I’m not one of those people that watch EVERY reality TV show out there, but I will take this moment to admit that yes, I do have a few shows that I indulge in on a weekly basis. Usually its just for fun, and very rarely do I ever find anything of real depth or value on these shows, but this week has been both frustrating and refreshing in the land of reality TV.
Let me back up and start from the beginning…every so often on these shows, there will be a token “Christian” player. These characters are usually over the top, staunchly legalistic people that look down there noses at everyone else that doesn’t fit their moral code. Generally, this person ends up making an embarassment of themselves and of the Christian faith, and I end up wishing they would have kept their faith to themselves, b/c I feel like they end up doing more harm than good for the cause of Christ.
I watched the season premier of The Amazing Race this past week, and I had to cringe when one of the teams proudly christened themselves as a “Christian couple” that was choosing to keep themselves pure until they were married. First of all, what makes them think we want to hear about their sex life?!? The premise of this show is a giant international scavenger hunt! Not that I’m disagreeing with their choices, but I just don’t think its appropriate for everyone on national TV to be made aware of their sexual choices in the first 3 minutes we meet these people. How does that have any relevance to the show? Imagine the other end of the spectrum…”We’re married and have sex 3 times a week with each other. We are swingers so we also have sex on weekends with other people, and are open to making new alliances and working closely with other teams…” That sounds ridiculous b/c you would never hear anyone talk so explicitly about those activities, so why would the LACK of such activities be given such air time?
However, what disappointed me the most was what this team said in response to a question about how their faith in God would help them succeed in the race. I can think offhand of any number of things they could have said that would have made sense – regarding relationships with their partners, other teammates, peace about how things play out, etc. But instead, this is what the girl member of the team said – “I think our faith will definitely help us. Like, we can pray to God that we will win the race!” Are you kidding me? Supposedly your faith is important enough to you to be your “identity” on the race, you have a national audience listening to you talk about your relationship with God, and you talk about something as superficial and shallow as praying to win a million dollars? Come on.
Then, just when I had given up that there would ever be a positive portrayal of a Christian on reality TV, I watched The Biggest Loser last night. In case you aren’t familiar with the show, it consists of very obese men and women living together, working on their weight loss journey together and with their trainers. For many of them, this is a last ditch effort to get healthy. I like this show b/c it is so much fun to watch the transformation as they change from depressed, unhealthy people to inspirational, happy, healthy men and women! Anyway, each week the two teams that had the lowest percentage of weight loss are on the chopping block, and the other teams have to decide by a vote which team will go home, and therefore have to try to lose the rest of their weight at home, without the support of their teammates/trainers and also the isolation and focus that living on the “ranch” provides. To recap, on last nights show, one player had made some questionable decisions that affected the other teams, and the two teams that were up for elimination were two teams that no one wanted to have to choose between. Right before its time to vote, each team was given a chance to plead their case – to tell why they deserve to be there more than the other team.
Up for elimination were the Yellow team – a man and a woman who were the two biggest players that the game had ever had, and the Red team – two guys, one of whom had mentioned a couple of times that he was a pastor. The woman in particular on the Yellow team had a really touching story – she never knew her dad, her mom had died of a drug overdose, and she basically had no support system to go home to if she got voted off. She was also well over 400 pounds, and obviously had the most weight of anyone to lose. When it came time for the Red team to have their “speech”, the pastor did the talking. He began by saying how much he and his partner had learned over the past few weeks, and how grateful they were to know that they had family and friends at home they could lean on. He said they didn’t want to go home, but between the two teams, he felt like they were the ones that could be most successful on their own. He basically told the other teams to vote his team off instead of the Yellow team – his partner didn’t speak up, but was obviously in agreement as well.
At first I thought – what are you doing?!? He’s dreamed for so long of having this opportunity to make the lifestyle changes he needs to to keep his family healthy and be a good example for his kids! It seemed crazy that he would sacrifice so much for someone he had only known for a couple of weeks!
But then it hit me – this man realizes that their is something bigger going on here than a weight loss game show. These are real people with real problems and he has a chance to be a reflection of Christ to these people. We have been talking in church recently about how the proof of love is sacrifice. I don’t know anything about the beliefs of the other man on his team, but I can say that those two just showed the whole world what it looks like to put your money where your mouth is and really love your neighbor. This pastor was not worried about who was having sex or not. He wasn’t using his connection with God to pray for victory over other teams. He’s not using his time on the show as a platform to preach about hellfire and brimstone, or about ethics and moral law. He’s just representing God in the clearest way he can – not with empty words, but with self-sacrificial love. That’s what I call leading by example.
I don’t intend to come across as judgmental. A reality TV show is a vulnerable and humbling place to be I am sure. A camera is there at the ready to show you at your worst possible moments to the whole country. More than likely I will never be on these reality shows, or any other for that matter. (At one point I tried out for one of these shows. Hopefully it is obvious which one I tried out for, although that may become slightly less clear in the coming months… ) I probably won’t have to worry about the whole world noticing all my flaws and shortcomings, and catching me in the midst of my many hypocritical moments (which is good…). But that doesn’t mean that those around me aren’t watching me. Seeing this show last night really convicted me of how casual I treat this responsibility sometimes. In my own “local” world, I need to make sure that I am accurately representing Christ to others – not just in what I say, but in my every action and deed.