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“It’s in God’s Hands”: Socioeconomic Status and the Sense of Divine Control among Black and White Elderly
Unformatted Document Text:  2 What types of people believe that God controls their fate? The belief in the existence of a powerful supreme deity is pervasive across many societies and cultures (Stark 2001). In the United States, recent polls indicate that approximately 96 percent of Americans report that they believe in God or a “universal spirit” (Bishop 1999). Moreover, many people also report that they have a personal relationship with a divine being that is comparable to their relationships with real people (Pollner 1989). This is due, in part, to some individuals’ perception of God as a conscious being who possesses desires and expectations (Stark and Finke 2000). From an exchange view, individuals may believe that they can petition for God’s assistance and guidance. According to Krause (2002), “people who have a close relationship with God develop a sense of trust in God, believe that God is in control of their lives, believe that God knows what is best for them, and believe that God ultimately ensures they will get what they need most” (p. S335). In the present study, we define the sense of divine control as the extent to which an individual perceives that a divine being exerts a commanding authority over the course and direction of his or her own life. Moreover, trust in God’s exclusive involvement and accessibility raises the likelihood that such individuals will rely on God for assistance, guidance, and support. In this respect, God is akin to a significant other—although God has a distinctive omnipotent status. Other scholars have proposed similar constructs or processes, including “divine relations” (Pollner 1989), “spiritual help-seeking” (Krause 1991), or “religious coping” (Pargament 1997). Collectively, these constructs share common conceptual ground in their identification of a God who is personally concerned with one’s own affairs or afflictions. Believers in divine control may perceive that life’s adversities are simply part of God’s overall arrangement for human beings (Ellison and Sherkat 1995). When believers encounter challenges in their own lives, they may identify their situation with the lot of figures in religious imagery that in turn cultivates

Authors: Schieman, Scott. and Pudrovska, Tetyana.
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What types of people believe that God controls their fate? The belief in the existence of a
powerful supreme deity is pervasive across many societies and cultures (Stark 2001). In the
United States, recent polls indicate that approximately 96 percent of Americans report that they
believe in God or a “universal spirit” (Bishop 1999). Moreover, many people also report that
they have a personal relationship with a divine being that is comparable to their relationships
with real people (Pollner 1989). This is due, in part, to some individuals’ perception of God as a
conscious being who possesses desires and expectations (Stark and Finke 2000). From an
exchange view, individuals may believe that they can petition for God’s assistance and guidance.
According to Krause (2002), “people who have a close relationship with God develop a sense of
trust in God, believe that God is in control of their lives, believe that God knows what is best for
them, and believe that God ultimately ensures they will get what they need most” (p. S335).
In the present study, we define the sense of divine control as the extent to which an
individual perceives that a divine being exerts a commanding authority over the course and
direction of his or her own life. Moreover, trust in God’s exclusive involvement and accessibility
raises the likelihood that such individuals will rely on God for assistance, guidance, and support.
In this respect, God is akin to a significant other—although God has a distinctive omnipotent
status. Other scholars have proposed similar constructs or processes, including “divine relations”
(Pollner 1989), “spiritual help-seeking” (Krause 1991), or “religious coping” (Pargament 1997).
Collectively, these constructs share common conceptual ground in their identification of a God
who is personally concerned with one’s own affairs or afflictions. Believers in divine control
may perceive that life’s adversities are simply part of God’s overall arrangement for human
beings (Ellison and Sherkat 1995). When believers encounter challenges in their own lives, they
may identify their situation with the lot of figures in religious imagery that in turn cultivates


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