My wife and I were watching Survivor: Samoa last night (yes, I kind of like that show) and a reward challenge involved a hilarious scene where people on both teams were openly praying for victory. Oh noes, a decision! What's a deity to do?
It started out with Token Hot Blonde Natalie making a comment to her newfound evangelical boyfriend, Brett, along the lines of, "You're a prayer warrior too, right? Let God guide your hand!" gag
You see, earlier in the episode, we had been shown the two lying together with Brett quoting Bible verses and Natalie looking suitably impressed. Despite being in different alliances, a bond seemed to be forming between the two attractive young people over their shared beliefs. Of course, people's beliefs are their own business, and they did not appear to be proselytizing, only discussing a shared belief, and the presence of a nosy cameraman can hardly be blamed on them. So even though I found this to be eye-rollingly lame, I can hardly criticize them for this discussion.
But then we get to the day's reward challenge.
The challenge involved a large number of coconuts suspended in the air by criss-crossing ropes, and each turn a team member had to untie and remove one of the ropes, letting as few coconuts fall as possible. The first team to have 100 or more coconuts fall was the loser. Success involved a combination of choosing the right rope, as well as removing it with a slow and steady hand.
"Did she just say 'prayer warrior?!'", asks my wife? Yes, yes she did. The praying continued in gratuitous fashion. Now there is something worth criticizing. Even viewing this through a completely Christian lens, this was total bullshit. First, there is that Bible verse that mentions that making a big show out of praying in public is a douche-y thing to do (I paraphrase liberally), and terming you and your new boyfriend "prayer warriors" on national TV surely counts.
Moreover, how much more self-centered can you get than begging God to help you win a reward challenge on a game show, with the other team only a few feet away? It's one thing when athletes give praise to God after a game. The inanity of this has been well-discussed. But this would be more akin to the captain of a (American) football team loudly praying for victory during the coin toss. How offensive is that? Downright blasphemous, I would argue, as far as it goes.
Things kicked up yet another notch when a member of the other team, ex-military Christian lesbian Shambo, started closing her eyes, raising her head to the sky, and pointing both fingers upwards with a muttered "Thank you God" every time something went well for her team.
While not coming anywhere close to equaling the lameness of Natalie's genuflections, it created a situation where you had members of each team quite openly beseeching and/or praising God in the name of opposite goals. They were both Christians, so which one was God helping? Rarely, if ever, have I seen the obvious criticism of asking/thanking God for competitive success illustrated in such a stark manner. Classic.
The conclusion was even better. Natalie's team initially had some success, but soon the team Shambo was on caught up. Then Shambo's team fell behind again, with 70+ coconuts having fallen, while the other team was still in the 40s.
Foul-mouthed manipulative oil company president Russell, and judging by some of his comments one of the more godless contestants on the show, pulled off an epic win for Shambo's team by removing a rope very late in the game without a single coconut falling. On the next turn, Natalie approached the place where the ropes were tried, made some pious gestures, and reflected, "God has surely taken good care of me today." She unties the rope and begins to pull...
There was a rain of coconuts.
In a single turn, "God caused" over 50 coconuts to fall, losing the challenge for Natalie's team in one brief stroke. God has surely taken good care of her, indeed. Perhaps Shambo was the more righteous? Or maybe God just preferred her style of prayer?
It was such a slap in the face, one has to wonder to what extent the CBS editors spliced and rearranged to more fully discredit Natalie's gratuitous display of blasphemous faux-faith. In any case, I have to admit it was pretty awesome. Even if you are religious, I would think that it would impart a certain satisfaction to see such a selfish and naive conception of one's place in the universe thoroughly discredited.
Whatever one's thoughts on the divine, the idea of begging a supreme being for your gain at another's expense is just sick.
Stop me if you heard this one before
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