God in America
Support provided by:
BBT

Faithbook BBT

Barbara Brown Taylor is author of An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith and Leaving Church.

How Do You Imagine God?
God in America and USA WEEKEND Magazine are partnering to explore Americans' images of God.

How do you imagine God? your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator I imagine God to be the space between the stars, the breath between me and every living creature, the wind that tosses the trees around, the mystery that makes light both particle and wave, the silence after death, the mind that communicates without antennae, the spirit that both animates bodies and transcends them, the empty place inside me that connects me to everyone else with the same kind of place, and--of course--entirely exceeding my capacity to imagine. 3 people liked this

My Beliefs

I believe ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator I believe that how I treat my neighbor is the best test of my beliefs, which include my belief that the divine is present in my everyday experience. 1 person liked this
My most powerful moment of belief was ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator My most powerful moment of belief was once when I was hospitalized with a head injury for a couple of days and felt like I had an extra mattress on the bed. When my head cleared, I believed that what I had experienced was the cushioning prayers of my friends, tucking me in with inexplicable care. 2 people liked this
My greatest moment of doubt was ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator My greatest moment of doubt came during a blizzard in New England, where I was stranded in an old hotel for a couple of days without anyone I loved or anyone who loved me. Cut off from everything familiar, I became a stranger to myself for one whole night during which I entertained grave doubts about everything from the stability of my mind to the friendliness of the universe.
My spiritual life means... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator My spiritual life means how I live in the world I can see and touch with awareness of the world I cannot see and touch. 1 person liked this
The biggest misconception about my faith/belief system is ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator The biggest misconception about my faith/belief system is that beliefs are more important to me than my relationships with God and other people. Those relationships change my belief system on a regular basis, so they are where I start.
My spiritual role model is ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator My spiritual role model is Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who--like His Holiness the Dalai Lama--has lived through some of the very worst things people can do to one another and continues to preach reconciliation instead of retribution. He also laughs a lot. 1 person liked this
The tenet/practice/teaching I appreciate most about my faith is ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator The tenet/practice/teaching I appreciate most about my faith is that there is no loving of God without also loving the neighbor and the self. 1 person liked this

My Faith History

As a child I believed ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator As a child I believed that God was everywhere, especially in my back yard on a half moon night with the cicadas going full blast.
My spiritual journey has been ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator My spiritual journey has been so full of mad dashes, roadblocks, second starts, and complete reversals that it is a wonder I can walk straight.
I was raised as ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator I was raised as a nature-loving, family-centered, school-focused, arts-smart, religion-less, high-achieving eldest child who bore full responsibility for everything my two younger sisters did.
Are your beliefs or practices different from your parents? If so, how and why? your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator I think my parents' lives were shaped more by the Great Depression, the Second World War, and the deaths of their own parents and siblings than by the religious traditions in which they were raised. The beliefs and practices they passed on to me had more to do with the value of hard work, the primacy of love, and the importance of social justice than with the worship of deity. My life has been much easier than theirs, which means I have had more freedom to open doors they left closed. While work, love, and justice remain central for me, the beliefs and practices that guide my pursuit of them have a distinctively biblical flavor. I guess you could say that I have found other narratives that are as meaningful to me as the narratives of my childhood and youth--and that they help make sense of each other. 1 person liked this
If you have children, did becoming a parent change your relationship to faith? If so, how? your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator I skipped children and went straight to grandchildren-by-marriage whom I have known all their lives. Like me, they were raised in a religion-less household, which has given me a good chance to note my own religious impulses. I want them to have the stories of faith but at the same time I want to protect them from religious indoctrination. I have the greatest admiration for their parents, who do their best to meet the girls' spiritual hunger without force feeding them. 1 person liked this

How I Practice My Faith

Where and when do you practice your faith? your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator At best? Every day, wherever I am--in every encounter, every job, every meal, every moment of rest. Brother Lawrence called this "the practice of the presence of God" and it is my primary practice of faith. I also practice faith in community, both through regular participation in the sacrament of holy communion and through tackling projects with other people (which is another form of holy communion only without the guard rails).
Does your family practice more than one religion or faith? If so, how do you blend the traditions? your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator At my house we practice Christian faith in both the Episcopal and Lakota traditions--my husband and I both do the Episcopal thing, and he does the Lakota thing as well. Since each tradition has its own wisdom about the life of faith, we don't try to blend them. When it's time to go to church, it's time to go to church. When it's time for Sundance, it's time for Sundance.
How easy or difficult is it to live your faith? Why? your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator That is a little like asking whether is it easy or difficult to breathe. Sometimes it is easy (when nothing hurts and I can pay all the bills) and sometimes it is difficult (when people I love die and everything I touch turns to ash), but it's not as if I want to stop. What is difficult is engaging people who want to talk abstractly about faith, as if it were an intellectual position instead of a way of life.
In my house, the thing that most represents my faith is ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator In my house, the thing that most represents my faith is not in my house but out in the yard, where a hen sits devotedly on her eggs for weeks and then hatches delicate chicks she guards with her life, with absolutely no guarantee she can protect them from what wants to eat them. She trusts life, over and over again, no matter what happens.
The song/book/film that most represents my faith is ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator The song/book/film that most represents my faith is "The Mission," starring Robert DeNiro and Jeremy Irons. The best and the worst of religion are in that film, so that I know I have to own both.

Religion & the Public Square

What should be the role of religion in politics? your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator I guess that depends on which religion and which politics (don't most of us regard our own politics as faithful while seeing the other side's as dangerous?). Since justice is the communal form of love--and most of us count on our governments to uphold justice--some kind of engagement with politics seems unavoidable for people of faith. Meanwhile I have great faith in the U. S. Constitution and its First Amendment, which prompts me to parse this question in the plural: What should be the role of religions in politics? The wider the participation, it seems to me, the greater the possibility of justice. 1 person liked this
Should courses about religion be taught in public schools? Why or why not? your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator Basic literacy in world religions should be as central to any public school curriculum as basic literacy in any other field. A student who can draw a timeline of world history without being able to locate the emergence of the great religions on it is a student with some sizeable gaps in his or her knowledge. 1 person liked this
Should the Bible, Torah, Quran or other religious texts be taught as works of literature in public schools? Why or why not? your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator If these three are taught as literature, then why not the Upanishads, the Tao Te Ching, and the Pali Canon? I would vote for teaching portions of all or none, though I can imagine making a good case for the primacy of the literature of the Bible (which includes Torah) in the United States. 1 person liked this
Is interfaith dialogue important? Why or why not? your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator Interfaith dialogue is already taking place in schools, courthouses, grocery stores, and parks across the United States--wherever people of different faiths meet and speak to one another in the course of living their everyday lives. What is often missing is any guidance or support of this dialogue from their religious leaders, who often know less about other faiths than the members of their congregations do. As the dialogue becomes increasingly important (for the safety of all our children, among other things), I hope that its depth and quality increase as well--if not in religious bodies, then in the public square.
Do you feel comfortable discussing your faith with others? Why/why not? your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator Discussing my faith is an occupational hazard of being both an ordained minister and a professor of religion--so yes, I am comfortable with it. What I would like to become better at is listening to others discuss their faith, without leaping in to question or clarify--another occupational hazard I am working hard to overcome.
Do you feel that you have a duty, because of your faith, to put your beliefs into action? What are some of those actions? your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator Yes, I believe I have a duty to embody my faith. Some of the actions I engage in that pursuit are voting, cooking for other people, writing checks to aid organizations, attending funerals, picking up trash by the side of the road, gardening, teaching young people, spaying every stray cat I can get my hands on, and recycling. I am a little ashamed that I have never been arrested for civil disobedience in support of a good cause, but my life isn't over yet.
Are religious beliefs compromised by engaging in politics? your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator No.
Has 9/11 had any impact on your thoughts about religion? Are you more/less interested in learning about other religions? Do you feel more/less comfortable expressing your religious beliefs? your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator I was teaching a class on Islam the morning of 9/11, so the events of the day had great impact on both me and my students. By the end of the week we were sitting in a masjid listening to an amazing imam deliver the first sermon we had heard about the attacks. We were acutely aware of how frightened the people sitting around us were--and how different they were from what the media were telling us about them. Afterwards we were surrounded by faithful Muslims who thanked us for coming--to see for ourselves what they were like--which convinced me that there is no comparison between studying a religion in a book and experiencing it in the midst of people who have spent their lives practicing it. 2 people liked this

Who's Favorited BBT

Ezra Ezra
ggp ggp
Jules Jules

Get Involved

Interested in touring your community's sacred spaces? Want to host a God in America viewing party? Visit our Outreach page for details.
Major funding for God in America provided by the Pew Charitable Trusts and the John E. Fetzer Institute, Inc.  Additional funding provided by the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations. God in America is produced for PBS by WGBH Boston.
The Pew Charitable TrustsFetzer InstituteThe Arthur Vining Davis FoundationsWGBH
Exclusive corporate funding for American Experience provided by Liberty Mutual.  Major funding provided by The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.  Major funding for FRONTLINE provided by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.  Additional funding provided by the Park Foundation.  God in America, FRONTLINE and American Experience are made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Public Television viewers.
Liberty MutualAlfred P. Sloan FoundationMacArthur FoundationPark FoundationThe Corporation for Public BroadcastingPBS

Published October 11, 2010

FRONTLINE and AMERICAN EXPERIENCE are registered trademarks of WGBH Educational Foundation
Privacy Policy   PBS Privacy Policy   PBS Terms of Use
Web Site Copyright ©1995-2011 WGBH Educational Foundation