Reality Television, Real vs Rigged and Implications for 21st Century Christianity

Reality television is booming business. Everything from Duck Dynasty to Pawn Stars to the Pickers…it seems there is a niche for just about everything. It begs the question, just how much of reality television is actual reality and how much of it is rigged? It is obvious that producers, writers, and actors have advanced knowledge of what is going to happen…there is no way they would just walk in at a random time, film and hope to have a hit show. The cost of failure is too high to chance it. Often the situations they are put in are manufactured but their responses are at least in part genuine.

Here is the first point, people really do want reality, especially when it comes to the most important things in their life including faith. When it comes to church we don’t want artificial. We don’t want to go through motions, play games, or spin our wheels. We don’t want an imitation faith or anything artificial. Scripted has its place, I understand that, but there also has to be room for God’s Spirit to work and for people to be real. People want real, honest, and authentic faith and that want to see that reflected in a congregational setting. It will take good leadership to find a path through that or allow a path through that but it is important we start looking that way.

Second, success has a tendency of distracting us from the very thing that made us successful. I was talking with a friend yesterday who said he went to an auction house of one of the big name reality shows and pretty much all they had for sale was merchandise. He went to see the antiques and amazing finds they had in their shop but just found shirts, hats and show memorabilia instead. Now, that is pretty disappointing when it comes to your favorite show. It is even more disappointing when it comes to Christianity. Christianity, in some circles, has suffered much the same fate. People come seeking God and what they get is the preacher trying to sell his latest book from the pulpit (it does happen!). It misses the point of what the “show” was all about in the first place. These shows didn’t start out as shows. They started out as real people doing things interesting enough to draw attention from enough people (or the right people) that a show spawns out of what they have to offer. Over time they forget what it was that got them there and exchange it for what can make a quick buck. If we aren’t careful, something similar can happen in our churches.

As Christians we are aliens. We are strangers. We don’t do things like the world does. We aren’t here to pitch a product. We don’t exist to rig spiritual experiences for people. We exist to save the world and glorify the Creator of the universe and to provide space for authentic faith to flourish! Let’s not exchange those purposes anything, ever, no matter what the cost. What is more, for some, Christianity has turned into one big profit machine where scripture is very clear that our faith might just cost us everything. Matthew 16:24-26,

“24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life[f] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to comein his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.”

Now that is real.

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