of the state, is what your petitioners have been deprived of-

NARRATOR: Ten thousand names were on the petition.

STEPHEN MARINI: They were looking for an advocate, an advocate to go into the courts and at least make their case.

NARRATOR: They found their advocate in Thomas Jefferson. As a member of the Virginia Assembly, he'd received the Baptists' petition. Weeks before, he'd drafted America's Declaration of Independence, and what he would now undertake on behalf of the Baptists would enshrine religious liberty as an American value.

STEPHEN MARINI: This one is obvious to him. This one is very obvious to him. Suddenly, in his back yard, is an example of the worst kind of abuse that government can do.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: We tend to think of Jefferson as a sort anti-religious person, but he was intensely religious, or as we would say now, he was spiritual but not religious. But he thought that it was up to the individual. And he didn't want the state to tell him what to think.

We think of Jefferson as a rationalist, but in some ways, this is also an outgrowth of the Protestant Reformation, where the Protestants are saying every individual is free to read the Bible for himself and to figure out what it says. Jefferson wanted us to do that, too. He wanted us to be free to look at the evidence in the world of religion and decide what we thought it all meant.

NARRATOR: Jefferson's own religion had nothing in common with Baptist beliefs. He created his own version of the Gospels, keeping only what he believed relevant, cutting out the rest.

STEPHEN MARINI: And he takes away all the narrative, all the miracles, all of that stuff that just won't stand rational inspection. "No, Jesus didn't raise Lazarus because there is no exemption to death." But Jesus says, "Blessed are the meek, blessed are the peacemakers." This is divine wisdom, and no institution can mediate it for you, including the church, let alone a government."

[www.pbs.org: Examine Jefferson's Bible]

THOMAS JEFFERSON: I cannot give up my guidance to the magistrate because he knows no more of the way to heaven than I do and is less concerned to direct me right than I am to go right.

NARRATOR: Jefferson met with Virginia's leading Baptists, who told him of their struggle to practice their faith.

STEPHEN MARINI: Jefferson says, "I couldn't disagree with you more about the substance of all of this. But I will defend your right to say it." And that's exactly what he does.

NARRATOR: Jefferson joined forces with the Baptists.

DANIEL DREISBACH, Legal Scholar, American University: And their idea, which is radical at the time, is you disestablish the church. You allow every religious sect and denomination to compete in the marketplace of ideas.

NARRATOR: Jefferson began to draft a bill that would end state-supported religion.

BILL: No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place or ministry whatsoever.

DANIEL DREISBACH: Ministers are not going to go grow fat and lazy relying on a check from the state. Rather, they're going to become diligent.

NARRATOR: Jefferson went further. Individuals must be free to worship as they choose.

BILL: All men shall be free to profess and by argument to maintain their opinions in matters of religion.

DANIEL DREISBACH: It's through this competition of religious sects and denominations that the purest and the most efficacious faith and church will prevail in Virginia.

NARRATOR: But when Jefferson submitted his bill to the Virginia Assembly, it was met with fierce opposition by many Virginians, including his fellow revolutionary, Patrick Henry.

LAUREN WINNER: It tells us something about precisely how radical and revolutionary this idea is that even these revolutionary Virginians, suddenly, when actually faced with the possibility of religious freedom, there was a sort of collective sense of needing to pause and slow things down a bit.

NARRATOR: Henry feared that without state support, religion in Virginia would wither and die. At war's end, he drafted a bill that would fund not just the Anglican church but other approved denominations. When the Baptists read Henry's proposed bill, they were outraged.

STEPHEN MARINI: "This is still state control or state funding or state monitoring of religious institutions, and we want hands off."

NARRATOR: Baptist support for Jefferson's vision of a religiously free Virginia grew more vocal. Their message struck a chord with ordinary Virginians who had fought for America's independence. In January 1786, Jefferson's bill was finally passed.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: That connection was so palpable, between the tyranny of a government that didn't allow you to do your own thing and the tyranny of religious groups that wouldn't allow you to do your own thing, that we decided that, yes, it was worth the risk and we need to try.

NARRATOR: And when, a year later, the Constitution was being drafted in Philadelphia, Jefferson and the Baptists hoped that their hard-fought principle of separating church from state would be part of the country's founding document. But when the Constitution was presented in September 1787, in not one of the seven articles was there any guarantee of religious liberty or other individual rights.

FRANK LAMBERT, Historian, Purdue University: People were incensed. Here was a Constitution that created a very powerful central government. Surely, individual rights ought to be protected, ought to be specified. That was the concern.

NARRATOR: The Constitution's framers wanted to create a more perfect union, and some feared that statements on religion would be divisive. But Jefferson believed their fears were unfounded, that defending an individual's liberties through a Bill of Rights would hold the country together.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: Jefferson said, "Let's do this experiment. Let's see what happens." But I think he had a real faith, we might say, in the power of freedom of conscience, and he believed that we could be held together through other sorts of things other than a shared religion. And those would be shared values around things like democracy and things like freedom.

NARRATOR: Virginia and four other states agreed with Jefferson and demanded a guarantee of individual rights. On September 25th, 1789, at Federal Hall in New York, America's First Congress proposed a Bill of Rights. The 1st Amendment was ratified and became part of the Constitution in 1791.

BILL OF RIGHTS: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

NARRATOR: Years later, as president, Thomas Jefferson would define the 1st Amendment as having erected a wall of separation between church and state.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: The metaphor is so strong that people often think that, "Oh, the 1st Amendment means that there should be a wall of separation between church and state." It doesn't mean that at all. You know, it says that we are not going to establish laws that are going to favor one religion over another, but it doesn't say exactly what kind of barrier there's going to be.

NARRATOR: Like the new nation, the 1st Amendment would be a work in progress. But with no national church, religion would not be guaranteed a place at the center of public life. No other nation had ever taken such a step.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: I think there's some fear- in the word "experiment" that you hear a lot in the early America, you know, there is fear there. There is this idea that it could go wrong, that it can fail, the experiment can fail. And there's a lot of talk, especially around the issue of religious freedom, that this is maybe too dangerous.

CYNTHIA LYNN LYERLY, Historian, Boston College: With the American religious marketplace opening up, everybody realizes that one choice could be "None of the above." You can choose not to go to church, not to read the Bible, not to believe in God. And that leads to opportunities but also to potential- potential damnation.

NARRATOR: And it was on America's frontier that both the risk and the potential of religious freedom would be played out. By the turn of the century, as many as 200 wagons were leaving the East each day in search of a new life.

CATHERINE BREKUS, Historian, University of Chicago: These are people who gather up all their belongings in carts and set off on these journeys that take many, many weeks. Michigan was the wild West. Indiana seemed just impossibly far away. But when they arrive, they have to begin carving out some kind of new world.

CYNTHIA LYNN LYERLY: The frontier was still a pretty dangerous place. It was not undertaken lightly. This was not a lark, especially if you were going to bring your wife and kids. Your sense of isolation would have been profound.

NARRATOR: It was a dangerous and lonely life. People longed for spiritual direction, but there were few churches on the expanding frontier.

James Finley had traveled with his family from North Carolina to the Ohio frontier in the late 1790s. In his later life, he would become a leading figure on America's religious landscape. But as a young man, Finley, like thousands of other Americans, struggled alone with his faith.

JAMES FINLEY: What's the point in praying? If I'm one of the elect, I'll will be saved in God's good time. And if I'm one of the non-elect, praying will do me no good, as Christ did not die for them.

NARRATOR: He'd been brought up as a Presbyterian but now, with the opportunity to choose, came anxiety.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: People are starting to ask, "What religion should I have," you know, or "What's thae experience that these other people have had that I haven't had? Or have I had it?"

JAMES FINLEY: Sometimes, my faith wavers, in spite of all my efforts to bolster it up, and my conscience stings me with remorse. The thought that perhaps my soul will be lost produces the most intense emotion.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: The idea is shifting. We're shifting away from the old Calvinist idea that God has made these choices- before you're even born, God has decided whether you're going to heaven or hell. Now it becomes up to us. Totally different thing. Now we have the choice.

NARRATOR: In 1801, James Finley left Ohio heading for Kentucky. Thousands had been drawn to a religious gathering in the town of Cane Ridge.

CYNTHIA LYNN LYERLY: He had heard about this meeting that was supposed to take place because it was publicized well in advance. And he'd been hearing that at these revivals, that men would fall flat on the floor and start crying or weeping, that they would be struck under the Word and maybe fall to their knees. And he told his two companions, "We're going to go. We're going to- let's go to this meeting and let's check this out" because it was actually a phenomenon.

NARRATOR: Revivals or camp meetings were springing up across the frontier. Hundreds, sometimes thousands of ordinary people would gather, drawn by the message of new, charismatic preachers seeking to save souls.

CYNTHIA LYNN LYERLY: There's a perception that this new republic is just a baby in its infancy, and is in moral danger.

NARRATOR: Ministers warned that fewer people were going to church than had been before the Revolution. America, they feared, faced a spiritual crisis.

CYNTHIA LYNN LYERLY: They have a sense of urgency in trying to bring people to Christ because they're not just saving them, they're saving the nation, as well. Somehow, we've lost our moral underpinnings, that religion is no longer in a central place.

NARRATOR: As Finley drew closer to Cane Ridge, he grew nervous at what he was walking into.

CYNTHIA LYNN LYERLY: He warns the two buddies on the way. He says, you know, "I'm not going to fall down. There's not going to be any falling."

NARRATOR: When he reached Cane Ridge on August 8th, the revival had been under way for two days. As many as 20,000 people had gathered there.

CATHERINE BREKUS: Imagine if you walked into a clearing in the woods, and people all around you were crying. And people all around you were on their knees and they were begging for God's forgiveness.

CYNTHIA LYNN LYERLY: These are people who have not seen this many of people together ever. And then you've got them out in the wilderness with these torches and this kind of holy light they describe.

CATHERINE BREKUS: The preachers are towering above you in preaching stands. They're preaching day and night, and everything is announced by trumpets blowing.

CYNTHIA LYNN LYERLY: Finley sees these people screaming, shrieking, shouting, some people singing. You would have seen other people screaming. You would have seen slaves commingling with their masters, listening to the Word.

JAMES FINLEY: There was a noise like that of Niagara. A vast sea of human beings seemed to be agitated as if by a storm, 20,000 persons tossed to and fro like the tumultuous waves of the sea in a storm, or swept down like the trees of the forest under the blast of the wild tornado.

CATHERINE BREKUS: People actually begin rolling on the ground. There are people fainting, weeping.

CYNTHIA LYNN LYERLY: At one moment, a preacher's preaching and the preacher looks right at James Finley, and he finds his knees almost ready to give out.

JAMES FINLEY: Like long pent-up waters seeking for an avenue in the rock, the fountains of my soul are broken up. I cry for mercy and salvation. All my sins crowd upon me like so many demons of darkness. My disobedience to God, my backslidings rise before me, and it seems to me that hell is just at hand and that soon I must plunge into its dismal abodes.

CYNTHIA LYNN LYERLY: He stops and says, "We're going to have to change our lives or we're going to hell." He weeps copiously, shouts out, and he's converted.

JAMES FINLEY: The direct witness from heaven shines full upon my soul. Then there flows such copious streams of love that I think I should die with excess of joy.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: Christian conversion offered a really, really powerful promise of fundamental change, that you could be a certain kind of person on Wednesday, and you could go to a revival on Thursday morning and by Thursday afternoon, you were a new creature.

NARRATOR: News of the Cane Ridge revival, and others like it, spread across America. Over the next two decades, there would be thousands more. A wave of revivals swept through South Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia. The middle Atlantic - Delaware, Maryland, Virginia - hosted yearly camp meetings that were wild with enthusiasm. And revivals burned across New York and New England.

[www.pbs.org: Revivals & American identity]

CYNTHIA LYNN LYERLY, Historian, Boston College: If you think you've found the key to eternal life, are you going to not tell your friends about it? They found the way, the truth and the light. And they're obligated, they're compelled, in fact, they would be damned if they do not go and spread this to other people.

NARRATOR: America's thirst for a true religious experience spawned dozens of denominations. Baptists and Methodists flourished. Individuals seeking a different message found a home with the Freewill Baptists, Antimission Baptists, Disciples of Christ, Universalists, and Joseph Smith's Latter Day Saints. Even the older faiths, the Presbyterian, Congregational and Anglican churches, became more evangelical in response to the competition they faced not just from new faiths but a new kind of preacher.

Lorenzo Dow's outlandish preaching style made him a household name from New York to Alabama. Sojourner Truth shattered taboos by preaching to men and women, and like Jarena Lee, to black and whites. Peter Cartwright preached across the frontier and conducted more than 12,000 baptisms. Richard Allen had used Methodism's message of freedom to secure his release from slavery and founded the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Pennsylvania. And Charles Finney brought the populist revivals to the middle class and converted thousands, becoming the most talked-about preacher in the nation.

By 1811, more than a million Americans were attending at least one religious revival every year. And in this competitive religious atmosphere, Methodism was attracting more converts than any other denomination.

CYNTHIA LYNN LYERLY: Because Methodism is a religion of the heart, it's about feelings and about emotions, they're appealing to people- you don't have to have education. You don't have to have money. You just have to have the right heart. They urge people in these emotional tones to turn from God's wrath and potential judgment and hellfire to God's love and happiness. It's a great- I mean, it's- who would not want that?

JAMES FINLEY: I felt as though someone had spoken to me, "Go preach my Gospel." I instantly replied, "Yes, Lord, if thou wilt go with me."

NARRATOR: The anxiety that had afflicted James Finley was washed away when he became a Methodist preacher in the spring of 1809. He would dedicate his life to spreading the gospel of Christ and would become a leading social reformer, championing temperance, the rights of Native Americans and the conditions for prisoners in his home state of Ohio.

NARRATOR: Finley's rise to national prominence began on the frontier as a traveling preacher.

CATHERINE BREKUS, Historian, University of Chicago: One of the reasons that Methodism becomes so popular and powerful is that they send out itinerants who organize churches and who try to impose some kind of religious order on that unruly landscape.

NARRATOR: Dozens of ministers were each given a route of several hundred miles along which they preached. They were known as circuit riders.

CYNTHIA LYNN LYERLY: You can reach many more souls on a circuit than you can reach as a pastor in a local area. So they'd go around and they'd preach on various stops, usually in peoples' homes along the way, along the circuit.

NARRATOR: It was a system that was ideally suited to frontier life.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: We liked these traveling preachers because, "He was sort of like me." You know, he was just, you know, a farmer who got a horse and a Bible and went out did something. And when he speaks, like, "It sounds like my neighbor."

JAMES FINLEY: I announced my text as follows, "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out," Acts 3, 19. My soul fired with the theme, and the Holy Spirit shed abroad its hallowed influence, and the divine power pervaded every heart.

NARRATOR: Methodism's circuit riders became a focal point of peoples' lives.

CYNTHIA LYNN LYERLY: These circuit riders, they don't just bring the Methodist message. They bring books. They bring learning. They're going to have a Sunday school, and the Sunday School's going to have to teach the kids how to read and write. So they bring- they bring infrastructure, if you will. From class meetings to prayer meetings to missionary society meetings, they provide kind of the moral stability that the frontier needed.

NARRATOR: At America's independence, there were just 15,000 Methodists. But by 1850, there were more than a million. By then more Americans were going to church than ever before and two out of three church goers were evangelical Protestants. Religion had regained its place at the heart of American life.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: And along with that comes this push to change the society, to Christianize the society, to evangelize the society. And that doesn't just mean converting people, it means making America look more like the kingdom of God, you know, making America look like the sort of place that Jesus would want it to be.

NARRATOR: Evangelical Christianity was no longer just about individuals being reborn or about going to church on Sunday. Evangelical Christianity was about building a new America.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: As these people are converted, they're not just going back to their churches to their families, and saying, "Gee," you know, "I have a new heart and now I'm going to heaven." But they're saying, you know, "There's something weird about the way we're running our prisons. There's something weird about the way we're doing our educational system. There's something wrong about slavery. There's something wrong about the fact that women can't vote." And they start to move out into the society.

CYNTHIA LYNN LYERLY: You walk into any town in America in 1830, and you're going to see an orphanage that's probably run by evangelicals. You'll see evangelicals at the prison, making sure the prisoners are clean, well fed and cared for. You'll see evangelicals taking care of people in the poorhouse, other evangelicals trying to get rid of taverns and drink in the town.

NARRATOR: Schools, hospitals, relief for the poor, women's rights, abolition- the associations that evangelical Protestants had built to tackle society's ills had become pillars of American life.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: The United States is starting to look like something. It's not just the New Adam, it's not just this sort of thing out ahead of us. We were going to make it. And what that promised land is, is this more evangelical Protestant country that has the possibility for this individual heart-felt piety, but also has the possibility for creating a kind of heaven on earth.

NARRATOR: Protestant America's success and its values of freedom and opportunity had begun to attract huge numbers of new European immigrants. By the 1830s, hundreds of thousands were arriving on America's Eastern seaboard.

Many were Irish Catholics fleeing poverty and religious oppression. But Catholicism was the religion that Protestants had been resisting ever since they broke away from it three centuries before, and the mass immigration of Catholics would threaten Protestant America's vision of their new republic.

JOHN McGREEVY, Historian, University of Notre Dame: Many Americans associated Protestantism not just with liberty but with progress, as part of the progress of the modern world. And the fact that Catholicism was growing, that it was growing in the United States, which in particular was founded with a strong Protestant ethos, seemed particularly threatening.

STEPHEN MARINI: They are perceived as alien, as not us. This is the whore of Babylon. This is Antichrist.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: They're not promoting Protestant America. They're not accepting Jesus into their heart. They're not going to these revivals and becoming born-again Christians.

JOHN McGREEVY: And precisely because the United States was so open, was so welcoming, it was in danger.

STEPHEN MARINI: These are poor, devastated Irish folk. It doesn't matter. "Satan has been set loose in our Garden of Eden, and we will not have it!"

NARRATOR: By the 1840s, nearly half of all immigrants to America were from Ireland and a quarter of all New Yorkers were Irish. In Philadelphia, Irish Catholics doubled in population in 30 years. Boston's Catholics tripled in number in just 10 years.

And with Catholic numbers growing, so came increasing Protestant hostility. There had been riots in Philadelphia at St Mary's Church. In 1835, several thousand Protestants rampaged through the Catholic Five Points Area of New York. And in Boston, factory workers surrounded the city's Ursuline convent before burning it to the ground.

Amidst the violence and suspicion, one man led the struggle to make Protestant America accept that their new Eden had to include Catholics. John Hughes was the country's most outspoken Catholic bishop. His challenge to America would redefine the country's commitment to the principle of religious freedom.

Bishop JOHN HUGHES: I am the pastor of a Christian flock. I am a citizen of a country whose proudest boast is that it has made the civil and religious rights of all its citizens equal.

NARRATOR: The desire for religious freedom ran deep in John Hughes. As a boy growing up in Ireland, he'd witnessed the oppression of Catholics by the country's ruling Protestant minority.

Father RICHARD SHAW, Roman Catholic Priest: The turning point in the Hughes family was when John Hughes's sister died, and it was against the laws in Ireland, his own country, for a priest to enter a cemetery. The priest would have to bless dirt outside, the family would bring it in, sprinkle it on the coffin.

NARRATOR: Shortly after his sister's death, Hughes emigrated to America with his family. He worked first as a ditch digger before training for the priesthood.

Father RICHARD SHAW: So you watch this raw-boned, scantily educated youth educate himself. Once he saw what was written in the Constitution and what was declared to be freedoms - and then saw them not lived out - he makes that his clarion call, this country will live up to what it claims to be.

NARRATOR: In his Philadelphia parish, he was famous for his blistering attacks on religious prejudice. He'd sign his letters with a cross. "Dagger John" people called him.

MARK S. MASSA, S.J., Theologian, Boston College: He put a cross in front of his name, which does look like a dagger. But I think his enemies called him "Dagger John" because he could be nasty. He was a street fighter.

NARRATOR: In 1837, Hughes's reputation as a fighter prompted a summons to the Catholic diocese of New York. Most of the city's 12,000 Catholic children were on the streets and not in school. Their parents had taken them out of the public schools, which they saw as bigoted against Catholics.

STEPHEN MARINI: New York is not what we think New York is today. New York was the center of evangelical public moral reform activity in the whole nation.

JOHN McGREEVY: Many teachers in the public schools were ministers or former ministers. The fact that they were singing Protestant hymns, the fact that the textbooks in the public schools were virulently- they were quite virulently anti-Catholic.

NARRATOR: Hughes agreed with the parents and vowed to take up their fight.

JOHN McGREEVY: Hughes genuinely felt that the public schools were engines of converting Catholics into Protestants. Their fear was they're going to lose a whole generation of young Catholics. So they thought they had to somehow stop this.

NARRATOR: New York City's schools were run by the Public School Society, which had been founded in 1805 by Quakers. They, like other evangelicals, believed creating good Americans began in the classroom.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: One of the main purposes of the public schools was to create moral citizens. And the only way to create a moral citizen was to give them religion, and the only legitimate religion was Christianity. And the only way to inculcate Christianity was the Bible.

NARRATOR: Hughes agreed with the idea of moral teaching in schools through religious instruction. But the public schools were teaching Christianity using a Protestant Bible. Catholics had their own Bible.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: The public school people, who were mostly Protestants, typically said, "Just give them the Bible. Let them decide for themselves." And they didn't see that that was a Protestant way of doing things. The Protestant Bible, the King James, does not have footnotes. But the Catholic Bible does because Catholics say, "You can't read the Bible by yourself. There's a whole tradition, "right? "We have all these people, Augustine and Aquinas. Who are you, some 12-year-old or some 35-year-old public school teacher to think you know what the Bible says? Listen to what the tradition says."

Bishop JOHN HUGHES: I was bound to see that the religious rights of my flock should not be filched away from them under the pretext of education.

NARRATOR: Hughes's support of the Catholic parents removing their children from school baffled the Protestant establishment.

MARK S. MASSA: To the Protestants who founded the New York Public School Society, this sounded anti-intellectual. It sounded like sort of the argument of an illiterate throng who wanted to remain illiterate. And it sounded like people who were rejecting a very good offer of learning how to become good American citizens, with the presumption that to be a good citizen of the United States was to be a good Protestant evangelical.

NARRATOR: But Hughes knew Catholics, too, could be good Americans. And the Constitution, he believed, gave them the right to be both.

Bishop JOHN HUGHES: The great fathers of our liberties insisted that consciences and religion should ever be free and regarded as above the law.

NARRATOR: Hughes petitioned New York's City Council, which funded the public schools, demanding that if the public schools were teaching Protestantism, then Catholics should be given money to set up their own schools. He demanded a full hearing, where he would make the argument for New York's Catholics in person.

STEPHEN MARINI: This was a full-bore public debate, with mass coverage in the press, packed house, people outside. So there he is appearing probably for the first time in a Protestant public venue.

Bishop JOHN HUGHES: We interfere with no other denomination of citizens. We wish them all to enjoy the same privileges that we claim for ourselves. Suppose your children were in the case with these poor children for whom I plead. Suppose then what your feelings would be if the blessings of education were provided bountifully by the state and you were unable to participate unless you were willing to submit that your consciences should be trenched upon.

STEPHEN MARINI: He is relishing, he is positively enjoying the fact that he is making an American constitutional religious liberty case. The same religious liberty that enabled them to create an evangelical majority, he is now going to use to challenge the legitimacy of the education they are delivering and to challenge their political control.

NARRATOR: The Public School Society responded with their own witnesses. From Old Brick Church, the Presbyterian, Gardner Spring.

GARDNER SPRING: The Catholic Church is almost uniformly the enemy of liberty. I resent that Bishop Hughes should come to a community of Protestant citizens ask for the bounty of the state to support such a system as his.

NARRATOR: Ignoring Hughes's constitutional arguments, others attacked Hughes's loyalty. Was he with America or with the Vatican?

WITNESS: In all candor, I ask whether if it does belong to a foreign potentate to say whether the Bible shall not be read in our common schools?

NARRATOR: Hughes stuck to his argument, that in America, no one religion could be favored over another.

Bishop JOHN HUGHES: Is not this the principle of the American government? Is it not the pride and boast and glory of the American people? And if it be all this, why is it that Americans are opposed to it?

NARRATOR: The debate lasted two days. In the end, John Hughes lost the vote 15 to 1. There would be no state money for Catholic schools. The Protestant establishment felt it would be the end of the matter.

MARK S. MASSA: I think they viewed John Hughes as a rustic. They viewed John Hughes as kind of an interesting throwback, charming - John Hughes could be incredibly charming - but not a serious leader, and certainly not a serious leader for religious people in the United States. I think, to some extent, they underestimated John Hughes.

NARRATOR: Hughes responded to the council decision by raising funds to build dozens of parochial schools. And he was determined that if the Constitution was to be upheld, then the city must be forced to give up funding Protestant schools.

MARK S. MASSA: I think Bishop Hughes realizes then that there's more than one way to get to Rome - excuse the metaphor - that if you can't win it through debate, you can win it through the ballot.

NARRATOR: 1841 was an election year in the state of New York. Five days before the election, at a Catholic rally at Carroll Hall, Hughes presented a list of the candidates he favored. He urged his parishioners to vote for them.

Bishop JOHN HUGHES: Will you adhere to the nominations made? Will you be united? Will you let all men know that you are worthy sons of the nation to which you belong?

JOHN McGREEVY: That was the fear of many Protestants. "We're going to have Bishops interfering in our politics. Here is this unelected bishop, appointed by the Pope in Rome, telling thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens how they should vote. Catholics are more or less like sheep. They're going to do exactly what they're told. And if we have people like Hughes telling Catholics what to do, we're in trouble."

STEPHEN PROTHERO: Catholicism threatens the whole American project. That's the point. It threatens the whole American project because it threatens to bring us back to pre-revolutionary America because it's going to enslave us in the tyranny of a king- in this case, a king who's called the pope.

NARRATOR: The Constitution gave Hughes the right to advise his parishioners how to vote, but the Protestant establishment was outraged at what they saw as priestly meddling in politics. Leading the attack, James Gordon Bennett, editor of The New York Herald.

JAMES GORDON BENNETT: A bold, daring, reckless, unexpected attempt to control politics by the force of religious sentiment, thereby sullying his garment with political dirt.

NARRATOR: In defending the rights of New York's Catholics, John Hughes believed he was fulfilling his priestly duties.

Bishop JOHN HUGHES: So vital and important do I consider the question that I conceive that I cannot be anywhere more in keeping with my character as a bishop than to stand before you pleading the cause of the poor and oppressed. So near is the question to my heart that I can bear insult from morning until night.

NARRATOR: Hughes's politicking paid off. All but three of the candidates he had supported were elected. In April 1842, the state passed the Maclay [sp?] bill. By a majority of just one, New York's Senate voted to end religious instruction in New York's public schools.

It was a decision that New York's Protestant majority found hard to stomach. Four days later, on April 12th, riots broke out. Bricks were thrown through the windows of Hughes's house and doors were kicked in before the police arrived.

CATHERINE BREKUS, Historian, University of Chicago: Freedom can be quite dangerous, and I think Americans are both wedded to freedom and nervous about where it might lead.

NARRATOR: By demanding religious liberty for Catholic immigrants, John Hughes had expanded the idea of what it meant to be an American.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: And so if you ask, why do we persecute Catholics and then why do we stop, it's because we have this idea of freedom in our heads from the beginning, and we have this story about a people who are enslaved, which is wrong, who move through the power of God and their own efforts to freedom, which is right.

That story is always working on us. And even when we're doing things that are persecutory and that are immoral and that are enslaving other people, that story is operating on us as we're doing it. And I think, gradually, we hear the story and we hear the voice that says "Stop."

NARRATOR: As hard as America found it to grant freedom to those it distrusted, religious liberty had become the founding principle that would help shape America's identity.

Part 3: A Nation Reborn

WRITTEN, PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY
Sarah Colt

PRINCIPAL CINEMATOGRAPHY
Tim Cragg

EDITED BY
James Rutenbeck

[The words spoken by the actors in this film are from transcripts, sermons and personal journals of the characters they portray.]

NARRATOR: In the 19th century, many Americans believed their country had been chosen by God.

CYNTHIA LYNN LYERLY, Historian, Boston College: You'd be hard pressed to find a white American who do not believe that the Lord had a special destiny for America and that the Lord wanted America to be an example to the world.

NARRATOR: But tensions over what God wanted for America were now ripping the country apart. At the heart of the conflict was an issue as old as the nation itself, slavery. Both those who defended slavery and those who opposed it believed God favored their cause. Their certainty threatened not only the nation, but their special status as a chosen people. Yet the man at the center of the conflict was anything but certain about God's plan. Abraham Lincoln had always kept his beliefs about God to himself.

HARRY S. STOUT, Historian, Yale University: Card-carrying Christians made him nervous. He had a deep and abiding suspicion of and hostility to that notion that "There's no possibility that I'm wrong. I'm absolutely right, and I'm therefore righteous."

NARRATOR: The Civil War would force Lincoln to re-examine his own relationship to God.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN: I am almost ready to say that this is probably true, that God wills this contest.

ALLEN C. GUELZO, Historian, Gettysburg College: Lincoln is working out his own problem, his own difficulty. This is Lincoln's own agony and sweat over the ultimate question, "What is the will of God in this crisis?"

NARRATOR: In the spring of 1844, James Osgood Andrew, a Methodist bishop, prepared to leave Georgia for his church's national meeting in New York City. The Methodists had grown into the nation's largest religious denomination. Their ministers traveled the country, foot soldiers in a missionary army spreading the faith. They had become a fundamental part of the fabric that held the nation together.

Like other Protestants, Methodists believed God favored the United States.

MARGARET WASHINGTON, Historian, Cornell University: It was a covenant, an agreement between the people and God. They were a New Israel, a chosen people, and they had a responsibility to live up to God's covenant.

NARRATOR: For Andrew, the covenant with God meant dedicating his life to converting souls. He toiled for nearly two decades as an itinerant minister, traveling the South, preaching mostly to the slave population. As reward for his dedication, he was elected bishop, the highest office in the Methodist church.

But now, as he set out on his trip North, Andrew was worried. His beloved Methodist Church was wracked by bitter infighting. No one knew if it would survive intact.

The battle had begun with a small yet vehement group of Christians who demanded an immediate end to slavery in America. Known as abolitionists, they charged that slavery was a national sin.

RANDALL M. MILLER, Historian, St. Joseph's University: Unless you attack this sin, you are complicit in it, even if you're not a slave-holder. The nation is complicit in it by tolerating it. It will destroy this redeemer nation, and it will then stink in God's nostrils, and all will pay for it.

NARRATOR: Abolitionists demanded clergy speak out against slavery, as they did about other sins like drinking, stealing and adultery.

DAVID W. BLIGHT, Historian, Yale University: They were deeply inspired by evangelical Christianity, by the idea that if a sinner can be converted to some degree of faith, and then to salvation in the Christian sense, practically overnight, then why not a whole society?

NARRATOR: At the heart of the abolitionist movement was a former slave who had escaped to the North, Frederick Douglass.

FREDERICK DOUGLASS: I have seen my master tie up a lame young woman and whip her upon her naked shoulders, causing the warm red blood to drip. And in justification of the bloody deed, he would quote this passage of Scripture. "He that knoweth his master's will, and doeth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes."

CYNTHIA LYNN LYERLY: Here is an African-American who was born in slavery, who lived slavery, who's also a church member. He was a Christian. But he quickly discovered, both in slavery and then later as an abolitionist, the inconsistencies between slavery and Christianity.

NARRATOR: Douglass had been converted at a Methodist revival, inspired by the freedoms promised by the Bible.

MARGARET WASHINGTON: African-Americans saw Christianity as liberating, not just spiritually liberating but humanly liberating. Nothing was more graphic for the slaves than the story of the children of Israel being led out of bondage. When these stories were recounted to them, they couldn't help but look around at each other and say, "This is going to be our hope."

FREDERICK DOUGLASS: Between the Christianity of this land and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference. The church and the slave prison stand next to each other. The church-going bell and the auctioneer's bell chime in with each other. The pulpit and the auctioneer's block stand in the same neighborhood.

JOHN STAUFFER, Historian, Harvard University: He blames American Christianity as a fundamental cause for the spread of slavery. He says that the Christian church has become a church that's in bed with these slave owners, and it bears no resemblance to the true message of Christ.

NARRATOR: For America's churches, slavery had become an unavoidable and divisive issue.

CYNTHIA LYNN LYERLY: Slavery touches on all kinds of moral questions that churches are interested in, such as the sanctity of marriages, the separation of families, brutality. What's allowed for one human being to do to another just to extract labor? All kinds of profound questions slavery brings up, and they're religious in nature.

NARRATOR: And in May 1844, as Methodists from across the country gathered in New York, it was Bishop Andrew who would be the target of the anti-slavery attack, for Andrew had inherited a slave. As long as he remained a slave owner, many Northern Methodists argued, he must resign as bishop.

On May 22nd, a motion was put before the 180 delegates that would require the membership to vote on Andrew's future. Some Southern delegates argued that Andrew had inherited, rather than purchased the slave. Others, like Reverend Augustus Longstreet from Georgia, pointed to the Bible to defend their bishop.

Rev. AUGUSTUS LONGSTREET: You cannot, brethren, lay your finger on a text that says no man can hold slaves and be a Christian.

JOHN B. BOLES, Historian, Rice University: Never did the Bible in any abstract way condemn slavery. And they were eager to find verses, for example, in the Book of Philemon, where Paul sends the slave back to his master.

AUGUSTUS LONGSTREET: It appears plain to me why this epistle has been preserved. It is that men may see that it is possible to hold slaves and go to heaven.

CYNTHIA LYNN LYERLY: If you're claiming we can't have a bishop that holds slaves, then you're suggesting that slave-holding is somehow incompatible with being a good Methodist. And that means you're claiming that we're doing something wrong. And slavery is not only not a wrong, it's a blessing.

NARRATOR: Methodists shouted each other down as abolitionists looked on from the visitor's gallery. Andrew was caught in the middle. If he offered to resign, which would satisfy his Northern brethren, his fellow Southerners would secede from the church.

HARRY S. STOUT, Historian, Yale University: Nobody goes into it, overnight. It's something that is for many agonizing because these were brothers in a common denomination, and it was it was very painful to contemplate separation.

NARRATOR: After nearly two weeks of impassioned debate, a vote on Andrew's future was finally taken. It broke down along regional lines- 68 Southerners defended Andrew, but 110 Northerners demanded he resign.

CYNTHIA LYNN LYERLY: They believe the same things. They look to the same founders. They read the same documents. They have this shared theology. And now, in 1844, they say, "Yes, but on this one thing, we are fundamentally diametrically opposed."

NARRATOR: A year later, what many had feared came to pass. Southern Methodists broke away and founded the Methodist Episcopal Church South. Other Protestant denominations ruptured, as well.

CYNTHIA LYNN LYERLY: Now there's no censorship because slavery's no longer the untouchable subject. So with each political crisis, you've got ministers on both sides that can give sermons on it and can write letters and can publish tracts for and against.

ANTI-SLAVERY MINISTER: Every man who holds slaves and who pretends to be a Christian is an incurable Idiot.

PRO-SLAVERY MINISTER: Slavery was established decree of Almighty God. It is sanctioned in the Bible, in both Testaments, from Genesis to Revelation.

ANTI-SLAVERY MINISTER: He that stealeth a man and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death.

STEPHEN PROTHERO, Professor of Religion, Boston University: "Slavery is a divine institution," say the people in the South. "Well, slavery is a satanic, evil institution" say many in the North. If neither side has the sense that God is backing that up, it just becomes a human argument. But if both sides have the sense the God is backing that up, it becomes a sort of cosmic conflagration.

PRO-SLAVERY MINISTER: Moreover, of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and they shall be your possession. They shall be your bondmen forever.

ANTI-SLAVERY MINISTER: Exodus Chapter 21, Verse 16.

PRO-SLAVERY MINISTER: Leviticus Chapter 25, Verses 45 and 46./p>

NARRATOR: Into this religious turmoil stepped a new and untested president, a man who didn't presume to know the mind of God.

HARRY S. STOUT: He had a deep and abiding suspicion of and hostility to that notion that "There's no possibility that I'm wrong. I'm absolutely right, and I'm therefore righteous."

NARRATOR: Growing up, Abraham Lincoln had witnessed waves of religious revivals on America's Western frontier. When his family joined a Baptist church, 14-year-old Abraham would attend the services but refused to join.

RONALD C. WHITE, Jr., Historian, The Huntington Library: It's a quite conservative tradition, emotional. Lincoln struggles with it. Lincoln is always suspicious of emotion. He always wants to raise the trumpet of reason in all of his thinking and acting.

NARRATOR: But if Lincoln rejected his parents' religion, he never let go of its teachings.

ALLEN C. GUELZO, Historian, Gettysburg College: For Lincoln, if there is a God, he probably is not the personal God that Christianity talks about. He might be a great watchmaker in the sky. He might be someone who sets the universe going according to its own natural laws and then stands back and lets it run without personally interfering himself.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN: Man is a simple tool, a mere cog in the wheel, a part, a small part of this vast iron machine that strikes and cuts, grinds and mashes all things, including man, that resist it.

RONALD C. WHITE, Jr.: The world has a certain order to it, but we are left by ourselves in this world. God does not intervene directly. This is not a God with personality, not a God who is a loving God. There's a certain humility before this God, but there's also a certain sense that his ways can never be fully understood.

NARRATOR: In the spring of 1861, Lincoln faced the greatest crisis in the nation's history. Seven Southern states had seceded from the Union. The United States was on the brink of war, and its newly elected president would have to address the nation.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN: Before entering upon so grave a matter as the destruction of our national union- before entering upon so grave a matter as the destruction of our national fabric, with all its benefits, its memories and its hopes, would it not be wise to ascertain precisely why we do it?

NARRATOR: Lincoln believed that democracy should trump self-righteous religious conviction. While he opposed slavery, he was willing to accommodate it to save what was most sacred to him, the union. He understood the future of the nation itself hung in the balance.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: To what extent are the sides kind of dug in with theological certainty? And I think Lincoln's hopeful that there is room for compromise.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN: Will you hazard so desperate a step while there is any possibility that any portion of the ills you fly from have no real existence?

NARRATOR: On inauguration day, the president struck a delicate balance, urging a polarized nation to reunite.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN: We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.

NARRATOR: Southern leaders rejected the president's plea. Unlike the U.S. Constitution, their newly drafted constitution invoked "the favor and guidance of Almighty God."

MARK A. NOLL, Historian, University of Notre Dame: There was a great, overwhelming sense that the moral edge, the moral advantage, resided in the South. The Southern way of life was being attacked. The institution of slavery that many of the Southern leaders had justified fully with a biblical defense was under assault. Southerners in general felt that the Lord was on their side.

JOHN B. BOLES, Historian: They believed that they are defending a divine institution. They believed that they are God's nation. In a very profound sense, I think, they believed that they were doing God's will.

SOUTHERN MINISTER: Your cause is the cause of God, the cause of Christ, of humanity. It is a conflict of truth with error, of pure Christianity with Northern fanaticism.

NARRATOR: But the North felt God favored their cause.

HARRY S. STOUT: The northern clergy are saying, "The Union is a sacred bond. It cannot be broken."

NORTHERN MINISTER: Repent. Forsake your sin. Lay down your arms. Retire from your rebellious attitude.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: There was a contract between the American people and God. Who is anyone to bail out of that deal?

MARGARET WASHINGTON, Historian: It was a question of a disintegration of the compact, and each region blaming the other for breaking this agreement that they had with God.

NARRATOR: People on both sides came to believe that by defending their cause, they would guarantee their salvation.

HARRY S. STOUT: Maybe the single most important question people are asking is, "What must I do to be saved?" When you put that mentality into place, and then you find ministers saying not only does God give you the right to pick up weapons and go to war, but it would actually be sinful if you didn't pick up weapons.

NARRATOR: On April 12, 1861, the war Lincoln had feared began.

FREDERICK DOUGLASS: God be praised! The war has come at last. Let the long crushed bondsman arise, snatch back the liberty of which he's been so long robbed and despoiled.

NARRATOR: For Frederick Douglass, the war was proof that God condemned America for the sin of slavery.

FREDERICK DOUGLASS: Men have a choice. They may be angels or they may be demons. In the apocalyptic vision, John describes a war in heaven. Such is the struggle now in the United States.

JOHN STAUFFER, Historian: Douglass literally says that the war is a battle between Michael and his angels against Satan. Douglass is one of those angels.

NARRATOR: Douglass was not alone. Many Americans considered the war an apocalyptic event unleashed by God, a belief embodied in a new hymn that became a Northern anthem.

DAVID W. BLIGHT, Historian: If you read those lyrics, it's God entering history with his terrible swift sword, and he is tearing up the landscape. And out of it is going to come something better, or newer or bigger.

MARGARET WASHINGTON: "As he died to make men holy, let us to make men free." This is a struggle between good and evil.

HARRY S. STOUT: You have to ask yourself the question that most people in the 19th century asked with great interest, "How do you think the world's going to end? What about everything we read in the Book of Revelation, where the forces of Christ and his followers mass against the forces of Antichrist?" All of these prophecies pointing towards the initiation of a new heaven and a new earth. For Protestants, this was as certain as July is warmer than December.

NARRATOR: Telegraphed reports from the battlefront confirmed Lincoln's worst fear. There would not be a swift and decisive conclusion to the war: 460 Union soldiers killed at Bull Run, 346 casualties at Rich Mountain, more than 2,000 at Wilson's Creek. Lincoln read them day and night.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN: I have been anxious and careful that the inevitable conflict for this purpose shall not degenerate into a violent and remorseless revolutionary struggle.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: He's saying, "Let's not do this. Let's not make it," you know, "the certainty Christians on one side and the certainty Christians on the other side killing each other over their certain views of God."

ABRAHAM LINCOLN: I have, therefore, in every case thought it proper to keep the integrity of the union prominent as the primary object of the contest on our part.

JOSHUA WOLF SHENK, Writer: You have widows and orphans coming to Lincoln constantly. They line up in the hallway. He has to pass through this crowd of visitors just to get from his living space to his office.

RONALD C. WHITE, Jr., Historian: As he recognizes the pain all around him and the cost not simply of the lives of these young men but to their wives, mothers, sweethearts- what this is going to mean for the future of the country?

NARRATOR: Lincoln toured hospitals and sat with the sick and wounded.

RANDALL M. MILLER, Historian: If things are supposed to be right, it should be that bad people suffer and die and good people triumph. But the war was demonstrating that death came to people regardless of whether they were good or bad.

ALLEN C. GUELZO, Historian: While Lincoln won't actually say, "I am responsible for this," he has a government, he has a war, he has a nation to whom he is responsible.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN: If Hell is not any worse than this, it has no terror for me.

NARRATOR: Then in February 1862, death visited the White House itself. Lincoln's third and favorite son, Willie, died of typhoid fever. He was just 11 years old. Lincoln found a measure of consolation in the eulogy delivered by a Presbyterian minister, Phineas Gurley, at Willie's funeral.

Rev. PHINEAS GURLEY: What we need in the hour of trial, and what we should seek by earnest prayer, is confidence in Him who sees the end from the beginning and doeth all things well. Let us acknowledge his hand and hear his voice and inquire after his will and seek his holy spirit as our counselor and guide, and all, in the end, will be well.

RONALD C. WHITE, Jr.: There's no facile explanation as to why Willie might be better off in heaven. There's none of that in this sermon. There's this recognition of the mystery of God's dealings, but there's also the affirmation of the comfort God at times of loss. The comfort is in a loving God, a God who cares for us.

NARRATOR: Lincoln asked for a copy of Reverend Gurley's eulogy.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN: "What we need in the hour of trial, and what we should seek by earnest prayer, is confidence in him who sees the end from the beginning and doeth all things well."

RONALD C. WHITE, Jr.: This sermon is a real pivotal moment in Lincoln's life. Your son has died. You listen to this sermon. This pastor comes into the White House and suggests to you that you need to trust in a loving God with personality, who acts in history.

NARRATOR: A few months after his son's death, Lincoln began to re-examine his relationship with God.

RONALD C. WHITE, Jr.: It was untitled and undated. It's on a little slip of paper, lined paper. This is something Lincoln never expected any of us to ever see. He was not about to publish this. This was his own private musing and reflection.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN: The will of God prevails.

ALLEN C. GUELZO: Lincoln is working out on paper his own problem, his own difficulty. This is Lincoln's own agony and sweat over the ultimate question, "What is the will of God in this crisis?"

ABRAHAM LINCOLN: In great contests, each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, one must be, wrong. God cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time. I am almost ready to say that this is probably true, that God wills this contest, and wills that it shall not end yet, by his mere quiet power on the minds of the now contestants, He could have either saved or destroyed the union without a human contest. Yet the contest began. And having begun, he could give the final victory to either side any day. Yet the contest proceeds.

JOSHUA WOLF SHENK: Lincoln is considering this epic and awful idea that the master of order and goodness is actually in favor, in some way, of the carnage and suffering because of some larger end. Lincoln's mind is turned towards that question, "Out of this affliction, what good might come?"

NARRATOR: Lincoln determined that he must act.

ALLEN C. GUELZO: There must be something new and novel that God is interjecting here. God is doing something new in this war. What could that new thing be? Ah! Emancipation!

NARRATOR: In September 1862, the president called his cabinet together. Southern troops had been defeated after a fierce battle at Antietam Creek. It was a divine signal, he said, for him to issue a proclamation abolishing slavery in the rebellious states.

ALLEN C. GUELZO: It was so astounding that one member of his Cabinet actually asked him to repeat himself because he was sure he hadn't heard it right.

NARRATOR: "God," Lincoln declared, "had decided this question in favor of the slaves."

RONALD C. WHITE, Jr., Historian: "I have been told by God to free these slaves."

ALLEN C. GUELZO: God has ceased to be this machinery, grinding and chopping. Instead, God has plunged himself into the flow of human events, to direct them in a very personal way. And it is to this God that Lincoln appeals.

NARRATOR: On January 1st, 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation into law, freeing slaves in the rebel states.

MARGARET WASHINGTON: "Jehovah has triumphed. His people are free." This was indeed the coming of the Lord.

DAVID W. BLIGHT, Yale University: This was a religious moment. This was a moment to be experienced in biblical time, in religious time, in spiritual time. It was an event for the soul.

NARRATOR: But Southern whites ignored Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. And in the North, racism prevailed. Many doubted whether black solders, now being enlisted, had the courage to fight.

The war dragged on and casualties mounted on both sides. At Chancellorsville, Virginia, more than 20,000 were killed or wounded in six days of combat. At Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, North and South suffered 50,000 casualties in just three days of battle. But Lincoln was resolute.

MARGARET WASHINGTON: "If we are right," says Lincoln, "and if what we are doing is good in the sight of God, then we have to carry it through to its fruition because in the process of making African-Americans free, we are freeing ourselves. And once we free ourselves, then we can begin again."

NARRATOR: The president articulated his new understanding of the war in November 1863 at the dedication of a cemetery for Union soldiers lost at Gettysburg.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN: We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

CYNTHIA LYNN LYERLY: Lincoln asks Americans who have suffered so much, and who are going to continue to suffer - he knows this - to re-conceptualize this massive death, like a minister might, to understand this in a theological way as redemptive bloodshed, like Christ's redemptive bloodshed. The sacrifice, is going to be for a new birth of freedom which will be for all citizens in America.

DAVID W. BLIGHT: He has changed the very aim and purpose of the war. He has given it this holy quality now. It is now for a redefinition of human freedom.

NARRATOR: It made no difference how long it might take and how many lives would be lost. Lincoln was determined the North must win.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN: We accepted this war for an object, a worthy object, and the war will end when that object is attained. Under God, I hope it never will until that time.

HARRY S. STOUT: How do you justify destroying farms? How do you justify bringing war upon the elderly, upon women, upon children with no defending army in sight? It requires a sort of withdrawal, where ultimately, it is not me who is orchestrating this but God.

NARRATOR: Lincoln found comfort in the story of Job in the Old Testament.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN: There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job, and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: It's a story about a man who has a special relationship with God, and all he seems to get is grief. And the question is why? You know, why doesn't God bring grief to the people who are out of relationship with God or the people whom God doesn't favor or the people whom God has not chosen? And the message seems to be that God's job wasn't to fix our world. It's our job to fix the world in the direction that we believe God is pushing it.

NARRATOR: After four grueling years of war and 600,000 dead, by the spring of 1865, the North had prevailed.

ALLEN C. GUELZO: "Aha," say many triumphalistic Northerners. "See? We were right, we of the North. We were right about our opposition to slavery. We were on the side of God. God has been directing us. We have been God's instrument in smiting and slaying the secessionist, slave-holding dragon."

NARRATOR: Thirty thousand people gathered at the Capitol expecting to hear their re-elected president celebrate a great victory for the North, a victory they felt had been guided by God's hand.

ALLEN C. GUELZO: "And now it's our turn to enjoy the fruits of being right and victorious."

NARRATOR: But Abraham Lincoln didn't feel triumphant. The war had been too brutal, and God's intentions too uncertain, for a righteous celebration.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN: Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes his aid against the other. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has his own purposes.

ALLEN C. GUELZO: Lincoln had no incentive, much less mandate, for talking about God in the second inaugural. If you look at the preceding 15 presidents' worth of inaugural addresses, God makes nothing more than a perfunctory appearance. All that changes with Lincoln's second inaugural.

NARRATOR: The war, Lincoln had come to believe, was God's punishment of the entire nation for 250 years of slavery.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN: Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's 250 years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, as was said 3,000 years ago, so still it must be said, the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: The second inaugural goes back to the first Americans, who understood they were in this relationship with God, where God would bless them if they did good and God would punish them if they did bad, and where they wouldn't really know what God exactly was doing and they would try their best to be on the side of God and righteousness and justice. And that's what he's expressing.

NARRATOR: The crowd was mostly silent throughout Lincoln's address until halfway through, when African-Americans in the audience began to repeat "Bless the Lord" after each sentence.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN: With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in.

FREDERICK DOUGLASS: A dreadful disaster has befallen the nation. I feel it as a personal as well as a national calamity.

NARRATOR: Lincoln was shot on Good Friday, six weeks after his second inaugural address. That Easter Sunday, Northern ministers eulogized their fallen leader.

RONALD C. WHITE, Jr.: Ministers, pastors, preachers across the land quickly began to interpret Lincoln's death. And they interpreted his death as, in Christian language, an atonement, that he had died for the nation's sins, that his blood was a kind of offering. He was almost the last casualty of the Civil War.

NARRATOR: "The grave cannot hold him, and he is risen!" a Boston minister declared. "He was the well beloved Son of God."

RANDALL M. MILLER, Historian: Lincoln's assassination acquired very rapidly religious meaning. Lincoln was now to be lifted up through the clouds by the angels to sit at the side of God.

NARRATOR: "Jesus Christ died for the world," a preacher in Hartford proclaimed. "Abraham Lincoln died for his country."

STEPHEN PROTHERO: God's righteous anger was called down upon the country. God sent this horrible conflagration to punish us for the sin of slavery. We deserve more punishment than we got, but Lincoln, like Christ, took the sin of slavery onto his own body and onto his own person.

FREDERICK DOUGLASS: It may be the blood of our beloved martyred President will be the salvation of our country. Though Abraham Lincoln dies, the Republic lives.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: From the very beginning, from the Puritans and the Pilgrims on, we're trying to figure out what the national religious story is, and Lincoln gives voice to that. He articulates our sense of chosen-ness, but he also articulates the fact that we have not achieved what we should have achieved. The freedoms that we should be manifesting are always out in front of us.

Part 4: A New Light

WRITTEN BY
Sarah Colt & Thomas Jennings

[The words spoken by the actors in this film are from transcripts, sermons and personal journals of the characters they portray.]

NARRATOR: For decades, Americans had been consumed with the battle over slavery, unmindful of profound changes taking place in their country.

CYNTHIA LYNN LYERLY: A lot of Americans are not paying close attention to the fact that we've got waves of immigrants coming, and they're not predominantly Protestant. They're Jewish, they're Catholic, and they're coming from Europe. And they're going to really fundamentally reshape the religious landscape.

NARRATOR: Five million immigrants had arrived on America's eastern shores between 1820 and 1860. Among them were thousands of Jews. America offered opportunity and freedom, but it also challenged an ancient faith. In many parts of Europe, authorities controlled Jewish life, restricting where Jews could live, prohibiting their ownership of land and limiting their interaction with non-Jews.

In America, Jews could settle where they wanted and partner in business with whomever they liked. Some even adopted the ways of gentiles, socializing and marrying them. Jewish leaders worried American Jews were losing their identity. "In the wilds of America," warned one, "you will forget your religion and your God."

JEFFREY S. GUROCK, Historian, Yeshiva University: There's a great desire to act and look and behave like the Protestant majority without abandoning their faith. And that's one of the critical crises for Jews, "If we must make changes in order for Judaism to survive, how far do we want to go?"

NARRATOR: This struggle would consume one young German Jew who settled in Albany, New York, in 1846. From the moment he took a job as a rabbi, Isaac Mayer Wise would embrace America's spirit of opportunity.

HASIA R. DINER, Historian, New York University: There's some question if he was ever actually ordained. From the American point of view, it made absolutely no difference, and he could be Rabbi with a capital R.

Rabbi LANCE J. SUSSMAN, Historian: He was a builder and a mover. It was a new country, and he was eager to jump into the fray and be part of that building process.

NARRATOR: Wise's synagogue was one of fewer than 40 Jewish congregations in the entire country. It was the spiritual home of peddlers and storekeepers.

JEFFREY S. GUROCK: They are poor. They're immigrants. And the Judaism that they brought with them from Europe is a traditional form of Judaism.

NARRATOR: Traditional Judaism requires strict adherence to ancient laws dictating how to pray, dress, and even what to eat.

JONATHAN D. SARNA, Historian, Brandeis University: Jews talk about commandments, and in traditional Judaism those mitzvot - those commandments - are actually more central in many ways than beliefs.

NARRATOR: In Albany, Wise was dismayed to discover that members of his congregation were working on the Sabbath, proof, he felt, that America's Jews were neglecting beliefs that were at the heart of their faith.

JEFFREY S. GUROCK: He sees American Judaism as a mess. It's poorly organized, very few leaders, and significantly, large numbers of Jews falling away from Jewish practice and tradition.

NARRATOR: Before leaving Germany, Wise had heard scholars call for reforms to traditional practice. Judaism, they believed, should change to fit a modern world. Wise came to believe that if Jews kept to the core tenets of the faith - fearing God, loving man and observing the Sabbath - then traditional laws governing everyday life were negotiable. And America could be the Promised Land, a perfect setting for reform.

HASIA R. DINER: American ideas were so powerful and so seductive and so welcoming that if they had to choose between Judaism without an American quality to it and America, they were going to opt for America. And so he saw reform as a way to preserve Judaism.

Rabbi ISAAC MAYER WISE: We are almost the first generation of Israel in America. We must prepare the future of our faith. There rests upon our shoulders the future development of Judaism in this country.

NARRATOR: According to Jewish tradition, men and women sit separately in synagogue and pray in Hebrew. Wise introduced a co-ed choir, and since few in his congregation understood Hebrew, he led prayers in English and German.

JEFFREY S. GUROCK: Wise wants to help them. He wants to create a ritual which combines many of the elements of the traditional faith of the past, but with some adjustments in terms of language, in terms of ritual, which will be appropriate for people becoming more Americanized.

NARRATOR: Many members of Wise's congregation charged that his efforts to modernize Judaism were diluting it.

Rabbi LANCE J. SUSSMAN, Historian: When he was criticized, he didn't say, "I'm sorry." He pushed harder. He pushed his line harder.

NARRATOR: After four years, Wise's critics had had enough of his reforming zeal. Just before Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, Wise was fired. But two days later, he showed up at the synagogue to conduct services anyway. When Wise reached for the Torah scrolls, the president of the congregation pushed him aside and punched him. A fight broke out, and the sheriff was called to the synagogue.

JEFFREY S. GUROCK: Who's in charge here? Is it the congregants who are in charge, or the rabbi? And this is not necessarily a Jewish story. It's an American religious story. Is the pastor in charge, or is the laity in charge?

NARRATOR: Undaunted, Wise held services the next day in the parlor of his house for those who welcomed his reforms.

HASIA R. DINER: You don't like it? You leave and you start your own congregation. Just as the United States seceded from England, you can start your own.

NARRATOR: No longer accountable to anyone, Wise's ambitions were unleashed. He traveled the East Coast raising money and spreading his vision of an American Reform Judaism. At Har Sinai in Baltimore, Wise promised a packed house that he would throw "bombshells" on orthodoxy.

Rabbi ISAAC MAYER WISE: I am a reformer as much as our age requires because I am convinced that none can stop the stream of time. None can check the swift wheels of the age.

Rabbi LANCE J. SUSSMAN: Wise believed that the direction in which Judaism was going and the direction that America was going in would ultimately converge, and that Reform Judaism would not only be the vanguard of Judaism, but it would be the religious vanguard of the United States itself.

NARRATOR: From the industrial cities of Buffalo and Detroit in the North, to small towns like Davenport in the Midwest and further South to Chattanooga, Wise traveled the country delivering the same call- America's Jews must unite.

Rabbi ISAAC MAYER WISE: The future greatness of Judaism in America depends upon the union of congregations. We must be united in form of worship in order to have no element of discord among us.

NARRATOR: In 1873, in Cincinnati, Wise founded the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, then started the Hebrew Union College to train America's first rabbis.

Rabbi ISAAC MAYER WISE: Those who believe that the Jewish citizens of this country will creep back into narrow Jewry, wear a long beard, veil the face and cover the hair of his wife, are horribly mistaken. That time has gone and happily will return no more.

NARRATOR: But many Jews, however, had no wish in unify nor any interest in Wise's reforms, and their numbers were growing. By the 1870s, thousands of conservative Jews from Eastern Europe were arriving every month. Traditional congregations were springing up, dedicated to bringing Jews back to the ancient faith.

JEFFREY S. GUROCK: Traditionalists say very simply that in America, we can make no real changes in the theological underpinnings or the basic ritual of Jewish tradition.

NARRATOR: They believed the laws laid out in the Torah, the core of the Jewish bible, were absolute and unchanging.

Rabbi LANCE J. SUSSMAN: If you believe that the Torah was divinely revealed to Moses, then you have no choice but to obey those commandments, those laws, those mitzvot. There's no room for negotiation.

NARRATOR: But Wise's ideas had caught on. By 1880, 90 percent of America's synagogues had adopted Reform Judaism.

On July 11, 1883, the moment he had dreamed of since coming to America arrived. The aging leader presided over the ordination of his college's first class of rabbis.

RABBI LANCE J. SUSSMAN, Historian: For decades, he had struggled to unite congregations, to create a rabbinic school. Now it's all working, and this is the great crowning moment.

NARRATOR: After the ordination, Wise hosted a dinner at Highland House, Cincinnati's most exclusive restaurant. Two hundred guests attended, including distinguished rabbis and scholars from across the country.

HASIA R. DINER: The first thing that the waiters bring out were littleneck clams.

Rabbi LANCE J. SUSSMAN: Littleneck clams, an American delicacy.

JEFFREY S. GUROCK: Clams are shellfish. Shellfish is biblically prohibited in the Torah.

Rabbi LANCE J. SUSSMAN: And then from there, they begin to roll out other things- shrimp-

JEFFREY S. GUROCK: Shrimp salad, same story.

Rabbi LANCE J. SUSSMAN: -beef that is in a cream sauce-

JEFFREY S. GUROCK: Milk and meat products together.

Rabbi LANCE J. SUSSMAN: -and lobster bisque.

HASIA R. DINER: From the start of the meal to the end, a kind of observant Jew's nightmare.

JEFFREY S. GUROCK: If you believe in those biblical traditions, it's God-given that there's certain animals you should not eat. And now they're serving us these foods. Very simple. This dinner is saying, "We have no concern about the biblical teaching."

HASIA R. DINER: They had to take it as a slap in the face to traditional Judaism. This man, who claimed to have given ordination to people who will be teachers and rabbis in America- it would have been a spit in the face.

NARRATOR: The Jewish Press called it the "Trefa Banquet," after the Hebrew word for un-kosher. "Princes and emperors have respected the laws which the strictly ritualistic Jew has to obey," observed one editorial, "and the liberal Israelites of Cincinnati could not do the same?"

Rabbi LANCE J. SUSSMAN: Those who opposed Wise and those who opposed Reform Judaism saw this as their moment, as a rallying call that Wise's union and Wise's college could not represent their religious goals.

JONATHAN D. SARNA: Wise's dream of union, of Jews coming together under one synagogue organization, with one seminary, that dream is shattered.

NARRATOR: Wise refused to apologize. His college, his practices, were the future.

Rabbi ISAAC MAYER WISE: I do not call it a sin to eat that which civilized people generally eat. There is no reference to food in the Ten Commandments. In religion only we are Jews. In all other respects, we are American citizens.

Rabbi LANCE J. SUSSMAN: He was a fighter. He didn't take criticism. "That's what you're going to criticize me about? I created a national structure for Judaism in this country. I have ordained competent rabbis. You're worried about shrimp?"

NARRATOR: After Wise's banquet, the split within American Judaism only widened. Reformers went one way, traditionalists another.

Rev. RANDALL BALMER, Professor of American Religious History: The attempt to have a unified Judaism as expressed in Reform Judaism ultimately collapses. There's something about the American context that seems to encourage particular expressions of the faith, rather than any one unified expression of the faith.

NARRATOR: America was modernizing, and all its religions would now have to confront a changing world.

CYNTHIA LYNN LYERLY, Historian: This conflict within Judaism - "Are we going to embrace modernity or are we going to reject modernity?" - that's happening in every religious group in America. They're all struggling with that question.

Rev. CHARLES AUGUSTUS BRIGGS: When a new light dawns from above, most men cling to the old and cannot believe any new light possible. But the world needs new views of the truth.

NARRATOR: In 1859, Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species shook old truths to the core. An intense debate renewed between reason and belief, and the center of the debate was in Berlin. And that is where Charles Augustus Briggs, a young Presbyterian minister from New York, had felt compelled to come.

MARK S. MASSA, S.J., Theologian, Boston College: He is somebody who's gifted intellectually and realizes that he wants to go to the place where, intellectually, it was all happening. And that place is Germany.

NARRATOR: Paleontologists and geologists had recently uncovered fossil records that showed life on earth was hundreds of millions of years old. Astronomers had conceptualized the creation of galaxies from swirling gasses.

And then there was Darwin. Published just seven years before Briggs arrived in Germany, Darwin's theory of evolution argued that life evolved through natural selection, not created by God as told in the Bible. Like most evangelicals, Briggs had been taught that the Bible contained the literal word of God.

MARK S. MASSA: Evangelical Protestants placed an extraordinary importance on what they called the perspicacity of Scripture- that is, that Scripture is self-evident, that the Bible means what it says and says what it means, and everyone, from the most illiterate farmer to the most literate college professor, could pick up the Bible and have God's word addressed to them directly.

CYNTHIA LYNN LYERLY: Scientists go, "Wait a minute. There's things that happen in the Bible that violate natural law, when time stops, when Jonah is swallowed by the whale." And a number of scientists say, "These things just couldn't have happened the way they're described in the Bible."

NARRATOR: For nearly 2,000 years, Christians had accepted that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible. Now scholars pointed out that Moses couldn't have been the author.

CYNTHIA LYNN LYERLY: The first five books were supposedly written by Moses, but Moses makes reference to his death. So if Moses didn't write those first five books, who did?

NARRATOR: And there were other inconsistencies. There were two accounts of God's creation of the world.

MARK S. MASSA: And the first account, which is in the first chapter of Genesis, took seven days, and the second account took one day.

NARRATOR: Had David actually written the Psalms?

MARK S. MASSA: David couldn't have written the Psalms because this Hebrew word didn't exist when David was writing the psalms, so David couldn't have used this word.

NARRATOR: Looking beyond these inconsistencies, Briggs probed more deeply into the text of the Bible. If, for instance, Jonah was not swallowed whole by a whale, what did God mean to teach with this story? Briggs still fervently believed the Bible was divinely inspired, but now he would argue the Bible and scientific reason could illuminate each other.

CYNTHIA LYNN LYERLY: Every word may not have come from God himself. That doesn't create a problem. That means I'm closer to the Truth, with a capital T, that God wanted me to get at, rather than farther away. So if you want to have a better understanding of God, then you have to incorporate these new truths.

Rev. CHARLES AUGUSTUS BRIGGS: I feel a different man from what I was a few months ago. The Bible is lit up with a new light.

NARRATOR: Just as Isaac Mayer Wise had been inspired by what he had learned in Europe, so Charles Briggs arrived back in New York inflamed by the ideas he had encountered in Berlin. But Briggs proceeded cautiously.

MARK S. MASSA: Like many very, very smart and talented people, Charles Briggs operated on two levels. Above the neck, I think he was deeply committed to spreading the new ideas about the Bible. Below the neck, in his heart, I think he remained a fairly conservative evangelical Protestant.

NARRATOR: He realized little had changed in America while he had been away. Most Protestants remained certain the Bible was the literal word of God. As a minister in New Jersey, he seldom spoke out about what he had learned. And when he joined the faculty at Union Theological Seminary in New York, he shared his ideas only with a close circle of colleagues. But Briggs grew increasingly frustrated by traditional ways of thinking.

Rev. CHARLES AUGUSTUS BRIGGS: The Bible has been treated as if it were a baby, to be wrapped in swaddling clothes, nursed, and carefully guarded lest it should be injured by heretics and skeptics.

NARRATOR: In January 1891, when he was appointed chair of the new Department of Biblical Theology and invited to give a public speech, Briggs decided his moment had arrived.

Rev. RANDALL BALMER, Barnard College, Columbia University: Briggs wanted to be intellectually honest. He wanted to talk about these new and big ideas that he had encountered and had become part of his understanding of the faith. And in the end, what he decides is to cut loose.

Rev. CHARLES AUGUSTUS BRIGGS: So far as I can see, there are errors in the Scriptures that no one has been able to explain away. Men cannot shut their eyes to truth and fact.

MARK S. MASSA: He laid out the idea that the Bible, like everything else, evolved and changed. The Bible had to be approached in parts, and interpreted to be understood what it meant.

Rev. CHARLES AUGUSTUS BRIGGS: Let the light shine higher and higher, the bright, clear light of day. Truth fears no light. Light chases error away.

CYNTHIA LYNN LYERLY: Briggs thought he was giving a calm, rational speech that would be persuasive to people, that would set out the case for why the traditional interpretation and reading of the Bible was not accurate, and how we had to make it more accurate.

Rev. CHARLES AUGUSTUS BRIGGS: True orthodoxy seeks the full blaze of the noontide sun. In the light of such a day, the unity of Christendom will be gained.

NARRATOR: When Briggs was finished, only his students applauded. Everyone else sat in silence.

STEPHEN PROTHERO, Professor of Religion, Boston University: In some ways, what was troubling about the speech for people was the content. But I think in other ways, it was the tone. It wasn't that he was looking at the Bible and saying, "I have this problem that," you know, "I don't think Moses really wrote the five books. I don't know what to do about that." It was more like, "Isn't this great? Like we're learning more and more about the Bible."

NARRATOR: Briggs had set off an ecclesiastical bomb.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: Anybody in America who cares about the Bible - which is to say, virtually everyone - is interested in this question. Is it necessary for Christians to believe that every sentence, every word in the Bible is true, or can we just believe that the Bible is divinely inspired?

NARRATOR: As far as the leaders of the Presbyterian Church were concerned, the Bible was God's word. Any other interpretation violated the core tenets of their faith. They charged Briggs with heresy. "The Christian Church," wrote one critic, "has no room for the likes of men who make out that the Holy Bible is full of errors."

For two years, the Presbyterian hierarchy wrangled over Briggs's future in a series of highly publicized trials. Finally, in May 1893, the church ruled in Briggs's case.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY: This General Assembly finds that Charles A. Briggs has uttered, taught and propagated views in violation of his ordination vow. This General Assembly does hereby suspend Charles A Briggs.

NARRATOR: Briggs lost his job, but he had started a revolution among American Protestants. "Probably no man," wrote The New York Times, "is doing more than Briggs is for the new construction of Christianity."

Briggs's trial was one in a series of upheavals within American churches. The theologian Borden Bowne was charged with showing a "lax view of Scripture" and put on trial by the Methodists. When Reverend Algernon Crapsey denied the Virgin birth, the Episcopalians convicted him of heresy.

Far from stopping new ideas from taking hold, the heresy trials only increased interest in them.

MARK S. MASSA: People had grown up believing that the Bible meant what it said and said what it meant, and suddenly, you had preachers and scholars from your own denomination saying, "Not so."

CYNTHIA LYNN LYERLY: A number of Christians say, "Finally! Whew! We do not have to accept the entire Bible as a book that has no errors in it. When our brain tells us that this story conflicts with this story, we can say, `Yes, the Bible is an imperfect document.' " These Christians feel liberated by embracing the modern. "We don't have to leave reason at the door when we go to worship."

NARRATOR: But for many Protestants, this new interpretation of the Bible threatened the nation's special relationship with God. Evangelical America would fight back.

William Jennings Bryan, a two-term congressman from Nebraska, believed that Protestant religion must be returned to the center of American life.

WILLIAM JENNINGS BRYAN: I would rather speak on religion than on politics. I offer no apology for speaking upon a religious theme, for it is the most universal of themes.

CYNTHIA LYNN LYERLY: Bryan is the most radical Christian politician of the late 19th century. I don't think anybody else, even up to our own time, has used the Bible and the kind of morality that he saw in the Bible as a basis for governing.

NARRATOR: Bryan hearkened back to a different America, the mostly rural America of his Illinois youth.

MICHAEL KAZIN, Historian, Georgetown University: In religious terms, he was evangelical and his theology was pretty conservative. He did believe that the Bible was literal truth.

RANDALL M. MILLER, Historian, St. Joseph's University: Bryan was an unabashed believer in the authority of the Bible. God acted in history, and God had a purpose in history that America had a purpose in history, and it was to be God's instrument.

NARRATOR: Bryan looked on in despair at what was happening to his country. By the 1890s, millions of Americans had migrated from farms and small towns to teeming cities.

RANDALL M. MILLER: The pace of work is different. The organization is going to be much more bureaucratic, much more impersonal. That sense of community isn't going to exist there.

NARRATOR: Between 1880 and 1900, nearly 10 million immigrants arrived in the United States.

RANDALL M. MILLER: Even the workers themselves are going to be different They're not going to be of the same religious background, the same ethnic background.

NARRATOR: Slums began to overflow. By the turn of the century, one in eight Americans lived in poverty.

RANDALL M. MILLER: Evangelical Protestants could look out and see a world that was rapidly changing, that needed explanation. There was a great introspection, and one could even say a kind of self-doubt, that was emerging. Are they losing their dominance, their place in what they thought was their special charge, this chosen nation, this redeemer nation?

NARRATOR: And William Jennings Bryan would lead the fight to restore America as a nation with a special relationship to God.

WILLIAM JENNINGS BRYAN: Jesus gave a new definition to love. His love was as wide as the sea. Its limits were so far-flung that even an enemy could not travel beyond its bounds.

NARRATOR: In 1896, Bryan became the Democratic Party's candidate for president. Criss-crossing the country, he campaigned furiously, accusing bankers and industrialists of controlling the government for their own interests, advocating for the farmer, the miner, the common man.

CYNTHIA LYNN LYERLY: His faith shaped the way he viewed policy. You lift up the weak. You take care of the oppressed. You cherish the poor.

NARRATOR: Bryan lost the election but gained a national reputation. He became a professional speaker, drawing huge crowds of adoring fans wherever he went.

MICHAEL KAZIN: He was often compared to a good preacher, using metaphors from the Bible, quoting directly from the King James Bible, and wove those lines into political messages. He had a really loyal following among evangelical Protestants, who saw him very much as their standard bearer, bringing to politics a much more Christian outlook.

NARRATOR: Bryan's message struck a chord with a growing number of Americans unhappy with the direction their country was headed. To some, the situation was so grave that the Apocalypse, as described in the book of Revelation, seemed close at hand.

CYNTHIA LYNN LYERLY: There's a number of Protestants who are thinking that America's covenant relationship with God is in peril. We're not progressing towards some Christian perfected state, that we're regressing, and that God will have to intervene.

NARRATOR: In 1914, the End Days seemed to have arrived in the form of the world's first modern war. Never before had so many been killed by human innovation and technology. Many believed the forces of modernity were to blame.

RANDALL M. MILLER: From the traditionalist point of view, this war was a demonstration of all that had gone wrong, and a warning because God, they believed, gives warnings. He visits his wrath upon the unrepentant people. The world seemed to be coming apart. How can we pull these things all back together?

NARRATOR: Some conservative Christians joined together under a new banner: America must be brought back into the embrace of God through a literal reading of the Bible. They called themselves fundamentalists.

CYNTHIA LYNN LYERLY: They take that name from this series of books called The Fundamentals. Fundamentalists believe that the Bible is the literal word of God and it has no errors in it. They believe in the virgin birth. They believe in Jesus' miracles. They believe that Christ died on the cross for all of humanity's sins.

MICHAEL KAZIN: More and more conservative Protestants are beginning to call themselves fundamentalists, based themselves on a general sense that if we give away the truth of the Bible, we are giving away what's most important about being Christian.

WILLIAM JENNINGS BRYAN: Man must be brought back to God, to a belief in the Bible as the Word of God, and to a love of Christ as the Son of God.

NARRATOR: In 1921, fundamentalists secured a powerful new ally.

STEPHEN PROTHERO, Professor of Religion: Bryan wants to defend traditional Christianity. He wants to defend fundamentalism against the onslaught of modernity because he believes that if the modernists win in the fundamentalist-modernist controversy that Christianity is going to go under, and then American society will go under with it.

NARRATOR: Nothing posed a greater threat, Bryan and the fundamentalists believed, than Darwin's theory of evolution, which undermined the idea that humans were God's special creation.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: Darwin represents a really important challenge because Darwin says we can make sense of the most basic piece of human existence, like where did we come from, without any recourse to God.

HASIA R. DINER, New York University: A core religious belief was that human beings were the crown of creation. And in very American terms, the American was also the crown of creation. But now, reading these accounts of Darwin, one couldn't say that any longer. Darwinism undermined the notion of what it means to be an American.

NARRATOR: With Bryan leading the charge, fundamentalists launched a nationwide campaign to ban the teaching of evolution in America's schools.

WILLIAM JENNINGS BRYAN: I object to Darwinian theory because I fear we shall lose the consciousness of God's presence in our daily life if we must accept the theory that through all the ages, no spiritual force has touched the life of man.

NARRATOR: The opening battle between fundamentalists and liberal Christians would take place in Tennessee in July 1925. The small town of Dayton was the backdrop for what reporters dubbed the "trial of the century."

RADIO ANNOUNCER: For the next few weeks, the forces of science will be arrayed against the performance of religious fundamentalism.

NARRATOR: Two months earlier, a young biology teacher named John Scopes had been arrested after defying a new state law that banned Darwin from the classroom.

RADIO ANNOUNCER: To Dayton to conduct the prosecution came he of the silver tongue, William Jennings Bryan, three times-

NARRATOR: Bryan came to Dayton to prosecute Scopes and, he hoped, to defeat Darwinism once and for all.

RADIO ANNOUNCER: Opposing Bryan before the awed local gentry was America's most dazzling criminal lawyer, Clarence Darrow.

NARRATOR: Clarence Darrow, a lawyer from Chicago famous for his advocacy of free speech and workers' rights, agreed to defend Scopes.

EDWARD J. LARSON, Historian, Pepperdine University: He opposed the idea of fundamentalist religious law-making, basing modern laws on old scripture. And he viewed the Scopes trial as a prime opportunity, to expose the folly of doing so, and therefore undermine religious law-making.

NARRATOR: And Darrow had the support of many liberal Christians, who saw nothing incompatible between Darwinism and religion.

CYNTHIA LYNN LYERLY: Science is something they can embrace because science shows us how brilliant God was, and how amazing this world he made is. So they're not threatened by Darwin. Liberal Christians feel like America's going to be set back. You know, the rest of the world is moving forward. Why should American children not have the received wisdom of science?

NARRATOR: The Rhea County Courthouse in Dayton would be where Darrow would put fundamentalist Christianity on trial.

CYNTHIA LYNN LYERLY: If Darrow can bring Bryan down, he can make significant inroads into knocking down fundamentalism.

NARRATOR: People from across the country streamed into town to be part of what became known as the "Monkey Trial." Big city reporters descended from New York, Chicago and Baltimore. Radio station WGN would broadcast the proceedings live nationwide.

RADIO ANNOUNCER: As the world waited, hundreds jammed the courtroom to see if man's intelligence and belief could be controlled by law.

Rev. RANDALL BALMER, Barnard College, Columbia University: All of America is transfixed by this confrontation. What was at stake was, for many people, the integrity of the Bible.

RADIO ANNOUNCER: Calico and coveralls packed the courtroom to protect the faith against the foreigners and find out what this new evolution was all about.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: The question is about authority. And the question is whether religion, Bible, God have authority, or whether reason, humans, science have authority.

NARRATOR: As was customary in Tennessee courtrooms, a local preacher opened the trial with a prayer. "We come this morning, our Divine Father," the preacher intoned, "that we may seek from thee that wisdom to so transact the business of this court." Every day, there would be a new prayer. Every day, Clarence Darrow would object. Every day, the judge overruled him.

When Darrow moved to have the indictment against Scopes thrown out, declaring that religious liberty must be defended, the judge rejected the motion. Darrow's strategy centered on calling expert witnesses who could testify on the meaning of evolution and its compatibility with the creation story in the Bible.

MICHAEL KAZIN: Darrow had wanted to put a whole array of scientists on the stand to testify about Darwinism, about evolution- a lot of whom, by the way, were liberal Christians. They didn't want agnostic, atheist scientists. They wanted Christian scientists who would say you could be a Christian and believe in evolution at the same time.

NARRATOR: But once again, the judge appeared to be on Bryan's side and refused to allow Darrow's experts to testify. The defense seemed in tatters and the trial appeared over. But Darrow had one more card to play. He asked permission to call an expert witness on the Bible.

CYNTHIA LYNN LYERLY: He proposes that since William Jennings Bryan, who has been for the last what, decade, out there as the public spokesman of fundamentalism. Surely no one knows the Bible better than the Great Commoner. Let's put Bryan on the stand.

NARRATOR: The judge was reluctant, but Bryan insisted that he was happy to take the stand. And the "Monkey Trial" took a dramatic turn.

CYNTHIA LYNN LYERLY: Bryan knows the Bible. He's studied it all his life. He's read it a bunch of times. Darrow's going to ask him questions about the Bible. What could be easier than that?

CLARENCE DARROW: You've given considerable study to the Bible, haven't you, Mr. Bryan.

WILLIAM JENNINGS BRYAN: Yes, sir. I've tried to.

CLARENCE DARROW: Do you claim that everything in the Bible should be literally interpreted?

WILLIAM JENNINGS BRYAN: I believe everything in the Bible should be accepted as is given there.

CLARENCE DARROW: When you read that Jonah swallowed the whale - or that the whale swallowed Jonah - excuse me, please - how do you literally interpret that?

WILLIAM JENNINGS BRYAN: I believe it.

CLARENCE DARROW: You believe the big fish was made to swallow Jonah?

WILLIAM JENNINGS BRYAN: I'm not prepared to say that. The Bible merely says it was done.

CLARENCE DARROW: You don't know whether it was the ordinary run of fish or made for that purpose?

WILLIAM JENNINGS BRYAN: You may guess. You evolutionists guess.

CLARENCE DARROW: But do you believe he made them, that he made the fish, and it was big enough to swallow Jonah?

WILLIAM JENNINGS BRYAN: Yes, sir. And let me add, one miracle is just as easy to believe as another.

CLARENCE DARROW: It is for you. Does the statement "The morning and the evening were the first day" and "The morning and the evening were the second day" mean anything to you?

WILLIAM JENNINGS BRYAN: I do not think it necessarily means a 24-hour day.

CLARENCE DARROW: You do not?

WILLIAM JENNINGS BRYAN: No.

CLARENCE DARROW: Then when the Bible said, for instance, "And God called the firmament heaven, and the evening and the morning were the second day," that does not necessarily mean 24 hours?

WILLIAM JENNINGS BRYAN: I do not think it necessarily does.

CYNTHIA LYNN LYERLY: If you believe, as fundamentalists purport to believe, that the Bible is the literal truth and every word in it is true, then a day has to be a 24-hour day, or now you're doing what the liberal Christians are doing, which is saying, "Oh, a day doesn't mean a day. A day is a metaphor for something."

CLARENCE DARROW: Do you think it does or not?

WILLIAM JENNINGS BRYAN: I do not think it does.

MICHAEL KAZIN: Bryan was a very worldly Christian, but he was being asked questions one would ask of a theologian, someone who really had been involved in debates about how you- how you defend, you know, specific passages in Christianity. He'd never done that.

CLARENCE DARROW: You think these were not literal days?

WILLIAM JENNINGS BRYAN: I believe in creation as there told, and if I am not able to explain it, I will accept it.

CLARENCE DARROW: The creation might have been going on for a very long time?

WILLIAM JENNINGS BRYAN: It might have continued for millions of years. I think I can shorten this testimony. The only purpose Mr. Darrow has is to slur at the Bible, but I will answer his questions. I will answer it all at once, and I have no objection in the world. I want the world to know that this man, who does not believe in God, is trying to use a court in Tennessee-

CLARENCE DARROW: I object to that!

WILLIAM JENNINGS BRYAN: -to slur at it. And while it requires time, I am willing to take it.

CLARENCE DARROW: I object to your statement. I am examining you on your fool ideas that no intelligent Christian on earth believes!

NARRATOR: The judge had heard enough and adjourned the court.

Darrow was mobbed by supporters. Reporters rushed out to file stories about the epic confrontation. Most declared Darrow the clear winner. But the next day, the judge had Bryan's testimony erased from the record.

John Scopes was found guilty. Teaching evolution remained illegal in Tennessee and in several other states. But in the court of public opinion, the outcome of the Scopes trial was quite different.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: The way the media played it out, it was this huge defeat for the rural, stupid, country bumpkin kind of fundamentalism. This is old-fashioned, ancient religion that's not suitable for the modern world.

Rev. RANDALL M. MILLER: The whole world has now seen not just the ignorance but the stupidity of the so-called fundamentalists, represented by William Jennings Bryan. How could any intelligent person believe in this kind of stuff?

NARRATOR: Clearly upset by his role in the trial, Bryan threw himself into preparing for an upcoming speaking tour. He would use the publicity of the "monkey trial," he said, to continue the national crusade against evolution and the threat posed by science.

WILLIAM JENNINGS BRYAN: Can any Christian remain indifferent? Science is a magnificent material force, but it is not a teacher of morality. If civilization is to be saved from the wreckage threatened by intelligence not consecrated by love, it must be saved by the moral code of the meek and lowly Nazarene.

NARRATOR: But William Jennings Bryan never embarked on his planned speaking tour. Less than a week after the Scopes trial ended, he died in his sleep.

With their national spokesman now gone, fundamentalists decided to abandon Bryan's public crusade.

EDWARD J. LARSON: The Scopes trial was such a visible repudiation of the fundamentalists by the mainstream media and mainstream culture that there was a sense that, "Our ideas are no longer welcome. Rather than participating in the larger society, we should build our own subculture."

CYNTHIA LYNN LYERLY: The great divide in America in the 19th century was about slavery. Scopes marks a different religious divide, between people who believe in a literal and traditional reading of their sacred texts, and people who don't, between the fundamentalists on the one hand, and the modernizers on the other.

NARRATOR: America's journey into the modern era had forced its people to view their relationship with God in a different light.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: You have this sort of wedge that's pushing us, where we're forced to identify ourselves not so much as Jews or as Catholics or as Protestants or as Presbyterians or as Baptists, but as conservative or modernist religious people.

NARRATOR: The divide between liberals and conservatives, between modernists and traditionalists, would come to dominate American religious life.

Part 5: Soul of a Nation

NARRATOR: In decades following World War II, America would grapple with a question as old as the nation itself, the relationship between religion and politics.

STEPHEN PROTHERO, Professor of Religion, Boston University: I think we've always had a flirtation between religion and politics in American life, from the very beginning, from even before the founding of the republic. But what you get after World War II is really a marriage between the two, where religion and politics are going to be closer and closer intertwined.

NARRATOR: During the economic and political upheavals of the 1930s and '40s, the American religious landscape had shifted. Church attendance had slowed during the years of the Great Depression. The end of World War II promised a return to normalcy. But the jubilation was short-lived. The cold war with the Soviet Union ushered in a new age of anxiety.

As it confronted communism, America would undergo a religious revival. Faith would be linked with patriotism, launching an epic struggle over the nation's political and religious identity.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: What's at stake is the religious narrative of America. How central is religion to the American story? And what is the story that integrates religion and American politics? That's very much up for grabs.

NARRATOR: In the fall of 1949, Billy Graham, a little known preacher who would become a primary engine of America's cold war religious revival, took his crusade to Los Angeles.

GRANT WACKER, Professor of Christian History, Duke University: When he went to Los Angeles, he had just come from a couple of meetings that by his own judgment were unsuccessful. He had been in Baltimore. He had been in Altoona, Pennsylvania. And these revival meetings, at best, represented mixed success. And in his own mind, he questioned his own vocation as an evangelist.

NARRATOR: In Los Angeles, Graham staged his revival in a tent in the heart of downtown, unsure how many people would come to hear his message.

Rev. BILLY GRAHAM: Now today in America, we find that people are more concerned with things than they are with the things of God! They are more concerned with pleasure, more concerned with money, more concerned with the things of life than they are the things of almighty God!

STEPHEN PROTHERO: He's looking at L.A. and he's saying, you know, this is like Sin City, right? This is the place of, you know, prostitution and the place of drunkenness and the place of fantasy in terms of Hollywood, right? And we need to turn this around.

NARRATOR: Just as the Los Angeles crusade began, came news that stunned the nation.

FRANK LAMBERT, Historian, Purdue University: Much sooner than Americans had thought possible, the Soviet Union tested successfully an atomic bomb, and now the world was on the brink of a nuclear holocaust and Americans were filled with fear. School kids had drills, getting under their desk in the event of a, of an atomic attack. People built atomic shelters. I mean, this was something that was real, and it heightened this sense that we need to turn back to God.

Rev. BILLY GRAHAM: I believe this sincerely, from the depths of my heart-

NARRATOR: In the Soviet threat, Graham found a powerful new religious message.

Rev. BILLY GRAHAM: Every time I've been to Europe, I've been more conscious than ever before that unless the Western world has an old-fashioned revival, we are done for! We cannot last! We cannot stand the tremendous strain and stress of future days in our battle with Communism unless we have a spiritual revival!

FRANK LAMBERT: He framed the cold war as a moral conflict. It is evil versus good. It is godless communism versus a God-fearing America.

Rev. BILLY GRAHAM: I believe today that the battle is between communism and Christianity! And I believe the only way that we're going to win that battle is for America to turn back to God and back to Christ and back to the Bible at this hour! We need a revival!

NARRATOR: Graham's message caught the attention of media baron William Randolph Hearst, a staunch anti-communist.

Rev. RANDALL BALMER, Prof. of American Religious History: Hearst likes Graham's anti-Communist rhetoric, and he instructs his newspapers to "Puff Graham," two of the most famous words in all of American religious history. And this really rockets Graham onto the national stage.

GRANT WACKER: Within a matter of days, stories were carried in Life magazine, Look magazine, Time. And the story went around the world.

FRANK LAMBERT: If you look at the rise of Billy Graham in the 1950s, it's the rise that one usually thinks of in relation to pop music stars. His ascendancy was akin to that of the Beatles.

EDWARD R. MURROW, CBS News: ["Person to Person"] Now, at 37, Billy Graham is the most famous evangelist in the world, and his power of persuasion has softened skeptics who used to call him "the hot gospeller from the Bible Belt," "the Barrymore of the Bible." In between his long tours, Billy Graham goes home for a few days of seclusion with his wife, Ruth, and their four children.

Rev. BILLY GRAHAM: Over here, Bunny. Ed, this is Bunny over here to my left. Would you say hello to Mr. Murrow?

BUNNY GRAHAM: Hello, Mr. Murrow.

EDWARD R. MURROW: Hello, Bunny.

FRANK LAMBERT: He becomes a spokesperson for the national culture in a way that blends Christianity and patriotism in an appealing way for a lot of people.

NARRATOR: As Graham became a national celebrity, he tried to expand the appeal of his religious revival by building relationships with those in political power.

Rev. RANDALL BALMER: In the 1952 campaign, it somehow emerged that Dwight Eisenhower himself had never been baptized, and he was confronted with this in the course of the campaign. And his response was something to the effect that, "Well, I've been pretty busy lately. As soon as things settle down, I'll get around to it."

SARAH BARRINGER GORDON, Historian of Law & Religion: Graham advised him, "You know, you really should settle on a denomination," and the two of them had conversation back and forth. Mamie Eisenhower had been a Presbyterian, and Graham eventually said, "You know, Presbyterian- great denomination. Why don't you think about becoming a Presbyterian?" And within two weeks of being sworn in as president, Dwight Eisenhower was baptized, confirmed and became a communicant of the Presbyterian church.

Rev. RANDALL BALMER: Graham thought that if he could convert certain well-known individuals, that that would have a greater effect in terms of bringing others into the Kingdom. That would make the Gospel more palatable to others.

NARRATOR: As president, Eisenhower invoked faith as a weapon against communism, just as Billy Graham had done.

Pres. DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER: It seems to me if we're going to win this fight, we have got to go back to the very fundamentals of all things. And one of them is that we are a religious people. Even those among us who are so- in my opinion, so silly as to doubt the existence of an Almighty, we are still members of a religious civilization.

PHILIP GOFF, Ctr. for Study of Religion and American Culture: You see it in the language of Dwight D. Eisenhower and in the language of Billy Graham, this sense that religion is a sign of democracy. And they marry the two. Very clearly, Eisenhower comes out and says that democracy is, in fact, a public expression, basically, of a deeply felt religion.

And he made a number of appeals to people to attend church. He made clear it doesn't matter which one. That's not important. It's just go to a worship service of whatever faith you are. This was not without effect. By 1960, as he leaves office, church membership in the United States stood at 65 percent. It has never been that high before.

SARAH BARRINGTON GORDON: It was at the New York Avenue Presbyterian church that Eisenhower heard a sermon on adding the words "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance, and from that day forward became an advocate of including the new words. After Eisenhower got behind it, after it got some publicity, the public was so overwhelmingly in favor.

NEWSREEL ANNOUNCER: President Eisenhower arrives at the Post Office Department in Washington for the debut of the stamp, first to proclaim "In God We Trust."

FRANK LAMBERT: It was in that environment, with this cold war, that Congress decided that "In God We Trust" should be the new motto, reclaiming this notion that we're a chosen people and that we were conceived under God and that we flourish under God, and we turn our backs on God at our own peril.

NARRATOR: Nothing demonstrated America's merging of faith and patriotism and the strength of its religious revival more than Billy Graham's 1957 crusade in New York City.

Rev. BILLY GRAHAM: There's a quiet little voice in your heart that says you better give your life to Christ. Now is the time. That is the voice of-

NARRATOR: Graham booked Madison Square Garden for a six-week campaign. Night after night, the seats were packed and the crusade was extended. It would last more than three months.

Rev. BILLY GRAHAM: I ask you to give your life to Christ now, tonight, while there's time! The Bible says now is the accepted time, and all the way through the Bible, it's an urgent business, this business of coming to Christ! I'm going to ask you to come and receive him right now. What are you going to do?

FRANK LAMBERT: Billy Graham was primarily interested in saving individuals. The way you save the nation is to save individuals one at a time. And if all Americans would become born-again Christians, from the Billy Graham perspective, then you would have a righteous society.

["The Decade of Decision"]

MAN AT COCKTAIL PARTY: It's a well-organized campaign, all right, real saturation.

NARRATOR: Graham produced a film dramatizing his message that even sophisticated New Yorkers needed to "come to Christ."

WOMAN AT COCKTAIL PARTY: I read somewhere they're using 2,000 or 3,000 voices in just the chorus.

Rev. RANDALL BALMER, Prof. of American Religious History: Graham was especially interested in the people who are at the upper echelons of society, particularly in terms of their cultural influence.

MAN AT COCKTAIL PARTY: Well, I think we ought to have an opinion from our charming hostess. Mrs. Foster, what do you think of this crusade business? Well, honey?

Mrs. FOSTER: Well, all of your comments sound so familiar. But last night, I went to the Garden. I knew I'd been groping for something, but I didn't know what it was until Mr. Graham began to speak. As he talked, I had a strange feeling of need.

Rev. BILLY GRAHAM: Night after night, I've asked people to bring their Bibles. I hope that many of you brought your Bibles tonight.

NARRATOR: In New York, Graham preached in Times Square, on Wall Street and, in the crusade's biggest event, before a record-breaking crowd of over 100,000 at Yankee Stadium. That night, the cold war embrace between American religion and American politics was on full display as Graham shared his pulpit with Vice President Richard Nixon.

Vice Pres. RICHARD NIXON: One of the most basic reasons for America progress in the past and for our strength today is that from the time of our foundation, we have had a deep and abiding faith in God.

Rev. RANDALL BALMER: Nixon in 1957, of course, is already thinking about the 1960 presidential campaign. So for Nixon, this was a very, very powerful moment, being aligned with none other than Billy Graham.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: You have preachers who draw on politics and politicians who are using religion for their own public policy reasons. And so the sort of wall of separation of church and state that has been around as an option is going to be gradually, gradually whittled away in this period.

Rev. BILLY GRAHAM: And I would say to our international problems that the principles of Christ form the only ideology hot enough to stop communism! When communism conquers a nation, it makes every man a slave! When Christianity conquers a nation, it makes every man a king! And it is my prayer-

NARRATOR: But as this cold war convergence of faith and patriotism pervaded the country, some Americans saw it as a threat to their freedom. One of those dissenting voices came from a non-religious family deep in the American heartland, in Champaign, Illinois.

JAMES TERRY McCOLLUM: Champaign was a pretty conservative community at the time. And as a matter of fact, at that time, atheism was equated with communism. So you just didn't be an atheist in those days, or let people know.

NARRATOR: Beginning in the 1940s, Champaign public school students were encouraged to attend classes in religious instruction, led by a member of their faith, on school grounds. If they chose not to, they were left to study alone in an empty room, like 5th grader Terry McCollum.

TERRY McCOLLUM: We would go to the- what was called the music room with a teacher, the regular public school teacher, while the class was going on. And there was a time when the teacher set me out in the hall at a desk, which was usually for detention purposes. Of course, I was there alone, and I didn't take to that too hot. And my mother heard about it. She got rather incensed about it. My mother was not somebody who was looking for a fight, but you didn't mess with her, either.

NARRATOR: Vashti McCollum, a self-described humanist, thought the religious classes program violated her son's rights.

TERRY McCOLLUM: She went to see the superintendent of schools and told him she objected to the program and that she felt it was illegal, and that it was impacting badly on her son and that it should be discontinued. Well, the school board, of course, was very much in favor of the program, so there was nothing that the superintendent could do about it.

NARRATOR: Vashti McCollum sued the school board.

[newspaper headline: "Sue to stop city schools' Bible hour"]

NARRATOR: In the local Illinois court, she argued it was unconstitutional for public schools to impose religion on anyone.

[newspaper headlines: "Atheist loses court fight against school," "Religion declared needed in school"]

NARRATOR: She lost the case, then appealed to the state supreme court, where she lost again. And local hostility toward her family grew.

TERRY McCOLLUM: Well, we had a cat that was lynched. We had things thrown at the house. My mother answered the door one time and was deluged in a shower of garbage. We got some really juicy hate mail. We had a letter that was addressed simply to "That Atheist Woman," no address, and the Postal Service delivered it.

NARRATOR: The case eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court, where the Justices overturned the Illinois courts and ruled for the McCollums. The 8-to-1 decision invoked Thomas Jefferson's interpretation that the 1st Amendment erected a "wall of separation" between church and state.

SARAH BARRINGER GORDON, University of Pennsylvania: The court said that it was unconstitutional to use the machinery of the public school, to use the property of the public school to enforce religious educational ideals of the parents or of the children's denomination. It certainly was appropriate for a child to get a religious education, but not for the government to be providing it on public school property.

TERRY McCOLLUM: There was a lot of hostility to that ruling, a lot of hostility. One publication said little Terry McCollum now has the right to go to hell. So I don't think, at that time, it liberalized anything, except for the law.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: The Supreme Court is saying, you know, "This may not fit with the American narrative, with the American mythology about this as a nation ordained by God, but in terms of 1st Amendment protections for minorities, that atheists have the same protections that other minorities have."

NARRATOR: It would take a series of Supreme Court rulings over several years to more fully define the role of religion in the public schools.

TEACHER: I shall read Psalm 111. "Praise the Lord. I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart"-

STEPHEN PROTHERO, Boston University: Schools have always been a place where we inculcated this religious sensibility and where we made the connection between Christianity and morality and citizenship. Especially after World War II, in the cold war, with the specter of the communist, the atheistic communists, it became really important to do religion in the public schools and not teach about religion, not world religions courses, or you know, objective Bible courses, but to pray.

STUDENTS: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name-

NARRATOR: The decisive battle over school prayer began in a New York suburb after the state recommended an official non-denominational prayer for school children to recite.

BRUCE DIERENFIELD, Historian, Canisius College: The New York State Board of Regents convened a group of ministers, priests and rabbis to prepare a prayer at the height of the cold war. And this prayer was going to inoculate children against communism, atheism.

SCHOOL CHILDREN: Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon thee and we beg thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers, and our country. Amen.

BRUCE DIERENFIELD: Nobody questioned it. Twenty-two words- who could object to that?

NARRATOR: But opposition to the prayer did surface among several Jewish families who had recently moved to Long Island.

BRUCE DIERENFIELD: The real crux of the matter came down to one particular elementary school that most Jews went to.

LAWRENCE ROTH, Parent: My immediate reaction was that the state and the school board had no right to impose religion or prayers on the school children.

BRUCE DIERENFIELD: Lawrence Roth learned that his children, Dan and Joe, were forced to say prayers, that there was a statue of Jesus in one of the classrooms. He said, "I didn't bring our family out here to endure this."

NARRATOR: Roth recruited dozens of parents who also objected to the prayer, and ultimately, five families sued the school district.

BRUCE DIERENFIELD: The issue for all of them was fundamentally that to be an American means that you don't have to be subjected to religious ideas and practices sponsored by the state that you find objectionable.

NARRATOR: In court, attorneys for the parents and for the school district argued the true meaning of the 1st Amendment, arguments they restaged for CBS news cameras.

WILLIAM BUTLER, Attorney for Parents: We come here in the spirit of Madison and Jefferson, in the conviction, the deep conviction that the religious liberty not only of our clients but of all Americas lies in the principle of law set forth in the 1st Amendment to the Constitution, which says that Congress shall make now law respecting an establishment of religion or preventing the free exercise thereof.

BERTRAM DAIKER, Attorney for School District: The intention at that time was to prevent the establishment of a state church, or a national church. It was not in any way intended to interfere with the religious freedoms of all of our people.

NARRATOR: In the local court, the school district won its case, and then won again in the New York state appeals courts. But when the case reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 1962, the Justices ruled 6 to 1 for the parents, banning prayer in public schools nationwide.

SARAH BARRINGER GORDON, Legal scholar, University of Pennsylvania: The Supreme Court said the government simply cannot be in the business of providing religion. This was ground-level constitutional decision-making affecting the way public schools across the country design education for their students. So this was- this was a massive change.

Rep. FRANK BECKER (R), New York: I think that this decision is most deplorable. It is tragic. I think that June 25, 1962, will go down as the blackest day in the history of the United States.

SARAH BARRINGTON GORDON: The school prayer decision was in its day the most unpopular decision the Supreme Court had ever made.

Sen. JAMES EASTLAND (D), Mississippi: You know, it's a terrible thing to say that you can't have prayer in the schools of this country. Isn't the number one- one the of number one objectives of atheistic communism the destruction of the religious and spiritual life of this country?

Rev. BILLY GRAHAM: I think there's a tremendous resentment. And I think that if a vote were taken in the United States, it would go 80 percent, it would be overwhelming to have prayer and Bible reading in the schools.

NARRATOR: After the ruling, the Long Island families were harassed and ostracized

BRUCE DIERENFIELD: The Roths got thousands of hate phone calls in one week. There were fistfights. There was even, at one point, a cross burning with gasoline rags near the Roths' car that nearly blew up the car and maybe the home. It was just a stunning display of hatred. It's one thing to say you believe in a principle, it's another thing to put your lives and your family on the line. And not many people do that.

NARRATOR: As the legal battles over separation of church and state were being waged, the most important social reform movement of the 20th century was putting religious faith at the center of its political aspirations.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: The Civil Rights movement had as its goal to get rid of segregation. This was a political goal, but it was advanced very much through religious means. The whole thing had the feel of religion about it. It had the feel of a revival or a religious crusade. It was moving forward under the direction of people who understood the biblical prophetic tradition of calling out injustice and unrighteousness in the name of God.

NARRATOR: At the heart of the movement was the black church, which had sustained African-Americans since slavery.

Rev. RICHARD LISCHER, Prof. of Preaching, Duke Divinity School: The black church has always worked for spiritual enhancement and growth on the weekends and political up-building and improvement during the week.

CLAYBORNE CARSON, Historian, Stanford University: Black ministers saw that they needed to interpret the message of Christianity to have some special meaning for those who are poor and oppressed minorities.

NARRATOR: In 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, Martin Luther King, Jr., descended from generations of preachers, took his first job as pastor of the city's oldest black church.

ANDREW YOUNG, Aide to Martin Luther King, Jr.: He chose to go to Montgomery because he wanted a little, quiet church where he could finish his doctoral dissertation. And lo and behold, as soon as he sends in his doctoral dissertation, Rosa Parks sits down on the bus.

CLAYBORNE CARSON: Rosa Parks sets him on a different course, that once she takes her action of refusing to give up her seat on the Montgomery bus, a movement starts. And he's selected to lead it.

NARRATOR: As the new leader of the bus boycott, King gave his first Civil Rights speech in a packed Montgomery church. Just 26 years old, he laid out the central ideas that would define the movement, merging biblical principles with the ideals of democracy.

Rev. MARTIN LUTHER KING, Jr.: We are not wrong in what we are doing! If we are wrong, the Supreme Court of this nation is wrong! If we are wrong, the Constitution of the United States is wrong! If we are wrong, God Almighty is wrong!

FRANKLIN LAMBERT: Martin Luther King saw America's founding documents as giving a voice, giving expression to fundamental biblical principles of justice and peace and equality. We're all equal before God, says the Bible. All men are created equal, says the Declaration of Independence. And so Martin Luther King is saying, "Let's take that seriously."

NARRATOR: The bus boycott challenged the power structure in Montgomery. At their home on South Jackson Street, King and his family endured death threats that shook his resolve.

Rev. RICHARD LISCHER: In the middle of the night, he receives a threatening telephone call. The call says, "We're going to hurt your family, so you better just get out of town."

CLAYBORNE CARSON: And he's sitting alone in the kitchen, and his wife and child are in the bedroom. And he is wondering, you know, "Why did I do this? Why did I accept this role?"

Rev. MARTIN LUTHER KING, Jr.: Lord, I must confess that I'm weak now. I'm faltering. I'm losing my courage!

NARRATOR: King later recounted how he sat alone in his kitchen and prayed.

Rev. MARTIN LUTHER KING, Jr.: And it seemed at that moment that I could hear an inner voice saying to me, "Martin Luther, stand up for righteousness! Stand up for justice.! And lo, I heard the voice of Jesus saying still to fight on! He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone, no, never alone!

CLAYBORNE CARSON: And it's at that point he had that sense that God was with him in the struggle. And once he had goes through that crisis, I think he's really at peace with whatever is going to happen.

NARRATOR: Just three days later, King's house was bombed.

ANDREW YOUNG: They just barely missed his baby daughter. Coretta had just taken her back to the kitchen to get her some milk. She was 3 weeks old or something like that.

NARRATOR: After the bombing, a crowd of supporters gathered outside, eager for revenge.

ANDREW YOUNG: All of the men had been to the war, and they came to Martin's house with their guns. And he had read Gandhi by that time, and he said, "We've got to find another way to change America without violence." And he sent them home with their guns.

Rev. MARTIN LUTHER KING, Jr.: We still have the attitude of love. We still have the method passive resistance. And we are still insisting emphatically that violence is self-defeating, that he who lives by the sword will perish by the sword.

NARRATOR: A year later, the Supreme Court declared that Montgomery's segregated buses were illegal, a victory for King's strategy of non-violent resistance.

ANDREW YOUNG: You began to see a way to change America without destroying America that allowed us to exercise our religion, our faith, and our fight for freedom.

NARRATOR: As the Civil Rights movement linked faith with political change, the candidacy of John Kennedy in the 1960 presidential campaign reignited the struggle over the separation of church and state.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: As recently as 1960, we still had this fear of Catholics in America. You had this specter of Vatican takeover of American society that people have been worried about in American history for hundreds of years before even Kennedy emerged.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: Up until Kennedy, all the presidents were Protestant. This had been a Protestant country. We wouldn't have said it that way, but it was.

GRANT WACKER, Professor of Christian History: This was a historic Protestant fear, that a Catholic president could not possibly be uncompromised in relation to the Vatican.

QUESTION: You would be divided between two loyalties, to your church and to your state, if you were to be elected president?

Sen. JOHN F. KENNEDY (D-MA), Presidential Candidate: Let me just say that I would not. I have sworn to uphold the Constitution in the 14 years I've been in Congress, in the years I was in the service. The Constitution provides in the 1st Amendment that Congress shall make no laws abridging the freedom of religion. I must say I believe in it. I think it's the only way that this country can go ahead.

NARRATOR: The prospect of a Catholic in the White House alarmed Protestant supporters of Kennedy's opponent, Richard Nixon, who was closely allied with Billy Graham.

Rev. RANDALL BALMER, Barnard College, Columbia University: Richard Nixon, who Graham thinks is an exemplar of Protestant values, Christian values. Graham is very concerned about the prospect of a Roman Catholic in the White House, and he resolves to do something about it. But he's cagey enough to remain on the sidelines.

NARRATOR: As the fall campaign began, Billy Graham wrote to Kennedy, assuring the candidate that rumors Graham might raise the religious issue were not true.

Rev. RANDALL BALMER: It was a very cordial, congenial letter, as you might imagine. Eight days later, Billy Graham convenes a meeting of American Protestant ministers in Montreux, Switzerland, for the purpose of discussing how they could ensure that John Kennedy would not be elected in November.

NARRATOR: Behind the scenes, Graham wrote Nixon about the meeting and the group's plans, but he would keep his own role private and not speak publicly on the Catholic issue.

Rev. RANDALL BALMER: Just after Labor Day, there was another gathering of Protestant clergy in Washington, D.C., at the Mayflower Hotel. Billy Graham was not there. It was a closed-door meeting. The purpose of the gathering was to sound the alarm that, "We think it is dangerous to elect a Roman Catholic as president of the United States."

NARRATOR: In Houston, Texas, before 300 Protestant ministers, Kennedy confronted the issue head on, clarifying his views on church and state.

Sen. JOHN F. KENNEDY: So it is apparently necessary for me to state once again not what kind of church I believe in, for that should be important only to me, but what kind of America I believe in. I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president, should he be Catholic, how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote.

Rev. RANDALL BALMER: After Kennedy's election, of course, Graham wants to maintain his access to power, and in particular, to the presidency. So there's a meeting that is arranged between the two of them before Kennedy even takes office. So Graham already is trying to make inroads into the Kennedy administration, even though he had worked very hard to derail Kennedy's election in 1960.

NARRATOR: While Billy Graham pursued an insider's relationship with political power, Martin Luther King took a very different stance. King would remain the outsider, keeping his distance from the White House even as he pressured the new president to act on Civil Rights.

CLAYBORNE CARSON, Historian, Stanford University: Kennedy, at this time, does not have a strong commitment to Civil Rights reform. Kennedy is concerned about the cold war and other kinds of issues. That's where his priority is. So he wants to keep the Civil Rights issue on the back burner.

NARRATOR: In 1963, in Birmingham, Alabama, King would launch waves of protests in the hope that images of aggressive police action might arouse the conscience of the nation and its president.

[newspaper headline: "Billy Graham urges restraint in sit-ins"]

NARRATOR: Billy Graham called for restraint, saying King should "put the brakes on." When King himself was arrested for marching without a permit, white religious leaders in Birmingham denounced him.

FRANKLIN LAMBERT, Historian, Purdue University: Fellow men of God are calling for him to back away. He's creating more problems. He's disturbing the peace. He is bringing woes to the South. They saw that as ungodly. And Martin Luther King was appalled.

ANDREW YOUNG: So he started writing this letter from the Birmingham jail. He wrote it around the margins of The New York Times, and when he ran out of space, he wrote on toilet tissue.

CLAYBORNE CARSON, Stanford University: The letter itself is a response to the challenge of white ministers in Birmingham, who had said, you know, "Why are you coming? Why are you causing trouble in our city?" So he has to respond to that because they're challenging him as a Christian minister and saying that, "What you're doing doesn't seem very Christian to me."

NARRATOR: In his letter, later published in The Atlantic Monthly, King said he was preaching "the gospel of freedom" and challenged the complacency of his fellow ministers.

Rev. RICHARD LISCHER, Duke Divinity School: He goes on to question the good faith of the religious leaders in the churches who are so critical of his movement. He says, "I drive by their churches with their perfectly manicured front lawns, and I ask myself who is their God?"

FRANK LAMBERT: How can someone who professes to worship a God and a savior who saw all people as being equal, who created all people equal, a Christ who died for all people- how could these servants of that God and of that Christ do anything other than join in the fight for Civil Rights?

NARRATOR: The Birmingham campaign grew more violent, and King's followers would find their own faith severely tested. Memories of those moments remain vivid today.

ANDREW YOUNG: When we go about two blocks from the jail, the police had blocked the street with the dogs and the fire trucks. When we got there, they said, "You can't go to the jail." And so everybody got down on their knees and started praying.

And when people are in that kind of situation, it's not a verbal prayer, it's more a moan. And when the emotional, scared, religious people start moaning, something happens. And something happened not only to us but to the police.

And somebody jumped up. A lady said, "God is with this movement. We're going on to the jail." And we started walking directly at the police and the dogs. And all of a sudden, the dogs weren't barking, and we started singing, "I want Jesus to walk with me." And when you get through and you looked back, you saw all of these fire trucks blocking the street. And some good little sister hollered, "Great God Almighty done parted the Red Sea one more time!"

NARRATOR: But the images of Birmingham police attacking young demonstrators with dogs and fire hoses had shocked the nation and built a momentum for change that would finally lead President Kennedy to propose a landmark Civil Rights bill.

Pres. JOHN F. KENNEDY: It is better to settle these matters in the courts than on the streets. And new laws are needed at every level. But law alone cannot make men see right. We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the Scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution.

CLAYBORNE CARSON: Kennedy says, "It's an issue as old as the Scriptures," and as old as this nation, you know, in terms of the principles underlying it. Now, that's precisely what King has been saying, is that this is an issue that has to do with basic American values that have not been realized.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: Throughout American history, the main story that we've gravitated toward has been the Exodus story, a people on the march with God by their side. And we've told it to ourselves as Puritans coming over to New England, as Mormons heading west across the mountains. And it was that story that really sustained the Civil Rights movement.

Rep. JOHN LEWIS (D-GA), Civil Rights Leader: Slavery was our Egypt. Segregation was our Egypt. Discrimination was our Egypt. And so during the height of the Civil Rights movement, it was not unusual for people to be singing, "Go down Moses, way on down in Egypt land, and tell old Pharaoh to let my people go." And people identify with that.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: And I think part of what gave the Civil Rights movement power was the idea that the story of the Bible didn't end when the Bible ends. It's still going on now. The same activity of this God who wants freedom for his creation is inspiring Martin Luther King, just as it inspired Moses.

Rev. MARTIN LUTHER KING, Jr.: When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.

NARRATOR: In his speech at the 1963 march on Washington, King assumed the mantle of an Old Testament prophet, indicting his country for failing to live up to its founding principles.

Rev. MARTIN LUTHER KING, Jr.: Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."

RICHARD LISCHER: Suddenly, he turns and moves away from his manuscript, almost rolls his eyes toward the heavens and says, "But I still have a dream."

Rev. MARTIN LUTHER KING, Jr.: I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream.

RICHARD LISCHER: From then, the speech takes on an entirely different character. The judgmental prophet, the Jeremiah, gives way to the visionary who sees a better day.

Rev. MARTIN LUTHER KING, Jr.: When we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we're free at last!

ANDREW YOUNG: The "I have a dream" was sort of like Lincoln's "Of the people, by the people, for the people." It was our Declaration of Independence, our declaration of freedom, and our Gettysburg address.

NARRATOR: The march on Washington and the passage of Kennedy's Civil Rights bill, pushed through Congress by President Lyndon Johnson, were triumphs for the Civil Rights movement. But the next year, when they pressed Johnson for new guarantees for the right to vote, they met resistance.

ANDREW YOUNG: Lyndon Johnson explained to us why we couldn't have a Voting Rights Act, and he was very apologetic about his powerlessness as president.

NARRATOR: The movement would once again decide to challenge the conscience of a president.

SELMA POLICE OFFICER: It will be detrimental to your safety to continue this march. Go home or go to your church. This march will not continue.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: The power of the Civil Rights movement and of King, and of the strategy of non-violent civil disobedience, was that it assumed that the opponents knew in their hearts that they were wrong. And it's the sort of the God in you that knows it's wrong.

ANDREW YOUNG: The next thing you know, Lyndon Johnson was introducing a voting rights bill with the words, "And we shall overcome." And so you saw that this was a government of the people and the people had the power, not the president. You had the feeling that you were being used by forces that you had no control over. And all you had to do was let go and let God.

Rev. RANDALL BALMER: What I find remarkable about Martin Luther King is that he was willing to cooperate with politicians, most significantly with Lyndon Johnson. And yet King was able to maintain his distance, his prophetic distance, from power and from the lures of power.

NARRATOR: King put his relationship with Johnson at risk, directly confronting the president on Vietnam.

Rev. MARTIN LUTHER KING, Jr.: -to oppose that abominable, evil, unjust war in Vietnam!

RICHARD LISCHER: It's one thing to be a popular prophet or an inside prophet, where you have instant access to the halls of power, you can have lunch or tea with Lyndon Baines Johnson whenever it's convenient. But in his opposition to the war in Vietnam, he became an outside prophet, like Jeremiah throwing pebbles from the outside.

Rev. MARTIN LUTHER KING, Jr.: And don't let anybody make you think that God chose America as his divine messianic force to be a sort of policeman of the whole world. God has a way of standing before the nations with judgment, and seems that I can hear God saying to America, "You are too arrogant, and if you don't change your ways, I will rise up and break the backbone of your power!"

RICHARD LISCHER: He knowingly and willingly burnt his bridges to the source of power in the United States. And he did so because, as he said, "I am a minister of the gospel, and I must tell that truth."

Rev. RANDALL BALMER, Barnard College/Columbia University: And I take that as an illustration of King's ability to use the political system, but not to allow himself or to allow the faith to become co-opted by politicians, to become corrupted by access to the councils of power.

NARRATOR: By the end of his life, Martin Luther King had fully embraced his role as political outsider and uncompromising American prophet.

Rev. MARTIN LUTHER KING, Jr.: Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now because I've been to the mountaintop. I don't mind.

RICHARD LISCHER: He had never spoken with such power and never articulated this vision with such a depth of feeling as he did on the night before he died.

Rev. MARTIN LUTHER KING, Jr.: I just want to do God's will. And he's allowed me to go up to the mountain, and I've looked over and I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land!

ANDREW YOUNG: His death was not the end, and his words and his spirit have moved all across the earth. It points to the fact that this is a religious universe. Most people, particularly most educated Americans, get uncomfortable when their emotions and their spirituality get the best of their intellect. But there are times when intellect can't handle it.

The truly religious moments in our Civil Rights movement didn't make any intellectual sense. Nobody in their right mind would do some of the things that we did, but we did it because we were caught up in a spirit.

FRANK LAMBERT: By the late '60s, religion has changed in America. What we see is a movement from emphasis of personal salvation to a social gospel. And that comes primarily from the Civil Rights movement. They have refused to accept the gospel as simply a message of personal redemption.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: This is a period where religion is pushing us, changing us as individuals, but also pushing us and changing us as a society. The public space, the political and social space, is sort of ripe for religious harvesting. The success of the Civil Rights movement is going to move people to say, "Let's use religion in the political space in the direction that we want to go," sort of a big, green light, in a way, to the conjoining together of religion and politics in American life.

Part 6: Of God and Caesar

NARRATOR: As religion and politics were becoming more closely linked in the decades after World War II, one religious group stood apart. They were conservative Protestants, evangelicals and fundamentalists who had felt scorned by the big city press during the infamous Scopes evolution trial.

Rev. RANDALL BALMER, Professor of American Religious History: Ever since the Scopes trial in 1925, America's evangelicals have really retreated from the larger society. And they constructed this vast, elaborate network of institutions to essentially protect them from the larger society.

STEPHEN PROTHERO, Professor of Religion, Boston University: They're operating their own churches, mostly white, many of them in the South. They're operating their own Bible colleges, which are actually very important institutions where young people can go and get an education very much in the evangelical Christian idiom. They're not seeking public power, they're seeking sort of to be left alone and to do their own thing.

Rev. RANDALL BALMER: Many evangelicals were not even registered to vote because politics is dirty and unseemly. "And besides, Jesus is coming back at any time to get us out of this mess, so why should we worry about the temporal order." That was a very, very real sentiment among America's evangelicals for the middle decades of the 20th century.

This was an alternate universe within the larger American culture. It was possible, and I can attest to this personally, to grow up within that world, within that subculture and have very, very little commerce with anyone outside of that world.

NARRATOR: One of those conservative evangelical enclaves was the Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Rev. JERRY FALWELL: Good morning. I'm Jerry Falwell, pastor here, and it's a real joy every Sunday morning over this station at this time to share with you our morning worship service. Isn't it grand to be a Christian?

Rev. RANDALL BALMER: Jerry Falwell, throughout his career, up until the late 1970s, is resolutely apolitical. He delivers a famous sermon in 1965 called "Of Ministers and Marchers" in which he says it's the duty of ministers simply to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, not to become involved in Civil Rights reforms, not to become involved in anti-communism or anything else.

NARRATOR: Falwell's associate pastor at Thomas Road Baptist was Ed Dobson.

Rev. ED DOBSON, Moral Majority executive, 1979-'87: Jerry Falwell was anti-political involvement at that time. As I recall, he had spoken against Martin Luther King, Jr., and the marching, though he was against discrimination. But he just felt that Christians had, quote, "a higher calling," and that higher calling was to preach the Bible and love people.

Rev. PAT ROBERTSON, Christian Broadcasting Network: Jesus said render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God what's God's.

NARRATOR: Pat Robertson was another young conservative televangelist who had rejected political engagement.

Rev. PAT ROBERTSON: The big thing that we as evangelicals had to consider was our allegiance was to Jesus Christ. We represented eternity. We weren't- we couldn't give our wholehearted allegiance to any particular political figure, however holy or righteous he might have been, because these are temporal things and we were dealing with eternal things.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: Evangelicals saw the United States as a Christian country the United States, established by Christians as a project of God. And all of a sudden, the '60s happened.

Rev. PAT ROBERTSON: The secular forces in our nation had invaded the province of the church. We had the Vietnam war and the student rebellion and hippies and flower children and lots of drugs. And so what the evangelicals were essentially saying, "We don't want you imposing your values on us. We don't want you taking our children away from us and imposing on them a secular worldview that is contrary to what we believe as Christians."

NARRATOR: The threat of a more secular America would eventually drive conservative evangelicals out of their isolation and back into politics. The intellectual catalyst for that change was Francis Schaeffer, an American fundamentalist theologian working in Switzerland.

FRANK SCHAEFFER, Francis Schaeffer's Son: Dad was a pastor, had pastorate of several small churches in the States, and really was a very obscure, marginal figure. No one knew about him. He was just another guy going off to Europe, in his case, to work with young people, and founded L'Abri Fellowship at a little chalet on the edge of the Swiss Alps.

And essentially, the mission was a place that opened the doors to young people who would come through and ask this American pastor questions about meaning and faith and the Bible and all these things. And then it grew from there, until Dad was an internationally known evangelical leader and writing books. And I would look across the dining table and see Billy Graham, or you know, Gerald Ford's kids, or whoever it might be.

Rev. RANDALL BALMER: Francis Schaeffer was this kind of funny-looking guy with long hair and a goatee and wearing knickers and kneesocks, and so forth. And he was for many evangelicals, especially the younger generation, kind of the embodiment of the counterculture. When I was in college at an evangelical school in the early 1970s, Francis Schaeffer's works were kind of all the rage. And he would visit occasionally these various schools and give lectures, speak in chapel, and so forth.

Rev. FRANCIS SCHAEFFER: Christianity is intellectually viable. Christianity is intellectually salable to our generation. Christianity covers the whole spectrum of life. You need never be ashamed of it.

Rev. RANDALL BALMER: Schaeffer discovers that he'd really garnered quite an audience among American evangelicals, and he begins to try to propagate his ideas a little bit further. With his son Frank, they produce a couple of film series, shown particularly with evangelical audiences. And his foil was always secular humanism.

Rev. FRANCIS SCHAEFFER: The consensus of our society no longer rests upon a Christian basis but upon a humanistic one. Humanism is man putting himself at the center of all things, rather than the creator God. Having rejected God, the humanist-

Rev. RANDALL BALMER: Once you surrender to humanism, he would argue, then all values in society would be up for grabs and we'd have moral decay.

NARRATOR: The event that would propel Schaeffer and evangelicals into political action was the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. But at first, it was the Catholic church that led the opposition.

AMY SULLIVAN, Time Magazine: It was Catholic leaders more than evangelical leaders at the beginning who were most concerned about Roe v. Wade. In fact, Pat Robertson kind of famously said after the decision was issued that it wasn't necessarily a big concern of his. And there were Southern Baptist leaders who said that they didn't necessarily have a problem with the decision.

NARRATOR: Francis Schaeffer also resisted taking up the cause until, his son says, he persuaded his father to join the fight.

FRANK SCHAEFFER: I said to Dad, "Let's really make a stand on it, like the Roman Catholics are doing, and really get out there and tell people we've got to do something about it." That was the beginning.

NARRATOR: In his next film series, Schaeffer joined the abortion resistance with a direct call to evangelicals to get back into politics.

Rev. FRANCIS SCHAEFFER: If in these last decades of the 20th century the Christian community does not make a determined stand on the issue of each individual to have a right to live and a right to be treated as made in the image of God, rather than as a machine, I believe we have failed in the greatest moral challenge of this century. The choice is yours to make.

Rev. RANDALL BALMER: Francis Schaeffer makes the case that not only should evangelicals consider entering into the political arena, but they have an obligation to do so.

FRANK SCHAEFER: Dad is the one who talked Jerry Falwell personally into taking a stand on abortion. Before that, Jerry Falwell said, "That's a Catholic Issue. It's nothing to do with us. Why would I want to take a stand on that? I'm just a preacher. I want to talk about the gospel."

Rev. JERRY FALWELL: Abortion is not a Roman Catholic issue, it is a moral issue.

NARRATOR: In 1978, Falwell delivered his first sermon condemning abortion.

Rev. JERRY FALWELL: -an issue that concerns the human rights of unborn babies who by the hundreds of thousands are being murdered in these United States of America.

NARRATOR: In Washington, Francis Schaeffer brought his anti-abortion message to conservative Republican leaders.

FRANK SCHAEFFER: Dad was very persuasive, and the word began to spread. But then we also made some converts to our cause who were in positions of influence- for instance, Congressman Jack Kemp, who then invited us back to the Republican Club in an evening hosted by him and Bob Dole. And then soon after that, Dad met with Ronald Reagan and talked about this. They began to see it as a way to win elections. We began to see winning elections as a way to make our country a better moral place.

E.J. DIONNE, The Washington Post: A lot of smart conservatives realized that with the rise of issues like abortion and school prayer, there were all these evangelical Christians kind of on the loose in politics. They were historically Democratic, a lot of them, but a lot of them were quite conservative. And so they set out to organize them. And they found Jerry Falwell.

NARRATOR: In the summer of 1979, Falwell, at the urging of conservative operatives, launched a political organization he called the Moral Majority to bring evangelicals back into national politics.

Rev. ED DOBSON, Moral Majority Executive 1979-'87: We were desperate to have our voice heard and concluded that one way to get it heard was to register a bunch of people who had never registered and encourage them to vote. The idea was we need to, quote, "save the country."

Rev. JERRY FALWELL: I'd like to say there is no Bible Belt in America. There's a Bible cloak in America that covers the whole blooming republic, and they're everywhere ready for the leadership preachers that you and I can offer them, and let's give it to them!

NARRATOR: In only a year, Moral Majority had organized in 47 states, aiming to mobilize 10 million evangelical voters for the next election. In his 1980 campaign, Ronald Reagan set out to capture their votes.

E.J. DIONNE: You know, it's fascinating because Reagan was not particularly church-going himself. But I think as a very smart politician, he understood this movement as having great potential.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: That's what's funny about Reagan. You have these sort of great champions of religion in American life, like Dwight Eisenhower, you know, who really is seen as a big figure behind the religious revival of the 1950s, and Reagan behind this political push in the 1980s. But neither was particularly religious.

NARRATOR: During the campaign, Reagan arranged to speak at an evangelical convention, where he made a dramatic gesture.

RONALD REAGAN, Presidential Candidate: Now, I know this is a non-partisan gathering, and so I know that you can't endorse me. But I only brought that up because I want you to know that I endorse you and what you're doing.

Rev. ED DOBSON: We had been on the fringes of the culture. Evangelicals were considered obscurantist, sweat-drenched Appalachian hillbillies. And for someone running for president to affirm us was very significant. I think evangelicals, once that was said, lined up behind Reagan en masse.

PRAYER: -going to put this man into office because he says all this in Jesus' name. Amen.

ROBERT SHRUM, Democratic Political Strategist: Reagan- embracing the Christian right helped him immensely in 1980 against Carter. I mean, look, the economy was in terrible shape. The hostages were in Iran. Carter was going to lose. But this was a piece that came into the Reagan coalition and helped turn that election into a virtual landslide.

Pres. RONALD REAGAN: -preserve, protect and defend-

WARREN BURGER, Chief Justice: -the Constitution of the United States-

Pres. RONALD REAGAN: -the Constitution of the United States-

Chief Justice WARREN BURGER: -so help me God.

Pres. RONALD REAGAN: -so help me God.

Chief Justice WARREN BURGER: May I congratulate you, sir.

Rev. ED DOBSON: I remember when Ronald Reagan became president. And that afternoon, I noticed Falwell all alone and he was listening to the radio. And he kept saying, "I can't believe it. They're giving us credit for electing Ronald Reagan." And I think he was partly shocked and partly thrilled.

NARRATOR: In Reagan's Washington, one of the key lobbyists for the evangelical movement was Richard Cizik.

Rev. RICHARD CIZIK, National Evangelical Assn., 1980-2008: What I had previously seen as the irrelevance of American evangelicals all of a sudden turned, and they became relevant. These folk, who had previously considered politics dirty and not worth soiling their hands over, moved into the center of the debate.

Pres. RONALD REAGAN: Let me thank you, first of all, for that ad. But more than that, I know what you've been doing yourself on the radio and everything else in support of us, and I really want to tell you how grateful I am.

NARRATOR: To the evangelicals, Reagan seemed ready to put their social agenda into action.

Pres. RONALD REAGAN: Our positive stance on family and children is consistent with our heartfelt convictions on the issue of abortion. Here again, we are not jut against an evil. We are not just anti-abortion. We are pro-life. In the meantime, we in government will see to it that not one tax dollar goes to encouraging any woman to snuff out the life of her unborn child.

NARRATOR: In the campaign, Reagan had advocated a constitutional amendment banning abortion. And in office, he proposed an amendment to reinstate prayer in public schools.

Rev. JERRY FALWELL: The president just gave to us the final wording of the constitutional amendment regarding voluntary prayer in public schools.

Pres. RONALD REAGAN: No one will ever convince me that a moment of voluntary payer will harm a child or threaten a school or a state. But I think it can strengthen our faith in a creator who alone has the power to bless America.

Rev. JERRY FALWELL: I don't know what a human being could do more rapidly and more intelligently and more accurately, and in keeping with his promises, than Ronald Reagan has done. I give him A-plus on everything.

Rev. RICHARD CIZIK: And it was heady stuff. I attended those Rose Garden meetings with the president and the briefings in the White House and the rest and saw how the evangelicals had soaked up their newfound relevance. Unfortunately, with it came the arrogance that "We're right and everybody else is wrong."

Rev. RANDALL BALMER: I think a lot of Americans coming out of the 1980 election were wondering what had happened. Here you have this new political force that is making itself felt in American society, in American politics, and so Americans generally were quite anxious about what was going on with the religious right.

NARRATOR: In 1983, Senator Ted Kennedy came to Jerry Falwell's Liberty Baptist College to articulate that anxiety and to caution evangelicals about the dangers of allowing religious faith to dictate the actions of government.

Sen. TED KENNEDY (D), Massachusetts: The separation of church and state can sometimes be frustrating for women and men of religious faith. They may be tempted to misuse government in order to impose a value which they cannot persuade others to accept. But once we succumb to that temptation, we step onto a slippery slope where everyone's freedom is at risk.

ROBERT SHRUM: I went with Ted Kennedy to Liberty Baptist, and the argument he made there was, number one, that you could not in essence excommunicate people from the public dialogue because you disagreed with them on the basis of religion. And number two, that you couldn't take every tenet of your religion, or even major tenets of your religion, and necessarily demand that they be written into public law, especially when there was no consensus about that.

NARRATOR: The same year Senator Kennedy warned evangelicals, President Reagan seemed to tighten his rhetorical embrace of them.

Pres. RONALD REAGAN: In the book of John is the promise we all go by, tells us that for God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life. With his message and with your conviction and commitment, we can still move mountains. We can work to reach our dreams and make to America a shining city on a hill.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: With this "shining city on a hill," Reagan is really going back to the very origins of American colonialism, the British colonies, and this sermon on the Arabella that was given by the first governor of Massachusetts, where he said America will be a city on a hill. We're going to be this place that, across from Europe, they will look and they will see, "Yeah, that's how we want our society to be."

And Reagan picked up on that. And with his great sort of California, American optimistic ebullience, he added the word "shining," shining city on a hill. We won't just be the city on a hill, but we'll be the shining city on the hill. And so in that rhetoric, you get the sense of sort of religion, Bible, Puritans, tradition, that this is a religious place.

Rev. RANDALL BALMER: Reagan was a master of political symbolism. So when Falwell hears "city on a hill," what he hears is that this is going to be a Christian nation. We're going to try to propagate this Christian vision of politics and religion not only in America, but more broadly throughout the world.

NARRATOR: Evangelicals felt empowered by the support of the Reagan administration, and they intensified their critique of what they saw as moral decay in American society.

Rev. JAMES ROBISON, Televangelist: After all, if we can just keep getting more of our men to have sex with more men, we won't have to worry about babies being born! And if we can just get more women to get out there in the marketplace and start acting like men, and if we can just get other women to look at motherhood as though it is some dread terminal illness, if we can just get society so drunk and so drugged, if ever anybody does get pregnant, then we can abort the baby! That's where we are!

NARRATOR: But other American evangelicals thought that the religious right had it wrong.

Rev. JIM WALLIS, Founder, Sojourners: The evangelical movement has been hijacked by a cabal of television preachers and far-right political operatives in a right-wing political cause that bears no resemblance to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let's take it back.

NARRATOR: Rev. Jim Wallis had created a liberal evangelical movement focused on issues of peace and social justice.

Rev. JIM WALLIS: People felt like the religious right had just taken over the country. And this is so political and so partisan and it is so much aimed at gaining political power, a lot of folks were saying, "Wait a minute. I'm a person of faith, too, and they don't speak for me."

PROTESTERS: Moral Majority, we say no! Right wing has got to go!

NARRATOR: As the religious right seemed at the height of its power, their heated rhetoric and a series of scandals involving prominent televangelists set off a backlash.

PROTESTERS: Falwell is America's ayatollah!

Rev. JERRY FALWELL: You say, "Well, I believe in freedom of choice." I do, too, but you ought to make the choice before you get in bed.

Rev. RANDALL BALMER: Jerry Falwell thrived on being disliked to some degree. I think he enjoyed that sort of thing. He liked being at the center of controversy, and he knew how to stir it up.

Rev. JERRY FALWELL: That's OK!

NARRATOR: By the late 1980s, Jerry Falwell's crusade was faltering. Public opinion polls showed that his popularity had fallen dramatically.

Rev. RANDALL BALMER: And you'll find Reagan late in his administration trying to put some distance between himself and Falwell, and some of the other leaders of the religious right, because some of the things that they had done didn't look very good in the eyes of many Americans.

NARRATOR: And many evangelicals felt let down by President Reagan, believing he had never used his full political clout to push their social agenda.

Rev. RICHARD CIZIK: Ronald Reagan knew how to please evangelicals without giving them anything in return. Major constitutional amendments went nowhere. And the White House gave lip service to these. I know. I heard the lip service all the time. But not really. They wouldn't spend the president's capital to go to Capitol Hill and lobby legislators on behalf of these ideas, not really.

Rev. ED DOBSON: What did Reagan do for us in eight years of office? He gave us credibility, and he ultimately did nothing in terms of our long-term agendas.

NARRATOR: In the wake of the Reagan years, Jerry Falwell would disband the Moral Majority.

Rev. JERRY FALWELL: I will not be stumping for candidates again. I will never work for a candidate as I did for Ronald Reagan. I am now rededicating my life to the preaching of the Gospel.

NARRATOR: The torch of evangelical political engagement was picked up by Pat Robertson. His Christian Coalition took a different course, focusing not on presidential politics but on organizing evangelicals at the grass roots level. Robertson installed Ralph Reed, a young political operative, to lead the effort.

Rev. RANDALL BALMER: Reed's approach to political activism, unlike that of Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority, was to work from the level of school board elections, the so-called stealth candidates who would be typically members of an evangelical congregation or a mega-church, or something of that sort, and rely on the votes from the evangelical grass roots.

PHONE BANK CALLER: Hello, Mr. Glasson. My name is Jackie, and I am with Christian Coalition, calling to thank you so much for all you've done for us and to let you know that Pat Robertson and Ralph Reed really appreciate you.

RALPH REED, Exec. Dir., Christian Coalition, 1989-'97: Religiously devout Christians are somewhere between 25 and 30 percent of the electorate. And I thought if we could figure out a way, by organizing them and mobilizing them and training them and deploying them and activating them, so that their influence and effectiveness was even proportional to their numbers, we would transform American politics.

Rev. RANDALL BALMER: It was very effective. Thousands of school boards across the country had conservative fundamentalist religious right majorities in the 1990s because of Ralph Reed and Christian Coalition.

NARRATOR: In 2000, the presidential campaign brought evangelicals new hope for success in national politics.

AMY SULLIVAN, Time Magazine: For many Evangelical voters, George W. Bush was the candidate they had been waiting for, in that he brought together the right conservative stance on issues that mattered to them, but he also had the evangelical identity.

Gov. GEORGE W. BUSH, Presidential Candidate: When you turn your heart and your life over to Christ, accept Christ as a savior, it changes your heart. It changes your life. And that's what happened to me.

AMY SULLIVAN: And so instead of having another Ronald Reagan, for example, who was a conservative but not necessarily personally religious, they finally had somebody who could share their identity and could share their politics.

Rev. PAT ROBERTSON: With the election of George Bush, it was assumed that we had accomplished our goals. And once an evangelical is in that power, he has the ability then to call the shots.

NARRATOR: As conservative evangelicals savored political victory, the country's religious landscape was shifting. The wide-open American religious marketplace was undergoing dramatic changes, changes that would carry political implications.

Rev. RANDALL BALMER: What's particularly striking to me over the last 30, 40 years is that since changes to the immigration laws of 1965, the religious landscape of North America has quite literally been transformed. There are Sikh gurdwaras and Muslim mosques and Hindu temples in places that I never thought possible.

NARRATOR: No place in the country had changed more than Los Angeles, which five decades earlier had ignited Billy Graham's evangelical career.

PHILIP GOFF, Dir., Ctr. for Study of Religion and American Culture: In 1949, it was a city which was still dominated by white Protestants. Los Angeles today is the most religiously diverse city in the world. It's also the most ethnically diverse city in the world.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: Los Angeles is amazing in terms of religious choice. L.A. has hundreds of different Buddhist options, dozens of Hindu temples, all sorts of different forms of Catholicism and Protestantism.

NARRATOR: By 2000, in Los Angeles County alone, more than a million people were members of non-Christian faiths, and the metropolitan area was home to hundreds of their houses of worship.

Imam MUZAMMIL SIDDIQI, Dir., Islamic Society of Orange County: Now the community is large because many refugees came because of Iran situation, from Afghanistan, many coming from Cambodia and Vietnam, and then people from many other places. In metropolitan Los Angeles, say from San Barbara to San Diego, we estimate about half a million Muslims, maybe 30 or 40 different nationalities.

NARRATOR: In the 2000 election, a majority of American Muslims had voted for George W. Bush. And when the 9/11 attacks created intense scrutiny of the Muslim community, that support for Bush would be reciprocated.

Imam MUZAMMIL SIDDIQI: 9/11 created a lot of misunderstanding. People think that Muslims are fanatics, Muslims are not open to other people, they hate other people. But that's not what Islam is. That's not who Muslim people are.

NARRATOR: Imam Siddiqi had been scheduled to meet with President Bush at the White House on September 11th. After the terror attacks, he was invited to offer a prayer at the memorial service at the National Cathedral.

Imam MUZAMMIL SIDDIQI: We turn to you, O Lord, at this time of pain and grief in our nation. With broken and humble hearts and with tears in our eyes, we turn to you, O Lord, to give us comfort.

And the president said, "Thank you for participating in the prayer service. You did a heck of a good job." And I also gave him a copy of the Quran. I told him that, "I understand that you read the Bible every day. I hope you will read some days from this book also." And he said, "I will. I will."

NARRATOR: Bush made a public plea for tolerance of Muslims and their faith.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: The face of terror is not the truth faith of Islam. That's not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: So it was President Bush who said, repeatedly, not "Islam is a bad religion and America is a country of Christians," but "Islam is a religion of peace." This was our evangelical president who did this. After 9/11, it became imperative to integrate Muslims because we couldn't be seen as going to war, a holy war, against Islam. That was horrible. And so we had to be seen as a country not just of Christians and Jews, but also of Muslims.

NARRATOR: Immigration was creating more religious diversity, but in cities like Los Angeles, most newcomers still were Christians.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: We often think about religious immigration as bringing Buddhists and Muslims and Hindus to America, and it has. But the largest group of people coming to America now are Catholics from Spanish-speaking countries.

NARRATOR: Hispanic immigrants were changing the Catholic church. It incorporated popular Latino religious traditions into its rituals.

ARLENE SANCHEZ-WALSH, Latino Church studies, Azusa Pacific Univ.: Latinos said, "We finally feel validated. We finally feel like we're part of the Catholic Church," because for the longest time, there's been a serious tension between the institutional church and what the institutional church teaches, and the popular church. And overwhelmingly, Latinos in this country and in Mexico are part of the popular church.

NARRATOR: While most Latino immigrants remained Catholic, many had joined Pentecostal churches, one of America's fastest-growing evangelical denominations.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: This tremendous desire to go toward this more emotional, heartfelt, personal experience, where not only is God moving in the world, but God is just moving inside you, with power.

ARLENE SANCHEZ-WALSH: It's coming into a community of like-minded people with similar experiences and saying, "At this point, you're all one because at this point, you are God's. And God can touch you, can heal you, can solve your problems." So there's this open expression of weeping, of dancing, an abandoning of the self into a larger communal presence that they do believe is the Holy Spirit and that they come away changed.

NARRATOR: The increasing number of Latino Protestants was also changing the face of evangelical politics.

Rev. SAMUEL RODRIGUEZ, Pres., Natl. Hispanic Christian Leadership Conf.: Politically, there are some serious consequences to this browning of the evangelical community. White evangelicals from 1973 after Roe v. Wade have primarily voted conservative, Republican. The brown evangelical comes along and says, "You know what? We don't want to be married to either party. We really don't. And rather than endorse a candidate we would love them to endorse our agenda." I see the Hispanic Christian community emerging as the game changers and the power brokers politically in America.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: [campaign commercial] We all know that the Latino vote will be deciding factor in the presidential election. When you cast your vote in November, it will be felt.

NARRATOR: In 2004, the Bush campaign targeted Hispanic voters, especially Latino evangelicals, offering support for Hispanic churches through the administration's faith-based charities initiatives and promising major reforms on a key Latino issue, immigration.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: I call upon Congress to enact common sense immigration reform that enforces our border, that upholds our laws, that treats people with respect and remembers the greatness of America is the fact that we've been able to come from different backgrounds, united under the common ideals of our country, and we live one nation under God!

NARRATOR: But Bush's wide-ranging pursuit of evangelical voters and the continued mixing of faith and politics by preachers and politicians was creating a backlash of its own.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: One reaction against the entanglement of religion and politics, especially for young people, has been to disengage from both political and religious institutions. There seems to be something a little unseemly about both of them. They're mistrustful of political parties, more likely to be political independents, mistrustful of religious denominations, more likely to be religiously unaffiliated.

NARRATOR: National polls showed that one in six Americans were not affiliated with any religious institution. More than half of those said they were secular, atheist or agnostic. There was also an expanding demographic who called themselves "spiritual but not religious."

STEPHEN PROTHERO: So there is this new style now, this new spiritual but not religious style that is not secular in the least, but it sees the drama of religion as going on inside the individual. This isn't that far away from Billy Graham. This isn't that far away from the revivals of the second great awakening of the 19th century. You know, these are places that say the drama of religion is the individual transformation.

Well, now we can get that individual transformation by going to yoga class. We can get that transformation by doing some Zen sitting with some cool Zen teacher down the road. I think that's very, very American.

FRANK LAMBERT, Historian, Purdue University: American religion operates in this great sphere of freedom, in this great free marketplace of religion. I mean, 90 percent of Americans say, "I believe in God." But they also reserve for themselves the right to say exactly how they believe in God, and what they mean by God. With religious liberty, there is no official church. There is no official religion. There are hundreds, and it is a matter of fact, if we count mega-churches as individual religious groups, there are thousands of religious groups in America.

NARRATOR: Non-denominational evangelical mega-churches were one of the fastest-growing phenomena in the religious marketplace.

FRANK LAMBERT: They're innovative. They're flexible. They change. They reinvent themselves. So there is something for everyone.

WORSHIPER: I'm dedicated to the cause of Christ, my family and my band of brothers.

NARRATOR: In Los Angeles and across the country, a new generation was redefining the evangelical political agenda with its own take on the Christian message.

Rev. RANDALL BALMER: Many evangelicals, particularly younger evangelicals, are beginning to question the whole political agenda of the religious right. They're beginning to say, "Look, there's a broader spectrum of moral issues than simply abortion and homosexuality."

E.J. DIONNE, The Washington Post: Younger evangelicals are just as pro-life, just as opposed to abortion as older evangelicals, but they also show a much greater concern about the environment and a real concern about AIDS in Africa.

Rev. RICK WARREN, Founder, Saddleback Church: I said, " God, these problems are so big, nobody's been able to solve them." Eight thousand people die every day from AIDS. Twenty-eight million people in Africa have AIDS, 40 million worldwide. Something could be done. And so I began to think, "What did Jesus do?" And I began to read through-

Rev. ED DOBSON, Moral Majority executive, 1979-'87: And there's a whole new generation, Rick Warren and others, whose list of issues includes poverty, HIV-AIDS, caring for creation, and they're much more non-political in their passion and are working to solve issues at a grass roots level.

NARRATOR: In his 2000 campaign, George Bush had courted this younger generation of evangelical voters, promising a new "compassionate conservatism." In office, he would enact policies advocated by younger evangelicals. He spoke out on the genocide in Darfur and proposed new funding to fight HIV-AIDS in Africa.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: Tonight I propose the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, a work of mercy beyond all current international efforts to help the people of Africa.

NARRATOR: Bush did not forget the older generation of his evangelical supporters. He signed a bill banning late-term abortions and restricted embryonic stem cell research.

E.J. DIONNE: Well, the biggest thing he did for older evangelicals was to put Justices Roberts and Alito on the Supreme Court. And in the long run, on the issues they care about, Alito and Roberts are going to push that Court in a conservative direction, and that's exactly what a lot of religious conservatives were looking for.

NARRATOR: But as the Bush presidency bogged down with the war in Iraq, it became clear that yet another Republican administration would fail to push through key parts of the evangelical agenda, including constitutional amendments banning abortion and gay marriage.

Rev. RICHARD CIZIK, National Evangelical Assn., 1980-2008: George W. Bush turned out to be a huge disappointment to evangelicals.

RALPH REED: There was a feeling that, "Hey, we worked all these years, we elected all these people, and what do we really have to show for it?"

NARRATOR: After a 30-year journey into politics, some veterans of the evangelical movement concluded their strategy had been flawed.

RALPH REED: We too often acted like just another lobby group, treating the Republican Party as synonymous with our agenda.

Rev. RICHARD CIZIK: Ultimately, it's evangelicalism that suffers. We lose our capacity to be an arbiter in society of what is moral and immoral because we've sold our birthright out to one political party.

Rev. ED DOBSON: There's a huge danger in getting too involved in the political process. You can either be a prophet who stands on the outside of culture and argues against the injustices, or you can be the king. And I don't think you can be both.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: A lot of the changes that the Christian right wanted were cultural changes - to use their own language, sort of "changes of the heart." But you can't really change that through electing presidents because by definition, it's cultural. But they did change our politics in that they brought religion and politics closer and closer together and they created a model that was effective, that the Democrats have now taken up.

NARRATOR: The Democratic Party would have its own epiphany about the role of religion in politics after John Kerry's defeat in the 2004 election.

E.J. DIONNE: You might say that Democrats discovered God in the 2004 exit polls, that they realized that whatever they were doing with religion wasn't working and they had to think about it differently.

NARRATOR: Kerry had polled well among more secular voters, but lost heavily to President Bush among those who attended church regularly. A Roman Catholic, Kerry had been criticized by some church leaders for his stand on abortion and had lost the Catholic vote.

AMY SULLIVAN: Very shortly after the election, John Kerry called one of his close advisers, and among the things that he wanted to talk about, kind of revisiting the mistakes that they had made, was religion and both his inability to stick up for himself when attacked over his faith, but also his campaign's unwillingness to really target religious voters. And he said, you know, "I got the religion thing wrong, didn't I? " and his advisers said, "Well, yes, sir, you did."

NARRATOR: Jim Wallis had been working for years to persuade the Democratic Party to reach out to religious voters. After Kerry's defeat, he saw attitudes begin to shift.

Rev. JIM WALLIS, Founder, Sojourners: The first call I got from a Democrat was from Ted Kennedy, who said, "I think we've, as Democrats, as a party, maybe lost our ability to speak in the language of faith and moral values and why we believe what we do, what our foundations are." He said, "Maybe I need to find a way to be more expressive of my faith while still protecting the separation of church and state."

NARRATOR: The Democrat who most boldly embraced that new attitude about religion was also the party's rising star.

E.J. DIONNE: Barack Obama had a very different take on religion than John F. Kennedy did. And so he was basically arguing to liberals that liberals had to be open to the idea that, yes, religious people will bring their religious beliefs to the public square.

Sen. BARACK OBAMA (D), Illinois: [June 2006] But what I am suggesting is this. Secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square. Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Williams Jennings Bryan, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, the majority of great reformers in American history, were not only motivated by faith, but they repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause.

So to say that men and women should not inject their, quote, "personal morality" into public policy debates is a practical absurdity. Our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it which is grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Moreover, if we progressives shed some of these biases-

E.J. DIONNE: Obama really is trying to reintroduce Civil Rights Christianity, strains of tough-minded liberal Protestantism, a little bit of the old social gospel. But above all, he has spoken with the very respect that a lot of religious folks felt they hadn't gotten from liberals when the religious right was first formed.

NARRATOR: But Obama also criticized the religious right for the way they had argued political issues.

Sen. BARACK OBAMA: I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, to take one example, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I can't simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God's will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.

E.J. DIONNE: Obama has been trying to make a quite consistent argument that separating church and state is not the same as separating religion and politics, that you can respect religious liberty and respect religion itself, and that those two things go together.

Pres. BARACK OBAMA: -preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States-

JOHN ROBERTS, Chief Justice: -so help you God,

Pres. BARACK OBAMA: -so help me God.

Chief Justice JOHN ROBERTS: Congratulations, Mr. President.

NARRATOR: Nearly 60 years had passed since Billy Graham linked faith with patriotism at the dawn of the cold war. After decades of struggle over the separation of church and state, and the rise of religion in the political movements of Civil Rights and the Christian right, Barack Obama had tried to articulate a new political consensus about the relationship between faith and power in America.

AMY SULLIVAN: We've kind of come full circle in American politics, not back to the point where religion wasn't an issue in electoral politics and particularly in presidential politics, but to the point where neither party is necessarily seen as having an advantage over the other when it comes to values issues or morality, or even the ability to reach out to religious voters.

Pres. BARACK OBAMA: The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit, to choose our better history, to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea passed on from generation to generation, the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness!

Rev. RANDALL BALMER: The sense of America as a providential nation has been with us for a very long time. In the 17th century you had John Winthrop's notion of a city on a hill being a beacon to the rest of the world. In the 18th century, you had the sacred cause of liberty in its revolt against Britain In the 19th century, manifest destiny, 20th century, making the world safe for democracy. And the 21st century, who knows. It probably hasn't emerged quite yet.

But Americans have a sense of their destiny as a nation. They have a sense that America occupies a unique niche in the divine economy. I don't see that abating any time soon.

Pres. BARACK OBAMA: We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this earth. And because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass, that-

NARRATOR: In the summer of 2010, political controversies about the president's personal faith, plans to build an Islamic center near Ground Zero and threats by a Florida pastor to burn copies of the Quran would all be reminders that the struggle for religious liberty and the country's religious identity is an enduring American story.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: This is this great conversation we've had from the very beginning of American life. We've had this notion that this is a special place, and what makes it special is that we have some kind of special relationship with God. The exact parameters of that have always been up for debate. And exactly who's included has always been up for debate.

And what's happened over time is more and more and more people have been included. This moment in American religious life really is about pluralism. We just keep making the space bigger, you know, extending the sacred canopy over more and more people.

So how important is religion going to remain? Are we going to remain both the most modern country in the world and also one of the most religious? We don't really know. We don't have a narrative yet for that. And one interesting thing to see in coming years is, will we come up with one? What's the story going to be?

1h 24m
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