After months of lies, betrayal, deception, backstabbing and ultimately winning $1 million in the third installment of Survivor, Vecepia Towery avowed that, among other things, she was thankful to God for her victory as the ultimate survivor.
"It was all him," she proclaimed, at the heel of a long victory speech during the final minutes of the three-hour season finale. She implied that, in some divine way, He was watching over her, helping her win a heap of cash, a brand new Saturn and the respect of middle-class America.
I am by no means a Biblical scholar, nor am I making a claim in favour of or against religion, Christianity or otherwise. What I do take issue with, however, is the ever-present need to look above for things that in the grand scheme of things, holy or not, do not matter.
If there is a God, from what I can assess--both from religious texts and through my own introspection--He does not care whether or not you win a game show, the Superbowl, an MTV Music Award or strike big in a hand of poker.
There are more important things in the world, more enduring hardships and more deserving causes of divine intervention, than a set of castaways feverishly trying to outwit, outplay, outlast and just plain out their competition. A group of 12 people who opt to strand themselves on an island, befriend their competitors knowing full well they will be making judgements about who stays and who goes, are hardly worthy causes, both morally and within the contexts of most religions.
After all, everything that Survivor stands for-greed, deception, lies, the limitless and at times desperate pursuit of money-goes against the driving principles of most religious faiths. Most religions, at least in theory, would deplore such a display, much less being charged with responsibility for the outcome.
I'm not saying this kind of faith is inherently evil or bad. It's just misdirected and to some degree inappropriate. This convenient faith serves as a crutch only when beneficial, not as a set of values and beliefs with which to make decisions and live one's life. Using religion to justify and explain paltry, trivial achievements when there are far more significant causes devalues religious beliefs, and to some extent, the religions themselves.
In fact, this example goes far beyond the reaches of a TV show, emblematic of larger problems. Again, not to downplay the importance of religion--to some, it can be very important and very good--but religious faith seems trendy these days, as much a part of pop-culture as the events it is being credited with or blamed for. Many aspects of popular, commercial culture use religion as catalysts or sources of legitimacy. Instead of instilling values to events or objects, it skews their meaning. Any meaningful effects of culture are put into the background and any religious thought loses its meaning outside these incorrect attributions.
Even though Vecepia did ask for forgiveness when confronted about her shrewish behavior on the island, I suspect God would have abstained from the final vote.