By Aaron Earls
God is everywhere and this Sunday (September 30) that includes primetime TV and social media.
In CBS’ new drama God Friended Me, an atheist podcaster receives an interesting request on Facebook—”God” wants to be his friend.
Miles Finer, played by Brandon Michael Hall, tells listeners, “There is no proof of God anywhere in the universe.” But then his new Facebook friend “God” starts to connect Miles with people in need of help.
As he struggles to figure out who is behind the Facebook account, Miles is also wrestling with his own beliefs, as a preacher’s-kid-turned-atheist.
When he was 8, Miles asked God to heal his mom from cancer. She was miraculously healed—only to be killed in a car accident on the way home from the hospital.
The “God” account leads Miles to become friends with Cara (Violett Beane), an online reporter struggling with her own family relationships.
The unexplained coincidences seem to shake Miles’ devout atheism. Later on his podcast, he explains, “We owe it to ourselves to ask the tough questions.”
For Hall, who plays Miles, he is used to both those tough questions and with being a preacher’s kid. He grew up in Anderson, South Carolina, where his single mom was a preacher.
But the creators and stars of God Friended Me seem to want the show to be more about the “friended” part than the “God” part—echoing a broader trend in culture.
“There is nothing supernatural about our show,” said executive producer Bryan Wynbrandt, according to Deadline. Instead, he said the show is trying to remind viewers “we are all in it together and that there are really good people out there doing good things.”
Joe Morton, who plays Miles’ father, Rev. Arthur Finer, told Crux the show is less about God and more “about how people can help one another.”
In an interview with CBS, Hall said God Friended Me isn’t a religious show. “It’s more of a spiritual show.”
Hall said the show wrestles with the “ultimate question”: “Is there something greater than ourselves? And if there is, how do we make sure we can make a change before they friend us on Facebook?”
According to Pew Research, a growing number of Americans look to stay connected to spirituality, but they want to do so outside of organized religion.
More than a quarter (27 percent) say they are spiritual, but not religious. That’s up from 19 percent in 2012. This trend is especially true of younger Americans.
Despite a decline in their religious practice and identification, Chris Martin, author of Ministering to Millennials, said, “Millennials maintain a sense of spiritual peace and interest in the universe beyond what it simply seen on earth.”
He said church leaders can capitalize on the sense of wonder and spiritual peace millennials claim to have. “Young people are open to the things of Jesus no matter how closed they may be to the local church,” he said.
“Personal, intentional relationships and living on mission in everyday life have never been so important.”
It’s unclear what the faith journey of Miles in God Friended Me will be as the season progresses, but the show may provide insight into the spiritual mindset of our culture.
AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor of Facts & Trends.