Survivor wrap: the question I wish someone had posed at the final tribal council

A few weeks ago I had some thoughts on the embarrassing displays of blasphemy in this season of Survivor. A quick refresher.

However, these men are bound together by … wait for it … an unwavering and extremely public faith in God that has grown with each episode. This past week’s show might as well have been a praise rally, as the tribe was gathered for on-your-knees, hand-holding chest-thumping prayer at least three times (and this doesn’t count Coach’s Tai Chi/I’m Not Worthy Father workout routine, which was played with a performative subtlety worthy of a Commedia dell’Arte).

The moral of this story isn’t the annoying PDP, though. It gets better. What they were praying for was that the tribe could find the hidden immunity idol. Which is sacrilegious to start with – you think The Lord Most High gives a fuck about Survivor? Please. He’s got enough on his hands trying to save the Denver Broncos from Tim Tebow’s inability to read a safety blitz.

Hang on – even that isn’t the good part. No, the real payoff is that Coach already has the idol. He’s had it for days and has been keeping it a secret from Brandon because, well, because Brandon’s crazier than a sack of bats on nitrous. Two other members of the tribe know, as well, so there they are, on their knees on national television, using God as a red herring. Which proves there’s no god pretty conclusively, I’d think. If there were, He’d have “voted the whole tribe off the island” on the spot, if you catch my meaning.

The Jesus-and-pony show continued unabated throughout the rest of the season, and not much happened to change my opinion of the whole charade. (Although we have since learned that, while Brandon Hantz is indeed about as stable as a weeble on a fault line, there are reasons for it. In short, had she grown up in that family, Mother Teresa would probably have wound up a crack whore.)

In last night’s season finale and the subsequent reunion show, we continued hearing terms like “faith” and “Christian man” every other sentence or so and nobody came close to poking a stick at the hypocrisy angle. I found myself wishing that I were on the jury, so that when my time came I could stand in front of the three finalists on national TV and say the following:

I’m not a Christian, but I grew up Southern Baptist and was a Christian until my late 20s. So I know a little about the religion. With that in mind I want to reflect back on the day when the five members of your alliance gathered on the beach to hunt for the hidden immunity idol.

If you recall, you all joined hands, bowed your heads and prayed to your savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, to help you find the idol. I don’t even want to worry about the idea that the supreme being, the creator of the world, is interested in the outcome of this season of Survivor. Instead, I want to remind you that all three of you sitting in front of me knew that the idol was, at that moment, in Coach’s pocket.

I think back to my Christian youth and to the values I was taught, and a part of me shudders at the idea of intentionally using God as a prop on a reality show. Had I done something like that everyone would have moved away from me so that they didn’t get hit when I was struck down on the spot.

So here’s the question, and I’d like to hear from each of you. You all believe that on Judgment Day you’ll stand before God to answer for your sins. When he asks you about your prayer, on television, for help in locating an item that you already had, what will you say to him? When asks how you justify clowning your faith in front of millions of people, what will you say? When he says that someone out there saw that shameless display and turned away from him because of the arrogance of his followers, what will you say?

Coach, you go first.

The next time you hear a Christian complaining about the threat that non-believers pose to their faith, do me a favor: hand them a mirror.


  • OK, Sam, I know you are a long-time fan of Survivor. I’m just trying to figure out why I should ever waste my time on it since it seems to combine a number of things that are just soooo unappealing: unreality tv, religious hypocrisy, and unnaturally elevated testosterone.

    • It has those things, but it also features a lot of positive stuff. In short, I’ve always liked it because it’s the most complex game I have ever seen. In most games, there are strengths and there are weaknesses. Rarely is speed or strength or intelligence a bad thing. In Survivor, these are good qualities, too. But the thing is that every single quality that is a strength can also be a weakness. Speed helps you win a challenge. It also makes you a threat. And so on.

      It’s a lot like the way actual life is, and that makes it fascinating to me.

  • I’m a firm believer of the following quote.
    “The biggest deterrent to Christianity are Christians themselves”
    DC Talk (a Christian rock band)
    But, I also object to non-Christians claiming that they are experts on Christianity.

    • Why would you object to that when many non-Christians are experts on Christianity? Being a member doesn’t make you an expert and not being a member doesn’t disqualify you from knowing a lot. This is especially true if you aren’t a Christian but perhaps used to be.

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