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With God On Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America
Directed by Calvin Skaggs and David Van Taylor
Produced by Calvin Skaggs, David Van Taylor and Ali Pomeroy
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WITH GOD ON OUR SIDE is a six-hour documentary series treating one of the most important political and cultural stories in contemporary America: the rising power of the Religious Right. This first in-depth, non-ideological series traces its roots from the anxious "Christian anti-Communism" of the 1950's to the sophisticated politics of the Christian Coalition of the late 1990s. Based on impeccable research and over a hundred interviews with leaders and grassroots activists, WITH GOD ON OUR SIDE captures the spirit of the Religious Right and addresses the persistent questions the movement raises: How does a free society draw the line between Church and State while preserving a place for religious conviction in public life? How do media images of the Religious Right differ from the reality? Finally, when politicians and religious activists join forces, who holds the reins?

Episode I: The Early Crusades, 1950-1968

Post-War fundamentalism is marked by optimism, mass revival meetings, and disdain for worldly politics. But current events-from America's growing anti-Communism to the election of Catholic John Kennedy to the Civil Rights movement-prod evangelical Christians into the political arena. Dismayed by Supreme Court rulings banning school prayer and encouraged by the Goldwater '64 campaign, conservative Christians rise up in Anaheim, California, to launch a nationwide revolt against sex education.

Episode II: The Zeal of Thy House, 1969-1974

Billy Graham and Richard Nixon's symbiotic alliance foreshadows the coming union of religion and politics. The marriage is consummated in Kanawha County, West Virginia, where national conservative strategists escalate a local textbook controversy into a major conflagration of jailings, bombings, and a miners' strike. Meanwhile, Watergate teaches Graham the perils of political entanglement; but from Berkeley's Jesus People to Kanahwa's fundamentalists, the die has been cast-and the Religious Right is born.

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Episode III: We Are Family, 1974-1980

After Vietnam and Watergate, America is looking for a Good Father-and despite media befuddlement at the "born-again" Jimmy Carter, his religious faith helps convince voters he can heal the nation. Carter's election heralds a new era of evangelical engagement in every area of modern life, from broadcasting to basketball. But modern life also means divorce, feminism, and gay rights, and at Carter's White House Conference on Families, conservative Christians choose polarization on those issues over reuniting the American family.

Episode IV: Prophets and Advisors, 1979-1984

Seizing the "pro-family" agenda, New Right conservative strategists midwife a brood of new Christian political organizations, most notably Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority. These groups experience a heady overnight success, registering millions of evangelical voters and helping sweep Ronald Reagan into office. Yet once in the White House, his mainline Republican advisors actively supress the traditional-values issues. Evangelical leaders are forced to choose between "speaking truth to power" like Biblical prophets, or "going along to get along" in the political realm.

Episode V: And Who Shall Lead Them?, 1985-1988

Anti-abortion activists cheered when Reagan named one of their own, C. Everett Koop, as Surgeon-General. By the mid-'80's, though, AIDS hits tragically home even in fundamentalist circles, and Koop splits from his former allies over the proper Christian response to this "sign of God's judgment." Hearing the call of God, Pat Roberston mobilizes an "invisible army" of fervent believers, many of whom had never before engaged in politics, to support his bid for the Presidency. Though dogged by the televangelist scandals, the Robertson campaign-with its calls for renewed patriotism and its fierce attacks on liberalism-sets the agenda for George H.W. Bush's victory over Michael Dukakis.

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Episode VI: God's Armies

While George H.W. Bush strains to win their trust, Religious Right leaders turn to a new crusade: building a true grassroots power structure from the ashes of the Robertson campaign. The fruit of their efforts, the Christian Coalition, is now one of the most politically adept membership organizations ever. Yet many inside the movement question if, in gaining power in the secular world, conservative Christians have lost their evangelical soul. Our final episode lays bare the struggle for the future of the Religious Right-and of America.

Three years in the making and featuring interviews with more than 100 leaders and grassroots activists, the series captures the spirit of the ever-growing religious right and addresses the persistent questions the movement raises - questions that transcend this particular movement: when politicians and religious activists join forces, who holds the reins? How does the media's depiction of religion distort - and influence - the reality? And finally, how does a free society draw the line between church and state while preserving a place for religious conviction in public life?

"A landmark! If you care about what's going on in this country, do not let it slip by."—The Houston Chronicle

"Spirited! Leaves no doubt of evangelical Christianity's deep roots and abiding power in American life… [The film] is not out to score points but to explore the tangled terrain where religion and politics converge."—Walter Goodman, The New York Times

"Pundits of all political stripes agreed that this path-breaking documentary is a deep, serious and accurate exploration… Succeeds in narrowing the chasm of misunderstanding."—Father Robert Drinan, Religion News Service

"Revelatory and insightful."—The New York Daily News

"It is refreshing to see religious conservatives permitted to tell their own stories … without the bias that is often interjected into other productions."—Pat Robertson, The Christian Coalition

"This remarkable series lays bare the Religious Right…How could I convey the movement's dangers more convincingly than its leaders do themselves?"—Norman Lear, People For the American Way

360 minutes / Color
Release: 2005

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