Driving through Washington D.C. one Sunday morning, I spotted a church with a parking lot, which was jammed. I can’t recall the exact church now, but I think it was one of the Protestant denominations. However, I do remember wondering, “What do those people believe?“ “What’s that church look like inside?” “What’s their service all about?”
I was born and raised a Roman Catholic, drifted away after I graduated from college, and returned as a “recovering and practicing Catholic” some years ago.
As a professional interviewer – now as host of the PBS television series THIS IS AMERICA – I always seek out very basic information — kind of a 101 course – on the guests and topics of our programs.
It was on that Sunday morning I was “inspired” (perhaps) to create a new television series. The series is called I BELIEVE. The premise is simple.
Each week we visit a different church, synagogue, mosque, temple, or house of worship to learn about that religion or faith.
The centerpiece of each program is a one-on-one conversation with that house of worship’s religious leader about the basics of his or her faith. We also take our cameras inside to look at the worship space and learn a little about and show a typical service.
We end each of our programs by asking the religious leader, “What does your faith mean to you?” The answers are wonderfully warm, honest, and meaningful. It’s an important question to ponder. Watch and listen to a couple of our I BELIEVE programs to hear their answers and get you thinking about what your own faith means to you.
People seem willing nowadays to learning about other people’s beliefs, which are different than their own. Ignorance and fear breed superiority and toleration. Our goal is to offer information, not to create news or controversy. So by offering a “religion 101 course,” we hope the outcome is understanding and respect.
Although I’ve been told otherwise in a couple of our interviews, I personally hold the belief that just as “all roads still lead to Rome,” all religions are organized attempts – in good faith (no pun intended) – to bring man and God closer together.
While there are always a few bad apples in every barrel – and maybe even a couple of bad barrels – most people are doing the best they can. Their religion, faith, or belief system – while it may not be ours – helps them appreciate and navigate through the good, bad, and so-so times of life in a very imperfect world.
We’ve made a commitment to produce 26 episodes. When we finish production in early September we will have produced I BELIEVE programs Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Ohio, Washington, Maryland, Virginia, California, and Seoul, Korea.
The programs include: Catholicism, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Native American, Orthodox and various Protestant denominations including Lutheran, Evangelical, Baptist, Seventh-day Adventist, Assemblies of God, Episcopal, Unitarian-Universalist, Quakerism, African Methodist, Episcopal, Christian Science, and United Church of Christ.
I BELIEVE continues to be one of the most exciting projects with which I’ve been involved over my entire broadcasting career. Pick a religion you know nothing about and learn. It’s ibelieve-tv.com. You are invited to attend.
Dennis Wholey is a veteran television talk show host and producer who has been interviewing political leaders, celebrities, news makers, authors, journalists, and experts for television, radio and books for more than 25 years.