“When did it become obligatory for (U.S.) presidents to end every speech with the words ‘God bless America?'” “Why do so many Americans believe that their country enjoys the Lord’s special favour?”
These are some questions that have perplexed and fascinated award-winning Canadian broadcast journalist Ralph Benmergui and he explores them in a powerful new documentary, God Bless America.
The six-part series will air on VisionTV on Mondays, starting Jan.19, 10 p.m. ET/ 7 p.m. PT.
Directed by Gemini Award-winning editor Allan Novak, the program’s premiere is part of a series of special shows on faith and politics, marking the inauguration of President Barack Obama on Jan. 20.
Mr. Benmergui’s journey took him to the Virginia campus of Liberty University, a school founded by religious right icon Jerry Falwell, to the streets of Denver during the Democratic National Convention, to Brooklyn where he met “punk evangelist” Jay Bakker whose Revolution Church supports the rights of gays and lesbians, and to St. Anne’s Catholic Church in Los Angeles which takes up the cause of illegal immigrants.
“Benmergui encounters a remarkable array of individuals on his journey – from punk rock evangelists to Muslim hip-hoppers, radical atheists to born-again teenagers – and discovers that the relationship between church and state in the U.S. is even more complex, and more emotionally charged than most Canadians imagine,” the show’s producers said.
In the series, “The Dominionists,” which airs Feb. 9, Mr. Benmergui looks at the evangelical movement’s “Dominionists,” “who are busily paving the way for Christ’s return by striving to create a utopian theocracy in the United States,” and travels to their Mecca – Colorado Springs.
He talks to Arab-American rappers, secular humanists, progressive Jews, radical atheists, and America’s first Muslim congressman – Keith Ellison, a Democrat from Minnesota – who represent the other 13 per cent of Americans who don’t identify themselves as Christian.
Questions that will be explored in this episode, “No, not that God,” which airs Feb. 2, include “Do their beliefs – or the absence thereof – count for anything? Should Christian faith be allowed to shape U.S. policy on secular issues such as international AIDS relief? Are the gods they worship American, too?”