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Amazing Faith of Texas: Beyond Dogma to Seek Out Common Ground

A fellow user of the Omidyar Network recently pointed me to the Amazing Faith of Texas website, which I find interesting – a collection of stories, oral histories of an identity in a way, and an accompanying discussion guide geared toward helping groups find common ground in the values and shared experiences that often underlay religious belief in a state like Texas.

Here is the invitation:

“Travel slowly along the roads and highways of Texas, and you are less likely to miss the turns that lead you into the heart of this great state — to the places of amazing faith. From tiny churches on dusty back roads to temples, mosques, synagogues and megachurches along the highways, The Amazing Faith of Texas is a stunning exploration in words and pictures of the strong, abiding beliefs that sustain faith-filled Texans. Beliefs that transcend the boundaries of religion. Transcend the dogma. Transcend the differences. We have heard all we need to hear about what divides us when it comes to faith. Now let’s talk about the common ground that unites us.”

The authors of the collection, creators of the (in)famous “Don’t Mess with Texas” campaign and other state-level branding efforts explain their motivation:

“In the past years, it seemed that when it came to religion and faith, more was being reported about what divides Texans than what unites us. As a person who has spent most of my life trying in some small way to bring people together for the common good, that worried me. So I set out on a solitary road trip across Texas back in 2005 just to think about all that. I stopped at 123 churches along the way. What I experienced was not what I was hearing on the news. “

I haven’t had a chance to preview the book, so can’t really describe how many stories are included or really what they say. Nonetheless, it sounds like an interesting effort to bring people together across a challenging divide: the way we understand the influence (or lack thereof) of faith in our lives. The book is pretty slick from what I can tell, produced by the Austin-based marketing and ad agency GSD&M: lots of gorgeous images of beautiful and interesting people that we all want to relate to. Accompanied by a discussion kit that includes 14 “cards” representing fourteen stories contained in the volume along with related questions, its sure to be a useful discussion tool for faith-based and inter-faith discussions that seek out common ground.

Lars Hasselblad Torres
In 2004 and 2005, Lars ran a scoping study to determine whether a “National Dialogue Bureau” was a feasible idea. The Dialogue Bureau, if developed, would supply journalists with a “one stop” destination for the collection of views held by ordinary Americans who engage in dialogue about current affairs.

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