Christians look bad on Survivor… again

Survivor is obviously not reality. Of course the producers choose contestants who fit stereotypical character types. But it does come closer than most “reality shows” to showing real patterns in behavior. And once again this season, Christianity looks bad.

This season’s poster child for Christianity was Roxy Morris, self-described seminary student from Brooklyn.

First, we see her praying to God for the rain to stop, then praising God and lapsing into speaking in tongues when it does. Then she spends the next few days sporting a big silver cross around her neck, spreading dissent, name-calling and gossiping behind people’s backs, all to turn the target on another member of the tribe, her enemy. Her enemy happens to be the only other young woman on the tribe and the subject of a lot of her slander against Angie? That’s she’s inappropriately sexy. (I’m not saying that Angie wasn’t using her sexiness to manipulate a male contestant, but how unsurprising is it that Roxy focused on that?) And when the seminary student votes against her enemy Angie at tribal council, she closes with the words, “God bless you and shalom.” If you ask me, that is taking the Lord’s name in vain.

In her online bio, Roxy answered the question of why she would be the sole survivor with this:

Because the game isn’t very different from real life. As a Christian, everyday you are faced with the choice between God’s principles and your personal, selfish preferences.

She’s right up to a point that these same factors are at play in the game and in real life. Unfortunately, her response to finding herself under fire was to go against those principles and pursue character assassination of the weakest player besides herself, all the while thinking she was being righteous by pointing out someone else’s failings.

Gossip, slander, lying, judging others, all while thinking she’s better than those she’s attacking: a common criticism of Christians in real reality all too often as well. Just to be clear, I don’t know Roxy personally. I realize the producers craft what is shown to us to tell a story. I am responding to the character I’m seeing onscreen.

But Roxy fulfilled another stereotype in an interview after her ouster — not controlled by Survivor’s producers — explaining that psychologist Denise’s vote went against her because of her faith:

I think that it’s just clearly obvious that she just doesn’t like me. She never called herself an atheist, but from the things that she said, she doesn’t pray to God for anything or ask God for anything — she doesn’t believe there’s a God… I’m a Jesus lover. It’s obvious. And if you ain’t gonna like Jesus, or even be open to having someone express that in an environment, you’re not gonna like me.

Perhaps she didn’t like you, Roxy, because you were a self-righteous judgmental gossip who had decided she didn’t deserve your friendship. FTR, I don’t think Roxy’s faith had anything to do with Denise’s decision. And neither did her misbehavior. Most likely, it was purely strategic. She stuck with her alliance. And just to be clear, just because someone doesn’t think it’s appropriate to pray to God asking for things doesn’t mean they don’t believe there’s a God.

There are quiet faithful contestants on Survivor too, of course, but as in real life, it’s the loud ones that give us a bad name.

About Phil Fox Rose

Phil Fox Rose is a writer, editor and content lead based in New York. He is coordinator of Contemplative Outreach of New York, helping promote centering prayer, which has been his contemplative practice for nearly 20 years. Raised atheist by ex-Mormons, Phil has journeyed through Quakerism, deep ecology, Buddhism and Catholicism. Now he's a congregant, worship leader, cook and chair of the leadership team at St. Lydia's, an awesome dinner church in Brooklyn, NY, and spends as much time in nature as possible. Phil has been a political party leader, videographer, tech journalist, punk roadie, software designer, sheepherder, stockbroker and downtempo radio DJ. A common thread is the process of learning about stuff, figuring it out and then sharing that understanding with others. Follow Phil by RSS feed, email, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

  • Tony

    I agree with you on Roxy. And Russell’s expectations to always win at whatever he does because of his faith seemed like a very shallow form of Christianity as well. So far, what I haven’t seen and been waiting for is if Lisa Whelchel expresses her faith. I’ve interviewed her and I know she makes a living writing books and giving talks about integrating God into your life, so I’m curious how she manages it out in the wild. In terms of Christian “Survivors” in general though, I think the guy a few seasons ago who kept getting sent to Redemption Island gave a positive portrayal of Christianity. So that’s something.

    • Agnikan

      Was that Ozzie who kept getting sent to Redemption Island?

    • Phil Fox Rose

      No, not Ozzie. I’m sure Tony is talking about Matt. Yes, he was a great. He didn’t hide his faith. It’s not about hiding your light. But he testified mostly through his actions and character. People saw a very good person, a likable loving person, and they saw that he was Christian, and they put two and two together. That’s how it’s done. You’re right Tony, that case was very different from most of the portrayals. And I did not know about Blair… I mean Lisa Whelchel’s background. I’ll be looking into more about her. Thanks for the tip.

  • Ted Seeber

    I’ll admit to not having seen any complete seasons of Survivor past the first one. But that’s because the very premise of the game is anti-Christian. And sure enough, in the first season, it was the nude gay moral relativist who, gasp, won.

    The very premise of the game- voting people off the Island- is anti-Christian. A Christian version of survivor would have no prize other than Survival Itself- and Betrayal simply would mean people would die.

    • Tom

      All’s fair in love and war. Survivor is war, and a very strategic one that that. Lying and deceiving is a part of the game. As long as you do it within the game it’s fine. But talking crap behind other people’s back has nothing to do with the game, and this is something that a lot of Survivor contestants don’t realize. Then, of course, their portrayal is in the hand of the editors.
      People who have played strategic games but kept their confessionals nice and clean are regarded as masterminds, while those who talk smack to the camera are the villains. It’s really not the premise of the game that makes it evil, but the way these people act. And yes, throughout 24 seasons “good” people have managed to win the game too.

  • simon

    The author of this article seems to display the same qualities of the Christian in question. But then again, it is not my place to be judgemental. Love to all x

    • Alison


      Maybe it’s the fact that it’s 5:something a.m. as I write this, so this won’t be coherent in my writing, but the fact that stands out to me in my not-awake state is that calling out hypocrisy for what it is isn’t judgmental. I can’t comment on Survivor itself, as I lost interest in it about 4 years ago, but I can say that the way he’s drawn Roxy’s character, and the way her time on Survivor was edited to reflect that image, she seems archetypal to a lot of Christians that a lot of people (including Christians!) have been wounded by.

      • Stephen

        I agree with Alison, we must reprove and discipline one another in love, and as harsh as the article sounds, the author is doing Roxy a favor. Perhaps by exposing the hypocrisy Roxy can come to a betetr understanding of how we should act as Christians. Paul had no problem doing it, neitehr should we. With that said, Roxy is barely an adult, and we all can look back to times in our young (and not so young) adulthood when we acted way out of line and claimed righteous reasons to do so my only critique of the article would be it could have been a bit more edifying, but teh sentiment I believe is true and worth speaking.

  • Amy

    A wise person once told me, if you are going to judge Christianity by the way someone lives their life, judge it by the way Christ lived His life.

  • Kenneth W. Regan

    The second season of “Survivor” had Christians acting in a worthy light and being portrayed accurately. It also had a remarkable monologue on human choices at the time of the final 3.

  • Stephen A.

    This girl sounds like yet another “christian” who believes that they are “saved” and that their salvation to eternal life does NOT hinge on their words and actions, but only on a simple “Jesus Prayer.” She, along with tens of millions of others, are gravely mistaken. (Matt. 19:17-22)

  • Warren

    You really should be directing your ire at the producers for deliberately representing Christians badly, not at some supposed section of the Christian community that she supposedly exemplifies. Just because its a “reality” show doesn’t mean the stereotypes here are any more true to life than ones on, say, Family Guy.