Can Christians Survive the Christians on Survivor?

OK. So I know it is just a television show and I know I shouldn’t care and for the most part I don’t. It is just a game. But what happens when a couple of outspoken, self-described Christians (Neleh is a Mormon, Vecepia didn’t declare her denomination) get in the final three?

The two are an interesting study in the landscape of American religious life. Neleh took as her luxury item her Bible/Book of Mormon while Vecepia brought a notebook of her own poetry. Neleh’s favorite authors are evangelicals Gary Chapman and Max Lucado while Vecepia prefers ‘The Color Purple’ and an out-of-print applied ethics books titled, ‘Cast the First Stone’. Neleh reads Vogue, In-Style and People, and Vecepia reads Oprah and Essence. Neither of them drinks alcohol.

Neleh and Vecepia pray out loud and praise Jesus Christ, without whom they would not have gotten this far. Vecepia talks about her vision from God that led her to apply for Survivor. The last day on the island, Vecepia compares almost being finished on the island, to Jesus Christ saying on the cross, ‘it is finished.’

Oh and I forgot to mention, Vecepia LIED AND BROKE HER PLEDGE TO KATHY so she could guaranty being in the final two! But she assures the audience that the great thing about being a Christian is you can ask God for forgiveness and then go and ask the person for forgiveness and then everything will be OK! Her reward for lying and deceiving? She wins a million dollars and gets to go on national TV and tell everyone how she could not have won if God had not helped her. (It turns out that God not only forgives lying, but also now helps people lie, if there is enough money involved).

Meanwhile the self-professed gay, John, explains why he chose the honesty path and notes the irony that the ‘bible thumpers’ lied, deceived and WON! Tammy is even more forceful in her observation that both Neleh and Vecepia were ‘hypocritical holier-than-thou types’ who talked a good Christian game, but who lied and deceived their way to the final two by using the tactics she herself began to question, in part due to their nice Christian influence. The earnest, thought-full, hard-playing Kathy was gracious about Vecepia’s betrayal, but voted for Neleh to win survivor. It is hard to imagine John, Tammy and Kathy ever trusting a so-called Christian after what they witnessed on the island.

It could be argued that the outspoken ‘Christians’ in the group should be cut some slack or even commended for their lying and deceiving, because, after all, it is a game, the goal of which is to win by outwitting, outplaying and outlasting. It could also be argued that given the dynamics of the game they were actually displaying a strategic, Christian virtue, after all Jesus himself said, ‘Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.’ (Matthew 10:16-42).

But for the nation to see professing Christians defending lying and betrayal and deception, then glibly explaining that these conscious, strategic, ethical behaviors can be easily forgiven, then trivializing Jesus’ experience on the cross by comparing them to the last day on Survivor — it was all too much for me.

These self-professed Christians may have gotten to the finals, and won a lot of loot, but their fellow game-players and the nation got some tragic insights into the shallowness and superficiality for what passes for Christianity these days.

It has been said that Christianity prevailed in the first centuries because Christians out-thought, out-lived and out-died their pagan counterparts — today it appears we will play to win, take the money and then go back and say I’m sorry. Dietrich Bonhoeffer had a phrase for this, ‘cheap grace’. CBS has a name for it too: Compelling TV. The Romans and pagans found it entertaining to watch Christians thrown to the lions for their beliefs, today society loves to watch Christians devour pagans while jettisoning their own beliefs.

Posted in Staublog, Thoughts in May 20, 2002 by | No Comments »

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