Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory,by Randall Balmer. A three-part series, airing nationally onPBSMay 11, 18, 25. Check local listings for time. Reviewed by John G. Stackhouse, Jr., associate professor of religion, the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada.

It is not news for evangelicals to be on TV. What is noteworthy is a three-part documentary on public television that teaches a general audience about evangelicalism. Randall Balmer, a religion professor at Columbia University and author of the popular book of the same title, hosts “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory,” a personal journey into the evangelical subculture.

The series is a vivid and extensive travelogue. Balmer takes viewers from Chicago to rural Mississippi, from California to West Virginia, from the Pacific Northwest to the Iowa heartland, and from upstate New York to deep, southern Georgia. He visits a colorful range of institutions: a rock concert, a Hispanic church, a summer camp, a film studio, and the Christian Booksellers Association convention, among others. And he narrates some illuminating background on evangelicalism, from the eighteenth-century Great Awakening to the Scopes “evolution” trial of 1925.

Balmer is an attractive host. He listens carefully—indeed, among the highlights of the series are the interviews with people who have been filled with the Spirit and then recount that experience with disarming lucidity and sincerity. Balmer appears to be a trustworthy guide, and we want to believe that the powerful images he presents do, in fact, combine to form a portrait of American evangelicalism.

But do they? Early on, Balmer offers common descriptors of evangelicalism: conversion experience, belief in the inerrancy of the Bible, codes of conduct, concern ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.