Monday, December 24, 2007

In God's Name

Monday's Media Review

In God's Name: A Two Hour, Prime Time CBS Special

As we summarize our thoughts following last night’s CBS prime time special “In God’s Name”, the first thing that comes to mind is the need to give a big round of applause to CBS and the Naudets. It isn’t often that we find such spiritual questing in network prime time. At a minimum, they deserve praise for tackling a big idea.

The project represented, in one sense, a bet that there is enough spiritual hunger in America to make the numbers work for CBS. Here at Common Tables we are hoping that proved to be the case – that “In God’s Name” did at least as well in the ratings as the normal cheesy holiday fluff which dominates programming this time of year.

Given the scope of the project, we feel the Naudets did an admirable job of creating a beautiful portrait showcasing a dozen human variations of this thing we call faith. The program flowed well and did a good job of presenting images and ideas which have the potential to awaken the viewer to new possibilities.

Some random observations about the program:

First, the scope of the project really requires more air time. It is a noble effort, but we hope the ratings are strong enough to justify a future miniseries.

Second, it was fascinating to see how, even through the veil of translation, each of the leaders exudes their own kind of charisma – from the Dalai Lama's playful smile to the Archbishop of Canterbury's thoughts on morality.

Finally, the efforts to openly discuss religion in the context of intolerance, terrorism and violence, while of necessity a bit superficial, represent a “good start”. We have seen the issues presented from the perspective of self-styled religious extremists ad nauseam. Let us all hope for future programming which expands these topics from the broader point of view of the religious mainstream.

“The idea is to show the things that unite us, rather than divide us, and to give a sense of progression through the day — and through the questions we ask," said 34-year-old Jules Naudet. Given the time restraints of a two hour special, it seems to us that “In God’s Name” did an admirable job of doing exactly that.

We are interested in hearing your feedback – your thoughts about this groundbreaking, prime time special.


JimII said...

I really enjoyed the special. Like you, I was intrigued by how well the leaders' charisma could shine through. For me, the Alexy II, patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, made a big impact on me. In my blog I described it as more of an opportunity for the leaders to "witness" than really a chance to dig into hard questions. And that is just what they should have done. What a great use of two hours.

Prophetic Progress: "In God's Name"

RichM said...

They handled the juxtapositions between the different faiths very well, cutting from a street scene in India to a country road in South Carolina and to the nave of a cathedral. This by itself was a way to communicate how diverse the world's religions are, playing that against the strong commonalities apparent in what the leaders were saying.

I wasn't able to watch the entire special and would like to know whether they touched on the darker sides of the subject, religious intolerance and warfare, schism, and the difficulties the ecumenical movement has seen.