Summary: Our personal sins so separate us from God that only grace can restore us.
Reflections of Survivor
05/26/02 Trinity Sabbath
by Tony Grant
I am a fan of the CBS program "Survivor." There have been four editions of the program, beginning with Survivor Pulau Tiga, then Survivor Outback, Survivor Africa and now Survivor Marquesas. Survivor Marquesas concluded in a most unsatisfactory way with a two hour finale last Sunday Night.
For those of you not familiar with the program, let me summarize the way it works. It begins with Sixteen strangers in some harsh wilderness location. They undergo all sorts of tests and challenges for a period of a little over a month. And periodically, they vote someone out of the tribe. The winner, the last one standing, gets a million dollars. All sorts of relationships develop during a "Survivor." Alliances are forged, bonds are formed, friendships are made. On the other hand, hatreds develop. There are verbal battles and skirmishes, and plenty of human ugliness and meanness is on display . The program is an interesting human laboratory, but ordinarily I would not burden you with my interest in “Survivor,” except that the finale last Sunday night exposed a deep human problem that we need to think about.
At the conclusion of Survivor Marquesas, Vecepia Towery, the 36-year-old office manager from Portland, Oregon, became the Sole Survivor and winner of one million dollars. Vecepia is an outspoken Christian. She is always talking about how the Lord is with her, she was often in prayer, and talked about Jesus--all of which is well and good. But you should also know that among the sixteen contestants of Survivor Marquesas, Vecepia had perhaps the worst record for backstabbing, lying, and deceiving.
Even in the finale, this was painfully obvious. It was down to three people and Veceipa made an alliance with Kathy to vote off Nyleh. Within a matter of hours, she made another alliance with Nyleh, turned on Kathy, and voted her out of the game. That was not the only time she did that kind of thing. Sean was her best friend among the survivors. She voted against him also. So this dubious was of behaving was her history throughout the game. Yet throughout the game she kept talking about how wonderful the Lord is. In the end, I was wincing whenever she talked about Jesus, because she was doing harm to the faith. It does not help Christianity for someone on national TV to say, “I love the lord, here turn around so I can put this knife right between your shoulders.” Not every testimony for Jesus is a good testimony.
There was such a gap between Vecepia’s talk and her walk that it was obvious to her fellow contestants, and they confronted her with it in the final episode. Tammy Leitner said sarcastically, “You beat me at my own game. You lied better than I did, you manipulated better than I did, and you deceived everybody better than I did. So congratulations.”
But the confrontation did not seem to effect Vecepia. She sat there and smiled. During a post-“Survivor” interview, she said, “I had the feeling that God would lead me (to victory), and he did.” She never understood her problem. Now of course I do not know what was going on in her mind, and I hope that I am wrong, but at least outwardly it appeared that she never understood that what really ticked off some of the others was that she talked one way and acted another. Vecepia seemed to lack that moral sense that would allow her to realize the discrepancy between saying and doing. Understand that it was not just that she lied, cheated, and backstabbed. All the contestants did that. It was that she was so self-righteous about her lying, cheating, and backstabbing.
She lacked a sense of personal sin. She was missing that spiritual attitude that would allow her to look at her actions and realize the sinfulness of what she was doing. It is not an unusual problem.
Let me do a little history. I know that no loves a history geek, and yes, I am a history geek but bear with me. Go back to WWI. The war began in Europe in 1914. The United States wisely stayed out of it. We could not understand why we should care if some Austrian Archduke was assassinated in Bosnia, and certainly we were not going to fight about it. Woodrow Wilson was elected president in 1912. He opposed the war. He was re-elected in 1916 on the slogan "he kept us out of war," with the promise to continue to do the same. Wilson thought of himself as a man of peace, and talked peace. A year later, April 2,1917, he led us into WWI. It was one of the most glaring betrayals of the people who voted for him in American history.