NBC’s new game show “The Wall” is troubling.
I’ve only seen one episode, but from the very beginning there was something off-putting about the show.
I have to admit, though, that it hooked me. I watched until the end, I couldn’t look away, and I’m ashamed.
“The Wall” appeals to what’s worst in us, and it reveals a fundamental flaw in U.S. society.
The general idea is that deserving couples – carefully screened to be sympathetic contestants, of course – have a chance to make their dreams come true by winning millions of dollars.
The whole show is driven by the idea that money has the power to change your life.
Admittedly, that’s been the central premise of every big-money game show to precede “The Wall.”
It’s also the draw of the lottery and scratch-off tickets. It’s the allure of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” and “MTV’s Cribs.” It’s why we keep up with the Kardashians and the “Real Housewives.”
But in my one episode of watching, there’s something different about this show.
“The Wall” somehow seems more transparent in its idolatry than any of its predecessors.
After watching “The Wall,” any reasonable observer can only come to one conclusion: We worship money and pray at the altar of good fortune.
The show strips away any pretense that there is any other central truth in American society.
And it reveals that we’ve reached a point where most people are willing to acknowledge our collective adoration of money and simply shrug and say, “Yeah. So what?”
What’s wrong with dreaming about what we might do with newfound millions? What’s wrong with worshipping at the altar of wealth and believing in the power of money?
What’s wrong with “The Wall”? It reveals that we don’t even know that we should be ashamed of our attitudes toward money.
It is naked, brazen and worshipful idolatry – nothing more and nothing less. And that doesn’t bother us anymore.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a church where people prayed for God to appear as fervently as these contestants pray for that ball to drop in the million-dollar slot.
And, if we’re honest with ourselves, we’re not all that different. Most of us are much more emotionally invested in the health and growth of our financial accounts than in the health and growth of our spiritual lives.
What if we invested as much time and energy in thinking about our spiritual potential as we do to thinking about our financial potential?
We think that money is more real than God. More powerful than God. More useful than God. More lasting than God. More protective. More appealing. More worthy of our careful attention and devotion.
And on “The Wall,” we don’t even have the decency to hide it.
We’re starting the new year in our congregation with a worship series called “More Than Enough.”
The series will help us remember that while shows like “The Wall” are based on the idea that we all need more, God teaches something different.
Almost all of us have been blessed with more than enough. The question isn’t how can we get more; the question is how can we make the best use of what we have.
That might be my guiding question for 2017.
So the next time you watch “The Wall,” don’t let the idolatry wash over you unnoticed. And ask yourself at which altar you pray.
“The Wall” presents its contestants with lots of choices, but here’s the only choice that matters: You can’t worship both God and money.
Either you will love one and hate the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other (Matthew 6:24). The choice is yours.