God in America
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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 can't really imagine God---put God into an image---outside of the person of God the Son, Jesus. Instead, I encounter God through his handiwork---his creation and his creatures; through his word, the Bible; and through the still, small voice of his Spirit.

My Beliefs

I believe ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator "I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, our Lord . . . " etc. as stated in the Apostles' Creed
My most powerful moment of belief was ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator Hard to say---many powerful affirmations of my faith, typically in excellent sermons, or lines of hymns, but also in great music---classical composers' masses or requiems; in great poetry or art; in anything excellent created or performed by humans that reflects the image of God, aka "A Third Testament"-- There's a tension, a balance between emotional affirmation and intellectual affirmation.
My greatest moment of doubt was ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator Again, like faith, hard to say--- there are often moments of doubt and unbelief that assault belief. Whenever confronted with ignorance, pain or evil, either perpetrated by man or beyond man's control, that tempts me to be cynical about God (does he care? does he have any power? does he exist?)---but then I realize, or rely on the teaching, that ignorance, pain, cruelty, and evil is because of man's fall, not because of God's intention or indifference or absence.
My spiritual life means... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator all of life---every aspect of my life is spiritual. What I do with my life, my vocation, my talents, is all because of God's grace and his gift. What I do with my life is in response, in gratitude to God.
The biggest misconception about my faith/belief system is ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator that life can be compartmentalized---that relationship or thoughts about God are limited to worship experience in church or temple, or in personal study or prayer---and the rest of life isn't concerned with or affected by belief. Another is that "all Christians are . . . " fill in the blank with any notion or stereotype.
My spiritual role model is ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator Jesus---to be Christ-like is or should be the desire of Christians. Not "what would Jesus do?" but "what would Jesus have us do/be?" Role model---puts great pressure on an individual to measure up; more like who do I admire? St. Francis of Assissi, Mohandas Gandhi, Mother Teresa; but also the many anonymous throughout the ages who in great adversity can yet live for others, following the commandments and the teachings.
The tenet/practice/teaching I appreciate most about my faith is ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator "Love the Lord God with all your heart, strength, and mind; love your neighbor as yourself---on this hang all the law and the prophets." from Jesus, referencing the shima. Also, from the Heidelberg Catechism, written in 1563 and adopted as a doctrinal standard of Reformed Christian tradition, Question and Answer 1: "What is your only comfort in life and in death?" ---"That I am not my own, but that I belong in body and in soul to my faithful savior, Jesus Christ . . ."

My Faith History

As a child I believed ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator pretty much as I was taught in my Christian upbringing; no real moments of doubt or rebellion that drew me away from faith or church participation.
My spiritual journey has been ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator Hopefully faithful and steadfast, recognizing myself as a fallen human yet redeemed by Christ's death and called in his resurrection unto new life. If anything, as an adult becoming more liberal in interpretation and acceptance, recognizing the extent of God's love and mercy---a big tent inclusive of much more than we want to include in our definition.
I was raised as ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator I was raised in the tradition of the Baptist branch of Protestant Christianity, up through high school.
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 In college, (Calvin College, in Michigan), I was exposed to the Reformed Protestant tradition as interpreted by John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion, by the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, and the Canons of Dordt (all documents coming from the Reformation); I appreciated the logic and the systematic theology of their tradition, which was largely missing from the Baptist tradition, and I became Reformed in my belief and practice. Interestingly enough my parents did more of a pilgrimage than I---from Baptist/Methodist to United Brethren to Reformed.
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 No---didn't change but confirmed and strengthened the concept of covenant promises of a faithful God . . .

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 Typically in weekly church services for regular "practice" of faith---yet often in unpredictable times and situations I am encountered with spiritual moments that affirm faith, as in natural settings, or when out running, or when encountered with profound beauty in art or music---those recognitions are religious for me.
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 No, we're pretty much on the same page.
The song/book/film that most represents my faith is ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator Oh, there's so many. "Amazing Grace" is the top standard for millions, I suppose; I like especially a verse that is rarely sung: "The Lord has promised good to me; My hope his Word secures; He will my Shield and Portion be, As long as Life endures" I greatly appreciate the song writing of contemporary artists Townend and Getty, "In Christ Alone" is a rival to "Amazing Grace" in many Christian circles, and they have other beautiful folk-style works. Books? so many . . . but a favorite is _The Chosen, by Chaim Potok; Films---"Babbette's Feast" I'd give Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream a nod, for Bottom's wakening speech, hearkening to the mystery of the love of God, way beyond our cognitive abilities.

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 Individual pols who claim to be persons of faith should daily examine their consciences---have I loved my neighbor? have I born false witness against anyone or twisted truth for my own advancement? do I serve the greater good as I serve the public?
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 Knowledge of what others believe, dialogue about religion and faith, yes; but not to favor or to judge or to proseletyze; to understand and to deal with one another, not fear, mistrust, hate one another.
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---for the beauty of the language, for the humanity of the precepts and concepts, and for the tolerance and acceptance that knowledge can bring. What better way to fight ignorance and fear?
Is interfaith dialogue important? Why or why not? your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator Yes, in order to better love God, love neighbor---we need to dialogue, to listen, to understand, if not agree with others.
Do you feel comfortable discussing your faith with others? Why/why not? your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator With friends, acquaintances, yes; with a complete stranger, no. But I think I'd give the same response for other discussion topics---partially because of my hesitancy to put myself "out there" to a stranger, partially also to not be imposing or offsetting to that same stranger. I don't think the gospel is meant to be _initially _confrontative---
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 Love God, love your neighbor. Life is a lifelong exploration of how both are best done. Reference to Hillel---
Are religious beliefs compromised by engaging in politics? your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator As currently interpreted by many politicians---YES. Give me a politician such as West Michigan's late congressman Paul Henry, or by his long-term successor, Vernon Ehlers, both men of honor, men of faith and ethics in all facets of life, who served their district, their state, and their nation well, humbly yet with a sense of duty to a betterment of society---not blurring their service with campaign rhetoric or strategizing. They ran for office out of a civic sense of duty, not as a tool for a specific party or wealthy interest group in search of power. I see many today using "Christian-washing" as they seek blessing on their campaigns.
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 think 9/11 has provided a compassion-check, a tolerance-check for people of faith, in American society. Can we truly love our neighbors---even if who they are changes drastically and often? I have always both as a student and as a career teacher been interested in learning about other places, people, cultures; our culture's response to 9/11 has confirmed that my interest in and knowledge about "the other" has put me in the position of voicing the primary call to "love God, love neighbor," which is at the heart of my beliefs.

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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.
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Published October 11, 2010

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