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Diana Butler Bass is the author of seven books on the history and practice of Christianity, including "Christianity for the Rest of Us," a study of mainline Protestantism and "A People's History of Christianity." She writes for The Huffington Post and Beliefnet and frequently comments in the media about American religion. She is a practicing Christian (an Episcopalian) and takes as her motto Jesus's words, "Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Do this and you will live."

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 Imagination, however limited, might well be to best way to approach God. Whether one thinks of God as distant or close, no human being truly knows God--and imagining God must fill in the gap. When I imagine God, I dwell upon love--a mother cradling a child, a heart afire with passion, the willingness to sacrifice for another's benefit. As a Christian, my primary image for this love comes from Luke 10, "Love God and love your neighbor as yourself." Jesus describes such a love as eternal life. God is eternal, vast, and endless love. 6 people liked this

My Beliefs

I believe ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator I don't "believe" much of anything regarding faith in the popular sense of the word. Unlike current usage, the word "believe" did not originally mean, "I think" or "I am of the opinion that." Instead, the English word "believe" comes from the German word, "belieben" meaning, "belove." Thus, to say "I believe" actually means to say, "I belove," "I trust," "I give my heart to," or "I devote myself to." My opinions about God matter little, I suspect. But the question of beloving is another matter. What do I belove, trust, give my heart to, or devote myself to? In a updated version of the Christian creed, I can honestly (although humbly) say: "I belove the One God, the maker of all that is; I trust Jesus Christ; and give my heart to God's Spirit." 4 people liked this
My greatest moment of doubt was ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator I have little moments of doubt everyday--that's OK. It is human. My biggest single crisis of faith came when I was wronged by some people who take pride in their orthodoxy. I don't really have doubts about ideas; I do doubt, however, that people practice what they preach. Too much "right belief" is often a license to act badly. Such hypocrisy often causes me to doubt whether or not the name, "Christian," means what it should. It makes me want to leave all pretenses to faith behind. Those who claim Christian truth need to make sure they act in ways Jesus intended. 3 people liked this
My spiritual life means... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator being connected to my truest self, to others, and to God's spirit in the universe. My spiritual life is an experience of God that touches my heart, informs my mind, and moves my hands and feet to act of behalf of love and justice--it happens both individually and communally. 2 people liked this
The biggest misconception about my faith/belief system is ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator After 2,000 years, Christianity is full of misconceptions and flaws. To choose the "biggest" is pretty well impossible. But I'd consider American fundamentalism a colossal blunder theologically and otherwise. 4 people liked this
My spiritual role model is ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator I was trained as an historian. As a result, almost all of my spiritual role models are people from the past. I actually wrote an entire book on these folks--it is called "A People's History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story." It is a collection of my spiritual heroes. 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 Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. It is that simple--and that complex. 3 people 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 A seventeenth-century monk named Brother Lawrence wrote a small book called "Practicing the Presence of God," about how he found God in the washing up of his pots and pans in the monastery kitchen. I'd like to think that I practice my faith as he did--in all places at all times. To me, Christianity isn't something apart from my identity, its forms the way of life to which I have given my heart. But I do go to church, love participating in the sacrament of the Eucharist, enjoy both listening to good sermons and preaching good ones, and singing hymns in community. 3 people liked this
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 I was reared Methodist; my husband was raised Presbyterian. We're both Episcopalians now. But we've got a good number of Roman Catholics and some Lutherans in our extended family, as well a few atheists, agnostics, and skeptics. Many of my friends are in blended marriages, though, and I appreciate the seriousness with which they reach toward other faiths and how well they are rearing their children. My daughter is the person in our family most immediately touched by religious diversity--her best friends are Jewish, African-American Baptist, Eastern Orthodox, and an Episcopalian. We talk about other religions a great deal and are trying to help her empathetically understand other faith traditions. 2 people liked this
How easy or difficult is it to live your faith? Why? your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator Much of the time it is painfully hard--especially when I'm so mad that I'd like to hit someone or want revenge on a wrong committed against me or someone I love. I also find it very hard to behave in a Christian way when I'm asked about politics! Living the Beatitudes that Jesus taught here and now (Blessed are the peacemakers; blessed are those who mourn, etc) isn't easy. That's why so many Christians think those words are about heaven or life after we die. From another perspective, however, it is profoundly simple. As a friend of mine is fond of saying, "What part of 'love your neighbor' don't you get?" 3 people liked this

Religion & the Public Square

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 Absolutely. And they should be taught fairly and without proselytizing in any way. That is hard for many teachers to do, I realize. They are difficult books to read, and equally difficult to understand in their multiple cultural contexts. Unlike reading, say, Dickens, reading holy texts without understanding can often lead to violent or unbalanced interpretations of their meanings--like biblical passages that dictate that one should stone disobedient sons or "suffer not a witch to live." And that is probably why most schools avoid the subject. Sacred writings must be taught with care to make distinctions between literalism and literature. But to avoid religion because it is hard to teach is to close down avenues of understanding difference, a dangerous path for any society in today's world. 2 people liked this
Do you feel comfortable discussing your faith with others? Why/why not? your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator As an author who writes about religion, I have to be comfortable discussing my faith in public and do so all the time. I hope that I've learned the gracious art of being who I really am and opening accepting space for others to do the same. But I do have a confession to make: I find too much certainty in religious discussion a little hard to take--that makes those in more exclusive forms of faith doubt whether I really am a Christian. 2 people liked this
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 As the author of the New Testament book of James put it, "Faith without works is dead." Make peace, love all people, serve the poor, offer hospitality, give without ceasing. 3 people liked this

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Published October 11, 2010

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