‘God in the Box’ stirs interfaith dialogue
Published: Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 2, 2012 03:10
Among the small talk before class and the quick exchanges in Shriver Center, the topics of sports, classes and activities are exhausted. One topic falls by the wayside: spirituality. The upcoming event ‘God in the Box’ seeks to change that.
The event is based on a documentary project by Nathan Lang, said senior Colin Matsumoto, who is helping put together the event.
Oct. 8 to Oct. 10 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on the Shriver West Patio there will be a box set up to recreate Lang’s film. According to Senior Director for Student Engagement Katie Wilson, the box will contain paper with two open-ended questions for students to answer: “What does God look like to you?” and “What does God mean to you?”
Wilson also said that a student from the mass communications department will be taking video clips of students as they answer the questions in order to create a Miami version of the original documentary.
Matsumoto said the event will end with a showing of Lang’s documentary 6 p.m. Oct. 10 in McGuffey 322. There will also be a viewing of the Miami version of the documentary, Wilson said.
Lang will be on campus for the three days and will be at the presentation of his film on Oct. 10, Matsumoto said.
He said Lang’s original intent in making the documentary was to reflect upon his own image of God and discover what others around America thought as well.
Lang set up a box in cities and campuses around America with questions about God to gather a patchwork of viewpoints and beliefs, according to Matsumoto.
Aliza Rosenthal is a grad student and is involved in setting up the God in the Box event at Miami. She said the box itself contains questions aimed to discover what students think of God.
“The box itself asks essentially ‘what do you think of God:’ what does God look like and what does God mean to you,” Rosenthal said. “People come in and they draw different things about what they think God looks like or tell different stories. The box simply asks what does God mean to you, but the answers you get are much richer than that.”
The event does not intend to recruit for religious organizations, but instead to stimulate interfaith dialogue, Matsumoto said.
The questions are conceptual but technically skewed toward western perspectives, according to Matsumoto.
“[The questions are] technically skewed toward an American audience and therefore have sort of a western spiritual perspective,” Matsumoto said. “Eastern religions probably don’t get the same exposure as Christian and monotheistic views because the filmmaker grew up in a western, Christian society.”
Rosenthal said the director for the Campus Ministry Center, Rebecca Woods, discovered the documentary project and brought it to the attention of Campus Activities Council. The event is sponsored by the Ford Family Initiative for Spirituality, Meaning, and Purpose, Student Activities and Leadership, Hillel, the Campus Ministry Center, Lights on Campus and Secular Students.
Rosenthal said the event is meant to start discussion about God, spirituality and the big life questions.
“The God in the Box event is about opening up dialogue on campus and getting a conversation started on campus about what is spirituality, ethics, meaning and purpose and why do you do what you do and believe what you believe,” Rosenthal said.
Sophomore Annie Wood said she does not think God and spirituality are talked about often.
“People are not sure where other people come from on [God and spirituality],” Wood said. “It’s such a personal topic, your faith and your religion, and it’s easier to push that topic off to the side because it can create confrontation if ideals are not aligned.”
Rosenthal said she hopes the event will open up spiritual discussions on a large scale, and that the event welcomes both students and faculty to participate. She said spiritual exploration is a big topic that can hard to wrestle with, especially when there is not always a space to wrestle with them.
“I think we all have these conversations—with your friends, at two o’ clock in the morning when you’re having a heart to heart—but there’s not always a space for those conversations to happen on a larger scale,” Rosenthal said.