GOD ON TRIAL
In this BBC production, a group of prisoners in a blockhouse at Auschwitz
put their God "on trial." Eventually, they find God guilty of breaking
covenant with the Jewish people.
Here are links to websites with useful background information.
The BBC Press Pack:
From the PBS website:
"Losing My Religion," by the script writer (Frank Cottrell Boyce), appeared in The Guardian.
Boyce did not in fact lose his religion. (He is still a Roman Catholic.) But his faith was severely challenged by the research he did for the script - most especially by reading certain parts of the Bible.
Here, in part, is what he wrote for The Guardian:
"Two academic rabbis, Dan Cohn-Sherbok and Jonathan Romaine, . . . introduced me to a long Jewish tradition of wrangling with God, going right back to Abraham bargaining with him over the destruction of Sodom, and forward to Elie Weisel's famous declaration that God was hanged on the gallows in Auschwitz. Here were people talking to God on a frequency that wasn't on my dial. The trial of God would not have been some blasphemous aberration, but something in the tradition of the psalms, the Book of Job and even Christ's terrible accusing cry from the cross: 'Why have you forsaken me?'
"Although the subject of the guilt of God is universal, when it came to writing I confined myself to imagining this particular trial: the problems of setting up a court in a blockhouse, the kind of arguments that those men might have advanced. I focused on the Covenant, God's special deal with the Jewish people. I thought I was doing this to keep faith with the story - but maybe I was also doing it to distance it from my own spiritual life. The magic of stories, though, is that the more specific you are, the more universal they seem to get. The Covenant turned out to be a really good way of talking about anyone who expects anything from God.
"Instead of the usual snappy dialogue, I wrote speeches that ran for pages. To get them right, I had to read the scriptures: the Torah, the Talmud, everything. I assumed that doing so would enrich my own spiritual life. It almost killed it stone dead. I thought I was familiar with much of these texts, but reading them straight through was a different experience. Here was a God who was savage and capricious, who chose favourites then dropped them, who set his people ridiculous tests. And the people! A full account of social etiquette during the time of the book of Genesis would have to include an entry under: What to do when the neighbours come round mob-handed demanding to have sex with your visitors. The answer is: Offer them your virginal daughter instead.
"As a writer, I was thrilled by this: free stories! Shocking, bloodthirsty stories of ancient atrocities, stories that almost everyone has forgotten. The screenwriter side of me was happy all day. But the good Catholic side of me was being beaten black and blue. I thought my faith was invulnerable. I've been through family illness. I've witnessed cruelty. I read Darwin all the time and find it feeds my faith. Richard Dawkins makes me want to pray, the same as Homer Simpson makes me want to exercise - for fear that I, too, will end up like him, a whining pub bore with the prose style of an internet conspiracy theorist. The first real challenge to my faith came from reading the scriptures. It may seem deliciously ironic to you, but for me it was a time of a permanent headache and no sleep. I felt that half of me was dying."
VIEWING THE MOVIE
I don't know whether it's legal, but you can view the whole of "God on Trial" on YouTube. The concluding speech by a hitherto silent Rabbi (played by Sir Antony Sher) can be found here:
Rabbi Akiba is supposed to be an especially holy man. Because he has committed the scriptures to memory, he is referred to
as "The Living Torah." Before the judges have a chance to announce
their verdict, the Rabbi breaks his silence. Making his case on the basis of
the biblical record of God's behavior, he argues that "God is not good."
PURCHASE THE MOVIE