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The Strangeness of the Biggest Loser

Sometimes when I really want to serve Jen I’ll watch The Biggest Loser with her.

The concept of the show is a good one. I like the idea of helping those who are morbidly obese and in danger of a young death. It’s incredible to see the total body transformation that takes place in each of the contestants, and I see a lot of God’s common grace in the show. Sometimes, however, the drama, the crying, and the action movie music during the weigh-ins gets to be a little too much for me. I mean, come on folks, this is a weight loss competition. No one is defusing a nuclear bomb or interrogating a terrorist. Let’s leave the intense music to Jack Bauer.

But it’s not even the music or the drama or the crying that seems odd to me. What really strikes me as odd is the mixture of Christian and post-modern values.

The concept of the show is thoroughly Christian. It’s all about the strong helping the weak, the healthy helping the sick, and the loved helping the unloved. These are all wonderful, God-honoring concepts, and I think they are what give the show its enormous popularity. After all, how can you not be moved when you see someone on the edge of death be given a new, vibrant life? God loves to meet the needy, the poor, and the broken, which, in some ways, is what the show is all about.

But just when everything is reaching it’s climax, and everybody is crying and hugging and winning lots of money, the show goes all therapeutic on me. The most common refrain throughout the show seems to be something along the lines of, “I’m doing this for myself. I’ve finally discovered my self-worth and now I’m going to live the life I was always made for.”

There is no acknowledgment of God or gratefulness to God. Ultimately everything circles back on the self. I think this is why I get so frustrated when I watch the show. I see God blessing these people in incredible ways and yet they never once acknowledge it. Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not condemning them. I would be the same way apart from Christ. It simply is an indicator of the culture that we live in.

Our culture celebrates some Christian values, but these values don’t ultimately connect to and point us to God. In our culture all these values connect to and point us to ourselves. I find this quote by David Wells to be insightful (read it slowly):

Modernity obliges us to turn inward, to relocate the sources of our satisfaction and fulfillment from these connections in the outer world to sources within ourselves…the Enlightenment posits ultimate authority in the self, and modernity severs the self from any meaningful connections outside itself. (No Place for Truth, pages 142, 143)

In other words, when we turn away from the truth of God and his word, we will be forced to look inward for satisfaction and fulfillment. Our culture thrives on the idea of self-satisfaction, self-fulfillment, and self-expression. As Christians we need to be aware of this tendency and stand firm against it. Our ultimate authority and satisfaction comes from something completely outside ourselves.