Monday, February 28, 2011

When Reality Shows Don’t Show Reality

Our current world seems to be obsessed with reality television. It takes form in so many different ways and the hunger for this kind of entertainment drives the moguls of the television world to up their ante and take their audience to higher levels of adrenalin rushes.

I was watching with reflective amusement at the latest American Idol telecast a couple of days ago and it showed hopeful contestants walking a dramatically long walkway to sit before the three judges to receive from them a verdict of whether they were going to be in the final 24 or sent home. From this point on in the contest, if they are in the group of finalists, they will no longer be judged by the three, but by the television viewers who will vote via the phone lines. Each time the contestant came before the judges, they reminded them that from this point on, it is the public who will decide who they want to pick for their next American Idol. The phrase that was constantly being used was “we are looking for someone who has the whole package”. Contestants were often asked, “do you have the entire package?”

I can only fathom a guess as to what this ‘entire package’ is. It probably means that the person needs to sing, look good, dance well, be friendly and amiable, be charming enough to win the hearts (and votes) of the public, and in the end sell the records or CDs that will be produced as part of the winning contract.

So, it is apparent that the winner is going to be decided and determined by how much they pander to and please their ‘idol worshippers’. If they don’t live up to their expectations, or meet with what they deem to be the standards that ‘idols’ should have, they won’t get their votes. Understandably, the contestants will do all that they can to ‘jump the hoops’ that their audience set and get them pleased as punch in order that they won’t be knocked out.

In many of my conversations with people who have stopped coming to Church or have stopped believing in God altogether, one of the very common reasons that they cite is that God had not answered their prayers. Inevitably, they will quote me Matthew 7:7-11, where Jesus says “ask and you will be given; seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you”. Having asked and not been given; having sought and not found, and having knocked and still have doors closed in the face could be rather discouraging, especially when times were desperate.

Could the ‘idol voter’ mentality could be working here, causing many to abandon their belief in God simply because God had not performed according to their expectations? After all, in remaining silent and not opening doors that had been rapped on, God has failed to ‘jump the hoops’, and had not delivered the ‘whole package’. It does seem then to legitimize a ‘vote’ against God out of the whole ‘idol’ contest, and put other ‘idols’ who can deliver.

I’m afraid that when this happens, we have begun to do the unthinkable – making ourselves judges of God himself, putting him on the spot and putting him out of the spotlight of our lives.

Do we do this consciously? Of course not. It’s unthinkable. Yet, if one reflects a bit deeper on the state of spiritual affairs, where many are no longer going to church and believing in God, it does appear that God is being punished, edged out, and banished from many lives simply because he has not met our expectations. It could well be that illness was not met with a healing, crises were not tended to, and broken hearts were not mended.

What does Matthew 7:7-11 have to say about this? Jesus doesn’t lie, so his promises do hold. Maybe we need to ask ourselves if we asked for the correct things to be given us, or sought what really needed seeking, and knocked on the correct doors. If we are only willing to worship a god who meets our standards and expectations, aren’t we then guilty of an egregious sin of idol worshipping? In humility, we need to vacate the judgment bench and ask God to take his rightful place.

And as we rely on his Divine Mercy, may we truly let reality show.


  1. Your post calls to mind what Fr R Rohr said about our having a 'capitalist worldview......' - whereby everything (according to him - be they experiences, reality, people & things etc) are viewed as objects for our consumption.So in religion too, he says that - our worship, service & ministry & even charitable deeds are carried out or added on our 'to do list' in the spirit of consumerism for it may help us to increase our 'worthiness'. With this spirituality of addition, ultimately, even God becomes an object of our consumption !

    And that I think is what you were telling us -that God can only be Subject and never an object....( we have committed an egregious sin) and that we have to rely on his divine mercy to show us THIS REALITY. Perhaps with the advent of Lent, it would be timely to for us to start learning the spirituality of subtraction ?
    God bless you.

  2. In simpler terms, we want a Genie god to grant our every wish. Somewhere along my own reality, my eyes were opened to the fact that if this 'God' DID make our every wish come true, then we had better look for the real God because all we want, really, is a servant. However, it's back to the P word. Perspectives. Not Prejudice.

    Thank you Fr. Luke for an outlet to learn, discuss and share.