The second episode follows Larissa Murphy, a Christian woman in Pennsylvania who married her college sweetheart even after he suffered a physically debilitating brain injury. In the segment, “Christian faith, a daily commitment to Christ” is pictured as the heart of their marriage. Larissa is shown reading Bible passages from the book of Proverbs to her husband and states, “Jesus gave us an example of love when he died for us.”
“As Christians, Ian and Larissa believe that Jesus teaches them how to live with compassion and love unconditionally,” Oprah explains. “Through his broken body on the cross and his resurrection, they have hope beyond the troubles of this world and the promise of eternal life.”
This careful handling should please evangelicals—and, in fact, it already has. In September, Oprah screened the series before a gathering of religious leaders, and the evangelical Christians in attendance walked away happy. Leith Anderson, the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, called the series’ stories “interesting and fascinating and appealing.” He wasn’t the only one.
Gabriel Salguero, the president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, was pleased that the episodes “positively highlighted Gospel messages of love, marriage, forgiveness, redemption, healing and commitment.” He thinks that others within his religious tribe would benefit from the series.
“When asked if Christians should watch ‘Belief,’ my answer is, ‘yes,’” Salguero says. “I am not a universalist. I hold unequivocally that Christ is the one and only savior, but that does not mean I cannot engage in listening to stories from other faiths while holding firmly to my own conviction.”
Lynne Hybels, a co-founder of Willowcreek Community Church, was pleased that “each faith system is presented respectfully” but she offered another reason that people of all faiths should tune in: to gain an accurate view of other faiths.
“It’s pretty hard to love those we don’t even know, yet many American Christians have little understanding other faiths,” said Hybels. “Oprah’s Belief series offers an introduction to many of the world’s religions, not by focusing on sensationalized accounts of extremists, but by telling the stories of sincere seekers.”
Often, the only information believers receive about other faiths comes from religious leaders within their own tradition. This information may be riddled with myths, or border on propaganda. Belief provides a stage on which each religion can make its best case and be considered on its own merits.
The faithful often assume that hearing from other religions somehow puts their own faith at risk. But nothing could be further from the truth. Being exposed to other faiths doesn’t require accepting their beliefs or compromising your own. Instead, it fosters understanding, respect, and more informed dialogue. It can even strengthen one’s own convictions, reminding them of why they have made their religious commitments to begin with. As Hybels said, she “was challenged by these stories to be a more devout Christian myself.” If you believe your faith has the most compelling message, there is no reason to fear your “good news” being heard alongside others.
As a result, even Muslims—who believe “there is no God but Allah”—and evangelical Christians—who believe that “no one can come to [God] the Father except through [Jesus]”—can get behind it. Critics looking for reasons to gripe will find them. But on balance, Belief is a beautifully shot and educational series that will appeal to believers of any faith or none at all. It should not be missed. Believe me.