Elevate Difference

Oh My God

Oh My God is the kind of documentary that holds you in wonder from start to finish. Once the credits begin to roll, you finally exhale and find yourself muttering “Wow.” Peter Rodger's trek across every inhabited continent in search of the answer to one of humankind's ultimate questions—“What is God?”—is both a revelation on the unifying conceptualization of something higher and a celebration of what elevates us. It is an unflinching and holistic search for answers among all who seek to fill voids, satisfy ethereal desires, and comprehend the lives that we lead—which is most everyone—by searching for meaning.

In two parts, this film seems to attempt to tackle first the unifying attributes of a belief in God and then some of the unfortunate, but seemingly inevitable, discord of the extremist fringes of modern organized religion. In one of the film's most poignant scenes there is a bulletin board at a school with pupils from various religious backgrounds. Each child expresses a different faith, but similar beliefs, and it is clear they are all friends and view their different faiths not as something to be challenged and contested, and experience a commonality of belief that is recognized and celebrated. Fittingly, the bulletin board reads: “There is gold and multitudes of rubies, but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel.” At this point in the film one wonders where in the process children lose their jovial collegiality and transform into adults who preach religious and spiritual exceptionalism.

Oh My God also explores the anthropocentric qualities of modern conventions concerning the divine: Is it arrogant to assume that the human mind is capable of comprehending God? As one of the documentary participants eloquently states: “An ocean can see the drop, but a drop can not see the ocean.” Is it natural for sentient species to attempt explanation through religion of the “effulgence of existence?" While we witness a panoply of answers, these are the types of questions brought forth by Rodger's inquisition-traveling and challenge those of us who have a faith, or lack thereof, that is steeped in tradition and family inertia rather than self-reflection and other inner endeavors.

The best aspect of Oh My God is its successful effort at compiling many different answers to the central question that constitutes the documentary's purpose. Rodger's film is an exercise in collaboration between Rodger (who films) and the ones who are filmed in order to expose shades of gray rather black or white absolutes. Rodger has made a film in which common folk and celebrities alike the chance to share their own unique portion of “the precious jewels of [personal and inner] knowledge.”

Written by: Brandon Copeland, November 21st 2009