Oh My God
Not everyone sees God the same way. Director Peter Rodger, tired of various people claiming their God is the greatest—and then using that belief as a basis for violence, terrorism, and war—decided to travel around the world and ask people what they thought God is. And, he says, "As a person who wrestles with faith, I needed to determine whether God created man or man created God."
The result is Oh My God, a flashy but insubstantial whirlwind trip around the globe. The film is rendered even more disappointing because of its potential. After all, there is no more interesting or defining question to ask of a person than what they think of God. Even the agnostic somehow has an opinion. God has been a hot topic since the dawn of humankind.
To his credit, Rodgers mostly manages to avoid demonizing or ridiculing his subjects. (Some of them seem pretty crazy, but he doesn't provoke them into it.) He starts out with what seems like a genuinely open heart and inquisitive mind, which is just what a documentarian needs.
However, through wearying series of interviews and strings of rhetorical questions voiced over pulsing music and heady vistas, the issue becomes more muddied, not more clear. It's patently ridiculous to think anyone can settle the question of God in a 98-minute film, of course, and I'm sure Rodger didn't expect to settle it once and for all, but his bias against the possibility of any religion (with the possible exception of Buddhism) having a valid handle on what God is becomes more and more clear. To Rodger, religion—in any form—is an obstruction to knowing God, and couldn't be a help along the way.
Fair enough. Even many Christians say that they are about relationship, not religion. One of the truest statements in the film comes from Ringo Starr (of all people), who says that "God is love." What he means by "God" and "love" is probably a bit different from what John meant in his first epistle, but he's on the right track.
If a muddled view of God were the film's only drawback, it might be forgiven. An intelligent, compassionate inquiry into the various ways that people have seen God and the manifestations that takes is interesting anthropologically and sociologically, but also important for the thinking Christian, who ought to understand what others believe. A documentary with some depth would be an excellent way to hear people's views from their own lips.
But that's not this film. Instead, we're following Rodger around as he has a kind of existential crisis (which he in fact does in the middle of the film). It lacks any arc beyond its loose inquiry, so it plays more like a music video than a documentary. The experience is dizzying, as we hop from continent to continent, occasionally sitting down with somewhat random celebrities—illusionist David Copperfield, musician Seal, Hugh Jackman, Ringo Starr. The only evangelicals they seem to have been able to dig up are a pastor in Africa who the nationals seem not to like very much, Dr. Tim LaHaye, and possibly the most stereotypical "everyman" possible: a gun shop owner in Texas. (The most evangelical-sounding interviewee is an American Catholic seminarian studying in Rome, who whips out a guitar in the square and leads the tourists in a chorus that calls on the Holy Spirit to fall and fill their hearts with fire.)