Miamians look inside the ‘box’ for God
Published: Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 03:10
A box is a box is a box, according to God in the Box Director Nathan Lang, but sometimes a box can be a window into the minds of college students.
Lang presented a six-minute short film Wednesday, Oct. 10 where Miami University students discussed their religious views. The film is a recreation of Lang’s documentary God in the Box, which chronicles Lang’s cross-country journey to discover what God looks like and means to other people.
“We all have these questions, but how many have packed up their friends and a box and traveled across the country looking for answers,” Lang said in God in the Box.
Lang and his friends would set up a box on the street and ask passer-bys to go inside the box and explain their views on to the camera. The Miami box was set up at Shriver Center and received nearly 100 enthusiastic visitors during its 3-day stay Oct. 8 to Oct. 10 according to Senior Director of Student Engagement, Katie Wilson.
“We didn’t get a warm response from everyone, but [we had] a lot of people who were just really curious and interested,” Wilson said.
Lang said he has hosted the box on other campus settings including Indiana University, but the event was pulled off terrifically at Miami.
“The organizations that put this together really did a great job planning and promoting the event and they did it in a way that was truly both interfaith and inclusive of the secular community,” Lang said.
The God in the Box event was sponsored by Ford Family Initiative for Spirituality, Meaning, and Purpose, Student Activities and Leadership, Hillel, the Campus Ministry Center, Lights on Campus and Secular Students, according to Wilson.
According to Lang, the college environment provides an interesting space to hold the God in the Box event because college students are often searching for answers to the very same questions that Lang asks in the documentary.
“I feel like the movie is really well inclined to appeal to people of this age because they will be thinking about these things and they are having lots of other people kind of tell them their thoughts at the same time,” Lang said.
Lang also said college students are typically open-minded to hearing alternative views on religion.
“It’s also a time when people have very open minds about hearing ideas that may not have been the ideas that they came to college with,” Lang said.
The box provided a private and vulnerable space for people to think through what they believe outside of a religious institution, according to graduate student Gordon Palmer who helped organize the event.
“People would come out of the box [and say] ‘hey, thank you so much for doing this. Thank you for having this space,’ because I think sometimes we don’t allow these conversations to happen outside of religious areas,” Palmer said.
While Lang said he clearly noticed a positive response to the box on Miami’s campus, he also noticed a “heightened level of sensitivity around religious subject matter.”
“I don’t know if it is that many people feel as though they are proselytized to or evangelized in ways or in places that they don’t want to be, but when people walked by the box there were many that reacted to it in a way that I hadn’t seen as much when we had taken the box to other places,” Lang said.
Lang said he thinks people saw the word “God” on the box and worried that they were going to be evangelized to.
“What’s different about God in the box is that we are not evangelizing and we’re not telling people what to think we are asking people what they think,” Lang said.
According to Palmer and Wilson, between 80 and 100 people attended the screenings of God in the Box and the God in the Box Miami University films.
Palmer said he was impressed with the outcome of the film.
“I think [the short film] represented many opinions that might not get heard at Miami,” Palmer said.
Sophomore Kayla Parsh participated in the God in the Box event and attended the screenings.
“This was really enjoyable,” Parsh said. “I wish more people could come.”
Lang hosted a Q&A session after each film but said he found it to be more like a conversation.
“It wasn’t just a Q&A between the audience and me,” Lang said. “It really was this continuous flow of discussion from students and academics and others around the room, sharing in those same subjects and kind of feeding off of one another, and exploring their own views of the conversation.”
According to Wilson and Lang, the Student Activities and Leadership Office might make God in the Box Miami University into a longer film.
“I think that’s really cool because they can use it for educational purposes,” Lang said. “And they can use it for creating and opening dialogues among people of different faiths and different backgrounds.”
Lang said he hopes the dialogue can continue through social media and other online interaction.
People can inquire through Student Activities and Leadership Office about seeing the God in the Box Miami University short film.