Survivor & Christianity

Ever since season 2 of CBS's hit show Survivor, I've been locked-in as a viewer.  I started watching then because one of the teachers from my high school, KY Joe, was a contestant on the show.  It was fun knowing someone on the show and watching them compete.  That season, KY Joe brought a Bible with him and it was made known pretty soon that he was a Christian.  I remember how, once the season ended and he returned home, Christian organizations from everywhere were calling him up attempting to bring him in as a guest speaker.

Survivor, now in its 23rd season, has come a long way since then.  Even so, one of the constants of the show is that it almost always has Christians on it.  There is, I might say, always a spot for a "Token Christian" on Survivor.  A lot of people eat this up!  I'm speaking in particular of people who refer to themselves as Christians here.  Yet, as a Christian myself, I am coming to find it more and more annoying.  

This season has been very annoying to me.  We have seen the recurring use of Christianity to manipulate people's emotions and intellect; it is a sad thing.  Yet, the one thing that most gets on my nerves is the way in which some of the players on there who identify themselves as Christians, seem to get caught in moral dilemmas.  Let me speak to this issue for a moment.

Specifically, I'm thinking of the instances where it comes to tricking or deceiving someone, pulling a fast one on them or blindsiding them.  In many of the interviews, we find the Christian contestants appearing to be going through some sort of spiritual battle about whether or not it is a sin to do these things.  The fact is, however, that they knew going into this thing that the name of the game is "outwit, outplay, outlast".  So, there should be no moral dilemma for these folks.  Let me give an analogy.

As one who grew up playing sports, I thoroughly enjoy watching and participating in athletic games and competitions.  I played soccer from kindergarten all the way through college.  As a player, there were times when, to outwit my opponent, I had to trick or deceive them.  How did I do it?  Well, there were a number of ways.  Sometimes, I would use body movements or gestures to try to throw them off.  For example, I could fake like I was going to pass or dribble one way but then do something completely different.  

Or, I could use verbal cues.  I could call out to a teammate, making the opponent think that I was going to pass the ball to them; maybe these words would trick them.  I could use fancy footwork or speed variations as well.  In short, there were many ways to deceive or trick my opponent.  This is not true just for the game of soccer, it is true in football, basketball and virtually any other athletic match.  We do the same in chess, checkers, cards, etc.

The point is:  These are games and in them, we use deceit and trickery.  That is, in fact, the very nature of a game!  Survivor is no different!  It is a game!  Now, before you object and say, "But in Survivor there is more riding on the line" or "But in Survivor, you're dealing with people's emotions" remember that the same is true of sports.  In high school athletics there are scholarships riding on the line.  There are emotions that come with winning or losing a big game.  In college, there may be professional jobs on the line.  There are certainly emotions tied to this as well.

However, never once, in 10+ years of sports, was I accused of not being a faithful Christian because I tricked an opponent or deceived them so that I could win.  In fact, I was viewed, even at a Christian college, as a good player when I did this successfully.  And rightly so!  The point is:  For people who go on CBS's Survivor, it should not be a struggle to play the game.  In terms of morals, it is no different than any other sports match.

Just the same, Christians who are viewing the show should not think less of these Christians players when they make moves that involve trickery or deceit.  This is a game!  Yes, it involves real people and real emotions but so does every other sport!  Why is it that people can latch on to Tim Tebow who, every Sunday tricks his opponents, and then they praise him for it but then players on the game of Survivor are held to some different standard.

Finally, I actually lament the fact that so many Christians are on Survivor.  This season, which contains Coach (Benjamin) and Brandon (Russel's nephew), just makes Christianity look completely absurd, especially Brandon!  That guy has made the faith look like it is full of over-emotional, intellectually incapable people.  I resent that!  He needs to pull it together and get a grip, as do the others.  In the end, this is a game.  But hey, maybe that's all part of their ploy; maybe they're using religion to trick and deceive people.  Perhaps!  Religion is powerful in that way.  Yet, in the meantime, I'm not at all convinced that that's what's going on.  But hey, maybe they're just doing a good job at deceiving me!

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