Southern & Jewish
Southern & Jewish celebrates the stories, people, and experiences – past and present – of Jewish life in the American South. Hosted by the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, posts come from educators, students, rabbis, parents, artists, and many other “visitors-to and daily-livers-of” the Southern Jewish experience. From road trips to recipes to reflections, we’ll explore a little bit of everything – well, at least all things Southern and/or Jewish. Shalom, y’all!
Maybe you believe in God, maybe you don’t—but what would you do if God added you as a friend on Facebook?
That’s the premise of the TV show God Friended Me. The main character, Miles, is friended on Facebook by an account called “God.” But Miles is a podcaster who constantly talks about how God does not exist.
Still – Miles winds up connected to God. On Facebook, anyway. Then throughout the show, Miles is sent friend suggestions from the God account, encouraging him to help other random people. Miles helps the people that the God account sends him in the hopes of figuring out who made the God account.
This show does not just come from the point of view of Miles and his upbringing in an Episcopal Church, but also through other religions, including Judaism.
On multiple occasions, Miles talks to a rabbi to discuss his concepts and hears what another person might think of his dilemmas. But the idea of God being our friend, in itself, is a mysterious concept. It brings up questions of, “Why me?” or “Is this a joke?”
Miles’ rabbi-friend notes that Miles has always talked about wanting to help others, but did not know how. The God account is the opportunity Miles has been looking for, and so she says that no matter who started the account, it is a true act of God.
Now, by no means am I an expert in this subject, but this show has brought up a lot of conversations for me ever since I started watching it—especially the discussion around whether or not we need to believe in God in order to believe in doing Good.
Judaism is a monotheistic religion, which at its core means we believe in one God. However, within the Jewish world you’ll hear about people questioning God or not believing in God at all, just like in the show—yet they still identify as Jewish. Because our tradition demonstrates that it is good for us to question our beliefs. In fact, Judaism tells us that we should ask questions, all the time.
God Friended Me explores the idea that even though Miles does not believe in God, he still does all this good from following “God’s” suggestions, so even if it’s not God actually communicating with him… well, the question is, does that matter?
We can believe in Doing Good, even if we have more complicated feelings about the existence of God. I think that’s why in Judaism, we believe in doing mitzvot. Doing mitzvot helps us feel like we are better people, especially in God’s eyes—but even if God isn’t benefiting from our mitzvot, other people are definitely benefiting when we do acts of tzedakah and gemilut chassadim.
As much as I want to say that there is a God and that God is everywhere and guides us to do everything, the truth is that I am just not sure. The ability to have this uncertainty, and still be Jewish, is why I love Judaism. It’s also why I enjoy shows like God Friended Me—it asks the sorts of questions I am always asking!