Reality Shows, Sports Competitions and Really Confused “Christians”

Either I’m really confused, or a lot of other people are really confused.

Not surprisingly, my sensibilities and my ego lean toward the latter.

Because even though I’m far from being a Biblical scholar, I consider myself a fairly intelligent person. And based on everything I’ve read and been taught, being a Christian means believing and following the teachings of Christ.

Period.

But there seem to be a lot of people who think that being a Christian doesn’t have as much to do with what you do, but instead has everything to do with what you profess to believe. On top of that, these same people seem to think that calling themselves Christian means God will give them what they want based on this “badge of honor” they proudly wear.

While this seems completely off base to me, there are a lot of people who believe the concept.

Just watch reality TV or sports competitions.

I’m not particularly proud of the fact, but being the dork that I am, I’m a fan of the television shows “Survivor” and  “The Amazing Race.”

(As a disclaimer, I watch these shows because I’m fascinated by the personal dynamics and contestant interactions. In other words I’m simply doing research for the book I’m going to write someday. At least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)

But in watching these shows, I’ve also noticed a trend: every season, there are contestants who not only proclaim that they are Christian, but believe that because of this, they’ve got some kind of upper hand in the competition.  In subsequent episodes, they continue to pray and claim that God is on their side and, therefore, they have the advantage.

Call me a cynic, but I’m pretty sure God’s top priorities have nothing to do with who wins a reality TV show.

I’m beginning to wonder if I’m in the minority, though, since a lot of people are buying into this whole “Christians have the upper hand in pretty much pointless competitions” theory.

I’ve seen it time and time again in sports.  Athletes describe themselves as  “a Christian,” and because of that, they claim God is on their side.

Really?

For some reason, I seriously doubt that God is spending precious time ensuring that the team that prays the most or has the most self-proclaimed Christians is THE team that wins a championship.

Instead,  I’m thinking that God’s top priorities have something to do with how we treat and care for each other.

But then again, maybe I’m interpreting Jesus’ message differently.  Because I completely buy into the simplified version shared by a friend the other day:  “Love God and love each other.”

I don’t think that winning a competition for money or fame falls under either of these commands.  I also don’t think prayers are intended to be wish lists for everything we want in life.

As my mother once told me “Don’t pray for what you want. Pray that God gives you the strength, the skills and the direction to deal with the situations you are handed.”

Makes perfect sense to me.

But then, I’m not trying to win a reality TV show or a major sports competition.

I’m just stumbling through life trying to figure out how to spend less time irritated with people and more time doing what I think Jesus meant by “being Christian.”

It’s hard, but on those days when I feel like I’ve made a bit of progress, I feel like a winner.

And that’s the kind of winner I think God is hoping we strive to be.

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About Trina Bartlett

I live in the Eastern Panhandle of WV, with one dog, two cats, a daughter in high school, a son starting his latest adventures at West Virginia University and a husband who works strange hours. When I'm not working as a director at a nonprofit social service organization or being a mom, I can generally be found riding my bike, walking my dog and stirring things up.

Posted on October 29, 2011, in My life, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. So much one could say here…..great start. I think in this post you just scratch the surface of something you could blog about for years.

    My observation is that sometimes people proclaim to be a Christian when they are frightened. And maybe that is OK, who am I go say? But I am always fascinated with why someone might be scared, and for what reason they think identifying as Christian will alleviate that fear.

    After the rise of the radical right’s allegiance with Christianity as a political identity and then the holy war dynamics of 9-11, it seems people in the USA pull out the Christian identity as a way of not being singled out as dangerous or a threat.

    Ironically, in some ways this makes them more threatening to certain segments of society.

    You also touch on the works v. grace theological issue, which of course is a Big Deal. As much as I would like to see more works devotion to the teachings of Christ, I don’t think at the end of the day that is the core element of a Christian life, or perhaps I should say the Christian experience. “Dead Man Walking” is a good example of what many (including myself) believe to be the heart of the faith. Knowing one’s flawed and sinful nature has but one salvation, confessing and surrendering completely to the power of divine forgiveness, is a powerful thing. It often comes at the end of a long road of doing some really terrible stuff to other people.

    Christianity can be a very confounding concept. You might like this: http://essediemblog.com/2010/11/18/bumping-into-aslan/

    • Thanks Elizabeth. I agree. There’s so much to say and so much more I want to say. And yet, I tread so slightly. So many people have themselves wrapped so tightly around their concept of Christianity that any questions frighten and/or threaten them. So instead of questioning, they defend or attack

      Me? I’ll be asking questions until I die and find out for sure, I guess.

  2. I love the quote from your mother and could not agree with her more. I wholeheartedly believe that the grace of God saved me from my past and has eternally secured my future. I also believe that same God resides in my heart and spurs me on to love my neighbor. I am disappointed in so many “Christians” who not only tout the kind of “God is on my side” nonsense that you mention here but also the prosperity gospel, the “if you had more faith you wouldn’t be sick” gospel, etc. The gospel is Jesus, period. Anything added to it is simply man trying to insert himself in something we {as finite humans} are not capable of completely understanding or relating to.
    I agree with Elizabeth that you just scratched the surface of this topic!
    {and, I use a similar excuse for watching reality TV- “I love to study human behavior”}

  3. Melissa’s comment reminds me of what a sports-crazy nation this is. If you are all hyped up on “life is a competition of winners and losers” I think you trend more towards the “God is on my side” thinking.

    For whatever it’s worth, I think we are all really confused. Pretty safe bet it’s not you or others but you and others. 🙂

  4. Good post just in time for the anniversary of Reformation, Trina! My understanding of Martin Luther’s teaching is that all Christians are sinners. However, I get the distinct impression when someone proclaims her or himself or another as Christian is that they have better standards and a better lifestyle (moral superiority) than those who do not proclaim themselves Christian. You could go on forever about some Christians’ intolerance of all other beliefs, but that’s a whole other can of worms (pronounced with a German “v” pronunciation – little Martin Luther joke there)!

    People can still agree with some of the teachings of Jesus, have high moral standards, a virtuous lifestyle, be at peace and not be Christian.

    • I completely agree, Michele.

      And yes, one of my big questions is about “Christians” who throw around judgement of others –whether they practice another religion or whether they don’t practice at all –yet otherwise live a life that Jesus preached – take care of others, care for others, don’g judge, etc… I remember as a teenager being told by a youth minister that I wasn’t a “real” Christian because of my denomination……

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