While the 2008 presidential campaign is in full swing, Simon Schama travels through America to dig deep into the conflicts of its history to understand what is at stake right now. Simon explores the ways in which faith has shaped American political life. His starting point is a remarkable fact about the coming election: for the first time in a generation it is the Democrats who claim to be the party of God. It is Barak Obama, not John McCain, who has been talking about his faith. In Britain we have always thought of American religion as a largely conservative force, yet Simon shows how throughout American history it has played a crucial role in the fight for freedom. Faith helped create America - it was the search for religious freedom that led thousands to make the dangerous journey to the colonies in the 1600s. After independence was won, that religious freedom was enshrined in the constitution; America was the first country in the world to do so. Simon also looks at the remarkable role the black church has played, first in the liberation of the slaves in the 1800s, and again in the civil rights movement of the 1960s; neither would have happened without its religious activists. It is this very church that has been the inspiration for Barak Obama, who traces the roots of his political inspiration to his faith.
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