A DEEP renewal of faith, more intense discipleship, religion now at the very centre of people’s lives: is it not this for which we long, pray, and work? Young, Sikh And Proud (BBC1, Tuesday of last week) spelled out just how toxic the unintended consequences of such revival can be; and the relevance to Christianity was, to me, obvious throughout.
This was no objective documentary, but, rather, a personal quest by the liberal journalist Sunny Hundal to seek posthumous healing of the rift between him and his late brother Jagraj Singh, a phenomenally successful reigniter of faith among young British Sikhs. They parted company over Sunny’s reporting of the rise of extremism: of intimidation that forced the abandonment of interfaith weddings; threats of violence that made planned events to encourage mutual hospitality between Sikhs and Muslims impossible; and initiatives to develop community building across confessional lines.
The problem with religion newly embraced is that enthusiasm so easily leads to extremism — and to reforming zeal, eager by whatever means necessary to restore the purity of faith, to cleanse the temple of the compromises adopted by the elders. So all assimilation must end, all engagement with the godless British state must cease.
I, at least, found bitter irony in our nation’s pulling up our drawbridge, choosing separation over partnership, in the week marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz: the worst horror of war, the catastrophe that inspired the European Project, the institution constructed to ensure that such obscenity could never happen again.
A clutch of programmes reminded us once more of the Final Solution, the logical conclusion of the doctrine of supposed racial purity. Belsen: Our story (BBC2, Tuesday of last week) was, by its very sobriety, particularly effective. A handful of survivors made the journey back to the site of the camp, each with heartrending memories of parents and siblings murdered. The British liberators were confronted with 10,000 unburied corpses; even after they were freed, 14,000 inmates died of long-term starvation and disease.
Such real-life perspective makes it harder to relish the comedy of Good Omens, BBC2’s adaptation of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s novel about Armageddon (Wednesdays). A good angel, Aziriphale, and a fallen angel, Crowley, have developed a cosy friendship constantly undermining the extremisms of Heaven and Hell, their respective Head Offices. The moment has arrived for the realisation of the End Times — but they would really prefer everything to carry on as usual.
Despite superlative acting and production, it is little more than a succession of inventive and witty gags ignited by a literal reading of the book of Revelation colliding with the banal reality of 21st-century Britain.