Category Archives: Survivor

Merits and Theology of ‘Survivor’


Originally posted on on February 8, 2007.

It’s a guilty pleasure. Perhaps even an embarrassing one.

I have watched every season of Survivor. And I am planning on watching again this season (Survivor: Fiji begins tonight). I am so ashamed to confess that. But now I feel better.

One may ask why a boring guy who works in the insurance industry, who has a wife and six kids, who has a dozen other interests, and who is trying to live a life of faith is wasting his time watching Survivor?

A good question, to be sure. I have actually mulled this over a bit, and I think there are some obvious answers to it and some that are not so obvious. The most obvious answer is that I am a moron who shouldn’t be wasting my time like this. I can accept that as true, but since I’m going to continue to watch it, I need to at least convince myself that there is redeeming value to this pursuit. So, allow me to present my case.

First of all, there is an obligatory aspect. You may question that such an obligation could possibly exist. But there is, in fact, such a duty – admittedly of my own doing. And I guess it’s not like the world will end if I step down from this duty. Anyway, I run a Survivor pool at work. There are eight people in the pool, including myself. I determine a “draft order” through a random process, and we go up and down and pick the person who we think will win it all. Since there are more than 16 people, there are special rules for assigning the additional people. The money a person owes (hypothetically speaking, of course) is larger depending on when your person gets kicked off the island. The earlier the exit, the more you owe.

I have Cassandra and Dre this time around, in case you’re interested.

Oh, but it doesn’t stop there. For each show, I do my own recap of events. I have become a star of sorts with these recaps. I cannot let my fans down, and hence my sense of obligation. Rationalization is an awesome skill.

The other reason I think I stay interested in this is because I simply enjoy competition. I have posted regarding my interest in sports. Survivor has a very strong competitive element to it on many levels. And since these are people kind of like you and me, it’s probably easier to put yourself in their place and wonder how you’d do if you were on the island. Or maybe that’s just me.

Well, I know that there are a great deal of people whom I respect mightily that would not watch this show, regardless of my solid arguments above. And I do admit that, as a man of faith, I wish that the shows were as clean and pure as the wind-driven snow. I can certainly understand the arguments why this show should not be watched.

But I do think there is another element to ponder here. If you think about it, what we see on Survivor is kind of a microcosym of our own lives. This may seem like a stretch, but stick with me here.

As Paul points out about our own lives, we are running a race. And that race is a marathon. In our own lives, changes occur almost imperceptibly. We either grow stronger in our faith over time, or we fall away from it over time. Yes, we all have moments where a leap occurs, but most of our lives are simply our daily struggles, failures, and successes. All these things are a small step to our next set of struggles, failures, and successes. But at any moment, we can go. Life is fragile. That end may be expected, or it may be unexpected. And in the end, we are judged according to not only our faith and belief in Christ, but also our deeds along the way.

On Surivivor, it is always interesting to me how you don’t really notice how people change physically from show to show, but then when you see what they looked like on day one, you realize they changed a lot. Some people look worse, some look better. Our souls kind of parallel this in our own lives.

In Survivor, you can get voted off at any time. You may expect it to happen or it may blindside you. I suppose this isn’t exactly parallel, since in life you should always be ready to meet your maker, whereas in Survivor you always need to watch your behavior so you don’t get sent packing. But there is this element of never quite knowing when your time will be up, and an associated behavior that results due to that uncertainty.

Finally, there are the people who make it to the end. They sit in front of the jury, and are somewhat powerless as the jury members unearth every “sin” that they have committed during their stay. The jury will determine your fate at that point. While nothing like the ultimate judgment we will receive on our last day, it is nonetheless a nice little example of how your deeds – both good and bad – do not go unnoticed, and are rewarded accordingly. These deeds can be as simple as helping out around the camp, or how well you played the game.

Perhaps this isn’t the most robust theological exercise, but I think that this, like many other things in life, can teach us a little more about ourselves if we look at it from the proper perspective.

On the other hand, it could just all be a fancy excuse for watching Survivor. You be the judge.