Religious Pluralism: Isaac and Ishmael

I’ve recently started re-watching The West Wing. I don’t remember what prompted it, but I’m really glad that I have. I first watched the series a couple of years ago — before I was to start business school. The show was really engaging and that made it easy to watch multiple (3, 4, and 5!) episodes at a time. Now that I find myself nearing the end of my formal business education (graduate with an MBA in a couple of months), re-watching The West Wing has been quite different. I feel like I have a better handle and understanding of the nuances to the plot. That’s not because I’ve seen it before (I hardly remember the ‘minor’ plot lines of the series), but because I’ve learned so much in the last 2 years.

I’m into Season 3 and the first episode that airs in Season 3 is one that’s not part of the plot. That is, it’s a play — with the characters of The West Wing, but it’s not part of the timeline of the show. This episode airs about a month after 9/11. Well, the actors/actresses can do it better than I, so here’s the introduction to the episode that aired:

When I was watching the series the first time, I don’t remember watching this episode — I was too eager to carry on with the plot. Since I knew what was going to happen, I thought I’d take the time to watch this episode. I thought it was very well done. I tried to imagine how I might be feeling back in October of 2001. Would I be upset? Would I be typecasting? Would I have understood the nuances of different religious beliefs? Different sects?

I’ve had a hard time finding critical reception for this particular episode, but of those articles I was able to find, there’ve been mixed reviews. From what I can tell, that has more to do with what appears to be something against Aaron Sorkin (the creator of the show). While some found the “teacher-student” paradigm a bit hokey, I thought it was a great way to convey an important message. Anyway, if you get the chance, I highly suggest watching the episode. If you’ve got Amazon Prime, here’s the link to the episode on Amazon that you can watch for free: The West Wing – Isaac and Ishmael.

~

As an aside, there was another really great episode that I saw recently. This one was part of the plot of the show, but it dealt with a really important issue: post-traumatic stress disorder. I was surprised when I clicked over to the Wiki page for this episode to find that it had only won one award (and helped Bradley Whitford win an Emmy). If I’m keeping score, this has to be one of the top 5 episodes of the series. Here’s the Amazon Prime link: The West Wing - Noël.

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