God on Trial

Posted: March 18, 2011 in Uncategorized

I just viewed that remarkable BBC drama based on actual events inside one of the Nazi death camps during World War II, God on Trial. As a way to make sense of the unthinkable, Jews convene a court, bringing forth any and all evidence that might either vindicate or find God guilty. But guilty of what? Murder? But is there some other reason for God’s absence, for allowing this to happen? Hasn’t God broken covenant? Is this punishment? Purification? Of not of individuals, then of the whole? Or is this simply the consequence of extending human beings freedom, even freedom to do evil? In the end, say some, Hitler will be dead, the war over, but Torah will live on. But at what cost?

God is found guilty. But then they worship God on the way to the gas chambers, the ovens.

In the midst of Holocaust, or any genocide, or mass suffering by natural or human cause, it would be easy to dismiss God, the idea of God, as irrelevant. I can see that happening. It is harder to hold on to belief while not knowing why things are the way they are. But what seems harder still, to me, is to still hold on to faith while allowing the suffering to revise one’s sense of how God might be present in the world. Maybe it is, but not as we imagined it to be. With that we may not need to find God guilty because that isn’t how God acts in the world, anyway. We would find God neither guilty or innocent, but rather present or not.

In the same way we might no longer hold God responsible for what happened to Jesus, some bloody transaction to soothe some unresolved justice.  But we do see God present in the suffering of Jesus; wherever there is suffering, there is God.

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