Christians ‘See’ God’s Face by Doing This
Fascinating new research explains the Lord's 'appearance' — and why people envision Him in very different ways
Believers visualize God as a “divine mind who is suited to meet their needs and who looks like them,” concluded researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
“What the researchers found is that people tend to project their image and their beliefs onto their image of God,” explained Fox News contributor and best-selling author of the “Will Wilder” book series, Raymond Arroyo, Wednesday night on “The Ingraham Angle.”
Fox News host Laura Ingraham and Arroyo together joked about what their personal image of God might look like. Arroyo went with Frank Sinatra and John Huston — while Ingraham chose Burt Lancaster and Charlton Heston.
The pair agreed that actors George Burns and Morgan Freeman, who both portrayed God in films, did not fit the bill.
“We want a God with some authority and gravitas,” said Arroyo, responding to Ingraham’s lighthearted comment that God wouldn’t be a millennial with “skinny jeans and a man bun,” and he wouldn’t be “a soy boy.”
The research, supported by multiple grants from the National Science Foundation, revealed an overall picture of how American Christians tend to “see” God. Broadly speaking, the 511 American Christians the researchers studied see the Lord as young, Caucasian, and loving.
With an average age of 47, 311 men and 181 women participated in the study. In terms of their geographic locations, 153 hailed from the South, 124 from the Northeast, 143 from the Midwest, and 91 from Western states. Seventy-four percent of them were Caucasian, and 26 percent were African-American.
“People tend to believe in a God that looks like them,” said senior study author Professor Kurt Gray to NBC News. “And most of the people who took part were male and white,” he added.
Young people were more likely to believe in a younger-looking God, and people who ranked themselves as more physically attractive also believed in a more physically attractive God. Both men and women in the study endorsed a masculine-looking God.
Age, attractiveness and gender, however, didn’t tell the whole story as far as explaining differences in how people see God. The data told a whole new story when researchers drilled down to even more specific personal attributes. And when they parsed out the groups by political persuasion, things really got interesting.
Analyses of the data confirmed that an American Christian’s political leanings play a significant role in how he or she pictures God.
People who rank themselves as conservative picture God as older, more intelligent, and more powerful.
As it turns out, people who rank themselves as conservative picture God as older, more intelligent, and more powerful. People who see themselves as liberal, on the other hand, picture God as more feminine, more African-American, and more loving.
The researchers explained the finding this way. Conservatives, they reasoned, value social order; therefore, they see God as capable of providing this order via His characteristic of being powerful. Liberals, analogously, are motivated by social tolerance; therefore, they see God as capable of facilitating this tolerance via His characteristic of being loving.
Michele Blood is a Flemington, New Jersey-based freelance writer and a regular contributor to LifeZette.