PBS Looks at. . . Religion in the U.S. Eight Interviews Show the Diversity of Beliefs Held by Americans
Ross, Lilla, The Florida Times Union
Hugh Hewitt, host of the four-part series Searching for God in
America , admits he came close to getting the theological bends
while preparing for the eight interviews in the new PBS series
that premiers tonight.
"We were moving pretty quickly between traditions," he said.
Working with a research staff, Hewitt and producer Martin Burns
compiled a list of 50 well-known personalities in American
religion. The list was whittled down to eight.
The people chosen for the 30-minute interviews are not
necessarily household names. Charles Colson, speaking for
evangelical Christianity, and the Dalai Lama, who addressed
Buddhism, are the best known.
"We had the general goal of making sure that we had the full
range of the diversity of American belief. And we found people
with compelling personal stories and sound theological
credentials who could convey what they believe and why," Hewitt
The series, which airs at 10 p.m. each Friday in July on WJCT
TV-7, examines several Christian traditions, Judaism, Islam and
While the topic of religion in America is covered in its
breadth, the interviews themselves seek the depths of personal
experience and conviction. Hewitt said he consciously avoided
conventional questions about abortion and other controversial
"No one is on a conversion mission," he said. "They are
witnesses, certainly. But over and over again, they said people
should stay within their tradition, practice the norms with
which they have grown up or chosen. People will come away with a
sense of the diversity of approaches to God and that the most
important thing anyone can do is engage in this search."
Hewitt describes the series as "curiosity-driven interviews."
He is an attorney with no formal religious training. He is an
Emmy Award-winning host of Los Angeles' KCET's public affairs
series Life & Times and is a former public affairs radio talk
He prepared for the interviews by reading extensively and
interviewing authorities in each tradition.
"This wasn't work," he said.
Although the series features 28-minute interviews with each
subject, the longest interview lasted three hours. The uncut
transcriptions are available in a companion book, Searching for
God in America (Word Inc., $27.99).
In addition to the interviews, the book is an anthology of
excerpts from American spiritual writings that range from a
selection from the Baltimore Catechism, on which millions of
American Catholics were raised, to comments from jazz musician
Miles Davis, novelist Walker Percy and former heavy weight
champion George Forman. …