Film probes Americans’ images of God
    October 15 2010 by Kimberlee Hauss, Religion News Service

    WASHINGTON — On the big screen of the movies, God has been played by everyone from George Burns (“Oh, God!”) to Alanis Morissette (“Dogma”) to Morgan Freeman (“Bruce Almighty.”)

    On the small screen of people’s imaginations, God frequently looks like an old man in the clouds, like something out of “The Simpsons.” Or Kenny Rogers. Or more ambiguous terms like creator, energy, love or nature.

    That’s how some Americans described their image of God in a small independent documentary entitled “God in the Box.”

    “I really wanted to be able to look behind people’s eyes and see what God looks like to them and what God means to them,” said filmmaker Nathan Lang. “They’re not leaving novels about their feelings, they’re leaving just snapshots.”

    Lang’s four-man crew traveled across the country for three years with a phone-booth-sized black box that they set up on street corners. The hope was that people would feel comfortable enough in the anonymity of the box to share their thoughts and visions of God.

    The documentary has been shown at synagogues, churches, mosques and community centers and anywhere people want to see it.

    Passersby stepped inside the box as cameras and microphones captured their insights while they sketched their image of God.

    RNS photo courtesy Nathan Lang

    Filmmaker Nathan Lang invited passersby to enter a large black box and describe their image of God for his new film, “God in the Box.”

    “Our hope was just that people would take it seriously when they went in and ... take a moment and reveal themselves,” Lang said. “And 99.9 percent did. They were quite sincere about it.”

    The documentary features three groups of people: the filmmakers, the participants and a few religious experts. The storyline is built around the people in the box, but it also traces Lang’s personal journey.

    Lang was raised Jewish but had many questions about God. As he crisscrossed America, he found the majority of participants had an opinion, but many, like him, were less than certain about their answers.

    Respondents answered with everything from God does not exist, to God is the creator of all things. Some said God was energy, while others called God a conscience, a second chance, a higher power and love. When asked to describe or draw God, some people drew things in nature, others sketched symbols like hearts and crosses, while still others said he looked like Kenny Rogers.

    Amid the variety of answers, Lang said one thing was clear: People were taking the questions seriously, even if they didn’t know the answers.

    “People were incredibly honest and were willing to reveal parts of themselves that I don’t know if I would reveal if I had walked into that box under those same circumstances,” Lang said.

    At a screening here, Graylan Hagler, senior minister at Washington’s Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, said the privacy of the box offered people a safe place to share their feelings.

    “It’s interesting how people, when they get into a place where they know that they are respected and (are) not going to be judged or criticized, have a tendency to get truthful,” Hagler said.

    Although respondents were willing to open up and share, the project that began with questions ultimately ended with them, as well.     

    “It’s more about the question than about the answer,” said Rabbi M. Bruce Lustig of the Washington Hebrew Congregation.

    The documentary ends with the filmmakers themselves stepping into the box and confronting their own questions.

    After three years of traveling in search of answers, Lang, too, still had a hard time stating his view of God.

    “I’m a prisoner,” he said, “in my own device.”

    More information on the film can be found at
    10/15/2010 7:02:00 AM by Kimberlee Hauss, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

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