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Newt and Callista Gingrich (Photo by Jim Spellman/Getty Images)

Surface treatment

Movies | Gingriches don't dig deeply into religion in civic life

Issue: "Save the unions," Oct. 24, 2009

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 Rediscovering God II, available Oct. 14 on DVD and now showing at select venues around the country, 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. "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."

On balance, the film doesn't dig very deeply into the issue of religion in civic life. But the Gingriches avoid some controversy by refusing to name America a Christian nation outright. One difficulty 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.

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 from New York City. Follow Emily on Twitter @emzleb.

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