Thursday, May 20, 2010

God On Trial...

Another digression from the current series...a digression that was initially birthed as a digression from a series I was writing several months ago.  I started this post about "God on Trial" after watching the movie with Keith...but never got around to finishing it.

Imagine that.

I feel compelled to post it now because otherwise, it could get lost among the topics I want to post about someday....and also because it goes along with the posts I've written lately about Bonhoeffer.

  Like Bonhoeffer, the characters in God on Trial are in a Nazi prison camp.  They also have lots of unanswered questions.  True, the characters are fictitious but their questions are not.  They are as old as time.  Almost everyone has asked these same questions at some point or another. They have been whispered in imploring prayers.  They have been shouted angrily to the heavens. They have been used as proof by skeptics.

This movie is for anyone who has ever questioned the God of the Old Testament, the book of Job, the God who allows suffering and evil to exist in the world.  It tackles free will, and atheism, humanism, the covenant with the Jews.  This is all set against the bleak backdrop of a Nazi prison camp.

There is an interesting cast of characters.  Some are believers.  Some not.  Some are Jews.  Some not.  Some are honorable men. Some not. Among them are rabbis, fathers, sons, thieves, businessmen, craftsman, con men. 

During a morbid kind of lottery...where the group is separated into two smaller groups, half of them chosen for the gas chambers the next day.  The prisoners can only guess which group will live and which will die when morning comes.  It is the last night for some of them. 

How do they spend the night?  They put put God on trial.  They seek to decide for themselves, once and for all.... If God is good and all powerful, why is there evil?  If he can stop evil and does not is he good?  If he wants to stop the evil but cannot, is he all powerful? It is riveting

Following is a YouTube eloquent 10 minute summation, given by Akiba, an old-fashioned Rabbi from the countryside. He is a Melamed, or religious teacher, and a healer who has committed holy writings to memory. Although quiet for most of the trial, when Akiba eventually speaks, everyone is drawn to him.

And does he ever say a mouthfull. He recites a a laundry list of many of the atrocities and unfair, cruel doings attributed to the God of the OT.  One does not have to look too hard to find many, many atrocities. 

Particularly poignant, is his comparison of their plight to the plights of some of the people Adonia's wrath was vented against in the OT.

He muses:

For the Egyptians, the Amalekites...what was it like for them when Adonai turned against them?  It was like this.

He asks (knowing full well the answer)

Today there was a selection, yes?  When David defeated the Moabites, what did he do?

Schmidt a well-educated Rabbi appointed the Father of the Court, replies:

He made them lie on the ground in lines and he chose one to live and two to die. 

Akiba continues:

We have become the Moabites.  We are learning how it was for the Amalekites.  They faced extinction at the hand of Adonai.  They died for his purpose.  They fell as we are falling.  They were afraid as we are afraid.  And what did they learn?  They learned that Adonai, the Lord our God, OUR God, is not good.  He is not good.  He was not ever good.  He was only on our side.

He goes on to talk about the Flood, God's demand of Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac.  He repeats the sad conviction he has come to about God...

He is not good...he has simply been strong.  He has simply been on our side. 

And he's not finished....

When we were brought here we were brought by train.  A guard slapped my face.  On their belts they had written  "God is with us."  Now who is to say he is not?  Perhaps he is.  Is there any other explanation?  What do we see here?  His power, his majesty, his might.  All these things...but turned against us.  He is still God...but not our God.  He has become our enemy....

That's what's happened to the covenant.  He has made a new covenant with someone else.



Plot spoiler...God does not fare well in the final verdict. 

I rewatched parts of the movie tonight.  It is available in its entirety in four parts HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE. 

Akiba's number is among those called to go to the gas chamber.  When another prisoner, one who has declared he does not believe in God, is also called, he panics and implores of Akiba, "What do we do now." And Akiba's answer?

Now, we pray...

And they covered their heads with their hands and prayed....and they continued to pray as they were led into the gas chambers to die...

Without quoting the chapter and verse, they demonstrated by their Job did....

Though he slay me, yet will I trust him.....

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