All Is Forgiven: The Secular Message in American Protestantism

By Marsha G. Witten | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THREE
God as Daddy, Sufferer, Lover, and Judge

God and man are two qualities between which there is an infinite qualitative difference. Every doctrine which overlooks this difference is, humanly speaking, crazy; understood in a godly sense, it is blasphemy.

(Soren Kierkegaard, Sickness unto Death)

Affirm OUT LOUD: I am God's friend. God loves me. If God has chosen me for His friend, I must be a marvelous person.’

(Robert Schuller, Believe in the God Who Believes in You)

FROM THE LOOKS of survey data, contemporary Protestant belief in the United States is blossoming in the nutrients of spiritual soil. Today's Americans overwhelmingly profess the importance of God in their lives. Recent Gallup polls indicate that 94 percent of Americans say they believe in God, 90 percent say they pray to God, and three quarters say they think deeply about their relationship to God. Nine in ten Americans say they have never even doubted the existence of God. More than three quarters say they are sharply conscious of the presence of God in their daily affairs. And a third of Americans indicate that they have had, at one time or another, a mystical feeling of unity with God. 1

Especially when compared with similar data about the religious beliefs of Britons, or the French, or people living in other Western democracies, these statistics are remarkable. 2 In the face of the high degree of scientific and technological development in the United States, a formally secular political system, a tradition of individualism and selfreliance, and a high standard of living—all of which might argue against the centrality of religious beliefs—Americans express certainty that God exists and that he works in their lives, both through extraordinary “otherworldly” experiences and in their daily affairs.

But while these data from opinion polls are useful for gauging the degree to which religion is an important category in American thought

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