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In God we trust

Documentary | The Gingriches' new film Rediscovering God in America II tries not to emphasize a 'Christian America'

WASHINGTON-Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and his wife, Callista, spend an hour looking for God in American history in Citizens United's new documentary Rediscovering God in America II: Our Heritage, which examines the colonial period up to the Civil War.

They find God's name sprinkled everywhere-in Sam Adams writings; in Abigail Adams' letters to her husband, John; in Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. It's a bit scattered, kind of like the filmmakers Googled the word "God" in all of the writings of the nation's founders. But the Gingriches, who narrate the film, don't insist that it is the Christian God who informs American heritage.

"Our purpose is not theological nor to advocate for a worldview," explained Mr. Gingrich in Rediscovering God I-which came out a year ago, adding, however, "Our nation was indeed founded under God."

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In the sequel, Rediscovering God II, Mrs. Gingrich offers that the "blessings of God" are the reason that America is an "exceptional nation." The Gingriches' assertions don't go far beyond that-that religion is part of American heritage.

While they explore the Christian faith of the Puritans and of George Washington, they also insist that the founders were careful not to promote one religion over another. That pluralism, the film's thesis goes, shouldn't mean that the government promotes secularism, which is what it does now. Religion is central to both America's history and good governance, they argue, and it should be present in the public square.

"Our creator is the source of liberty and freedom," the former speaker said. "For most Americans this effort to impose a ruthlessly secular society . . . is appalling."

The Gingriches emphasize that each religion has its own freedom in American society-no one religion is more American than another. In Rediscovering God I, they visit the Supreme Court and explore friezes of not just Moses, but also of Muhammad and Confucius. Mrs. Gingrich points to the varied "religious ceremonies" still celebrated in the White House: Hanukkah, Christmas, and the Easter Egg roll.

Rediscovering God II briefly mentions the role of Catholics in the founding of America-Mr. Gingrich joined his wife in the Catholic Church this year. They hear from a coterie of religious and conservative scholars like Michael Novak and Ed Meese.

On balance, the film doesn't dig very deeply into the issue of religion in civic life-an issue that has consumed American scholars, politicians, and citizens since before the country was founded. But the Gingriches avoided some controversy by refusing to name America a Christian nation outright. One hang-up may be that the Gingriches themselves are narrating a film about values in American society when Callista is Newt's third wife and his former mistress.

This is the fifth documentary that the Gingriches have filmed, and will be available on DVD Oct. 14. They have another Citizens United movie coming out this fall, Nine Days That Changed the World, which examines Pope John Paul II's trip to Poland in 1979.

Emily Belz
Emily Belz

Emily, who has covered everything from political infighting to pet salons for The Indianapolis Star, The Hill, and the New York Daily News, reports for WORLD Magazine from New York City. Follow Emily on Twitter @emlybelz.


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