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.