Competing Spectacles: Treasuring Christ in the Media Age

Competing Spectacles: Treasuring Christ in the Media Age

"Thirty years after Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death, this book takes the impact-analysis of modern media to a new level." --John Piper, Founder and Teacher, desiringGod.orgWhat images should I feed my eyes?We often leave this question unanswered-- because we don't ask it. Maybe we don't want to ask it. But viral videos, digital images, and other spectacles surrou...

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Title:Competing Spectacles: Treasuring Christ in the Media Age
Author:Tony Reinke
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Competing Spectacles: Treasuring Christ in the Media Age Reviews

  • David Steele

    We live in an increasingly visual culture. As a pastor, I hear the relentless sound of a postmodern drumbeat: “The average person cannot sit through a forty-five-minute sermon,” I’m told. Yet that same person will sit in a dark room for nearly four hours and watch Lord of the Rings. I am convinced that the aversion to listening to a sermon has more to do with affections than ability. That is, we are drawn to what we love. And we are increasingly captivated by the visual - screens, televisions, v

    We live in an increasingly visual culture. As a pastor, I hear the relentless sound of a postmodern drumbeat: “The average person cannot sit through a forty-five-minute sermon,” I’m told. Yet that same person will sit in a dark room for nearly four hours and watch Lord of the Rings. I am convinced that the aversion to listening to a sermon has more to do with affections than ability. That is, we are drawn to what we love. And we are increasingly captivated by the visual - screens, televisions, video games and an endless array of visual stimuli. A visual smorgasbord surrounds us and offers a rich ar-ray of pleasures and satisfaction. But do these visual delights (or spectacles) come with a hefty price tag?

    Tony Reinke examines the visual dilemma in his new book,

    . A spectacle is anything that garners attention from the eye, be it good or evil. Reinke is chiefly concerned with answering one question: “In this ecosystem of digital pictures and fabricated sights and viral moments competing for our attention, how do we spiritually thrive?”

    Anyone who thinks that Reinke is over-reacting should etch this statement on their minds and tape it to their televisions:

    Taken from this perspective, most would agree that the goal to keep spectators spectating is succeeding. Our visual world is sucking people in and it appears that turning back is not an option. The net result is a people who appear satisfied but are dying on the inside.

    Briefly, Reinke diagnoses the problem of spectacles and challenges readers to be aware of the ever-present tension. Indeed, the spectacles in the world lure unsuspecting eyes and promise a full array of benefits, yet in the final analysis, is found wanting. On the other hand, the supreme Spectacle offers eternal joy and pleasure (Ps. 16:11).

    But the author goes further. He argues that the supreme Spectacle is more comprehensive and enchanting than we ever dreamed: “The local church is where we go to find the Lord’s Table and baptism and the preaching of the Word, where those re-peated spectacles call us again and again for a response of worship and repentance and joy.”

    No one can point a judgmental finger at Reinke - for he steers clear from all brands of legalism. He urges evangelical eyes to be disciplined and discerning: “Each of us must reckon with this radical eschatological promise of Christ in our personal media diets.” The challenge is to reject the profane and to “develop personal disciplines to resist the impulse to fill our lives with vain spectacles.”

    The most urgent and penetrating aspect of this book concerns those who are bored with Christ and his gospel, a problem that appears to be an epidemic in this media-saturated generation. “In the digital age,” writes the author, “monotony with Christ is the chief warning signal to alert us that the spectacles of this world are suffocating our hearts from the supreme Spectacle of the universe,” Reinke adds:

    Reinke takes a page out of the C.S. Lewis playbook: “The worst trade in the universe is playing in the shallow pools of the world’s spectacles instead of diving deep for the treasures of eternal worth.” So, while Lewis’s “mud pies” attract the masses, most people turn a cold should to the “offer of a holiday at the sea.”

    is a timely book that is thought-provoking and deeply challenging. Reinke’s diagnosis and description of the visual dilemma is clear and sobering. The prescription he offers is convicting and compelling. The prescription for this visual tug-o-war is nothing less than being satisfied with all that God is for us in Christ Jesus. The author concludes:

    is a stunning book that will open many eyes. My prayer is that as the Spirit of God educates people through Reinke’s excellent work that they would, in turn, exalt the superior Spectacle, our Savior the Lord Jesus Christ. Then and only then will “the things of earth grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.”

    I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

  • Ivan

    Seth Godin + Neil Postman + John Piper. I’m so thankful for this Christ-saturated book. I pray it’ll be used to wake us from our media stupor to behold the greatest Spectacle.

  • Rosalie

    The first part of this book is an unsettling look at the spectacles (past and present) that human nature in all it's depravity and idolatry create and enjoy.

    Then, Reinke goes on to challenge (not condemn or berate) the reader to treasure Christ and the spectacle of the cross, to say no to media and spectacles that would numb and shrink the soul and its ability to seek God and things unseen.

    A philosophical, Christ-centered, sobering, and clear-eyed book to challenge and encourage Christians to se

    The first part of this book is an unsettling look at the spectacles (past and present) that human nature in all it's depravity and idolatry create and enjoy.

    Then, Reinke goes on to challenge (not condemn or berate) the reader to treasure Christ and the spectacle of the cross, to say no to media and spectacles that would numb and shrink the soul and its ability to seek God and things unseen.

    A philosophical, Christ-centered, sobering, and clear-eyed book to challenge and encourage Christians to seek the glorious spectacle we were made for--Jesus Christ.

  • Journey FAITH

    Now here is a book that will somewhat make you want to run and turn from the media, internet, actually anything visually that grabs your attention. Of course not all things are bad, but we should be cautious and pay attention to what grabs and holds our attention, and also beware of what the media does to try and keep your attention. Tony Reinke has written another well researched topic titled Competing Spectacles ~ Treasuring Christ in a Media Age. I read his previous book 12 Ways Your Phone is

    Now here is a book that will somewhat make you want to run and turn from the media, internet, actually anything visually that grabs your attention. Of course not all things are bad, but we should be cautious and pay attention to what grabs and holds our attention, and also beware of what the media does to try and keep your attention. Tony Reinke has written another well researched topic titled Competing Spectacles ~ Treasuring Christ in a Media Age. I read his previous book 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You and it got my attention and I made some decisions to limit my phone usage. Now this book tops this one in how from our phones, to the TV screens, the news, media, etc… can take a hold of our attention in subtle ways that you might not even be aware of. Little by little, it sneaks in and can change how you think. So we have to stop and refocus on truth. “The spectacle’s goal is to make spectators and to keep them spectating.”

    In the first part of this book, you will learn throughout history to our current time about the different competing spectacles. However, this current time seems to have the most lure, now that we are bombarded with 100s of different images in a very short time, because of the screens we carry with us. “We are creatures shaped by what grabs our attention—and what we give our attention to becomes our objective and subjective reality. We attend to what interests us. We become like what we watch.” He also mentions that human attention can be split into nine-second intervals which can lead to our attention being “willingly shattered into a million pieces.”

    The second part of the book Tony writes about who our true spectacle should be, Jesus Christ and if He is our main focus how this helps us with how we view all these different spectacles that try to grab our attention. “The Christian’s battle in this media age can be won only by the expulsive power of a superior Spectacle. Christ is our safety and our guide in the age of competing spectacles, the age of social media. He is our only hope in life and death, in the age to come, and in this media age.”

  • Jeanie

    Spectacles come in many shape or forms. Social media, news, even in a gathering as many pastors use media to hone in on a message. The text breaks downs those spectacles that become death to our souls or bring life. What is grabbing our attention and why? I think this is what I loved about this book. The reason is just as important as the what. This is not a text that slams social media but how is it used is what is in question. What do we need to let go and die. Spectacles have been around since Christ. The gladiators, the practice of Crucifixion and now we have social media where we can tear people apart. Nothing is new in the sun.

    Why a study on spectacles? That is a good question and from what I can see in my own life is worship. It affects how we view God and others. When we get caught up on a feed on facebook, do we see people or do we see our way is the right way. Do we see others that need the gospel? Or do we see ourselves as better. Do we see God's glory or mans?

    Spectacles can reveal what is in the heart of people. The hypocrisy, the shame. But can spectacles reveal something glorious? I think that is the best message of this text is that spectacles can make others beautiful. Can give us hope and a way to worship.

    Highly recommend

  • Tyler Eason

    In “Competing Spectacles”, Reinke gives us a much-needed reminder that what we behold transforms us. And in our modern, digital world, we’re constantly being sold a product that will ultimately pale in comparison to the riches we can experience in Jesus Christ. This book is a rare combination of theologically rich, immediately practical, and culturally savvy. Generally, if Reinke writes it, I read it, and this book is a prime example of why.

  • Aaron Lee

    How can Christians keep their gaze on Christ in the digital age?

    The Age of the Spectacle

    Competing Spectacles, a new book from Tony Reinke, seeks to answer this question. The book is divided into two parts. The first half is dedicated to examining the age that we live in. Reinke claims that everything is clamoring for our attention.

    We are all distracted spectacle seekers. We battle with the spectacle of the self in social media, and we battle with the spectacle of the self in gaming. He proves

    How can Christians keep their gaze on Christ in the digital age?

    The Age of the Spectacle

    Competing Spectacles, a new book from Tony Reinke, seeks to answer this question. The book is divided into two parts. The first half is dedicated to examining the age that we live in. Reinke claims that everything is clamoring for our attention.

    We are all distracted spectacle seekers. We battle with the spectacle of the self in social media, and we battle with the spectacle of the self in gaming. He proves his points in 33 short, concise chapters filled with scholarly references and examples from his own life. I was challenged to see the world with new eyes.

    The Spectacle

    The second half of the book is given to examining the cross of Christ as The World’s Greatest Spectacle precisely because it is where we see the glory of God. A compelling case is made for the Biblical connection between seeing and hearing.

    As the communications director for desiringGod.org and the author of 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You, Tony Reinke understands the importance of correct media consumption in the digital age. He ends the book with practical applications and exhortations to behold beauty and look towards Christ. I was challenged and compelled to examine my habits and live a more disciplined life.

    Turn Your Eyes

    As I was reading through the book, I stopped at a quote from Psalm 101:3 - “I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless.” I tweeted this verse and Tony Reinke retweeted it with the following caption: “Try it. Pray this resolve to God every morning for 30 days.”

    Tony’s tweet gives support to a superpower that is needed for us all. Only God can change our hearts. And when God changes our hearts, he also turns our eyes. Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).

    I was provided a complimentary copy of Competing Spectacles: Treasuring Christ in the Media Age in exchange for an honest review.

  • Becky

    First sentence: Never in history have manufactured images formed the ecosystem of our lives. They do now.

    In Tony Reinke's newest book he seeks to answer a timely question, "in this age of the spectacle, in this ecosystem of digital pictures and fabricated sights and viral moments competing for our attention, how do we spiritually thrive?"

    Reinke defines the word spectacle and clarifies his use of the word for this book. It does have two meanings; but the definition he is using is this one, "a mom

    First sentence: Never in history have manufactured images formed the ecosystem of our lives. They do now.

    In Tony Reinke's newest book he seeks to answer a timely question, "in this age of the spectacle, in this ecosystem of digital pictures and fabricated sights and viral moments competing for our attention, how do we spiritually thrive?"

    Reinke defines the word spectacle and clarifies his use of the word for this book. It does have two meanings; but the definition he is using is this one, "a moment of time, of varying length, in which collective gaze is fixed on some specific image, event, or moment."

    Another definition one might find helpful is attention which he defines as, "the skill of withdrawing from everything to focus on some things, and it is the opposite of the dizziness of the scatterbrained spectacle seeker who cannot attend to anything. Thus, attention determines how we perceive the world around us."

    Here's a scary thought to process: "We are creatures shaped by what grabs our attention—and what we give our attention to becomes our objective and subjective reality. We attend to what interests us. We become like what we watch." He also mentions that human attention can be split into nine-second intervals which can lead to our attention being "willingly shattered into a million pieces."

    He spends the first half of the book on worldly spectacles--for better or worse. The things that grab our attention and provide endless distractions. The things that shape us because whether we are mindful or mindless of the process we are captivated and consumed by the spectacles around us.

    He spends the second half of the book on spiritual spectacles--namely on Jesus Christ our ultimate treasure. If our attention is Christ-centered, if we are captivated by the glory of Christ, then our hearts, minds, souls can be renewed and transformed. We 'become' by 'beholding.'

    I liked the first half. I did. I found it relevant. But I really enjoyed the second half. I found it a compelling read. I'd just recently finished John Piper's God Is The Gospel. So I made an almost immediate connection between the two books. Here Reinke is encouraging his readers to see and savor Christ above all.

    Reinke writes, "His glory is the centerpiece of our daily spectacle appetites. Into every age of spectacles—from biblical Colossae, to imperial Rome, to Puritan London, to our digital world today—the recelebration and rearticulation of the glory of Christ must be set before us, over and over, and fed to our souls day by day. Christ feeds our faith through words written and proclaimed."

    Later he concludes, "We are called to recognize what is worthless and develop personal disciplines to resist the impulse to fill our lives with vain spectacles. The message of the cross tells us that we are free in Christ to live for something greater! We are free to center our lives on him, to enjoy him, and to glorify him by fixing our attention on things above, where we find our superior Spectacle, our greatest treasure."

  • Lorraine

    Competing Spectacles is about our culture's obsession with images. The author, Tony Reinke, defines a spectacle as: "a moment of time, of varying length, in which collective gaze is fixed on some specific image, event, or moment. A spectacle is something that captures human attention, an instant when our eyes and brains focus and fixate on something projected at us." This includes everything from a selfie on social media to a terrorist attack broadcast on television.

    Reinke says throughout hist

    Competing Spectacles is about our culture's obsession with images. The author, Tony Reinke, defines a spectacle as: "a moment of time, of varying length, in which collective gaze is fixed on some specific image, event, or moment. A spectacle is something that captures human attention, an instant when our eyes and brains focus and fixate on something projected at us." This includes everything from a selfie on social media to a terrorist attack broadcast on television.

    Reinke says throughout history people have enjoyed spectacles even without access to 24/7 technology. Think of Shakespeare's plays in England, or the gladiatorial contests at The Colossuem. Humans are very a visual species and they are always looking to the next thing to capture their attention. Advertisers use that knowledge along with the fact that we are rarely without a screen in front of our faces to sell us on their products. Churches have floundered on how to respond to this phenomenon either removing themselves completely from the world or creating spectacles in the church they hope will compare to the everyday experience of most of their parishioners.

    Reinke's thesis is that with all the competing noise our culture throws at us, we need to remain focused on the "ultimate spectacle of the cross of Christ." He doesn't recommend cutting ourselves off from all media permanently, but instead to, guard our attention with "awareness, caution, fasting, and selective withdrawal based on (our own) appetite and weaknesses." He continues, "A sobered sense of my internal susceptibilities to sin must inform my media consumption and self-imposed limits." It really helped me as I was "media fasting" for lent to see the correlation between my thoughts and what I was allowing into my mind. I agree with Reinke's conclusion that the more we focus on Christ instead of the things of this world, "all the flickering pixels of our culture's worthless things and beloved idols grows strangely dim."

    Reinke's book is not a comprehensive analysis of every type of modern day spectacle. There were chapters I thought he could have added more examples but he still made his point with the ones he did call out. If you are looking for a resource that dissects our modern media consumption and suggests how to achieve a healthy balance in light of it, this book is a great tool.

  • Samuel Kassing

    A neo-Puritan look at how to treasure Christ in a media saturated world.

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