reb•e•lu•tion (reb’el lu shen) n. a teenage rebellion against the low expectations of an ungodly culture.

2/20/2006

World Champions of Triviality (UPDATED)

UPDATE: Thank you all for your constructive criticism. We realize that the sarcasm and satire has overshadowed our disclaimers, and indeed, the foundational purpose and message of the post. This was partly because it has been re-posted without the context of its original series, and we are very sorry for the offense caused by this oversight.

Our purpose in this post is not to put down athletes and celebrities. These men and women can, and do, use their platforms to do great humanitarian good. There are Christians in the sports and music industries who bear testimony to Christ and use their gifts to bring glory to God. However, we would offer that such men and women are the exception, not the rule.

The problem is not that these activities exist, the problem is that our culture has become enamored with them and has idolized those who participate in them. The "hero" has been redefined as the rich, the popular, and the glamorous, instead of the faithful, courageous, principled, and humble. "Hero," like the words "excellent," "awesome," and "wonderful," has been cheapened and its meaning lost. "Heroes" today are adulterers, thieves, rapists, even murderers.

This is not indulging in the sacred/secular split (i.e. removing the applicability of faith and God's Word from the public sphere). This is the exact opposite: viewing all areas of life from a biblical worldview.

It is what Paul commands in Romans 12:2, "Do not be conformed to this world..."

It what we read in 1 Timothy 4:7-8, "[T]rain yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come."

It what the Corinthians were told in 1 Corinthians 9:25. "Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever."

Our crown, our goal, our values, and our heroes, as Christians, should be starkly different from the world. It is not that we cannot enjoy, participate, and support competitive activities, watch movies, or listen to music. But we must exercise self-control and caution. To make heroes, even worse, idols, out of these things is to stumble into dangerous territory.

I find it hard to respect intelligent, humanitarian-minded women who resort to prancing around on stage in bikinis to gain recognition. Nevertheless, Natalie Glebova was dubbed Miss Universe for doing precisely that.

And though the organizers of the world’s largest beauty pageant insist that contestants are judged for their intellects and attitudes as much as for their figures, it is very probable that Miss Glebova has been declared the most beautiful woman in the universe primarily for showing off parts of her body that most beautiful women I know keep appropriately concealed.

Still the fact remains that Glebova is the world champion of her particular silly activity. And though I don’t watch beauty pageants—never have, never will—I must admit that her preening is no sillier than a myriad of other activities whose competitions we follow and whose champions we idolize.

Regrettably, we have formed a culture of the trivial. We all want to be champions of our own silly activity. Just ask Emily Fox, the current world-record holder in the fast-paced sport of cup stacking, or champion eater Takeru Kobayashi, who downed 83 streamed dumplings in eight minutes during an August 13th contest.

Yet these champions are no sillier than Tiger Woods who is idolized for hitting a little white ball with a certain metal club so that it goes into a special little hole in the ground. They are no sillier than Misty May and Kerri Walsh who are recognized for wearing little more than their underwear while batting a cushy ball back-and-forth over a net. And they are no sillier than Barry Bonds, who is paid millions of dollars for hitting a ball with a stick and then running around in circles.

Although it concerns me when young competitors at the World Cup Stacking Championship speak of making a career out of it, I am equally concerned that a majority of American young people long for nothing more than to become kings and queens of their own particular triviality. It might be Hollywood that beckons them; it might be the NBA, or it could be American Idol. Whatever it is, the sad truth remains that America has prioritized entertainment and celebrity over true service and heroism; and our young people have taken the cue.

The tone of this article shouldn’t be taken as condemning, only concerned. I am not against the existence of these ‘silly activities’ that make life more enjoyable for many and bearable for some. I enjoy the thrill of watching Emily Fox stack cups faster than the eye can see and rooting for American athletes at the summer and winter Olympics. I’ve had 15-minute crushes on my own share of movie actresses and even voted online during last season’s American Idol competition. But then, after my niece was born with an extremely serious heart defect, I found myself in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at OHSU; and I met true heroes.

Shaun, Pam, and Colleen. They are nurses. They are heroes. And they symbolize millions of people across the globe who sacrifice, who serve, and who receive small thanks next to the Michael Jordans, Marilyn Monroes, and Elvis Presleys of our day. It often takes catastrophes to remind us of these people. September 11th did. It was policemen and firemen; rescue workers and soldiers who lifted our nation back up. And we honored them for it.

Even so, nearly four years later, my generation is still pursuing triviality at the expense of true service. Everyone wants to be the cherry on top, but no one is making ice cream. It is as if we have completely forgotten the steady, shining glory of heroism, because of the glaring, flashing glamour of celebrity.

Until we take the time to re-examine our ideas of what’s important we will continue to choose lesser professions and America will keep getting weaker. As our culture continues to embrace the trivial we will become increasingly incapable of responding to the significant.

Continue Series with Part Four: The American Idol Syndrome
Begin Series with Part One: Competition On Our Plateau