Saturday, July 26, 2003

The Trial of God

I was thinking of Agnoticism, the uncertainty that god exists, or does not exist. When I think of Agnoticism, I think of times of trial in somebody's religious life where they not just come to doubt the existance of god, but can't fit the existance of said god into their current experience.

Agnoticism shouldn't be confused with Atheism. People who are agnostic feel that there is something there, somewhere, but the just can figure it out, or they can't bring themselves to believe a strict set of religious dogma within the box of that dogma.

The book of Job is the ultimate text for addressing the the relationship between god and his people, but I think that the biggest and best real world example of justifiable agnostic tendencies would be the experience of the Holocaust for the Jews in World War II. Here is a people who have a long and rich history with their god, a god who's actual providence has been evidenced and chronicalled through their Holy Books and history. It is a belief that must have been challenged during the Holocaust. Where was god's providence then? Why did he chose to let his people suffer this horror? Did they deserve punishment, had they fallen from grace... or was god just not there? If he wasn't there, was he ever there? Where did he go? Didn't god say he would always protect his people?

While he was a young boy in the Auschwitz death camp Elie Wiesel witnessed three Jewish scholars?rabbis put god on trial. After much discussion and deliberations, this court found god guilty of crimes against humankind, guilty of not protecting his people.

Later, after surviving Auschwitz, Wiesel wrought a play based on this trial, called The Trial of God. In his play, Wiesel's absentee god never speaks for himself - rather Wiesel introduces an unlikely character to serve and present god's defence. This character is Satan.

In Prof David Diewert's review (see link above) he says:

"The critical difference between the Book of Job and Wiesel’s play is that he omits God’s presence. God never speaks for Himself and, therefore, no one responds to Him. Instead of God being the central and controlling character, it is Sam—the satan—who precipitates the trial with the original pogrom, saves the trial by coming to God’s defense, wins the judges over to his argument, and concludes the matter with the final destruction. God’s absence must be Wiesel’s intentional portrayal of his own experience. The rampant evil of the world, epitomized by the Holocaust, demonstrates that the satan is near and destructively active while God is distant and seemingly uncaring or impotent. Wiesel makes this clear when one of the judges points out that someone is missing from the court and Berish sarcastically responds, "Who is that? The defendant? He’s used to it" (p. 70).

No comments: