June 24, 2013
I really like your comparison to what Jesus refused to do. I think that makes a lot of sense. I just can't wrap my brain around why someone would take all that unnecessary risk while their spouse and children watch.
Of course, many Christians will decry this event as an unnecessary risk and they'll condemn this as something silly. It's what Christians like to do: we find something that doesn't fit with our boxed criteria of what it means to worship and evangelize, then we condemn it... just like the kid who spoke the Lord's prayer against the Government's wishes.
Holy Scripture tells us that "whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not human masters." This guy is using his gift for the Lord, he's worshiping with what the Lord gave him. He's letting his audience see his vulnerability, his dependence on the Lord to accomplish the task set before him. These are all good things.
I basically agree with the thrust of your analysis, but I would add the following. First, I had heard previously that Mr. Wallenda was a believer. I was disappointed to see that he is attached to Joel Osteen, though. That's just going to confuse things.
Second, I don't think we really can take the story of Christ's temptation as an exemplary story. Its purpose is more theological than practical. We can draw practical application from it, though.
Third, this is what Mr. Wallenda does. He walks a highwire. I could dismiss it as a mere parlor trick if he had never done it before. But it is his "job." In this way, I would put it more in line with a fireman who risks his life, albeit with a lot of backup gear, to save people, and then praises God for protection. Obviously, the purposes are not the same. But do we find fault with the athlete who prays for protection from injury and then goes on to play the game? We may be more at fault for putting too much spiritual importance on the event. In the end we can just say it was a man who went to work and prayed the whole time.
I should also add, I don't buy that this is a huge victory for evangelism, but it's more than most Christians will ever do. I've seen and talked to guys that use their performances and faith together. While to most, it may be entertaining, there are some that hook onto this sort of thing and take the time to question. They'll engage with the faithful performer, and a needed conversation will be had that eventually leads to conversion.
I'd be surprised if this guy didn't have a stack of letters of encouragement from converts and people who didn't have a renewed faith because of his performances.
Matt and Cory, I agree that doing any job to the best of your ability is an act of worship. In this situation, though, the publicity machine (of which Wallenda was an executive producer) was so amped up that when he suddenly started praying publicly and continually, it felt like it was somehow part of the machine. The Osteen connection did not help--Osteen is a master of self-promotion. It all left me with very mixed feelings. But Nik Wallenda is a likeable guy, and I've enjoyed watching him in the past. Perhaps part of my discomfort comes from questioning the reason I like to watch dangerous things like this at all!
For the record, I'm not against thrill-seeking. When my kids were little, my husband asked me to wait to act on my desire to try hang-gliding until my kids are adults. But I am no graceful Wallenda, so perhaps he had a point.
I'm not an Osteen fan either. His doctrine leaves a lot to be desired. However, Holy Scripture speaks to us there as well:
"But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice," -- Philippians 1:18
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