08 August 2019, The Tablet

Jaw-dropping feats of faith


Sacred Wonders

I got flashes of déjà vu while I was watching the first episode (7 August) of the BBC’s three-part documentary Sacred Wonders. Where had I seen those swooping aerial shots of exotic and faraway locations, accompanied by a deafeningly soaring soundtrack, before?

Ah yes: it bore a close resemblance to The Story of God, the National Geographic Channel’s scenic package tour of quirksome religious curiosities, which I reviewed in March. And just as The Story of God isn’t the story of God, so Sacred Wonders is very little about the sacred.

To be fair, there is a bit of wonder in it – but it’s of the Guinness Book of Records variety, “the amazing things people do for faith” as the narrator put it. Sacred Wonders’s round-the-world spin took the religious lives of the individuals around whom the episodes are based and transformed them into those will-they, won’t-they personal challenges with “countdowns”, ticking clocks, souped-up states of urgency and last-minute obstacles.

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