Christian on Survivor: China

Survivor: China premiered last night and one of the castaways is Leslie Nease, a Christian talk show host (New Life 91.9 in Charlotte, NC).

Faith came into play quickly. Host Jeff Probst asked all the contestants to participate in a “non-religious ceremony” at a Buddhist temple.

Leslie went inside… and came right back out.

… her “relationship with Jesus Christ” prevented her from participating in the ceremony, which “felt like worship.”

It seemed an unnecessary move (and an overreaction), especially if you don’t want to stand out to your teammates and be the first person voted off. It really was a cultural ceremony; she just mistook the rituals as religious.

Then again, watching the show, I don’t think I would’ve wanted to do it either.

In any case, the interesting part came when Leslie was commenting on why she left the temple:

I’m not a religious person, but I have a relationship with Jesus Christ, and the only time I’m gonna put my face on the floor is for him.”

So many thoughts come to mind… Dalton Ross of Entertainment Weekly speaks for many of us, though:

Hmmmm, isn’t that kinda like me saying, ”I’m not really a beer drinker, but I sometimes have been known to hook an IV full of Milwaukee’s Best up to my vein”? Leslie, what the hell — can I say hell? — does that mean? If you ”have a relationship with Jesus Christ,” then I’m pretty sure that makes you a religious person. Oh, and being a Christian radio host? Yeah, I’m pretty sure that makes you a religious person as well — unless you are some weird sort of counterprogramming put on the air to ignite controversy and boost ratings.

After that strange comment, she came off pretty positively, making friends with others on her tribe.

Why can’t they ever put an atheist on the show? It would provide such a good foil for people like Leslie… they’ve had plenty of vocal Christians (e.g. Elisabeth Hasselbeck) on the show!

(Really, this is me just venting because they rejected my application for Survivor 11.)

(Thanks to Beth for the link!)


[tags]atheist, atheism[/tags]

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    ”I’m not a religious person, but I have a relationship with Jesus Christ”

    As I’m sure many of you are aware (though I can imagine that you might not have encountered this distinction before Hemant), many evangelicals prefer to distinguish between religion, by which they mean merely a set of rituals and doctrinal beliefs, and a relationship with Jesus, by which they mean a more personal and emotional commitment to the person at the heart of our faith. This often has to do with the transition many current evangelicals have made from the traditionalist, ritualistic churches of their youths, to more contemporary, emotionalistic, “seeker-sensitive” churches.

    I don’t find it a particularly helpful distinction myself for a number of reasons, but nonetheless you will find it very common for evangelicals to say things like “Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship.” I suspect it was that distinction she was referring to.

  • http://www.skepchick.org writerdd

    Evangelicals are religious whether they want to admit it or not. They don’t get to make up their own defintion of words. In fact, evangelicals are MORE religious than the people they disdain. Evangelicals just have a different set of rituals.

  • Andrew

    Why can’t they ever put an atheist on the show?

    I guess you missed Big Brother 8 this summer. Not only was a seriously vocal atheist on the show, there were VERY religious Christians on the show as well. There were arguments, yelling, and name calling. Though hardly what I would call good PR for atheists, the atheist did when the show (5-2 vote).

    And I did catch the season premiere of Survivor. To me, Leslie appeared to be a close-minded bigot, but I know most Christians probably wouldn’t see her that way. What is the likelihood that a conservative, American Christian would recognize that there are billions of people in the world who don’t think like she does? If she understood that (and accepted it) maybe should would have been a little more respectful and not so self-righteous.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    To me, Leslie appeared to be a close-minded bigot

    Question for the atheists here: if you were in Leslie’s position, being asked to participate in what to you appeared to be a religious ritual related to beliefs you do not affirm, would you have participated anyway? Why or why not?

  • http://toomanytribbles.blogspot.com/ toomanytribbles

    hemant says:
    ‘It seemed an unnecessary move (and an overreaction), especially if you don’t want to stand out to your teammates and be the first person voted off. It really was a cultural ceremony; she just mistook the rituals as religious.’

    but i’ve heard similar rationalisation from people about public displays of religiosity in governmental buildings. how about that it doesn’t matter if you don’t believe in god, but say the pledge of allegiance, as is — or don’t mind the painting of jesus among other pictures of champions of justice in a courthouse? remember the young girl who didn’t participate in prayer who was promptly excluded from her school sports team?

    many people think that these displays are just tradition.

    during religious ceremonies i’m now very quiet and respectful, but i can’t bring myself to participate.

  • Andrew

    if you were in Leslie’s position, being asked to participate in what to you appeared to be a religious ritual related to beliefs you do not affirm, would you have participated anyway? Why or why not?

    I think I would have participated if for no other reason than to not stand out. Plus religious culture doesn’t offend me. I actually find it pretty interesting (from a historical standpoint).

    I imagine the producers of Survivor were hoping for just this type of scenario (Leslie’s reaction) when they came up with this “greeting”. And it would have been even better for them if her tribe had lost the first challenge and used that against Leslie to vote her off. Nothing like religious conflict to get some free publicity. I think the producers worked similar magic last season with their “Race-based” tribes.

  • Loren Petrich

    This “not a religion but a relationship” reminds me a bit of a certain relative of mine who hates science fiction but who likes Star Trek.

    She claims that Star Trek is not science fiction because she likes it.

  • Richard Wade

    Question for the atheists here: if you were in Leslie’s position, being asked to participate in what to you appeared to be a religious ritual related to beliefs you do not affirm, would you have participated anyway? Why or why not?

    Sure. Long as there’s no live sacrifice. Done it many times, all sorts of rituals, all sorts of religions. No big deal. What’s gonna happen? Get an evil spell? I’ll participate out of respect for my friends or whomever I’m visiting, or just for the interest of participating. Besides, often there’s free food at the end.

    Speaking of rituals related to beliefs I don’t affirm, “Survivor” is the most contrived, artificial, phoney bullshit on television. It’s too bad Mike’s intelligent question is on a posting about a stupid TV show.

  • Vincent

    I only saw a bit of the show and missed the ceremony.
    I’m just glad they didn’t vote off the WWE wrestler who appeared nude in last June’s Playboy.

  • Jen

    Question for the atheists here: if you were in Leslie’s position, being asked to participate in what to you appeared to be a religious ritual related to beliefs you do not affirm, would you have participated anyway? Why or why not?

    If it were for a tv show, absolutely. Well, let me qualify that- it would depend which show. I would do whatever I need to to win the show, so if I needed to become recognizable to the public I would appeal to people by playing whatever part I had to. If I needed to lay low, I would. I dont believe in any of it, so I hardly think I will bring curses upon me by pretending for tv.

    Its a little different in the real world, but generally I avoid services. I am not against going or afraid I will get converted, but I have better, less boring ways to spend my time.

  • Karen

    I think most atheists have to attend religious rituals simply by virtue of living in a religious society where being part of a community means sometimes going to baptisms, weddings, funerals, commemorative services at work or for holidays. Usually there is prayer, hymn-singing, etc. and we just grin and bear it. We don’t get a choice if we want to be part of our communities, versus opting out and coming off as grumpy, disrespectful curmudgeons. And we have enough trouble with bad reputations anyway!

    I only wish I got invited to more non-Christian religious services – I think they’d be more interesting to me just for novelty value.

    “Not a religion, it’s a relationship” is a very popular (and frankly misleading) catchphrase that’s been around since the 1970s. It’s a way of disavowing the negative parts of institutional religion, while still evangelizing for Jesus. Indeed, these people are typically far more “religious,” in terms of church attendance and how important religion is to them, than are most Americans. Which is why I say it’s misleading.

  • Iztok

    Well, the 91.9 closed their blog. First they’ve started deleting posts that didn’t agree with them, then they’ve closed it even for reading. I guess nothing really changed since the dark ages of Inquisition.

  • Julie

    I would have left the area like Leslie did, and for the same reason, that it was just tugging at her that this is Not the right thing to do. I’m sure that the Bible verse found in Exodus 23:24 was running thru her head which says, “you shall not bow down to their gods…” Respectful observation of a religious ceremony is one thing, being asked to participate is something totally different.

    I found it very thought provoking that even Denise said this feels like a spiritual event or experience. I don’t know Denise’s religious background, but if Denise felt this, the same thing probably was going on in Leslie.

    I also don’t see much difference between Leslie leaving quietly and Courtney being disrespectful and indifferent towards the whole ceremony. Both didn’t like it for different reasons.

  • HappyNat

    Question for the atheists here: if you were in Leslie’s position, being asked to participate in what to you appeared to be a religious ritual related to beliefs you do not affirm, would you have participated anyway? Why or why not?

    Sure. I do it every Christmas and Easter with my family. Dad asks me to attend and since I don’t have plans I go with him. If I signed up for a TV show and there was some contrived ritual I would still participate, for the sake of “survival” it would seem silly not to. An advantage of not believing is that I wouldn’t be worried about upseting my god or marking my soul.

  • http://lilbrattyteen.blogspot.com/ Jonathan

    Way to completely not understand Buddhism. Nease needs to read a book or something.

  • Marilyn V

    I don’t watch Survivor, but a friend forwarded this to me…..and I fully understand Leslie’s reaction. I, too, am not “religious” but love the Lord Jesus because He chose to die for me (and you) so that we would not have to suffer the consequences of our sin. Paul said, “All have sinned and are falling short of the honor and glory which God bestows and receives.” (Rom, 3:23) Also: “The wages which sin pays is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom. 6:23) Jesus said, “For My Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:35) Heb. 12:2: “He, (Jesus) for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

    If someone dies for you, don’t you owe that person loyalty? Leslie was demonstrating her loyalty to Jesus by not putting any other gods before Him. If she is truly born again, Jesus dwells in her heart and participating in any other belief would be impossible for her. Persecuted Christians endure horrible torture rather than deny their faith in Jesus–they are loyal to Him. THAT’S relationship–not religion; that’s LOVE for the Savior.

  • http://micketymoc.bluechronicles.net/ micketymoc

    Marilyn, to say that Leslie’s behavior is simply “loyal” and not “religious” at all mangles the meaning of the word “religious”. Leslie is “loyal”, true, but loyal to what? A creed personified by a deity (and you can’t deny that Jesus is co-substantial with God, right?) and a belief system. It’s religious behavior, no matter how you look at it, and it does a grave disservice to the truth when agenda-laden people play with words the way Leslie (and you) do.

  • Polly

    I think Leslie was right to follow her conscience. Even if it’s not inherently wrong, each individual’s primary duty is to their conscience.

    if you were in Leslie’s position, being asked to participate in what to you appeared to be a religious ritual related to beliefs you do not affirm, would you have participated anyway? Why or why not?

    Well, I still go to church once in a while (my wife’s xian) so yeah, I participate in meaningless ceremonies for the sake of “society.” As I understand the Survivor scenario, (I’ve never seen the show) you don’t have to convert to, or even affirm the religion’s truthiness, just engage in a little ceremony – like a wedding, a christening, or a bar mitzvah or singing a xmas carol. It’s all pretty benign from my POV. If I choose to be somewhere where I know there will be religious ceremony, I won’t insist on my way. I’d abstain if the chants or whatever somehow promoted racism, sexism, violence, curses against the out-group, etc…

    As for comments about Xianity being a relationship and not a religion – I used to say this exact same thing. Of course, it’s total bullshit. Xianity is a religion like any other belief system.

    If JC were to show up in person, get chummy with each of his followers in the flesh, and say that you don’t have to be baptised or partake of the eucharist, or get together with other believers for a program on one special day of the week, then I’ll call it a relationship. Until then…IT’S A RELIGION. Let’s just dispense with the dissembling.


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