The Danger of Spectacle Gluttony and the Satisfaction of Authentic Glory

The Danger of Spectacle Gluttony and the Satisfaction of Authentic Glory

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I recently finished reading Competing Spectacles by Tony Reinke, and I hope every Christian (at the very least) will challenge their thinking by reading it.

A spectacle is defined as

  • a visually striking performance or display
  • an event or scene regarded in terms of its visual impact

Reinke walks through every possibility and example of spectacle that we have the potential to encounter. He covers media, politics, the human body, even historical spectacles; the collective impact of these short vignettes is startling. Reinke awakened me to the subtle impact of these displays, and revealed the powerful grip they tend to have on each one of us.

Reinke doesn’t vilify spectacle or entertainment, rather, he puts the responsibility on me, the consumer, to recognize and understand how I am often unwittingly compelled to respond to the unending number of spectacles surrounding me.

“[W]e don’t merely ingest spectacles; we respond to them. Visual images awaken the motives in our hearts. Images tug the strings of our actions. Images want our celebration, our awe, our affection, our time, and our outrage. Images invoke our consensus, our approval, our buy-in, our respreading power, and our wallets.”

Tony Reinke

Not only do I have to wrestle with my response to the bombardment of spectacles I encounter, I have to recognize my innate hunger for spectacle— my fixation on what is “viral”, what provokes gawking, incredulity, or mass applause.

“The lusting eyes of mankind feed and feed and feed and never get full.”

Tony Reinke

Reinke takes his time building his argument. He presents story after story with relevant cultural references abounding, all to drive home just how spectacle-saturated our lives are.

I finally sensed the weight of the evidence as Reinke invites the reader to consider another spectacle: Christ crucified.

The simultaneously terrible and victorious, violent death of Jesus for the rescue of sinners is a spectacle far more worthy of my attention. This glory-drenched salvific event of the death and resurrection of God’s Son has the potential to evoke more awe and thrill within me than any Superbowl or Marvel movie. If we believe this, we must be willing to pass the buffet of spectacle “appetizers” which leave us satiated, and come hungry for the “main meal,” Christ, a feast of eternal delight.

“The rise of media saturation, targeting every moment of our lives, has ushered in a new age of competition with the gospel for the human gaze.”

Tony Reinke

I was created for God’s glory, so I have an innate need to identify something or someone bigger and outside of myself that is worthy of my worship. The things of this world are competing for that position, but their glory is a facade.

The spectacles of this life are a trough disguised as a gilded fountain, and simple minded men will drink long from it (Proverbs 1:22) . As Christians, we have been given a taste of living water, and as we wait to drink freely from the river of life, we must not sour our bellies with the world’s swill.

“His glory is the centerpiece of our daily spectacle appetites. Into every age of spectacles—from biblical Colossae, to imperial Rome, to Puritan London, to our digital world today—the recelebration and rearticulation of the glory of Christ must be set before us, over and over, and fed to our souls day by day.”

Tony Reinke

Competing Spectacles has challenged me to take a hard look at things in my own life which, by their nature, elicit some response from me whether I want them to or not. Instagram, Facebook, and the like, propel me to react, compare, compete, calculate, contemplate—and though it’s all momentarily entertaining—very little of it ushers me toward eternally valuable things.

I am a finite being with frustrating limits on my time as well as my mental and physical energy. Competing Spectacles has moved me to guard my time and energy vigilantly from the world in order that I might spend it lavishly on the contemplation and emulation of Christ. He is worthy of all my affection, admiration, and worship, and when I see Him for who He really is

“My soul will feast and be satisfied”

Psalm 63:5a GNT


I received a free electronic copy of this book from Crossway, in exchange for an honest review.

The Danger of Spectacle Gluttony and the Satisfaction of Authentic Glory | Book Review | Tony Reinke | Competing Spectacles | Crossway | #currentlyreading

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  1. Wow! What an inspired article, I loved it on so many different levels! I have felt this exact way so many different times in my life. For instance when Michael Jackson died. Really? 11 weeks of this? Kardashians? Happy to say all have been left way behind in the rearview mirror a very long time ago, along with network television. We are a country (and not alone) full of sensationalist journalism, and as a people, many have come to expect that… and demand it. 

    I read a while back now, the Dalai Lama’s book “Ethics for the New Millenium,” Al Gore’s book “Assault on Reason,” both speak to sensationalism. Both were eye-opening to me at the time. I got it! And consequently dumped it. 

    In the early ’90’s I got this sudden fear of churches, any church. I stopped going for a brief period… I was having physical panic reactions at church. After a few months of this, I sat down with my paster who told me I was sensitive and was seeing a church full of people at a glorious banquet whose mouths and eyes were shut. BAM! I could not believe what I was hearing! This was the truth and somehow what I had come to focus on during those months, rather than the other glorious bits. I felt a little sad as well because he saw this as well…

    The point is, and you and I have talked about this briefly before… one has to decide what is important in their life and screen out all the other noise. I do it by unplugging to whatever extent I can, as often as I can. Sometimes my husband has to let me know what’s going on in the world because I can’t take that constant bombardment. That’s okay with me. I tune into the news every few days just so I don’t seem completely out of it. I protect my sanity and mental well-being by choosing to live this way. Not everyone can. There’s so much more to say… and I’ll have to check out this book! Hope I didn’t wander too much here for you.

    Anyway, bravo! Great article and review!

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