Like the religion itself, The Christians is epic in scope. This five-disc, 13-hour DVD box-set provides a sweeping history of the past 2,000 years as seen through the prism of Christianity. This is no religious tract however. The documentary takes a neutral look at the impact Christianity has had on the world through history, both good and bad.
Certainly no other religion has ever approached the cultural influence upon the Western world that Christianity has. So much so that the basic timeline of Christianity’s development is pretty well-known by the layman.
The early Christians were persecuted by Rome, before the religion became the official doctrine of the empire. Many, many wars were fought in the name of Christianity over the centuries. Gorgeous cathedrals and churches were erected in Europe to honor Christ. And in the present day, we have endless debates on evolution, the separation of church and state, and abortion, all in one way or another tied to Christianity.
Thank goodness this is a British production, with their legendary reserve intact, otherwise things could have gotten out of hand. Especially in regards to our current culture wars.
One of the more notable aspects of the series is the location filming. Host Bamber Gascoigne and crew traveled to more than 30 countries around the world to provide the footage, and much of it is remarkable. I was especially taken with the tours through centuries-old cathedrals and monuments. The architecture, and artwork of these structures is breathtaking at times.
A handy bonus feature included in the package is the 16-page accompanying booklet. In it, we find highlights of each episode, as well as a section titled “Questions to ponder.” This is a nice touch, although the series was produced originally as entertainment, by focusing on some of these ideas, the episodes becomes a little more educational as well.
Other extras include photo galleries titled “The Culture Of The Cross,” and “Christ In Art.” There are also text biographies of select influential people in Christian history called “Architects Of The Faith.”
The 13 episodes of The Christians were originally shown on the British ITV network in 1977, and re-broadcast on PBS in the United States during the 1980s. The newly produced Introduction by a now grey-haired Gascoigne brings the events of the past 30 years in Christianity up to date. The most significant of which was the fall of Communism in 1991.
The Christians is an extraordinary historical overview of Christianity over the centuries. This is a DVD set that I heartily recommend to anyone interested in Western civilization, and how it has been shaped by one of the most powerful cultural forces of all time.