Introduction Stephen Butler Murray and Aimée Upjohn Light Contemporary culture simultaneously is increasingly secular and reli- giously pluralistic, but it cannot get over or get past the desire to know God. References to God permeate every aspect of media, providing us with an ongoing societal meditation on theological themes, imagining and reimagining encounters between the divine and the mundane. Humanity is defined, time and again, by a relationship with God that is interactive, mutually compelling, and dramatically active in the present day. God in contemporary culture takes on traditional roles and wildly new ones, cast in imagery straight from the Bible and right out of a music video. God is a burning bush and a cartoon CPU an immense thundercloud rolling over a city and George Burns, Morgan Freeman, and Alanis Morissette. The singer Joan Osborne ponders what if God was one of us, and the television show Joan of Arcadia presents God as a stranger on a bus. Our cultural craving for connection with the divine presents a conversa- tion between belief and creativity on the nature of God and the repercus- sions of that nature on what it means to be human. We wonder through different forums whether God is absent or present, utterly beneficent or casually indifferent. Artists present God not merely through the Trinitarian lens of Western Christianity, but also through the perspective of Judaism’s monotheism and Hinduism’s nearly infinite representations of God. Film- makers explore the nature of evil and goodness, prosperity and despair through God as an actor, a participant in the narrative. We watch sports on television in which football players kneel in prayer upon scoring a touch- down, and on C-SPAN as chaplains pray at the beginning of congressional meetings for a nation that proclaims the value of the separation of church and state.
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