Sunday, November 9, 2008

"God on Trial"

I was alerted at the last minute last night about a PBS "Masterpiece" drama titled "God on Trial" based on a supposed real life occurrence at Auschwitz during the Holocaust. Obviously, the well-written BBC drama lent itself to an examination of the horrible conditions Jews and others were subjected to at the death camps in general and in particular at that ghastly place. Moreover, it was an opportunity to explore the major issue confronting the surviving Jews after the Holocaust was over: namely, where was God during those intolerable times? How could God allow His "chosen people" to be so callously dispatched by such malevolent monsters when they had clung to their beliefs so tenaciously? What was God's plan in all of this or was there no plan at all? Was it all a matter of man's free will running amok? Or were the best among the Jews, their most precious of victims, destined to be slaughtered for some divine plan unknown to them at the time? It was a wrenching production that spared the viewer the most vile and sinister portions of what Auschwitz residents endured, but expanded what might have been a simple storyline into a philosophical and religious in-depth exploration. This was a group of ordinary people thrust into extraordinary times. Some were deeply devout and tried to explain their circumstances as a redaction of God's will, while others who had lost their faith questioned the very existence of an Almighty being who could allow the Holocaust to take place. The fast-paced script brought traditional Jewish thought and challenged it in a courtroom-like setting set in an Auschwitz dormitory. The British actors were superb with outstanding performances by Rupert Graves, Anthony Sher, Stellan SkargÄrd and Dominic Cooper among others. If you missed it, I suggest you keep your eyes peeled on PBS for a repeat performance. While not a historical certainty, the trial is a fascinating tool to bring into view the soul searching that tested the faith of all who lived during those trying times. This very strong drama provides its audience with philosophical and theological issues and makes for compelling, not-to-be-missed TV viewing.

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